The Truth About Cars » Alfa Romeo The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Alfa Romeo Beijing 2014: Audi TT Offroad Concept Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:43:57 +0000 Audi-TT-offroad-concept

Perhaps due to a trademark conflict with Alfa Romeo, the compact SUV concept that Audi has shown at the 2014 Beijing auto show will likely be marketed as part of the TT line and not get the Q4 badge.

The TT Offroad Concept is expected to come to production in 2016 and may be called the TTQ. Alfa Romeo has previously used Q4, appending it to 4WD versions of the 156 wagon. Alfa also has used Q2 on FWD models of the 156. That may be why the Audi Q1 subcompact crossover didn’t get named Q2 as expected.

Whatever it’s called, the production version of the TT Offroad Concept will be based on MQB modular architecture that is proliferating across the VW Group. It will be about the same size as the compact Q3, but it will have a more sporting character and will be competing against vehicles like the Porsche Macan and BMW X4. Though the concept has an eTron hybrid drivetrain with 408 total horsepower, you can expect the production TTQ to be introduced with more conventional gasoline or diesel powerplants.

So far, Audi has shown coupe and shooting brake versions of the 3rd gen TT and a roadster is expected at the Paris show in October. Putting all of those into production along with a crossover/SUV platform-mate would give Audi something in the TT subbrand similar to what BMW is doing with MINI.

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New York 2014: 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Live Shots Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:28:27 +0000 Alfa-Romeo-4C-01

Coming soon to a Maserati or select Fiat dealership near you, the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C turned up at the 2014 New York Auto Show Wednesday before its U.S. showroom debut this June.

Putting the power to the back is a 1.75-liter turbo-four pushing 237 horsepower through a dual-clutch transmission, more than enough to move the 2,200-pound sports car and its carbon fiber monocoque chassis down the highway.

Up front, last year’s compound-eye headlamps can now be replaced by the 4C Spider’s more traditional configuration if so desired.

As for how much to take a 4C home, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has yet to say anything on price, as well as how it will market the car in the United States. Originally, Fiat dealerships were going to sell the Alfa exclusively, but as of now, only a select group of Fiat dealers will sell the 4C alongside Maserati, who will act as the primary dealer.

Whatever happens, the first 500 4Cs will arrive in showrooms this June, and will be a part of a commemorative launch edition.

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QOTD: Italian Government Auctions 1,500 Cars. What’s Your Pick? Fri, 28 Mar 2014 22:28:45 +0000 20140328_italy2

Via Zero Hedge, we have a listing put up by the Italian government of 1,500 luxury cars that are being auctioned off. Italy, which is deep in the throes of austerity, is doing the wise thing from an optics perspective, as the cars have come to symbolize government waste and unnecessary opulence.

While most of the stock consists of diesel Alfa Romeo 166 and Lancia Thesis models, there are some oddities at both ends of the spectrum. Random Italian detritus, like the Fiat Croma and Lancia Dedra, populates the ranks as well, along with a few BMW 525d sedans. There are also a number of Maserati Quattroportes (apparently procured because they were the cheapest armored sedans available….right) as well as a Jaguar S-Type R.

You can peruse the Ebay listings here, and tell us what you’d pick out of the current lot of 25 cars. At first glance, the Thesis would have been my choice, but they appear to be automatics. The Alfa’s seem to be stick shift, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s a no brainer. If only they were wagons.

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Piston Slap: When to Exit the Alfa? Wed, 12 Mar 2014 12:13:01 +0000

Mike writes:


About five years ago I bought a 1982 Alfa GTV6 from a kid who was in over his head. I paid exactly $2,000 for the car, drove it home, fixed up the ignition system, suspension, various other bits, and drove it on weekends or whenever the traffic in Austin wasn’t too atrocious. I enjoyed the hell out of it, rusting fender wells and kick plates notwithstanding. The engine is amazingly, shockingly, damn near perfect. For all of the rust and decay elsewhere, the drivetrain was well cared for, and ran like a top.

With the help of the AlfaBB guys, I got the car into shape. It spent almost two years in a DIY restoration that involved removing all rust, straightening the body, and paint. Of course it still needs work; it is, afterall, an Alfa. I installed some later Recaro mesh head seats, cleaned up the interior, rewired schizy electrics, etc. In terms of show car score, maybe a 4/10. But in terms of every other GTV6 I’ve ever seen on the road? It’s an 8/10.

Trouble is, I’ve had two daughters since I bought the car. Finding time to just replace the fuel filter takes a month of planning. I’m consumed by anxiety whenever I drive it, worried that if/when it does develop a real problem, I simply won’t have the time to fix it. Let’s not even get into money (aside for the curmudgeons – we are doing well, in that we save more than we spend, own our home, and have no debt). I love this car. I love the way driving it makes me feel. But I don’t think it’s for me anymore.

Here are three scenarios, but I’m open to more.

  1. I keep the car, but rarely drive it. The value of the GTV6 is slowly rising, and based on conversations at a recent cars & coffee, I could expect the car to be worth quite a bit more than I’ve put into it (about $8,000 so far) over the next few years. This idea makes me sad, though. The car is meant to be driven.
  2. I sell it. I have no idea what to ask. Probably $8,000-8,500 based on recent transactions. Then in a few years, when the kids are a little older and I have more mad-money savings, I buy an S2000 or something along those lines.
  3. This is my favorite… I trade it for something of more or less the same value, but more reliable, more Japanese (probably), and equally fun and frivolous. Maybe even get a little cash for mods and restoration on top of the deal. Something I could use to get back into autocross would be ideal. Obvious answer – Miata. I sorely miss my ’94 Integra GSR to this day, too.

What say the commentariat?

