The Truth About Cars » Alfa Romeo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 31 Jul 2015 21:47:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Alfa Romeo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Chrysler Files Extension for Barracuda Name Many Times for Zero Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/chrysler-files-extension-barracuda-name-many-times-zero-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/chrysler-files-extension-barracuda-name-many-times-zero-cars/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 20:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1108513 Folks over at Chrysler have filed another extension for the Barracuda nameplate, according to Allpar, which would be at least the fifth extension in three years with no new car in sight. The filing over at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is wonderfully vague, specifying only “passenger automobiles, their structural parts, trim and badges” in […]

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Photo courtesy FCA

Folks over at Chrysler have filed another extension for the Barracuda nameplate, according to Allpar, which would be at least the fifth extension in three years with no new car in sight.

The filing over at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is wonderfully vague, specifying only “passenger automobiles, their structural parts, trim and badges” in the filing made June 23.

Reviving the Barracuda name would be incredibly difficult, considering it may not currently have a place to live.

In 2012, Chrysler rumbled about replacing the current-generation Challenger with an SRT Barracuda, but those plans never materialized. We got a 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat and we have yet to hear anyone complain.

The aging LX platform should be replaced in the coming years and could produce Alfa, Dodge, Chrysler, Lancia or Maserati vehicles. The original Barracuda was based on the Valiant so it’s possible the new, smaller Giulia could be a future ‘Cuda platform.

Or it’s possible Chrysler just renewed the trademark because that’s what they do.

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Is Jeep Carrying The Rest of FCA? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/is-jeep-carrying-the-rest-of-fca/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/is-jeep-carrying-the-rest-of-fca/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 19:41:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1102393 Jeep is looking at global growth upwards of 20 percent this year to 1.2 million units and that’s before the brand truly ramps up in China. Could it be possible Jeep’s success is hiding what ails other brands at the newly-formed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles? Jeep is on track to record a best ever year in 2015 […]

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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

Jeep is looking at global growth upwards of 20 percent this year to 1.2 million units and that’s before the brand truly ramps up in China.

Could it be possible Jeep’s success is hiding what ails other brands at the newly-formed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles?

Jeep is on track to record a best ever year in 2015 in terms of unit sales with many of the brand’s models returning higher profit margins than those at other marques under the FCA umbrella. However, there are still problems reports The Detroit Bureau, like the struggles with where to build Jeep’s next generation Wrangler.

“It’s a very important and very sensitive decision,” stated Michael Manley, president of the Jeep brand.

The utility-lifestyle brand is also running at or near capacity at their plants, just keeping up with demand, all the while being leveraged in order to prop up other brands financially. Money once meant to redesign the Grand Cherokee has been earmarked for Alfa Romeo. This seems to be true for other models at Jeep as well. On top of it all, Sergio Marchionne wants a Range Rover rivaling Jeep to conquest even greater transaction prices. If such a model existed, FCA could use even more cash to fuel development of new and redesigned models at other brands, but it seems Marchionne might be counting his chickens before they hatch as he drives Wrangler-loads of cash to Italy before such a Range Rover-ish model can come to fruition.

At some point, FCA’s Jeep gravy train is going to come to a halt, and dumping money into brands that look to only stroke the ego of FCA executives – instead of just dumping the brands themselves – will result in what Marchionne has been saying is the cardinal sin of the automotive industry: wasted capital.

Maybe the best way to save money, Mr. Marchionne, is the reduce the number of brands emblazoned on those dealer signs.

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Blame Giulia For Jeep Grand Cherokee Redesign Delay http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/blame-giulia-for-jeep-grand-cherokee-redesign-delay/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/blame-giulia-for-jeep-grand-cherokee-redesign-delay/#comments Sat, 27 Jun 2015 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1101073 The next iteration of the Jeep Grand Cherokee has been delayed to 2018 or 2019 and, according to reports from The Detroit Bureau, it’s all Giulia’s fault. Speaking with reporters at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Ground during the annual Chrysler Model Preview event, Jeep head honcho Mike Manley stated the brand’s top model won’t be seeing a new […]

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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-004

The next iteration of the Jeep Grand Cherokee has been delayed to 2018 or 2019 and, according to reports from The Detroit Bureauit’s all Giulia’s fault.

