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Alfa's last chance? Automotive News Europe | July 8, 2015 06:01 CET
|Luca Ciferri is editor of Automotive News Europe.|
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne hopes that his 5 billion-euro bet on Alfa Romeo will result in eight new models that boost global sales to 400,000 vehicles by 2018 and bring an end to more than a decade of financial losses at the 105-year-old brand.
If I were Marchionne, I would be very worried about not achieving those three ambitious goals – and I’m not alone.
Let’s start with the sales goal. IHS Automotive has the most pessimistic view. It expects Alfa to sell just 216,000 vehicles globally by 2018, which is a little more than half its target. ISI Evercore is the most optimistic as it foresees 2018 sales as high as 330,000, which is still well under target.
There is a good reason for the doubt: Alfa has been terrible in achieving its goals. This is Marchionne’s fourth Alfa revival bid since he joined Fiat in June 2004. The last plan promised 500,000 Alfa sales by 2014. The actual global sales tally for Alfa last year was less than 70,000. The automaker’s volume has been in free fall for years. In 2002, sales slipped below 200,000 vehicles; in 2013 they dipped below 100,000; this year -- like last year -- they won’t even reach 70,000.
All of Marchionne’s previous plans promised a flurry of new products, but less than half of these vehicles reached the market. Today, Alfa’s lineup includes two volume models, the MiTo and Giulietta, and two variants of the limited-production 4C.
Like many successful people, Marchionne isn’t afraid of failure. He proved this once again last month by reconfirming that the first model in Alfa’s new era, the Giulia midsize sedan, would go on sale by the end the year followed by a second model six months later. Suppliers involved in the project expect Giulia sales to begin in February, followed by a midsize SUV late next year and a flagship sedan in mid-2017. This means the remaining five new models will need to arrive in the last 18 months of his five-year plan. Delivering a new model each quarter for five consecutive quarters is a challenge that even BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz would struggle to achieve.
Alfa hopes the Giulia can match the success of the 156, pictured.
What makes this relaunch attempt different from previous ones is that Alfa will once again have a dedicated, purpose-built platform. Alfa’s last really successful volume model, the 156, had its own specific underpinnings when it arrived in 1997. This resulted in ride and handling that matched or beat Germany’s best premium brands. For the Giulia, having a dedicated platform means that the brand can return to his sporty roots by making sure the standard layout of all future models is rear-wheel drive.
Another side is that the Giorgio platform requires the use of front longitudinal engines, which result in the short front overhangs needed to reach a 50:50 weight balance. The Giorgio architecture also is flexible enough to allow Alfa to offer all-wheel drive, which is crucial to its plans to launch its first SUV.
When it comes to the engines, Alfa has promised high-performance units such as the BMW M3-beating 510-hp twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6 engine that will go in the top-of-the-line Giulia Quadrifoglio variant. That engine is derived from the V-8 unit that Ferrari builds for the Maserati Quattroporte sedan. While the power will be impressive, Alfa’s powertrain portfolio lacks anything as revolutionary as the common-rail diesel technology that was an industry first when it debuted on the 156. It was one of the reasons why that 156 was the last truly successful volume Alfa.
At the unveiling of the Giulia Quadrifoglio on June 24 Marchionne said: “It is no mystery that Alfa is one of the projects that I have been most involved in, both operationally and emotionally. It is one of the most important of my career.”
Maybe this revival plan will be the one that gets Alfa back on track. If not, there might not be a fifth attempt and Alfa will slowly die, as Lancia is currently doing.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is the brand's first new volume model since 2010.
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Alfa Romeo's high goals doubted by analysts Luca Ciferri
Automotive News Europe | June 29, 2015 06:01 CET
TURIN -- Analysts are skeptical that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne can achieve his ambitious sales goals for Alfa Romeo.
"Despite our love of Alfa's past, we're unconvinced by its future," said Max Warburton, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.
"While it has history, turning it into a credible premium player will be like launching a new company. It took Audi 20 years or more," Warburton added.
In his view, Alfa's product revival will swallow a significant sum of capital and has no chance of posting profits in its first product cycle.
The Giulia is the first model in FCA's 5 billion euro ($5.6 billion) plan for Alfa. Confirmed by sources so far are three models: the Giulia, a large SUV in late 2016 and a flagship sedan in 2017.
Consultant IHS expects global Alfa sales of 67,500 this year, down from 68,300 last year, with the current, neglected lineup. Minimal investment in the past decade reduced Alfa to just two mainstream models -- the MiTo subcompact and the Giulietta compact, sold mainly in Europe -- and just the low-volume models for global markets, the 4C coupe and Spider.