Sajeev answers:

All three scenarios are do-able and very logical.  With your current finances and a super cool car like that, well, you can’t go wrong.  I would combine 1 and 2, driving the Alfa on occasion until the right buyer shows up.  Said buyer needs to pay a premium (i.e. not a fire sale auction price) and love it like a true classic car enthusiast.  Think of yourself as one of those folks who cares for rescue dogs. So to speak.

Or perhaps a combination of 1 and 3? Nothing wrong with having a toy, especially when it’s less of a time/money drain on your life.

No matter, I wouldn’t consider option #2 by itself.  That implies the Alfa is something you should sell for a price, no matter what the future life of the vehicle shall be.  That’s a mistake, because anyone who restores a classic car understands the value of their hard work…and understands that they are merely a temporary owner of a piece of history.  A rolling historical artifact that’s more than the sum of its parts, and more than just one person’s pride.  So it demands to be treated more than a mere commodity that can be sold anywhere!

Give it a fighting chance, take the time to find the right owner for the Alfa.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Geneva 2014: Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Tue, 04 Mar 2014 21:36:32 +0000 Alfa-Romeo-4C-Spider-06

Looking like an Alfa-fied Elise, the 4C Spider loses its roof and gains a custom made exhaust by Akrapovic, best known for making very loud aftermarket systems. Sound’s good to me (no pun intended).

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Only Select Fiat Dealers Will Get Alfa Romeo Franchises Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:00:32 +0000 Alfa Romeo 4C

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is set to bring Alfa Romeo back into the United States market after a two-decade absence with the 4C, but only the best-performing Fiat dealerships will be selected to sell the first new Alfas when the lighweight $60,000 sports car rolls off the dock in June.

The Detroit News reports the majority of Fiat dealerships who were promised an Alfa wing will not be along for the ride in 2014. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne stated that his company would only allow “the best-performing Fiat dealers to participate” based on “simple dealer metrics” and efficacy in representing Fiat. Though he also added that said dealers knew who they were, FCA spokesman Rick Deneau countered his boss’s statement, saying that those dealers “have not been identified yet.”

While the 4C will be the only Alfa offering available this year, it will be joined in 2015 by the Giulia, Giulietta and a new Spider co-developed with Mazda, which will also underpin the latter’s new MX-5 roadster. The 4C is motivated by a turbocharged four-pot driving 240 horses out of the back gate, pushing the 1875-pound sports car from naught to 60 in 4.5 seconds.

However, follow-through hasn’t been FCA’s strong suit regarding Alfa’s return, with the brand originally promised to Fiat dealers in 2012, then last year before settling upon June 2014. The return was also promised to come with a full lineup to display in showrooms, but only the 4C will be setting the pace this year as it goes up against the Porsche Cayman and Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

According to IHS Automotive, selected Fiat dealers will move 500 4Cs in 2014, with 8,400 more in 2015 once more dealers join the fray. IHS also expects Alfa to move 28,000 units in the U.S. by the end of 2016.

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Fiat Punto to Be Axed, $13.2 billion Spent On 20 New Models Over Next 3 Years Tue, 10 Dec 2013 13:30:48 +0000 Fiat Punto, not long for this world.

Fiat Punto, not long for this world.

Sources tell Bloomberg News that Fiat Spa will spend as much as 9 billion euros ($12 billion) over the next three years developing new models for for the European market. The Italian automaker hopes the strategy will end losses on the continent and restore drastically underutilized Italian factories to profitability. Many of the new models will be based on either the Fiat 500 subcompact or the small, low cost Panda.  A five door version of the 500 will replace the Punto. The Punto, last restyled in 2005, has long been a fixture in Fiat showrooms and as recently as 2007 it accounted for almost a third of the Fiat brand’s sales in Europe.

Though Fiat wants to use its Italian factories better, the Punto’s replacement will be built in Poland to save on costs. Sergio Marchionne believes that “made in Italy” works with upscale brands like Maserati and Alfa Romeo. The upcoming Maserati Levante SUV will be made in Fiat’s Mirafiori factory.

Not able to access the profits that Chrysler is banking because it’s not wholly owned by Fiat yet, Marchionne must find a way to staunch the parent brand’s bleeding red ink in Europe. Fiat has previously announced that it hopes to develop about 20 new models for Europe by 2016, including eight Alfa Romeos. Some of those cars are a 500 based SUV along with Italian made Jeeps to be introduced alongside the open version of Alfa’s 4C sports car.

Fiat has lost market share in Europe for the past four years, with deliveries dropping 47% over that period and market share going form 9.3% to 6.2%. The Italian automaker has had almost 2 billion euros in operating losses since 2011, including over 300 million euros in loses for the first three quarters of 2013.

Many of Fiat’s 30,700 production workers in Italy have been furloughed this year, most of them for more than five months.

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Marchionne To Reveal Yet Another Relaunch Plan for Alfa Romeo Tue, 03 Dec 2013 12:00:18 +0000 800px-'_2012_Geneva_Motor_Show_-_Disco_Volante

For the fourth time since 2004 Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is reported to have devised a new plan to revive the Alfa Romeo brand, this one focused on premium vehicles made in Italy for export to the world. Alfa hasn’t made a profit in the nine years since Marchionne took the reigns at Fiat.

Marchionne’s latest plan for Alfa will be based on a new rear wheel drive architecture (with all wheel drive variants) that will be developed by a dedicated group of engineers at Maserati in Modena, headed by Philippe Krieff. Krieff reports directly to Harald Wester, Fiat-Chrysler chief technical officer and CEO of Alfa and Maserati. The new platform is seen as needed to compete with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. With sales of 101,000 units last year Alfa Romeo doesn’t really have the kind of volume to support dedicated platforms so the architecture will like be used by Chrysler and Dodge as well. Sources say it could be ultimately used for the Chrysler 300 and Dodge’s Charger and Challenger.

Right now Alfa is hampered by two factors: the brand’s primary market is Europe, where auto sales continue to be soft; and a lack of product. Currently the only models Alfa dealers offer are the MiTo subcompact, Giulietta compact and the 4C sports coupe.

