Italian luxury brand Alfa Romeo will finally return to the U.S. this year, after more than a decade of sitting on the fence about making a comeback. The brand, famous for launching the career of sports car maker Enzo Ferrari in the 1920s and ’30s–and becoming Dustin Hoffman’s ride of choice in The Graduate–left the U.S. in 1995 with a shrinking market share.
What’s more, Alfa Romeo looks to become a larger player in the U.S. than even Fiat, which returned to the U.S. two years ago.
In an interview with Reuters, Peter Grady, head of network development for Chrysler said, “We think that Alfa Romeo will have a little bit larger volume than Fiat will have.” Last year, Fiat sold 43,772 of its Fiat 500 hatchbacks and convertibles. That number should grow considerably, as Fiat is launching the 500L this year, and the brand anticipates expanding to 10 models in the U.S. by 2016.
That’ll take some work for Alfa Romeo, as it will have six models to fill its market, going head to head with sportier offerings from luxury automakers. First up will be the Alfa Romeo 4C sports car, which will have a turbocharged 1.8-liter engine. It’ll be sold at top-performing Fiat dealerships, and Fiat dealers will eventually sell the rest of the Alfa lineup. This year, Fiat plans to add 23 dealerships in the U.S., totaling 225 by the end of 2013.
Currently, the European economy is in the same sort of shock the U.S. felt in 2009, with governments reorganizing around a crippled currency. As a result, the value of the euro is down and car sales are lagging, making the opportunity right for Alfa Romeo to re-enter the U.S. market to try and capture some of the country’s economic resurgence.
Fiat, which owns 58.5 percent of Chrysler, is looking to absorb the rest of the Detroit automaker, streamline processes and sales channels, and build stability on both the North American and European continents. In 2009, Fiat saved Chrysler from certain demise. Now the expertise found in Detroit is returning the favor for the parent company’s core brands.