Speaking with reporters at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Ground during the annual Chrysler Model Preview event, Jeep head honcho Mike Manley stated the brand’s top model won’t be seeing a new generation for the next three to four years, but that FCA’s merger rumor mill had nothing to do with the delay.

Reports from the other side of the pond may show the real reason for the delay: Alfa Romeo. Supposedly, the money needed to redesign the Grand Cherokee in the near term has been earmarked for the premium Italian marque which needs $5 billion over the next 10 years.

Manley also reiterated, “There will be only one vehicle” when it comes to the Jeep Compass and Patriot, though Jeep has not made a final decision on which will get the axe.

 

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Alfa Romeo Giulia First Official Video Goes Live http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/alfa-romeo-giulia-first-official-video-goes-live/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/alfa-romeo-giulia-first-official-video-goes-live/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 18:09:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1099569 This is what you’ve been waiting for, folks – the sound of the brand new Alfa Romeo Giulia’s 510 hp six-cylinder roar. [h/t Jalopnik]

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This is what you’ve been waiting for, folks – the sound of the brand new Alfa Romeo Giulia’s 510 hp six-cylinder roar.

[h/t Jalopnik]

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OFFICIAL: 2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Revealed, Detailed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/official-2016-alfa-romeo-giulia-quadrifoglio-revealed-detailed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/official-2016-alfa-romeo-giulia-quadrifoglio-revealed-detailed/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 16:59:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1099449 Today, at the Alfa Romeo Museum near Milan, was the first day for a completely new design language from the fabled Italian automaker. The Alfa Romeo Giulia will also mark the return of the brand to North America for those of us needing a bit more practically than what’s offered by the 4C. Best of all, the Quadrifoglio […]

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Today, at the Alfa Romeo Museum near Milan, was the first day for a completely new design language from the fabled Italian automaker. The Alfa Romeo Giulia will also mark the return of the brand to North America for those of us needing a bit more practically than what’s offered by the 4C.

Best of all, the Quadrifoglio will be available right out of the gate with 510 horsepower from its Maserati-derived six-cylinder engine.

The new Giulia, which borrows its name from the original model built between 1961 and 1978, is Alfa Romeo’s first foray in mainstream segments in North America since leaving the continent at the end of 1995. From the release, it looks like the Italian brand will make quite a noisy and stylish return.

Alfa says Giulia’s metal skin is shaped around the “technical architecture” of the car. Short overhangs are down to the engine and other mechanical parts being mounted between the front and rear axles. Simplicity of the form, they say, is paramount, including details such as the renewed Alfa Romeo emblem and trefoil nose.

Under the hood, the all-aluminum six-cylinder will rocket Giulia to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds while still returning acceptable fuel economy thanks to cylinder deactivation. Also, due to its light weight, Giulia Quadrifoglio will sport 50/50 weight distribution, though other engines are yet to be specified. Displacement for the 510 hp mill was also unspecified, though the company says it will “make that genuinely Alfa Romeo sound.”

Keeping everything grippy is a double-wishbone suspension setup for the front. The rear will rely on a multilink solution to get power to the ground. That’s not to say this is a rear-wheel drive only affair, as Alfa Romeo states there will also be an all-wheel drive option, though with what engines and transmissions remains uncertain.

Like many other newer performance vehicles, Torque Vectoring will help Giulia navigate corners with ease while a unique active splitter up front gives the first two donuts some additional grip. A new version of Alfa DNA with multiple driving modes – Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficient, and Racing – will also be available.

There is no official on sale date.

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Alfa Romeo Giulia Photos Leak Again. What Do You Think? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/alfa-romeo-giulia-photos-leak-again-what-do-you-think/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/alfa-romeo-giulia-photos-leak-again-what-do-you-think/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 16:11:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1099273 It looks like the cat’s out of the bag as shots of the Alfa Romeo Giulia, seemingly mostly screen captures from a video, have hit the web. What do you think? More photos after the jump. If sources are correct, a 510 hp version of the Giulia will be available from Day 1.