The new architecture will help flesh out the Alfa lineup and be the basis of at least four new models: the Giulia mid-sized sedan and a wagon variant, a large flagship sedan and a mid-sized SUV. The first is set to launch by early 2016 and all will be sold in the United States, where Marchionne has been trying revive the Alfa Romeo brand.

Marchionne has lowered his expectations for Alfa worldwide sales from 500,000 units by 2014, to 400,000 units and last October he said the goal would be “more than 300,000 units.”

Some analysts are skeptical that Marchionne can find the cash to simultaneously regrow Alfa Romeo and buy the 41.%% of Chrysler that it needs to buy to take full control of the Auburn Hills automaker so Fiat can have access to the profits Chrysler is currently generating. Marchionne is in a bit of a Catch-22. He needs Chrysler’s cash to turn around Alfa but Fiat’s current capital structure doesn’t have enough cash to buy the rest of Chrysler to get access to that cash.

One analyst, though, Richard Hilgert, at Morningstar in Chicago, thinks that before trying to buy the rest of Chrysler Marchionne will set up a new capital structure for the Fiat group. Hilgert believes that this would let Marchionne fund the relaunch of Alfa; support new product development for Fiat in Europe; and fund the Chrysler purchase. “I think the company could negotiate a financing package prior to closing on a Chrysler deal with the VEBA [the trade union pension trust that is Chrysler's minority owner],” Hilgert said.

Maserati sales are booming and Marchionne hopes to reproduce that success with the eventual goal of exporting lots of Alfa Romeos from the group’s currently underutilized Italian plants.

“We will focus on Alfa Romeo and Maserati to access the higher end of what we consider to be a permanently polarized market,” Marchionne said in October, reiterating that Fiat would not close any Italian plants. The combined capacity of the Cassino, Melfi, Mirafiori and Pomigliano plants is more than 1 million units. Last year their combined output dropped by 18 percent to 394,620 units, ~40% of capacity, about half the utilization needed to break even.

Marchionne’s precise plan is a secret until its expected announcement next spring but the Automotive News, based on industry and supplier sources, makes the the following predictions.

Giulia: Originally planned to share the FWD bones of the upcoming redesigned Chrysler 200 and due next year, the Giulia will be switched to the new RWD/AWD architecture and launch at the earliest in late 2015. The new Giulia may be built at the Cassino plant in central Italy.

Large sedan: It was going to be derived from the Maserati Ghibli and launched by 2014 but the Maserati platform was judged to be too expensive to use so it will share the new RWD/AWD platfrom and debut at that same time as the Giulia.

Mid-sized coupe: A BMW 4 Series competitor based on the new architecture.

Large coupe: This would go up against the BMW 6 Series and may share a platform with the next Maserati GranTurismo coupe scheduled for 2016.

Roadster: Due in 2015, Mazda will build a two seat roadster for Alfa based on the next generation MX-5/Miata. It will use an uprated version of Fiat’s 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo direct injected gasoline engine.

4C coupe: European deliveries started in October. Asia will follow in Q1 of 2014 and North America in the second quarter of the year.

4C Spider: Alfa plans a version of the 4C with a removable carbon fiber roof, expected to be revealed in Geneva next March.

Compact crossover: Everyone today has to have a compact crossover. Alfa’s will be derived from the replacement for the Jeep Compass and Patriot.

Mid-sized SUV: Alfa had been considering building an Alfa variant of the new Jeep Cherokee at Jeep’s Toledo, Ohio plant but the latest reports say that it might be switched to the new RWD/AWD architecture and built in Cassino.

Large SUV: This would be based on the Maserati Levante premium large SUV that is due in early 2015 and will be built at Fiat’s Mirafiori plant in Turin.

MiTo: Alfa canceled plans for a five-door variant of the three-door MiTo. The MiTo is only sold in Europe and with the weak market there, a business case couldn’t be made for the five-door.

Giulietta: Due for a complete redesign in 2016, Alfa’s best-selling model was just face-lifted and given new electronic features.

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Marchionne Presents Yet Another Turnaround Plan Thu, 31 Oct 2013 18:03:43 +0000 2013-03-05_Geneva_Motor_Show_8286

Another day, another turnaround strategy from Sergio Marchionne. The plan, which won’t be revealed until April, reportedly includes a rear-wheel drive architecture as a key element, with enough flexibility to be used in everything from Alfa to Dodge vehicles.

Although Alfa Romeo is said to be a key factor in Fiat’s overall future growth, it currently fields just two small hatchbacks and the low volume 4C sports car. Most of its sales happen in Europe, where the new car market is weak. Alfa badly needs this new architecture to flesh out its product line with larger sedans, station wagons and SUVs, but nothing is expected to bear fruit until 2016 at the earliest.

Previous plans have called for Alfa to sell 500,000 units by 2014, a goal that was established in 2010. Since then, there has been a constant lowering of volume targets while the date itself is pushed back further and further into the future. The return of Alfa Romeo to America is a bit of a running joke amongst car enthusiasts, but at this point, it’s a matter of global survival for the brand, and each delay only makes the situation increasingly precarious.

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Junkyard Find: 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 S Wed, 30 Oct 2013 13:00:59 +0000 11 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI see plenty of Fiat 124 Spiders and Fiat X1/9s in junkyards (and even a couple of Maseratis), but Alfa Romeos are worth a bit more and thus are harder to find. We’ve seen this ’79 Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan and this ’74 Spider in this series, and that’s about it prior to today’s find.
02 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 164 was the last car that Alfa Romeo sold in the US before its retreat in 1995, and the big front-wheel-drive Alfa sedan had a tough time competing with increasingly ruthless German and Italian manufacturers at that time.
03 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot only is the interior in this one pretty nice, the car is the rare 5-speed model.
05 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin172,886 miles— not bad!
09 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI couldn’t get the hood open to shoot the engine, but I assume the original 3.0 liter V6 was still there.
07 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOoh, 1990s Italian electronics!