In May 2014, FCA unveiled a plan for Alfa that envisioned eight new models from 2015 through 2018. The lineup would generate 400,000 global sales by 2018 -- about 150,000 from North America.
"Despite our love of Alfa's past, we're unconvinced by its future."
Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd.
Marchionne at last week reconfirmed the 400,000 Alfa sales target by 2018, adding only that a second model will debut six months after the Giulia.
Warburton estimates that 130,000 of these North American sales should come from the U.S. -- if it were to achieve that 150,000-unit goal. However, he does not see an Alfa range broad enough to reach such a volume.
"It is clear that in the U.S., car sales grow pretty much in proportion to how many models OEMs offer. Audi sells 180,000 units in the U.S. with over 20 models [on various nameplates], Infiniti 120,000 with about 10 models. It seems inconceivable Alfa could hit its North America target with just two or three cars," Warburton said.
Nostalgia isn't enough
George Galliers, an auto analyst at the Evercore ISI brokerage house in London, said, "5 billion euros and nostalgia doesn't equal 400,000 units in 2018."
In his view, Alfa Romeo is a niche brand favored by enthusiasts who tend to be ruled by their heart over their head.
"Such brands' unit sales growth tends to be strong at first, given low bases and the rush of enthusiasts to the product, but plateaus very quickly as mainstream buyers stay away," he added.
Galliers noted that similar sales patterns are prevalent at other niche brands, such as Maserati and Jaguar.
Galliers called for a "blue sky" scenario where Alfa sales could reach 330,000 units by 2018, while IHS forecasts just 216,000, slightly more than half of the 400,000 target. LMC Automotive predicts 251,000 units in 2018.
"If the Giulia doesn't meet expectations, then Marchionne could finally let it lie" with the brand, said Ian Fletcher, an analyst at IHS in London.
The Giulia is the first model in FCA's revival plan for Alfa.
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Alfa unveils high-performance Giulia Luca Ciferri
Automotive News Europe | June 24, 2015 18:42 CET
TURIN – The Alfa Romeo Giulia’s most sporty version will offer more power than rival models from BMW and Mercedes-Benz because it will use Maserati's Ferrari-derived 510-hp V-6 engine.
Dubbed the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the car was unveiled today at the Alfa Romeo museum in Arese, Italy, outside Milan. It will be the first Giulia variant to go on sale as Alfa emphasizes performance in a bid to gain an edge over its German premium rivals.
The Giulia “embodies the core elements which have made Alfa Romeo one of the world's best-loved automotive brands -- distinctive Italian design; innovative powertrains, perfect weight distribution, unique technical solutions and the best weight-to-power ratio," Alfa Romeo said in a statement.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio (cloverleaf in Italian) is powered by twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter engine used in the Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio delivers 85 hp more power than the BMW M3 (425 hp), which also is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter engine.
The hottest variant of the Mercedes-Benz C class, called AMG C63 S, has the same power as its Alfa rival but uses a much larger engine: a twin-turbocharged 4.0 liter V-8.
The C class with an engine comparable in size to the Giulia Quadrifoglio's is the C-450 AMG, which has a 3.0-liter V-6 turbocharged engine that delivers 367 hp.
Audi does not offer a direct competitor to the Giulia Quadrifoglio at the moment.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio has the fastest acceleration in its class. The car goes 0 to 100kph (62mph) in 3.9 seconds, compared with the BMW M3’s 4.1 seconds and 4 seconds for the Mercedes AMG C63 S.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio's aggressive rear is dominated by four exhaust pipes and a thin carbon fiber spoiler above the trunk lid.
The Alfa will be offered only with rear-wheel drive and a manual transmission. A carbon fiber hood and roof help reduce weight to about 1,500kg.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio will go on sale in Europe early next year and in the U.S. a few months later. Other Giulia versions will follow later including all-wheel-drive models and diesels for Europe.
The sedan is the first model in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ 5 billion euro relaunch plan for Alfa that aims to increase the money-losing brand's annual global sales to 400,000 by 2018 from 70,000 last year.
“The Giulia will undoubtedly help Alfa significantly. The challenge is most significant in the U.S. market where the brand has almost no existing image in the eyes of U.S. consumers and no exclusive retail network,” market researchers at IHS Automotive said ahead of the launch event. IHS forecasts annual sales in the mid-40,000s for the Giulia once it is available in all its markets.
The Giuilia Quadrifoglio has the cloverleaf badge that Alfa uses on its most sporty models.
The Giulia launch will be followed by Alfa's first SUV early in 2017 and a full-sized sedan in late 2017 as FCA broadens Alfa’s lineup beyond the Giulia compact, Mito subcompact and and the limited-run 4c sports car.
An Alfa Skunkworks of engineers, designers and stylists has developed a new rear-wheel-/all-wheel-drive platform called Giorgio for the models.
