By on July 22, 2013

Alfa_Romeo_GTA_-_002

All it took was one little article in CAR magazine for the auto blogosphere to light up with a million different re-purposed versions of the same report. And what a joyous bit of news it is; Alfa Romeo is going to be rear-drive only from now on.

We decided to run the piece because it comes from Georg Kacher, a respected journalist who is known for having his finger on the pulse of the industry. If he says Alfa is planning to move to rear drive platforms, they probably are. But the big problem is that they are planning it. Nobody said anything about actually doing it.

Alfa Romeo has planned plenty of things before. Like a return to America that never seems to materialize. It hasn’t gotten better under the Sergio Marchionne regime either, with flip-flops on future product (especially Alfa) becoming standard operating procedure. Personally, I could care less if they make it over here. Whatever they make is never going to live up to cars like the GTV, Junior, Berlinetta  Giulia Berlina and Duetto, largely because Alfa’s absence has caused the enthusiast crowd to lionize the brand to the point where it can never meet their outsized expectations. And because Mazda has managed to fill that void by offering products that are just a bit better at resisting corrosion.

With the new Chrysler/Maserati rear-drive platform waiting in the wings and the Mazda collaboration with the Duetto, it’s certainly feasible for Alfa Romeo to go all RWD. But don’t be surprised if Alfa Romeo scraps the “rear drive only” plans and goes back to using front-drive. Marchionne and his crew are liable to change their plans quicker than Italy changes governments. Front-drive has a lot of advantages as far as packaging and efficiency go. These factors matter quite a bit in Europe, and as early as May, 2012, the plan was for FWD products with the large rear-drive sedan left on the cutting room floor. All of a sudden, things have changed.

Again, I won’t mind, as long as something materializes. Some of the better modern Alfas, like the 156, 159 and anything with a “GTA” badge on it, were all “wrong wheel drive” and hardly anyone complained.

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34 Comments on “Editorial: Don’t Get Your Hopes Up For Rear Drive Alfa Romeos...”


  • avatar
    Morea

    “… hardly anyone complained.”

    Yes, skyrocketing sales of FWD Alfas certainly prove the point.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      Dodge fans are hoping for a rear wheel drive Avenger replacement with Tigerharks and Pentastars. Let Chrysler and Lancia have the front wheel drive D class while Alfa and Dodge go after car enthusiasts. If the Charger was front wheel drive, the Taurus would outsell it. One of the biggest problems in such a crowded market is to be different in a good way and moving to rear wheel drive would give credibility to Alfa and make Dodge a standout in it’s class.

  • avatar
    AlfaRomasochist

    Berlinetta? What does a cheesy trim package for ’80s Camaros have to do with Alfa?

    Berlina + Alfetta != Berlinetta.

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    Mazda has moved in on Alfa? Only in so much as Honda bothers Ducati…

  • avatar

    The Automotive News more or less confirmed CAR’s story but to prove Derek’s point, buried in their article was this statement:

    “The project is still a feasibility study and not signed off for production yet, but it could generate the first production models by the end of 2015, one source said.”

  • avatar
    slow kills

    RWD at a low enough price could sway me into tolerating Italian reliability.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    FWIW: http://www.mazda.com/publicity/release/2013/201301/130118a.pdf and http://www.slashgear.com/fiat-and-mazda-ink-new-alfa-romeomiata-roadster-deal-for-2015-18265839/ Links straight from the interwebs. Will the Alfa actually get built? Who knows

  • avatar
    trashbat

    I’ve moaned about the Car article enough times already, so let’s ignore that. Yours is a bit more interesting. I can tell you it’s not easy being an Alfa fan, or a Fiat investor, at least not if you figure your time on this mortal coil might be limited to, say, less than a hundred more years.

    However a lot of people have been throwing mud at Marchionne, accusing him of yet another great flip-flop or U-turn. Does it stack up?

    There have been two notable plans in recent years. One was the five year plan of 2010. For Alfa, it was kind of what it is now, only delivered much earlier. The continued losses for Fiat exc. Chrysler during the recession put much of that on hold. As an indicator, if you look at the Fiat and Lancia pieces of that plan, it’s all gone now.

    Currently there’s the Autumn 2012 plan which is geared towards a bipolar market of budget and premium – no middle. As I said, similar for Alfa, but a bit upmarket and involving Maserati more. Chrysler play a stronger role now, with better preparedness for Alfa’s US return, and actually better sales prospects there in general – the US is recovering.

    The real trend that I see isn’t change of direction, it’s delay. Loads of rumour driven articles come out about this new decision or that new claim, the Car article being one, but none seem well founded in what the group commits to. That’s stayed pretty constant – it just hasn’t been achieved.

    For me the litmus test will be whether they can deliver the E segment car in the next year. Beyond that I worry about the Giulia, and only the commitment to new model secrecy gives me any solace. It’s interesting times, but only if major things start materialising over the next two years.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    I am going to believe it when I see it, given Fiat’s recent history in following through with its promises.

    That said, does this mean the plan is to be D-segment and larger (aside from the Alfa Miata and 4C) vehicle only? I doubt the new Chrysler/Maserati platform will scale down to C-segment size, and even BMW is moving their 1-series to FWD. Small RWD vehicles just have too much compromise to be a volume seller.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      The Maserati platform is designed for hand-made low-production cars. Will it work even for Chrysler? I have my doubts.