01 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 61
Alfa Romeo: “Customers Want a Mechanical Car With Minimal Electrical Interference.” Mon, 28 Oct 2013 11:00:17 +0000 800px-Alfa_Romeo_8C_2300_Spider_Corsa_1932_red_vr_TCE

From remarks by Alfa Romeo executives it appears that the Fiat owned brand is going to distinguish itself from competitors by what it doesn’t plan to offer: advanced electronic aids that could possibly interfere with the emotional part of driving enjoyment. Maurizio Consalvo, in charge of product planning for Alfa Romeo was quoted in Autocar as saying, “Customers want a mechanical car with minimal electrical interference.”  In addition Alfa Romeo’s head of marketing, Alberto Cavaggioni, said that the brand’s commitment to drivers’ emotional connection to their cars means that it may not offer some advanced safety features like autonomous emergency braking. Cavaggioni said, “We can look at our cars from an emotional point of view or from a technical point of view. We give the Alfisti all that’s needed [in electronic aids], but not more. At Alfa we give the maximum fun to drivers. We don’t put safety into the discussion, apart from our NCAP scores.”

While other European manufacturers like Volvo, Mercedes and Volkswagen are developing and promoting electronic driving and safety aids that can control the car without driver input, Alfa wants to retain its reputation as a driver’s car. At the same time, due to economies of scale and common sourcing of components, the brand will likely offer at least some electronic features as blind-spot monitoring, rear parking sensors and the like that are offered by Fiat’s other brands including Chrysler.

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Chris Harris Likes The Alfa Romeo 4C Wed, 25 Sep 2013 10:30:30 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

When a short news blog item based on a couple of tweets from a Road & Track writer attending the press launch of the Alfa Romeo 4C gets over 150 comments before the end of the working day, it’s quite clear that there’s some interest in the car among our readers. Chris Harris was also at the launch of the 4C and you can watch him get giddy with it in the video above.

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Alfa Romeo 4C to Cost $54K in U.S. When It Arrives In Q2 2014 Tue, 24 Sep 2013 11:30:55 +0000 alfa-romeo_100419893_l

According to Road & Track’s twitter feed, the Alfa Romeo 4c, which the magazine is test driving, will arrive in the United States sometime in the second quarter of 2014 and will have a base price of $54,000. So far R&T reports that on the street the 4C has a very Ferrariesque character, while on the track not so much but that it’s still very fast. At that price it will compete with the Porsche Cayman, though with an annual production of less than 3,000 units planned, it’s safe to assume that some dealers may add on something to the price.


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More Changes For Chrysler Product Plans Tue, 03 Sep 2013 13:29:29 +0000 2013_SRT_Viper_--_2012_NYIAS

Post-bankruptcy Chrysler’s product plans have had more episodic changes than the Star Wars franchise, and Automotive News has the latest dirt on what’s going on at Auburn Hills.

Dodge is set to lose the most, with the Grand Caravan, Journey and Durango disappearing from the lineup. The Grand Caravan may live on in Canada, but Chrysler’s next minivan, as well as the next Journey, will become Chrysler products, while an all-new Jeep Grand Wagoneer will take the place of the Durango. On the other hand, a rear-wheel drive vehicle bearing the Avenger nameplate is slated for 2015.

Chrysler’s larger rear-drive cars won’t get a refresh until 2015 at the earliest, while the planned 100C hatchback is dead in the water. An influx of Fiat based product will arrive with a subcompact Jeep and more commercial vans at Ram, while Fiat may see the Panda make its way over here (in a larger form that Europeans are used to).

And last but not least, confusion reigns at Alfa Romeo.

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What Can Alfa Romeo Learn From McLaren? Thu, 22 Aug 2013 13:58:24 +0000 000-2014-alfa-romeo-4c

If you read the title and mouthed “everything,” I can’t blame you, but please bear with me.  What can Alfa Romeo, the Italian former racing marque and the assumed quintessence of automotive passion, emotion, and physical beauty, learn from McLaren, the English Formula One mainstay and sometime purveyor of clinical, efficient supercars?  The two companies represent quite divergent poles along the automotive landscape, but they have much in common, both historically and in the present day, particularly in the North American market.

Alfa Romeo traces its origins back before the first World War, and the company was involved in motorsports straight away, competing in some of the earliest iterations of the Targa Florio, with a relative unknown named Enzo Ferrari delivering them a second place finish in the 1920 race over formidable Sicilian mountain roads.  Il Commendatore later ascended to team manager, responsible for a stable of drivers that included Tazio Nuvolari, among others.  During the latter portion of the interwar era, the European Championship – the predecessor of Formula One – was largely dominated by the Silver Arrows, who enjoyed considerable state-sponsored largesse, although Alfa received support from Mussolini’s regime and found some success, as well.


 Nuvolari’s Alfa Romeo leads the Auto Union of eventual victor Bernd Rosemeyer at the 1936 Italian Grand Prix, held at Monza

After the second World War, the marque once more enjoyed motorsports glory, with Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio winning the 1950 and 1951 World Drivers Championships, respectively, in Alfas.  Alfa continued its F1 participation in ensuing decades, supplying engines to a variety of teams – including March and Brabham – before returning briefly as a full manufacturer during the turbo era, but met with little success, and so exited after the 1985 season.  Afterward, Alfa provided engines to Ligier and Osella, before leaving the sport for good in 1988.


Fangio’s Alfa Romeo 159 “Alfetta” at the 1951 Belgian Grand Prix, a race El Maestro won; note the iconic Quadrifoglio badge

Despite substantial motorsports credibility, Alfa Romeo is remembered in the United States for other reasons, if at all.  Alfa began officially importing cars into the US in 1961, taking over from Max Hoffman, who had done so beforehand.  An Alfa Romeo Spider featured prominently in the 1967 film The Graduate, with protagonist Ben receiving a Duetto as a graduation present.