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Alfa-Giulia-1

It looks like the cat’s out of the bag as shots of the Alfa Romeo Giulia, seemingly mostly screen captures from a video, have hit the web.

What do you think? More photos after the jump.

If sources are correct, a 510 hp version of the Giulia will be available from Day 1.

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Hello, Giulia! Alfa Romeo’s New Sedan Busts Out A Day Early http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/hello-giulia-alfa-romeos-new-sedan-busts-out-a-day-early/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/hello-giulia-alfa-romeos-new-sedan-busts-out-a-day-early/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 17:26:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1098017 One of this year’s most anticipated reveals, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, has been leaked on the interwebs a day ahead of schedule. Here’s another angle of Alfa’s new midsize sedan said to be powered by a Maserati-derived V6. We will have full details on the car tomorrow. [Source: CarScoops]

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Alfa-1

One of this year’s most anticipated reveals, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, has been leaked on the interwebs a day ahead of schedule.

Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-2

Here’s another angle of Alfa’s new midsize sedan said to be powered by a Maserati-derived V6.

We will have full details on the car tomorrow.

[Source: CarScoops]

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1998 Alfa Romeo 164 2.5 TD European Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/1998-alfa-romeo-164-2-5-td-european-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/1998-alfa-romeo-164-2-5-td-european-review/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095393 One clever man who likes powaaah, steaks and punching people once said that you are not a real petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo. Seeing how Alfas are either considered terrible, unreliable crap by sane and rational people or totally revered by devoted fans, I assumed there has to be something about them. Maybe it […]

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1998 Alfa Romeo 164 2.5 TD

One clever man who likes powaaah, steaks and punching people once said that you are not a real petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo. Seeing how Alfas are either considered terrible, unreliable crap by sane and rational people or totally revered by devoted fans, I assumed there has to be something about them. Maybe it really is that fabled “automotive soul” everyone talks about.

When I drove modern Alfas, I tended to lean towards the “they’re crap” crowd. The Mito is just a Fiat Punto that’s been made worse and more expensive, while the Giulietta can be a hoot to drive, but you want to douse it in gasoline and light on fire every time you need to use it as transportation. It’s like someone did the first 90% of development and then decided to have some chianti instead of finishing the rest. Which is probably what happened.

As usual, the fanboys say the older cars are the “real” Alfas, before the brand was ruined by someone or something (usually Fiat or GM). And with the prices of 156, 166 and even the FWD iteration of GTV from ’90s laughably low, I’ve been eying an older Alfa, preferably with the famous Busso V6 engine, for some time now. But with my tight budget not allowing for two cars at once, I always ended up going for something bigger, more comfortable and (supposedly) more reliable – like an old Mercedes E-class, Chrysler LHS, borrowed Lincoln or also-borrowed Chevy Van.

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Only recently did a perfect opportunity to get an Alfa present itself. I managed to find some poor soul who was willing to give me actual money for the Chrysler and a friend of mine needed to get rid of her old Alfa as she was getting a newer one (a diesel 159 Wagon). The car in question was a 164 Super, highly optioned and from the last year of the model’s manufacture, wearing some “cosmetic flaws” (= it looks like some crazy Italian drove it around Rome for a month, drunk) and motivated by diesel.

A diesel engine kind of ruins the point of proving you are a petrolhead. Also, I hate them. I never understood why American auto enthusiasts, with their access to cheap gas and powerful engines, lust for diesel cars so much. Diesel stinks, rattles and booms, and it’s slow. It doesn’t rev, which kind of spoils the point of stick shift. Even worse, the 164 is powered by the infamous VM Motori 2.5 TD four-cylinder with one head per cylinder, well known for ruining the reliability score of Chrysler Europe when it was used in Voyagers and Cherokees.

On the other hand, the car had its merits. First of all, it was free. Second, the diesel four-cylinders tend to be quite economical, which is a welcome change after several years of pouring expensive European gas into a series of American cars while broke. And third, it’s still an Alfa from the “better times” (even though it was developed in cooperation with Fiat, Lancia and Saab), so it should be interesting at least. And fourth, as I learnt soon after being offered the car, it’s got a wooden steering wheel, which is insanely cool and in itself enough reason for me to want it.

