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Alfa Romeo leans on Ferrari for horsepower in brand's overhaul  Automotive News Europe | March 27, 2014 12:08 CET

MILAN (Bloomberg) -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is turning to the cachet and horsepower of Ferrari as part of its latest effort to transform struggling Alfa Romeo into a profit machine.

Fiat plans to develop a new line of rear-wheel-drive sedans and SUVs to bolster Alfa Romeo and take on carmakers like BMW Group, people familiar with the matter said. The models will start to hit the market in 2016, and high-end versions will be equipped with engines developed by sister brand Ferrari, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

CEO Sergio Marchionne's plan to turnaround Alfa Romeo has been in the planning for some time. Since the executive took the reins at Fiat in 2004, Alfa Romeo's annual deliveries tumbled 56 percent to 74,000 cars. In 2012, he scaled back a sales target for the Italian nameplate by 40 percent as promised models were delayed by a spending halt in Europe.

Now, with auto demand in the region recovering and Fiat armed with more resources thanks to the takeover of Chrysler, it may be now or never for the sporty brand.

"This is the last chance for Alfa Romeo," said Giuseppe Berta, a professor at Bocconi University and the former head of Fiat's archives. "Marchionne's bet is a long shot. To beat the German premium brands, he needs to make Alfa unique. His best chance is Ferrari engines and Italian design."

Ditching MiTo

Fiat is considering ditching the current versions of Alfa Romeo's MiTo and Giulietta hatchbacks, which accounted for 99 percent of sales last year, under the plan, which is still being finalized, the people said. The relaunch of the Italian brand, which became a cultural icon with the 1960s film "The Graduate," will be boosted by selling cars through Jeep's international dealer network, widening Alfa's reach, they said.

Fiat declined to comment on Alfa Romeo's past performance and future development plans. The carmaker will unveil its plans for Alfa Romeo in May as part of a Detroit presentation of the strategy for FCA, formed from the recent merger of Fiat Group and Chrysler.

The revival of Alfa Romeo is key to Marchionne's plans for the merged carmaker. With allure stemming from classics like the iconic Duetto spider of the 1960s, Alfa has the potential to help drive profit for the group, in the same way that Audi does at Volkswagen Group, by commanding higher prices than mass-market models bearing the Chrysler, Dodge or Fiat badges.

Audi, the BMW brand and Mercedes-Benz, which have benefited from a rebound in the United States and growing demand in China, have all posted global sales records in recent years, bolstering their parent companies' earnings with higher profit.

Six Alfas

The target is to roll out at least six new Alfas in the next five years, including two SUVs, to boost sales more than fourfold to 300,000 cars over that time frame, the people said. The underpinnings of the cars will also be used in Chrysler vehicles to spread development costs, they said.

Alfa's relaunch has to some degree already started with the 4C sports car, which went on sale last year in Europe and will make its U.S. debut at the New York auto show next month. The first model in the new push will be a mid-sized sedan that may be called Giulia, reviving a model name from the 1960s. "This is long overdue," said Roberto Ferrari, head of the Alfa Romeo dealer association in Italy. "We've been waiting for years for a clear and definitive strategy for the brand and a full lineup of products."

Jeep showrooms

To broaden its reach, Fiat plans to sell Alfa Romeo models through Jeep's 1,700 dealers outside North America, giving it a distribution network that better competes with BMW's 3,200 sales outlets worldwide, the people said.

Last year, 90 percent of Alfas were sold in Europe. The move is based on the idea that both brands appeal to consumers seeking alternatives to mainstream competitors and can co-exist because there's little potential that Jeep SUVs and performance-oriented Alfa Romeo cars cannibalize each other.

"The strategy to mix SUVs and sporty sedans in the same showroom makes sense," said Ian Fletcher, an analyst with market researcher IHS Automotive in London. "But success can't be taken for granted." The new models and the linkup with Jeep and Ferrari may not be quite enough.

IHS forecasts Alfa Romeo sales peaking in 2017 at 243,000 cars, 19 percent below Marchionne's goal. Still, that would be triple last year's sales and the highest deliveries in more than 10 years.

Unused capacity

The growth would help fill unused capacity at Fiat's Italian factories, a primary source of the manufacturer's losses in Europe of 520 million euros last year. Marchionne expects Alfa Romeo to anchor his strategy to build upscale cars in Italy for export worldwide to return to profit in the region. The new Giulia will be assembled at Fiat's Cassino factory near Rome, said the people. The engines, versions of the V6 powertrains Ferrari developed for Fiat's exclusive Maserati brand and adapted by Fiat engineers, will likely be produced at sites in Pratola Serra or Termoli in southern Italy, said the people.

"Alfa Romeos have to be produced in Italy with an Italian powertrain," Marchionne said this month at the Geneva auto show, where the brand debuted the spider version of the 4C. "Some things belong to a place, and Alfa belongs to Italy."

 

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Alfa unlikely to get Mazda-made roadster, sources say

Fiat looks to add car to another brand in family

Luca Ciferri RSS feed
Automotive News Europe | March 3, 2014 06:01 CET

Fiat or its Abarth performance subbrand are likely to get a roadster from Mazda instead of Alfa Romeo, sources say.

Fiat and Mazda product planners plan to meet soon to discuss the potential badge change for the MX-5-based two-seat car, the sources added.

Alfa, which will debut a concept version of its planned 4C convertible at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday, was supposed to get the Japan-build roadster at the start of next year.