Although Americans of a certain generation began to consider the diminutive roadster the appropriate visual accompaniment to the music of Simon and Garfunkel, Alfa Romeos acquired a reputation for mechanical and electrical fragility, and overlord FIAT pulled Alfa out of the domestic market in 1995, due to economic difficulties.


The legendary unreliability of Alfa Romeos and other “interesting” cars helps keep this Atlanta garage quite busy

The genesis of McLaren begins in the Antipodes, courtesy of Kiwi namesake Bruce McLaren.  Bruce joined the Cooper F1 team in 1959 and raced for them until 1966, when he struck out on his own.  McLaren perished in a Can-Am testing accident at Goodwood in 1970, but his legacy carried on.  The McLaren team won its first World Constructors Championship in 1974 with Emerson Fittipaldi, who also won the World Drivers Championship that year.  The team struggled through the remainder of the decade, but the course began to turn with the arrival of analytical and calculating boss Ron Dennis in 1980.  The team notched two more championships in 1984 and 1985, with Niki Lauda and Alain Prost, respectively, serving as drivers.  McLaren has historically relied on purchasing its engines, rather than manufacturing them in-house; the team was a customer of Cosworth Ford, aforementioned Alfa Romeo, and TAG-Porsche in its earlier years.  The greatest achievements came through its partnership with Honda, however.  For the 1988 season, Dennis secured the best powerplant, as well as the best driver lineup – Prost and Ayrton Senna.  The superiority of the McLaren MP4/4 shone clearly, and Dennis’s pair of drivers competed only against each other for the drivers title, winning 15 of 16 races between them.


Senna leads from Prost in the 1988 Hungarian Grand Prix, a race which Senna won

Top McLaren brass were waiting at the Milan airport after the 1988 Italian Grand Prix when discussion of a McLaren road car began.  Buoyed by their dominance that season, Ron Dennis, partial TAG-owner Mansour Ojjeh, and engineering extraordinaire Gordon Murray envisioned a lightweight, high-powered supercar that would define the genre and embarrass previous offerings from the likes of Ferrari and Porsche.  Production of the uncompromising, price no object McLaren F1 began in the next decade, and approximately 100 cars were built.


The F1 has inspired awe and lust among automotive enthusiasts for the past 20 years, but the car went largely unnoticed by the general public.  The rarity and sky-high values prevented them from being used as idle cruisers, and the small footprint, demure silhouette, and unknown badge meant that the rabble would accord more kudos to a Ferrari or Lamborghini anyway.  McLaren collaborated with Mercedes-Benz – its engine supplier – to build the McLaren-Mercedes SLR during the oughties, but the heavy GT car is one the Woking concern would probably prefer you forgot.

After absence from the American market as a full manufacturer since the mid-1990s, McLaren returned with its MP4-12C supercar in 2011.  Likewise, Alfa Romeo has pledged a return to our shores next year with its forthcoming 4C model, a flyweight car that Alfa hopes will redefine the terminology of the supercar.  Both companies are confronted with the difficulties and potential benefits of a tabula rasa in North America; notwithstanding the recent, short-term success of Tesla, there have been vanishingly few successful contemporary (re)-launches of automotive brands, attributable to the costs of (re)-establishing a brand identity and a dealership network.  That said, the potential opportunity is immense, with the chance to slough off unfavorable associations and snatch away market share like Sooners rushing into Oklahoma.  For both sporting brands, the lack of historical baggage will likely appeal to performance-conscious buyers who wince at the poseur image that other sports car manufacturers have attracted (and, arguably, courted).

There exist striking similarities between the McLaren MP4-12C and the Alfa Romeo 4C.  Both of them are mid-engined, rear wheel drive sports cars featuring turbocharged powerplants and the exclusive use of dual-clutch transmissions.  Crucially, both cars employ a carbon fiber monocoque as the basis of the chassis; the Alfa represents the first application of this technique in a remotely affordable package (although final pricing is still evolving, the car is intended to compete against the Porsche Boxster and Cayman, so observers expect a similar price point).

Click here to view the embedded video.

Alfa Romeo hopes to deliver its “compact supercar” at a palatable price by harnessing its existing parts bin, as well as the declining expense of composite materials.  The alchemical Alfa 4C employs a 1.75 liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a TCT twin-clutch transmission; both are found elsewhere in the existing model line.  The carbon fiber monocoque borrows from Dallara’s experience with the KTM X-Bow track day machine.  Due to its light weight, the 4C eschews assisted steering in favor of a manual rack.  On top of this clever, parsimonious tech and feature fest, the 4C is a beautiful car.  It’s not an elegant, lissome design, but there’s more than a whiff of 21st century Lancia Stratos about the proportions; the view of the stern is seductive and sensuous.


Alfa Romeo 4C cruising up Lord March’s driveway at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed

The 4C is similarly stunning from the opposite end.  The stance is low and the car improbably broad, with the oversized wheels pushed to the corners.  The classical Alfa triangular radiator looks like a woman’s, uh, radiator.  Admittedly the interesting headlights are an acquired taste, and the mirrors look like Dumbo’s ears, but even Cindy Crawford has a mole.


So what can Alfa Romeo learn from McLaren as it embarks on producing and selling this remarkable vehicle?  The McLaren’s raison d’être is superlative performance figures courtesy of cutting edge F1 technology, and the company has even pledged to update the car from time to time, making the enhancements available to owners of existing cars, thereby offering them even more performance.  That’s quite commendable, but the boys in Woking have a small concern over which to fret:  the MP4-12C – which has recently had its name shortened to the 12C – has been struggling in the secondary market.  A perfunctory perusal of returns 64 McLarens for sale, with asking prices already dipping below $200,000.  Meanwhile, there are 221 examples of the Ferrari 458 Italia available on  Prices for the older, slower, heavier, less powerful, less advanced Ferrari are higher, despite nearly quadruple the supply; you’ll have to pony up about 10% more to get into the cheapest 458 Italia.  Apparently, Jack Baruth’s crystal ball was working quite well last summer.