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So when the time came for me to pick up my new vehicle, I was quite excited. Save for the various press loaners with their fancy new common-rail engines and a friend’s old Mercedes W124 300D-24, I’ve never really driven a diesel manual car in a while. Also, my last four daily drivers (see above) were invariably automatics with quite powerful engines, but with totally numb steering and suspension setup for comfort. Will the Alfa feel like a someone put an old tractor engine in it? Will it have the terrible turbo-lag the old turbodiesels were known for? And can a diesel powered, Saab-and-Fiat-based Alfa show any signs of the famed Alfa Romeo soul?

The last question was answered right after I placed my bottom into the bluish-green cloth seat. Remember all those ramblings about the ape-like driving position of old Italian sportscars? The modern Alfas don’t have it. Even the 156 didn’t have it. But once you sit in the 164, you instantly feel like you’re in an old Italian movie. You instantly forget about “proper” seating position, with nearly vertical backrest and steering wheel close to your chest, and instead find a relaxed position, leaning back slightly and with the steering wheel seemingly too far in your lap and far more horizontal than you would find acceptable in a modern car.

It’s interesting how the seating position changes your attitude towards driving. While it reminds me of old Italian sports cars, it’s definitely not sporty in your classical “sit straight and focus on the apexes” way. Instead, it makes you want to drive in an Italian way. Fast and with joyful abandon instead of precision. You can just imagine yourself bombing around the Rome with a smoke in the corner of your mouth, blasting through tight streets and narrowly missing scooters and tiny Fiats. Or, sometimes, not missing them, as evidenced by the beat-up state of the car (in fact, it was scoff-free when it came to Czech Republic, but it just looks like it was driven in Rome).

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The steering position is not the only part of the interior that feels alien to someone used to new cars. There’s, of course, thin body pillars and the fact that the 164, although it was the biggest Alfa of its time and quite a large vehicle by any (European) means, feels slightly cramped with its windscreen right in front of you within arm’s reach. But there are weirder bits. Its full instrumentation with a cool layout – large speedo and tach in the upper part, voltage, oil pressure, water temperature and fuel in the lower row – and crazy center panel with rows of buttons that resemble an ’80s cassette recorder. Or the power window controls, with buttons for front windows on the doors and for the rear windows on the center console.

Being an Alfa, one would expect it to break. And, stereotypically, it does. The cool buttons on the center panel work only sometimes, and the trunk button often activates the hazard lights. Or the hazard lights activate themselves. Or the trunk unlocks while driving. And the HVAC control display doesn’t work. Nor do the power locks.

But a proper Alfa should also be fragile mechanically and prone to rust, at least if you believe the popular opinions, which makes it kind of strange the most pervasive feeling from the whole car is that of robustness and solidity. It may be that my example is in better shape mechanically, but it doesn’t feel any less substantial than the same-era Mercedes E-class. And, unlike the Mercedes, it doesn’t show any signs of rust – probably the result of Alfa’s disaster with Alfasud (which was usually already rusty on the showroom floor) and its drive to prevent any similar problems in the future.

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At the same time, there’s still a bit of Alfa Romeo’s sportiness differing the 164 from its siblings – the Thema, Croma and Saab 9000 (or at least people who have driven all of them say so). For someone who’s used to large American cars and old Benzes, or brand new cars with their numb electric steering racks, the Alfa’s helm is fantastically direct and full of feel. The shift action is not nearly as great, but that’s compensated by pedals perfectly laid out for heel-and-toe downshifting.

Of course, the large diesel kind of spoils the fun. It’s much smoother than one would expect from an oil-burner that’s almost two decades old compared to, say, the 1.9 TDI/66kW from VW. It has almost zero turbo lag and it pulls linearly from 1200 rpm. When driven leisurely, it’s quite a pleasant engine, but try any kind of spirited driving and you’re in for a disappointment. It’s still an old diesel, so it’s noisy, unrefined and it seems to hate revving above 3500 rpm. Also, the VM Motori four, with its four fragile cylinder heads, is prone to overheating and subsequent head failures.

