The timing of Alfa Romeo’s return to the United States has been unclear ever since the Italian automaker left this market in 1995. Even with the most recent claim of a mid-2013 debut, many remain skeptical. That’s not stopping Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne from finding a boss for the North American branch of Alfa Romeo by the end of this year. Marchionne plans on bringing someone up from the Fiat-Chrysler operation and have them in place before doing the same thing in Europe.
Marchionne believes getting back into the U.S. market will be easier than doing so in Europe after obsolete engines and archaic vehicle designs made with poor quality plagued the market.
“We are going to target the U.S. market first and work our way back into Europe,” Marchionne said to Automotive News. “We have run market tests on the desirability of the Alfa brand in the U.S. and—not withstanding our long absence from the market—it’s still one of the best brands in the world, and I think we need to go back and grab it.”
Peter Grady, Chrysler Group’s chief of network development and fleet also spoke to Automotive News of the commitment of bringing Alfa Romeo back stateside. Alfa would be sold at Fiat dealerships here in the U.S., as more are popping up all over the country. To date there are 124 “studios,” as the dealerships are known, with the target goal of 26 more opening by year’s end.
Alfa Romeo was the biggest issue Marchionne faced when he took over as Fiat CEO in 2004, and not much has changed in seven years. Models like Brera and GT Coupes, Spider roadster, and 159 mid-sized sedan and wagon don’t reflect the sporty image Marchionne expects of Alfa. It also shows in Alfa’s disappointing sales figures. Back in 2006 Marchionne said he wanted to move 300,000 vehicles in four years but only moved 115,000 by 2010. Current Alfa CEO Harald Wester scaled back the target goal for 2014 to 400,000 vehicles and 155,000 units by the end of 2011.
Now that Marchionne is holding the reins to Chrysler and Fiat, Alfa Romeo has more technology at its disposal. One example of this is the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, which is expected to be modified and stuffed into Alfa models. Fiat also introduced a 1.8-liter engine which is on track to appear in 2013, and Marchionne believes that got the ball rolling for Alfa powertrains.
Once Alfa enters the market stateside, Marchionne believes moving 85,000 units in the U.S. in 2014 is a realistic goal.
“It should be, simply because of what’s being offered at the time of the launch,” said Marchionne to Automotive News.
Expected to be ready for the tentative 2013 launch is a coupe with a rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive, previewed by the 4C concept. A crossover based off of the Jeep Liberty built in the U.S should also be ready to go in 2013. Expected to join Alfa’s lineup in 2014 are two mid-sized cars, the Giulia sedan and wagon. Both are replacements for the 159 model only offered in Europe and will be perched on the same underpinnings of the replacement for the soon-to-be-defunct Chrysler 200. A five-door compact could also show up stateside in 2013 along with a Spider roadster and a bigger sedan both set for a 2014 launch.
Do you think Alfa Romeo will have success after an 18-year absence in the U.S.? Tell us what you think in the comment section below.
Source: Automotive News