Alfa Romeo can take this observation to heart and sell the 4C not on the numbers, but on emotion.  They can mine that deep well of motorsport spoils, that palpable passion running through their nearly century long history to move the metal.  Fortunately for Alfa, the back catalog is essentially free, earned and paid for in the past.  All they have to do is plunder it now.

David Walton grew up in the North Georgia mountains before moving to Virginia to study Economics, Classics, and Natural Light at Washington and Lee University. Post-graduation, he returned to his home state to work in the financial services industry in Atlanta.  A lifelong automotive enthusiast, particular interests include (old) Porsches and sports car racing.

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Editorial: Don’t Get Your Hopes Up For Rear Drive Alfa Romeos Mon, 22 Jul 2013 14:25:51 +0000 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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CAR Magazine: Alfa Romeo to Go RWD Only Mon, 22 Jul 2013 12:00:10 +0000 2014_alfa_romeo_4c_overseas_01-0216

The UK’s CAR magazine’s Georg Kacher is reporting that Alfa Romeo will be going exclusively to rear wheel drive models as it drops the Mito and Giulietta FWD hatchbacks around 2015.


The new Alfa models will involve collaboration with fellow Fiat stablemate Maserati. According to CAR’s “insider” source, 2015 will see the introduction of a Giulia sedan intended to compete with cars like the BMW 3 Series, with a larger Alfetta sedan following in 2016 to go up against the E Class and 5 Series cars. Those sedans will be followed in 2017 and 2018 with a compact competitor to BMW’s X1 and then a larger X3/Q5 competitor. The SUVs will based on the same modular platform as the sedan, developed with Maserati. Those cars will share showroom space with the recently introduced 4C midengine sports car and the upcoming roadster jointly developed with Mazda’s next MX-5. Both those cars are rear wheel drive. It’s apparently thought within Fiat that Alfa cannot compete with brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi without superior driving dynamics and that RWD is the way to achieve those dynamics. Look for ZF’s rapidly proliferating 8 speed transmission and a Maserati V6 in the new Alfas as well as hybrid versions. No word from CAR’s insider on whether or not Fiat owned Chrysler will have access to the same RWD platforms, though the larger Alfetta sedan would be the right size to underpin the next Chrysler 300.


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Review: Alfa Giuletta Mon, 15 Jul 2013 13:30:09 +0000 g1

With the new Dodge Dart and now the latest Jeep Cherokee being based on its platform, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta has quickly risen to the attention of American car enthusiasts. As a product of a famed Italian company, festooned with racing successes and iconic car designs, it’s exactly the kind of car for which many of them were hoping. A sophisticated, lithe machine, using the latest clever technologies and designed by sharp-dressed men drinking small but deadly espressos. Certainly much better than the average plasticky American vehicle, indifferently conceived by a bunch of accountants. But is it? Are modern day Alfas still those beautiful machines with inimitable character, like they used to be? Or are the Alfas of yore just a distant memory and the company itself another victim of globalization and unification?


When you lay your eyes on the Giulietta for the first time, your heart instantly warms to it. It looks so organic, so sensuous that you want it to be a good car. Just look at the pictures and imagine a VW Golf, for comparison. Or Ford Focus. You see? Giulietta, especially in dark red and on large wheels, is still far prettier than a family hatchback has any right to be. So when you open the door and sit inside, you keep noticing the looks. The retro-looking ribbed seats look so magnificent that you won’t even notice that they’re too flat to be really comfortable – at least not at first. And similarly, the sporty looking interior with cool red stitching is able to keep you from noticing that the materials, as well as fit and finish, are also quite Italian in nature. And not in a good way.

So you start the engine. The small, four-cylinder turbocharged gem of an engine wakes up with a rasp and dissipates any doubts you had about the Giulietta’s qualities. With its ingenious MultiAir system and turbocharger, it’s capable of providing 170 horsepower and 250 Nm from just 1.4 litres. Which means wonderful mileage on paper, and still pretty good numbers in the real world.

Deeply impressed by the sights and sounds, you put the shifter in “D” and set off for the nearest winding road. Enthralled by the engine sound, you don’t mind the TCT twin-clutch transmission waiting too long to shift up, and you don’t notice the suspension noise, nor are you bothered with shunts and jerks when hitting potholes. If a normal car drove like this, you would hate it with a passion bordering on the Italian. But this is sporty Alfa, so that passionate hate is supposed to turn into love, right?


Soon enough, you’re in the hills. The TCT, quite annoying in town, works like a treat in the manual mode. The engine sings, and when you start to get really going, even the suspension shows amazing talent. Potholes that were almost unbearable at city speeds are now flown over. The dubious logic of the car’s controls is forgotten, as are the flat seats. You’re flying.

So you get back to the dealership and sign the papers. You’re in love. But your life is not just tearing down the winding roads. You have places to go and traffic jams to sit through. So you spend much more time dealing with the jerky transmission and the illogical set of drivetrain modes, which don’t offer the help of electronic differential lock in any other mode than “dynamic” – not even in “all weather”. When that gets boring, you can spend time counting the grains of sand or gravel thrumming as they hit your floorboards. Yes, you can hear every single one.

Were I a rational, unbiased human being, I would dismiss this thing as a terrible car. In 2013, we expect manufactured things, and especially cars, to be perfect. We demand that every single detail is thoroughly considered, every little facet of the cars performance tried, tested and perfectly honed. The Giulietta is not like that. You can’t escape the feeling that designers and engineers, exhausted and torn by the creative work, just decided that they’d had enough. And left for another espresso. Or maybe a few bottles of wine. For any other automaker, this would be a pre-production prototype, not a finished product. A beta version of a car.