Even with this in mind, I couldn’t resist taking the Alfa to our last trackday/cheap car race event, but at almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I was pretty scared of blowing the head gasket and never found the courage to really push the engine. Even so, the Alfa showed some pretty interesting handling. With the large and heavy diesel in the front, one would expect it to understeer like crazy. In reality, the 164 is pretty well balanced. On old winter tires, it was pretty easy to adjust it from understeer to oversteer by lifting the throttle and even throw it into pretty spectacular four-wheel slides.

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The Verdict
Though it may be Saab-related and diesel-powered, the 164 is still able to give you a taste of the Alfa Romeo soul. It’s interesting to drive and, after a series of large American cars, it made me understand how US enthusiasts can consider diesel manual cars as something really cool. It also seems to be, contrary to the public opinion, quite reliable (except for electrical stuff) and it’s definitely one of the cheapest cars I’ve ever had to run. Even if I had to buy it at market value (probably $500 or so), it would be dirt cheap transportation. On the other hand, the Italian suspension and driving position, together with cool Pininfarina design, will always make me think about how cool this car would be with a proper engine – the illustrious V6 “Busso”. Since 164s with V6s are almost extinct, I’m starting to think that there’s a Busso-powered 166 in my near future. You have to have a proper Alfa, at least once, to be a proper petrolhead.

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@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives an Alfa 164 Diesel he got for free. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

Photography:author

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While You Were Sleeping: Phaeton Axed in UK, Porsche 911 GT With A Stick and GM Is Down in China http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/while-you-were-sleeping-phaeton-axed-in-uk-porsche-911-gt-with-a-stick-and-gm-is-down-in-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/while-you-were-sleeping-phaeton-axed-in-uk-porsche-911-gt-with-a-stick-and-gm-is-down-in-china/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 15:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1084185 The Volkswagen Phaeton, the pride of former chairman Piëch, has been discontinued in the UK. Don’t worry, though, if you’re one of those people who enjoy such understated luxury. Volkswagen is still planning a next-generation version of the car. Here’s what happened overnight. Volkswagen Phaeton axed in the UK (Autocar) The current-generation VW Phaeton has […]

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2011 VW Phaeton

The Volkswagen Phaeton, the pride of former chairman Piëch, has been discontinued in the UK. Don’t worry, though, if you’re one of those people who enjoy such understated luxury. Volkswagen is still planning a next-generation version of the car.

Here’s what happened overnight.

2011 VW PhaetonVolkswagen Phaeton axed in the UK (Autocar)
The current-generation VW Phaeton has been removed from the company’s UK lineup due to engines not meeting Euro 6 emissions.

opensesameThis Hacked Kid’s Toy Opens Garage Doors in Seconds (WIRED)
Using the pictures Mattel IM-ME kid’s texting toy, security researcher Samy Kamkar has developed a way to open garage doors relying on an insecure “fixed code” system.

Chevy-Cruze-SalesChevy has Sold 3.5 Million Cruzes Globally (AutoGuide)
“Globally, the bow-tie brand has sold more than 3.5 million copies of its Cruze compact car, making this nameplate their best-selling automobile in the world.”

lesabreWatching This 1990s Buick LeSabre Get Thrown Around Off-Road Makes Us Wonder If Grandma Regrets Loaning Out Her Car (BlipShift)
Rally LeSabre? Okay.

Maruti-Suzuki-Celerio-diesel-0Suzuki Builds Its First Diesel Engine, A 0.8L 2-Cylinder Rated At 47 HP (CarScoops)
But it does has a whopping 92 (!!!) pound-feet of torque.

Formula 1 Testing, JerezF1 refuelling decision imminent (Motorsport.com)
Teams are discussing the possibility in efforts to liven “the show”.

img_4613Unique vintage Alfa Romeo took $2-million to restore (Driving.ca)
“Timelessly elegant Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Speciale was a complete basketcase, but the story behind it makes the car truly unique.”