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, however, put that plan in doubt when he told the Financial Times last September that there won't be any Alfas built outside of Italy as long as he is boss. Marchionne plans to stay at Fiat-Chrysler until at least 2017.

Marchionne reconfirmed at the Detroit auto show in January that no Alfas will be built outside Italy, but declined to discuss the future of the roadster that Mazda is supposed to make for Alfa.

He said more details about future Fiat Group products would be revealed in early May.

The sources say that Fiat's product planners in Turin are looking for ways to fulfill the terms of their supply contract with Mazda because walking away from the deal would be extremely expensive, something Fiat wants to avoid as it aims to return to profit in Europe by 2016 after posting heavy losses in the region last year.

The sources didn't say which other brand is the most likely to add the roadster. Fiat's other near-premium brand, Lancia, is not in contention for the car because Marchionne has decided to reduce the 108-year-old marque to a one-model brand, the Ypsilon, that only is sold in Italy. Lancia will be discontinued outside its home market starting this year.

The planned 1.4-liter turbo-gasoline roadster probably would be too small and underpowered for supercar brands Ferrari and Maserati. That leaves the Fiat brand and Abarth.

"Abarth really makes sense for a lightweight, small displacement, high-output two-seat roadster, which perfectly fits the brand's DNA," one of the sources said.

During previous discussions about the Alfa-Mazda roadster, Fiat said that the car would be an heir to the legendary Duetto Spider driven by Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate." Mazda will build the roadster at its factory in Hiroshima.

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Alfa Romeo Disco Volante returns to Geneva, this time in green and gold

Touring Superleggera's Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione-based coupe is built to order

Jay Ramey 11:32 am, March 3, 2014

Just about everyone loved the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante by Touring Superleggera that debuted at the 2012 edition of the Geneva motor show. The curvy coupe channeled the design of Alfa Romeos of the 1960s, namely the Alfa Romeo 2000 and 2600 penned by Touring, while appearing modern at the same time. The concept, finished in red at the time, drew praise for its good looks, enough to make just about everyone forget what sort of monster lived under that svelte bodywork: the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, powered by a 4.7-liter 450-hp V8 good for a 0 to 60 sprint of 4.2 seconds.

Admittedly, Touring Superleggera could have looked for one of Alfa Romeo's milder platforms when it came to finding a chassis for this coachbuilt limited production coupe, but the carrozzeria chose the hottest platform that Alfa Romeo had on offer to lend the car a pedigree which would assure that its performance would remain up to date for quite some time.

And it appears that Touring isn't about to let this design rest, which is fine with us. They're bringing a slightly tweaked version to this year's Geneva show, one that was likely built for an actual customer. We thought the original production prototype looked great in red as well as silver exterior colors, which we've already seen, but Touring still wants to show the world a Disco Volante finished in dark green with gold accents, which almost seem like Lotus' old John Player colors. (ED: Or the Bishop Don "Magic" Juan)

The Disco Volante is a bit color sensitive, with only lighter colors being able to bring out the curves and the surface details, but this dark green exterior color works far better than black would have. The gold details on the wheels and the beltline accentuate the barrel shape of the body nicely, without letting it seem slab-sided.

 

Touring Superleggera brings the Alfa Romeo Disco Volate to GenevaTouring Superleggera
This is the third appearance of the Disco Volante at Geneva.

There's a reason we keep seeing this Disco Volante at auto shows: Touring is selling examples of this car made to order. No, they haven't revealed the base price and we're quite confident there really isn't such a thing as a base price, as each example is hand-built to order and takes about 4,000 hours to complete.

But if you wanted an estimate, the 8C Competizione itself is just around $259,000. So just add the materials and the hours required to complete this example. As the old saying goes: if you have to ask... it's probably north of $500,000.

Touring Superleggera brings the Alfa Romeo Disco Volate to GenevaTouring Superleggera
Last year Touring Superleggera showed a production version of the Disco Volante at the Geneva motor show.

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Alfa Romeo sets new U.S. return date

It feels like we've written this headline before...

Natalie Sejnost 4:15 pm, February 25, 2014

Fiat Chrysler announced that Alfa Romeo will be making its triumphant return the United States, with the 4C sports car arriving at dealerships in June. This has been long-awaited news since … well, since Alfa bailed on the U.S. market 20 years ago.

So where can you get one? Fiat Chrysler isn’t saying yet, with spokesman Rick Deneau telling the Detroit News that the dealerships playing host to Alfa Romeo have yet to be informed.

Alfa Romeo has been talking about an American resurrection for 14 years, but the rumors, to this point, had resulted in nothing but a handful of uber-expensive 8C supercars sold via Maserati.

Fiat Chrysler head Sergio Marchionne has made the promise that the Alfas are coming, but just the 4C sports car for now. The remainder of the Alfa lineup, including the Giulia, Giulietta and the newly introduced Spider, are slated to make their debut in the States sometime in 2015.

In case you’re unfamiliar, the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C sports a turbocharged inline-four mid-engine layout with 240 hp; that may not seem like much, but with a curb weight of about 1,874 pounds, this thing is a relative rocket.

The 4C also boasts a 0-60-mph time of just 4.5 seconds, rivaling any other readily available sports car on the U.S. market today. The 4C is expected to start at just under $60K, which seems like a reasonable price considering the rarity and long-awaited arrival.

The 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C 

Alfa Romeo
The 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C is slated to make its debut in June 2014.

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