For the umpteenth time, Alfa Romeo’s planned reentry in the US market has been put on the table. In October, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne will reveal a new schedule for Alfa’s upcoming models and the brands overseas expansion, which means yet another delay.
Last year, Marchionne revealed the company's new business plan and said that Alfa would return to the States in late 2012 with a small number of its 4C mid-engined coupe. The full-on assault in the US market would begin in mid-2013 with the launch of a compact crossover and at the end of the year, the new Giulia executive saloon.
This plan has now gone right out the window, according to a report from Automotive News. The production version of the 4C will probably be revealed at the 2013 Detroit Motor Show but it remains unclear when sales will commence.
In 2011, Alfa Romeo sold 132,000 vehicles, 18 percent more than 2010. In the first half of this year, however, the company saw its sales drop 31 percent to just 54,100 units. With yet another delay, the 400,000 global sales target set for 2014 (which was reduced by 100,000 units compared to the original estimate) looks highly unlikely to be achieved.
Marchionne is revising all of Alfa’s future products. The five-door version of the subcompact MiTo will not be sold in the United States. Rapidly falling sales in the European market made Marchionne put the next-generation Fiat Punto, on which the new MiTo will be based, on ice.
Another Alfa that won’t cross the Atlantic is the Giulietta five-door compact hatchback. Initially scheduled for 2014 to coincide with its redesign, it is now deemed too expensive to make the facelift of a model launched in 2010 US-compliant. Therefore, it won’t be until the presentation of the next generation model due towards the end of the decade that a compact-sized Alfa will be sold in the States.
The upcoming BMW 3-Series-rivalling Giulia sedan is the single most important model for the brand and the one that has suffered most delays. Marchionne has reportedly approved and then rejected many styling proposals in the past two and a half years.
Based on the CUSW platform that underpins the Dodge Dart, the 159's replacement is said to be manufactured in the U.S. and then exported to Europe. Apart from the saloon, an estate will also be launched with both versions featuring transverse-mounted 3.2- and 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar engines. Power will be transmitted to the front or all four wheels via a US-built and ZF-designed, nine-speed auto gearbox.
A mid-size SUV based on the Jeep Liberty, which will be completely redesigned in 2013, will be built alongside its sister model in Chrysler’s Ohio plant and will be launched in 2014. The compact SUV that was to be built at Fiat’s Mirafiori plant in Italy at the end of 2012 has been cancelled. The factory will instead start production a new small crossover, which will sold as a Fiat and a Jeep, in late 2013.
Autonews also reported that the rear-wheel drive large sedan planned for 2014 is probably going to be axed and the new Spider based on the next-generation Mazda MX-5 is going to be launched in 2015 instead of 2014.
On the plus side, the limited-production 4C coupe could get a Spider version with an easily removed roof, probably in 2015, although this has not been confirmed.
Among all the reshuffling that’s going on, the Italian press is reporting that the VW Group has not given up on its hopes of gaining control of Alfa Romeo.
This story has been going on for the past two years, since VW’s mastermind Ferdinand Piech expressed his interest in the brand, though Marchionne has denied over and over again that Alfa is for sale.
By Andrew Tsaousis