By on September 19, 2011

You want the truth? The Alfa Romeo brand sounds like it’s pretty much in chaos at this point. Since Fiat first got a toehold on the North American continent, we’ve heard so many variations of the Alfa-Romeo invasion plans, each one succeeded by a new and different set of plans, that I don’t know what to believe anymore.

Back in 2010, the brand was talking about a 2012 launch and 85k annual units in the US by 2014, with the initial launch lead by the Giulia midsized sedan. Then, earlier this year, the Giulia was delayed until “mid-2013” as CEO Sergio Marchionne “was not pleased with proposals he has seen from Alfa’s creative team in Turin.” Then, in June we got a “product plan” PowerPoint slide that was supposed to guide the new new Alfa invasion plan, which had the bulk of new products arriving in the US in 2013. Then, in July we heard that the Giulia was bumped to “the end of 2013 at the earliest” and the plans were changing again. Now, Alfa CEO Harald Wester tells Automotive News [sub] that there won’t be a single Alfa in the US until 2013, and that the bulk won’t arrive until 2014. Oh, and the rear-drive flagship that Alfa denied earlier this year is back on for “after 2014.”

And the worst part of this latest change in plans? They forgot to tell the dealers…

Here’s what the plan looks like now for Fiat/Alfa dealers

2011: Fiat 500/C

2012: Fiat 500/C/Abarth/EV

2013: Above, plus Alfa Compact CUV. 4C Coupe and MiTo subcompact hot hatch arrive “halfway through 2013”

2014: Above, plus Giulia midsizer, Giulietta compact, Spider roadster.

2015: Flagship

In other words, instead of getting Alfa products starting next year, Fiat dealers have to survive on Cinquecento variants for the next 15 months. And they aren’t happy, as AN [sub] reports

“Right now I’m pretty disappointed because I have a pretty big investment in Fiat,” said Carl Galeana, owner of Fiat of Lakeside in suburban Detroit and a member of the Fiat Advisory Committee, the dealer council. “I built my store predicated on the fact there would be more than Fiat.”

The CEO of a large dealership group that owns a Fiat store said: “This delay is not positive for dealers who have invested and committed to the Fiat franchise.” The executive asked not to be named.

Meanwhile, the US-market Fiat launch is already “a tiny bit behind” according to executives, and only the most desperate gambler would wager that the new dealer net will hit its 50k sales target for this year. Even if this is the last delay for Alfa’s launch, it’s going to be a lean couple of years for the Chrysler dealers who bet big on Fiat stores, and are legally required to have standalone buildings before the first Alfa even arrives. And with the all-important Giulia already having been delayed for insufficiently strong styling three times already, Alfa had better figure out what it needs to do… and fast. “Getting it right” on product is obviously  important, but that step usually precedes setting up a dealer net that’s hungry for said product. And the Giulia was originally supposed to be arriving three months from now.

How much more time do you need in the dressing room, bella?

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23 Comments on “US Fiat Dealers Losing Patience As Alfa Endures Another Delay...”

  • avatar

    The Giulia delays probably illustrate the difficulties in trying to top the design of the current 159, which in my eyes is the most beautiful sedan in the world. There are high expectations to be met.

  • avatar

    What did you expect from an Italian car company?

  • avatar

    Hmmm… maybe Herr Piech will be getting Alfa afterall.

  • avatar

    What’s next? Fiat hiring Jim Press to help dealers manage their inventory?

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    … one time Alfa dealers were typically Italian,or Italophile, ex mechanics with a passion for sports cars of all stripes. Hard to equate those enthusiasts with today’s multi-franchised beancounters. As far as the new Chrysler not keeping them informed……they could always keep up to date at TTAC, couldn’t they?

  • avatar

    Everything Fiat was delayed. Fiat 500, 500 Cabrio, Fiat Studios, Abarth… so this is not a surprise.

    From Automotive News:
    Fiat’s 130 U.S. dealers never were explicitly promised Alfa models as part of the Fiat franchise. But Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told them in August 2010 they were likely to get the brand.

  • avatar

    What are Alfas but pricey Fiats these days anyhow? I say screw Alfa, give us more Fiats, and sell Alfa badges at the parts counter for the brand snobs.