      But the biggest reason this piece of “news” has no credibility for me is the timeline: they are just “thinking about” an RWD platform now, and yet they expect to be selling a car based on it in two years? Somebody’s smoking something that’s only legal in a couple of states at the moment.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Does it really matter? I mean, if I want an economy sedan, I will choose the Camry. If I want a RWD sports car and am willing to take a reliability risk, there is the Boxster (or Z4, or SLK, or G37 or ISF). But why would anyone buy a Fiat or buffed up Fiat? Just for the rarity?

    • 0 avatar
      nine11c2

      Why would you assume that G37 or ISF would be less reliable than a Camry? I admit they ahve a few more goodies on them, but I would assume G37 or ISF would have nearly same good Japanese reliablity as Camry..

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    Alfa going all RWD is total nonsense. Most of their volume in Europe is made up of relatively small cars, like Mito and Giulietta, and it always was that way. Making them RWD means either designing a completely new platform like BMW 1er, which would be extremely expensive and make them even less practical than they are. With their volume, there’s no way they’re gonna pull it off.

    And if they lose the small cars and focus only on the bigger models, they won’t have market for them, as no one is going to spend BMW money on Alfa, so if they’re gonna do it, they go bust. End of story.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    That 156 was a sharp looking car in its day. Still is, as it has aged well. The 159 that came after looks even better.

    Regarding the depicted plans, seeing is believing.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    “Alfa’s absence has caused the enthusiast crowd to lionize the brand to the point where it can never meet their outsized expectations”

    Quite true. And since the Alfa enthusiast crowd is likely 50+ years old (since younger folks in the US don’t even remember Alfa), Alfa will have an uphill battle selling against worthy, established competitors such as the FRS/BRZ.

    • 0 avatar
      Nostrathomas

      “Personally, I could care less if they make it over here. ”

      How much less could you care? Sorry, bit of a pet peeve…

      http://static.giantbomb.com/uploads/original/0/1194/1728533-i_could_care_less.jpg

      As for the Alfas, I can’t wait till they get here…but I really hope they are better than the Giulietta rental that I drove last year. Terrible handling all around and I’m pretty sure the manual shifter was connected to a stick of butter. Definitely doesn’t compare to my father’s Spider. I hope they can recapture some of that soul. But I am pulling for them!

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    “Personally, I could care less if they make it over here. ”

    How much less could you care? Sorry, bit of a pet peeve…

    http://static.giantbomb.com/uploads/original/0/1194/1728533-i_could_care_less.jpg

    As for the Alfas, I can’t wait till they get here…but I really hope they are better than the Giulietta rental that I drove last year. Terrible handling all around and I’m pretty sure the manual shifter was connected to a stick of butter. Definitely doesn’t compare to my father’s Spider. I hope they can recapture some of that soul. But I am pulling for them!

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    True – all RWD is not exactly sensible, especially since they have traditionally been selling the majority of their volume in rather smallish cars (and FWD has been there since the Alfasud – where handling was the one thing noone really complained about).

    What Alfa definitely needs is additonal volume, which means additional product. Currently the MiTo and Giulietta alone keep the brand just under the 100k mark, which is sadly Saab territory and not feasible in the long run. And coming to ~400k RWD only Alfas in the next decade looks fairly unlikely, even if they finally do get exported to the US.

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    FWD cars have come a long way in terms of handling.. the difference only shows up at 8.5 tenths or more. Most people don’t know which wheels driver their cars.

    RWD has such disadvantages anywhere it snows it is difficult to justify today as your daily driver..

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “RWD has such disadvantages anywhere it snows it is difficult to justify today as your daily driver..”

      I primarily drive RWD vehicles daily year-round including in deep snow and haven’t found them to be particularly disadvantageous if one can handle the oversteer. It freaks some people out. Personally, understeer in the snow freaks me out A LOT more.

      As long as the vehicle is equipped with good tires, RWD is fine in the snow.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You must only be taking your cars to 5.45 tenths.

      • 0 avatar
        nine11c2

        A FWD car with all season tires out performs a RWD with equivalent. They need the snow tires to be decent. Simple coefficient of traction – FWD have 55-60% of weight on drive wheels, RWD 40-5=45%. When it snows and ices here in the Northeast, on slight hills, all of the RWD Mercedes and BMW are stuck at the bottom – even with all the fancy traction controls. They simplhy don’t have the weight/traction on the back wheels..

        • 0 avatar
          Kristjan Ambroz

          You are right on the all season tyre front. Still, the US is probably the only major market worldwide, where all season tyres (also referred to as three season tyres) play a real role – almost everywhere else with winter conditions it is considered essential to switch to proper winter tyres and in most cases a well engineered modern RWD car with proper winter tyres will not do at all badly, even on snow.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “A FWD car with all season tires out performs a RWD with equivalent.”

          No explanation needed, I’ve also owned many FWD vehicles and am aware of the weight districution and traction advantages of such things.

          What I’m saying is I drive a RWD car with close to even weight distribution, that when equipped with good tires in the snow, shows a negligiable performance disadvantage over the similarly equipped FWD vehicles I’ve had in the past.

          It’s easy to deal with during the few times during the year it really matters (during snow storms before the roads are plowed), and the rest of the time I get to have a car that is a blast to drive

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Why the hell can`t they just start with a hopped up MiTo???


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