Alfa touts technical innovations such as a double-clutch Torque Vectoring system that allows the rear differential to control the torque delivery to each wheel independently, improving traction in low grip conditions without having to run up against an invasive stability control system.
An electromechanical brake system combines stability control and a traditional servo brake for instantaneous brake response and what Alfa says are record-breaking stopping distances.
The Giulia also has a new Alfa system to modify the car's dynamic behavior according to the driver's selection: Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficient (a new energy-efficiency mode) and Racing for high performance versions.
The Giulia has large air intakes in the lower part of the nose as well as two heat outtakes on the carbon fiber engine hood.
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4C Spider aims to reignite passion
New Alfa evokes exotics, celebrates racing heritage David Phillips
Automotive News | June 21, 2015 - 12:01 am EST
CARMEL, Calif. -- Alfa Romeo's 4C coupe and Spider are the opening salvos in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' grand -- some say audacious -- plan to put the famed Italian brand on par with BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar.
The next salvo comes this week, when Alfa Romeo unveils a new midsize luxury sport sedan that takes direct aim at the BMW 3 series, Jaguar XE and Audi A4. It goes on sale in early 2016 and will be followed by seven more all-new products designed to expand Alfa's appeal beyond Italy and southern Europe.
The 4C Spider hopes to reignite passions for Alfa's racing heritage and Italian design while putting the brand back on the radar of wealthy households and collectors ahead of the coming product blitz.
The recipe is simple: Attract eyeballs and enthusiasts with styling that evokes more expensive exotics; adopt an exclusive midengine layout for optimal weight distribution; add advanced, lightweight materials; and top it off with the guttural sounds and performance of an Italian race car.
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
Turbocharged 1.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine that cranks out 237 hp, 258 pounds-feet of torque; twin-clutch six-speed automated manual transmissionFeatures to notice:
Alfa's "DNA" switch allows the driver to change among dynamic, natural and all-weather modes. Available carbon-fiber removable "halo," or roof panel, and hard top. LED taillamps. An optional Track Package includes high-performance shock absorbers, performance flat-bottom steering wheel and carbon-fiber side mirrors. Later in the model year, an all-new optional Akrapovic dual-mode exhaust system featuring dual, center-mounted tips with carbon-fiber surround and signature sound will be available. It is one of three available exhaust systems on the 4C convertible.Safety:
Standard safety equipment includes all-speed traction control, electronic stability control, antilock brakes and a driver knee airbag. Cruise control, security alarm and rear park assist are available.Target:
Combined output of the hand-built 4C coupe and Spider will be capped at 2,500 in 2015, just enough to ensure that most Alfa enthusiasts, collectors and fans of Italian design and performance have a shot at one.Competitors:
Porsche Cayman and Boxster; BMW Z4; Jaguar F-Type; and Lotus Elise, Evora and ExigeStrengths:
Lighter than the competition. Rich, Italian heritage and racy styling is a nice counter to the latest crop of German sports cars.Weaknesses:
The lack of a traditional manual transmission may turn away some prospects even if the dual-clutch transmission is fast. Wind noise and exhaust can get loud at constant speeds. Some observers deride the 4C as too derivative of the Lotus Elise.Bottom line
: Alfa is pitching the 4C Spider as a less expensive alternative to some exotic brands without sacrificing what North America boss Reid Bigland calls "supercar-level performance and capability." 4C coupe and Spider output will be limited — helping maintain exclusivity and pricing.
The Spider comes to market in August when high-performance vehicle sales are on the upswing, driven in large part by luxury brands, though car demand is weak. The result is an open-air sports car that pays homage to Alfa's racing and performance bona fides and heralds a global product blitz.
| ||2015 Alfa 4C Spider||2016 Porsche Boxster||2016 BMW Z4|
|Wheelbase||93.7 in.||97.4 in.||98.3 in.|
|Length||157 in.||172.2 in.||167 in.|
|Width||73.5 in.||70.9 in.||70.5 in.|
|Height||46.7 in.||50.5 in.||50.8 in.|
|Curb weight||2,487 lbs.||2,888 lbs.||3,263 lbs.|
|Base engine||1.7-liter I-4||2.7-liter flat 6||2.0-liter turbo 4|
|Horsepower||237 @ 6,000 rpm||265 @ 6,700 rpm||240 @ 5,000 rpm|
|Torque, lbs.-ft.||258 @ 2,200-4,250 rpm||206 @ 4,500 rpm||260 @ 1,450 rpm|
|EPA mpg||24 city/34 hwy.||20 city/30 hwy.||22 city/34 hwy.|
Alfa hopes the 4C Spider will attract wealthy buyers.
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