But this is Alfa. You will love it, and want it to be good. You will argue with your friends that it’s good. You will even believe it really is good. Which, if you think about it, is maybe even more important than actually being that good in the first place. Or, if you are a rational human with no soul, you will shake your head at its faults for a bit, and then leave to buy a Golf. The question is, is this the right basis for a Dodge? Or a Jeep? Will the Italian temperament, lovely but probably too hard to stomach for average Joe, sustain the transformation from flawed-but-lovable Alfa to run-of-the-mill Dodge?

In this case, I’m sure that the proverbial devil is in the details. The way this car drives, you can feel the inherent goodness of it’s chassis, which probably only needs a few (hundred thousand) more miles of testing to be reliable. The engine is a gem. Even the dual clutch transmission is pretty fine by most standards, truly let down only by its lack of intelligence. And most other faults of the car – the absence of sound deadening, uncomfortable seats, the messy ergonomics – are in areas even less likely to be retained in platform siblings.

So, unlike the “good old days”, when Alfa Romeos had a truly unique character, with engines sounding like musical instruments, driving positions suitable only for apes and bodywork starting to rust even before cars left the showroom floor, this car’s character, as well as its flaws, are simply part of the surface. Which means it’s not that much more exciting than a Golf – yet it is still more exciting than a Golf. But it also means it’s not that much more annoying than a Golf (although it’s annoying enough) and even more importantly, that it’s possible to build a totally sensible, if maybe a bit boring, on it’s platform. And you still let it be known that you’re a petrolhead by owning this thing…

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QOTD: Alfa Romeo In North America – What’s The Point? Wed, 26 Jun 2013 16:00:12 +0000 gtc2

The perpetual promise of Alfa Romeo’s return to North America has gone on for so long, it’s become the car guy equivalent of a religious belief that one day, we will be redeemed by Christ/Mashiach/The 12th Imam. Every year, we hear that Alfa is coming, only for it to be pushed back again and again. Now I’m wondering, why bother?

A look at Alfa Romeo’s lineup is a pretty depressing sight. Just two models, the MiTo and the Giulietta, are left. They’re not particularly attractive or technologically advanced. Those two elements have always made Alfa the stuff of legend; nothing in the current lineup can hold a candle to the Spiders, Juniors, Milanos, Q4s or GTVs of the past. There isn’t even a range of quirky but gorgeous sedans like the 159 or 166 either. Aside from a couple expensive one-offs like the 8C and 4C, the brand is basically an exercise in badge engineering.

Personally, I think that the end of Mazda’s nagare era has finally allowed it to step into the shoes that Alfa Romeo once filled. The 3, 6, MX-5 and even the CX-5 can fill the void left by the better Alfa products of yesteryear. Though the SKYACTIV engines will never ever fill the shoes of Alfa’s glorious 4-cylinder and V6 motors, they do make decent power, and what they lack in character, they make up in fuel economy (alas, that’s just as important today as power, sound and response was in decades past). On the other hand, their transmissions are some of the best in the business; I’d take the 6-speed SKYACTIV automatic over a number of manuals. It’s that good. The current crop of Mazdas arguably have more panache and better handling dynamics than the competition, and unlike Alfa Romeo cars, they actually start up when you want them to.

Some of you will undoubtedly object. No Japanese brand can ever eclipse the romantic notion of Alfa Romeo and an Italian car. They will always be commodity vehicles, mass transportation lacking in passion and soul. But I disagree. Not only has Mazda consistently improved their cars to the point where they are the driver’s choice in any given segment, but Alfa Romeo doesn’t necessarily have the same mystique in the rest of the world as it does in North America. For every coveted 1750 GTV that’s been lovingly restored here, there are probably ten ratty 145 diesels tooling around Calabria, spitting thick grey soot out the exhaust pipes as some wizened pensioner uses it for a grocery run. Not exactly La Dolce Vita is it?

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Alfa Romeo 4C Narrowly Avoids The Ton Tue, 11 Jun 2013 19:18:42 +0000 130611_ar_4c_24

We all knew that the Alfa Romeo 4C was going to be light, but the recently announced curb  (looks like it’s the dry weight) weight of 1969 lbs is unprecedentedly svelte in this era. That’s the same weight as a Lotus Elise or a Volkswagen Up! That  237 horsepower turbo 4-cylinder doesn’t seem so puny anymore, does it?

The carbon monocoque being used by McLaren weighs in at a mere 143 lbs – less than the average adult male. Other tricks like thinner glass and special plastic for the front and rear bumpers also help trim weight. Best of all, the car’s bodywork and monocoque are impervious to corrosion, so if you’re a special grade of crazy (or brave), only a set of snow tires stands between you and winter driving. How about a ski rack mounted over the rear, like James Bond’s Lotus Esprit?

On the performance front, Alfa Romeo is said to be expecting a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds – a few tenths quicker than a PDK-equipped Porsche Cayman S, which weighs 880 lbs more and has 88 more horsepower. Unlike other Alfas, the 4C gets a 25 mile shakedown to ensure everything functions properly prior to delivery. Leave your best reliability joke in the comments.

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Fiat Dealers Crying Out For More Product Mon, 13 May 2013 11:00:06 +0000 fiat500moarproduct


Despite sales of the Fiat 500 picking up, Fiat dealers are getting antsy for new product, with some showrooms struggling to turn a profit based on sales of the subcompact alone.

Reuters reports that dealers have been given the runaround about future product – including everyone’s favorite phantom marque, Alfa Romeo. Fiat has twice postponed a meeting to discuss these matters, and no future date has been set.

