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Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is making Alfa Romeo’s U.S. re-launch a top priority, calling it “the most difficult thing I have to do”. Alfa Romeo last sold cars in the U.S. in 1995, but the brand still has a strong image in the U.S., spurring Marchionne to focus efforts on North America.
Alfa Romeo’s image has taken a beating in Europe over its legendary quality issues, and this factor provided further impetus for Fiat to focus their efforts in the U.S., where Alfa’s are viewed with nostalgic fondness. Marchionne hopes that Alfa will sell 80,000 cars in the U.S. in 2014, with 400,000 units sold globally – up from 150,000 currently.
Alfa will offer the 4C sports car and a compact SUV will be offered initially with the Giulia sedan and wagon, the Mito hatchback, a new Spider and a Chrysler 300C-derived 6C sedan coming as well. The 4C is said to be a key halo designed to capitalize on memories of Dustin Hoffman’s Alfa Spider in the iconic film The Graduate.
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Alfa Romeo’s been threatening to invade American shores for as long as, well, we’ve been trying to find Bin Laden. But now with Terrorist Numero Uno sweeping up plankton in the ocean, it looks like there’s no choice but for Fiat to finally follow through with what they’ve announced over 10 years ago.
Of course, back in the year 2000 Bush had just been elected into office, Mel Gibson was still a charming romantic lead, and Alfa Romeo was in bed with General Motors, while issuing plans to sell Alfa roadsters in Cadillac and Saab dealers. Now Fiat comes to America through a different parent company and with a new product lineup. The 4C sports car—shown at Geneva—will lead the charge serving affordable-halo-car duties, but the Giulia sedan will serve as the company’s mainstream sales leader. As Alfa’s key model in the US it’s vital to get it right, which is why its designers have been ordered to redo it by no less than Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. ”I don’t think it’s an Alfa,” he said. ”You could take off the badge, and it could be German.”
Ouch. But this is Alfa Romeo we’re talking about, not some cut-price people schlepper—enthusiasts have dreamed of Alfa’s return for years, even after the brand ignominiously bowed out in 1994, leaving behind broken gaskets and broken hearts. Fiat aims to stay in America for a lot longer than they did, using their new Compact Wide architecture that underpins the Giulietta hatchback that was launched in Europe last year. The Compact Wide will also form the replacement for the Chrysler 200. For Ramaciotti, it’s a problem to design the new Giulia to this Fiat-originated platform and get the looks right to appeal to jaded American consumers.
And in typical non-PC Italian fashion, Ramaciotti had this to say about their efforts: “we are, in a way, like fashion designers, and if you have to make a suit for a model you can do things you can’t do if you have to make it for a fat lady.”
All of a sudden, it’s like they never left.
[Source: Motor Trend]
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Those who have been eagerly awaiting the return of the Alfa Romeo brand to North America will have to continue to be patient as the premium Fiat group brand won’t arrive in 2012 as previously planned. According to sources inside Alfa, the brand’s launch in the U.S. and Canada has been pushed back until 2013.
The reason revolves around the new Giulia mid-size sedan and wagon counterparts. This platform will also form the basis of the next-generation Chrysler 200 and Dodge Challenger. Reportedly, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne isn’t pleased with the design of the Giulia, nor is he pleased with what Dodge and Chrysler designers are planning for the car.
Alfa’s success, not just in North America, but also in Europe, depends highly on this new model. Having cut the GT coupe, Brera coupe and Spider roadster last year, Alfa only offers three models: the MiTo, Giulietta and 159. This gives it the unique distinction of having the least number of products on offer of any European premium brand. (Yes, even less than Saab).
[Source: Automotive News]
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