    • 0 avatar

      What Are Audis but pricey VW, what is a Bentley Continental but a pricey VW Phaeton, what is a Porsche Cayenne but a pricey Touareg, what is a Mercedes M but a pricey Jeep GC, etc, etc.
      What’s your point; it’s 2011 not 1955. This is the way things are today with every major car manufacturer out there.

      • 0 avatar

        My point is I don’t give a shit if Alfa “returns” because they can’t. Alfa as a manufacturer of everyman sporty cars is gone and now they’re peddling tarted-up Fiats wearing a Milano flag. If you’re content blowing your money for some perceived, long-gone racing history, good on ya. I’ll get my Italian car fix from Fiat and my small-manufacturer sports cars from Mazda. I don’t see what Alfa offers that either of those brands don’t, other than a fancy badge.

      • 0 avatar

        Alfa never was a manufacturer of “everyman sports cars”. Alfa in its heyday was what BMW is now – a maker of expensive, and expensively engineered, sporting saloons and a few sports cars.

        Note that an Alfa Spider cost as much or more than a Jaguar E-type back in the day, and something like 2-3x what an MGB cost.

        But ultimately, at the moment the FIAT/Alfa relationship very much parallels VW/Audi, though probably more like VW/Audi 10 years ago, when they shared a LOT more than they do now.

      • 0 avatar

        What year are you talking about? Because I remember the later Alfa Spiders being a little more than a Miata, but not 2-3x their price. Maybe my memory is faulty, but that’s what I remember from when I was cross-shopping those cars.

      • 0 avatar

        perceived, long-gone racing history

        Perceived? Hardly.

        Long-gone? Tell that to a certain German marque who was spanked for 4 years from 2000-2003 in the ETCC by those lowly front-wheel-drive 156s.

  • avatar

    F Fiat. POS

  • avatar

    I heard a rumor not too long ago that Alfa cars could go in Ferrari-Maserati showrooms in the US, mostly the 4C. Has anybody else heard anything to substantiate that? Or will they get placed in dingy Chrysler showrooms, alongside of Fiats and Rams. (sarcasm) Does anyone think they should be placed in Ferrari-Maserati showrooms, or in Chrysler showrooms?

    • 0 avatar

      Fiat dealers are required to have separate showrooms, but the timing of that requirement may be delayed by the later introduction of the Alfa models. They will be sold along side Fiat in these showrooms, not with Ferrari/Maserati, so the reality is a compromise between your two choices. Now if Marchionne would just approve the styling prototypes, we might have some Alfas to sell.

      • 0 avatar

        I was wondering what the plan was, a lot of Chrysler dealers around here are selling Fiat 500’s right now, that don’t have the separate showroom built, and they won’t comment on what the plan is with Alfa. I just want a damn Alfa already, no matter where and how the hell they sell them. Sergio needs to stop dragging his ass so I can (selfishly) buy my Alfa!

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I’m not surprised. I surmised that months ago. The stuff I’ve read over the years is that if you don’t design for North America from a clean sheet, you’re going to have a tough time getting your products to comply. Hence, there are a lot of cars that you’d think they could import directly, but don’t/can’t.

    And in the meantime, rebadging Chrysler products and selling them as Lancias is a curious proposition, given that underneath the sheet metal, Chrysler products are old, even in today’s ever-increasing product cycles.

    Fiat got lucky with the 500. Just keep in mind that if you read the word “Fiat” before drinking your morning coffee, it looks a lot like “Fail.”

  • avatar

    that’s Toto’!

  • avatar

    I’m confused.

    What’s it all about, Alfa?

  • avatar

    Finally found myself in the market last fall looking to buy something fun and new. For a brief period in Q3-Q4, it looked like waiting 12 months or so for the Giulietta to hit our shores was actually a viable option. When 12 became 36+, Alfa got crossed off my list. Maybe next time…

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I was in Corsica last week (mostly French cars there)and saw a few new Alfas including the MiTo and thought when will these come to US Fiat dealers? The MiTo looked like a great alternative to Golf, Mini, 500.

  • avatar

    Put all the Fiat managers, white collar workers, and creative teams on 12 hour, rotating shifts to maximize the time spent on the problem.

    But then I wouldn’t trust the design quality in the same way I won’t trust the built quality with sleep-deprived workers like that.

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