But dealers are feeling the stress of having to market a small, subcompact car in a market that has traditionally been less than receptive to these products. Gary Brown, chairman of the Chrysler dealer council and the owner of a Fiat store on Long Island, described his sentiments

“I’m struggling to break even…With the one car in a small (volume) segment, it’s a tough go right now. The real key is rolling out new product, additional offerings,” said Brown. “The four-door (500L) is really going to be a shot in the arm. It will put a franchise on more people’s radar as they are shopping for a small car.”

Fiat’s sales are up slightly in 2013, growing along with the rest of the market. The brand has managed to reach the milestone of 40,000 vehicles annually, something that took rival brand Mini twice as long. But the constant delays and backtracking around product, especially Alfa Romeo’s return to America beyond the pricey 4C sports car is an obvious source of frustration to a dealer body that has  committed to significant investment on the promise of a range of new cars from both Fiat and Alfa.

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A Snapshot Of Just How Poorly Alfa Romeo Is Doing In Europe Thu, 09 May 2013 15:32:20 +0000  


While we wait on the latest round of registration data from Europe (April 2013), a look at January-March 2013 data paints a bleak picture for Alfa Romeo.

Having moved 17,545 cars across 29 countries in that period, Alfa is being beaten by such storied nameplates as Mitsubishi, Smart and even struggling, Lancia/Chrysler. SEAT, VW’s ailing brand which gets its share of criticism for having no direction or identity, is crushing Alfa, having sold just under 70,000 units so far.

For such a strong brand, Alfa’s lineup is dismal, consisting of just two dated compact hatchbacks. New product cannot come soon enough. The 4C is a halo car, but Alfa is one brand that really doesn’t need anything to further boost its image. What it does need are mainstream products that are competitive with the Golfs, Mondeos and other mainstream nameplates across the world. Hopefully we’ll see something soon.

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Volkswagen, Fiat Discussing Alfa Romeo Sale Wed, 03 Apr 2013 14:46:25 +0000

VW and Fiat are in talks regarding a possible sale of Alfa Romeo. The sale of Alfa Romeo to Audi would also include the Pomilgiano assembly plant in Naples, which once made Alfas, but currently produces the Fiat Panda. Magnetti Marelli, Fiat’s famed parts maker, may also be included in the deal, as Fiat looks to raise cash so it can buy the remaining shares of Chrysler off the UAW’s Voluntary Employee Benefits Association.

Meanwhile, Audi has already established a presence in Italy with both Lamborghini, Ducati and Italdesign. Adding Alfa Romeo and an Italian plant would only entrench its standing, and the sale of an assembly plant would be mutually beneficial for both VW and Fiat, as Alfa could retain its “Made in Italy” heritage while Fiat looks like a hero by ensuring that the plant and its workers have some security. Of course, nobody knows what VW would even do with Alfa, considering its sales picture is even bleaker than VW’s ailing SEAT brand.

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WSJ Sheds Light On The Cherokee’s Italian Roots Fri, 22 Mar 2013 17:54:53 +0000

Back in December, TTAC was invited to a very secret presentation somewhere in Michigan, where an assembled crowd of journalists was shown the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. At the time, the car didn’t even have a name. It was called the “KL”. TTAC was shown the base car (shown in the photos) and an upcoming variant that you’ll see next week. When the sheet was pulled back, the murmuring and and hushed chatter that permeated the room immediately ceased. Nobody knew what to make of this new crossover.

It turns out that the odd design, not to mention the proliferation of engineering mules wearing Alfa Romeo body work, has a reason behind it. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Cherokee was originally an Alfa Romeo CUV before it became a Jeep.

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee, which makes its debut Wednesday at the New York Auto Show, is based on a design first developed for Fiat’s Alfa Romeo—a sharing intended to spare Chrysler hundreds of millions of dollars in engineering costs and shorten the time it takes to get new vehicles to market.

Aside from the cost savings, the move makes sense from a marketing standpoint. The Jeep brand is strong all over the world, and a compact crossover like the Cherokee is a great way to expand the brand in markets where a traditional SUV would be a poor fit. In addition, Alfa’s move to sportier and more luxurious cars (not to mention its precarious future on the whole) meant that the KL project would have more success over at Jeep, not to mention help further focus Alfa’s product message.

Even though reaction has been mixed, I’m optimistic about the Cherokee. The Alfa DNA in the CUSW platform is evident in the Dodge Dart, and the compact crossover segment is so damn competitive than fielding anything less than an excellent product would be a fatal mistake for Chrysler. Based on the Dart, the Ram 1500 and the Grand Cherokee, it appears that Chrysler is cognizant of this.

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Marchionne’s Risky Gambit: Bet Everything On Alfa Mon, 04 Mar 2013 15:03:42 +0000

“It may require a miracle to pull off the Fiat chief’s latest gambit,” Reuters writes. To get Fiat out of its rut, Sergio Marchionne has a risky plan: “Take his sporty Alfa Romeo brand global with more expensive models and triple its sales volume by 2016 – after years of losses.”

That plan, says Reuters, “represents Fiat’s only real hope of combating a collapse in its home market and breathing new life into idled factories.” What if it turns out as a bust? “Should it fail, and the new cars flop, the company that Italians view as a cornerstone of their economy will have little choice but to put thousands of employees out of work and tip entire communities into turmoil.”

Reuters and analysts are shaking their heads:

  • The new Alfas will be built in Italy, where labor and material costs are far higher than in the United States, Asia or Eastern Europe.
  • “Get it wrong, or find consumers aren’t interested, and it will be a financial catastrophe,” says Bernstein analyst Max Warburton.
  • Barclays Capital: “It’s not the first time we have heard an ambitious volume plan for Alfa, Volumes were supposed to be 400,000 in 2014 rather than the 70,000 that seems likely.”
  • LMC senior analyst Joseph Langley: “Alfa is going to have a fight on its hands in luring luxury buyers into its vehicles, Charging a premium and leaning on heritage is not enough in the highly competitive luxury segments, as Cadillac and Lincoln have experienced.”
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