B99276667Z.1_20150604082658_000_GQBH60D4.1-0GM China sales drop 4% in May (The Detroit News)
Drop blamed on “vehicle model changeovers and phasing out of older vehicles.”

porsche-911-spy-nov-2014-194_0‘Pure’ Porsche 911 GT planned (Autocar)
New GT model will get a manual transmission and be distinct from other 911’s with GT badging.

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FCA Delaying Dozen Model Introductions, Redesigns Across Product Range http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-delaying-dozen-model-introductions-redesigns-across-product-range/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-delaying-dozen-model-introductions-redesigns-across-product-range/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 16:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1082089 Suppliers close to FCA and its plans say production for a dozen new and redesigned models have been delayed, including key Jeep and Ram offerings. While high-margin products like the Jeep Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, and Ram 1500 wait for their redesigns, Alfa Romeo may be the only brand in FCA’s portfolio to receive its awaited […]

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2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition

Suppliers close to FCA and its plans say production for a dozen new and redesigned models have been delayed, including key Jeep and Ram offerings.

While high-margin products like the Jeep Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, and Ram 1500 wait for their redesigns, Alfa Romeo may be the only brand in FCA’s portfolio to receive its awaited models much sooner than planned, Reuters reports.

The suppliers stated a number of reasons behind the delays, including last-minute design and engineering changes, especially those whose changes could reduce the automaker’s overall investment in its products in the short-term as CEO Sergio Marchionne continues seeking a partner for consolidation. FCA held a net debt of €8.6 billion ($9.6 billion USD) at the end of Q1 2015, while cash and marketable securities fell €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) over the same period.

Despite the automaker’s focus on updating its most profitable models, redesigns of said models are being pushed back. The redesigned Ram 1500 was to hit production by the middle of 2017, but the suppliers say the pickup will begin its trip down the line in November 2017. Meanwhile, the Jeep Wrangler is set for a July 2017 introduction instead of earlier in the year, the Grand Cherokee may be delayed by as much as a year from its autumn 2017 launch, and the Grand Wagoneer — which is expected to share its underpinnings with the Grand Cherokee — may not make its autumn 2018 production date.

Other models to see delays in introduction or redesign include: a Jeep compact crossover to replace the Patriot/Compass siblings (pushed back six months from spring 2016); Dodge Dart and Journey (full redesign set for 2019-2020); Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger (new designs to now come in 2019 or later); and Chrysler full-size and mid-size crossovers (postponed/shelved from 2017 and 2018 introductions).

[Photo credit: Jeep]

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The End of Italy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/end-italy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/end-italy/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 15:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1058586 As FCA holds their first annual general shareholders meeting in Amsterdam (after 114 such meetings in Turin), Pirelli has been sold to the Chinese. Pininfarina negotiates its sale to Mahindra. The Italian automotive industry as a whole is in a sad state. The reasons for this are many, but the process of “de-Italianization” of the country’s […]

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Fiat 500 "Topolino"

As FCA holds their first annual general shareholders meeting in Amsterdam (after 114 such meetings in Turin), Pirelli has been sold to the Chinese. Pininfarina negotiates its sale to Mahindra. The Italian automotive industry as a whole is in a sad state. The reasons for this are many, but the process of “de-Italianization” of the country’s auto industry continues. In the end, all there could be left is a memory and many homeless ghosts.

Italy gave birth to names recognized worldwide in the automotive industry for their design and sophistication, engineering and fury. It also gave rise to many a brand focused on the simpler side, using a more utilitarian design that nonetheless spawned classics dear to any automotive enthusiast. As to the former, any car lover recognizes names like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati; while examples of the former also abound, Vespa, Iso, Innocenti and of course Fiat.

1899 FIAT 4 HP

It didn’t start out this way. Società Anonima Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino – or F.I.A.T. for short – was founded in 1899 by a group of noble landholders. These people were witness to the growing industrialization in their country and used their resources to slowly control and direct the process. From among these men, Giovanni Agnelli surged as the leader and soon started buying and crowding his partners out. In due course, his family controlled Fiat and do so to this day.

Initially involved in motor racing, Fiat was one of the leaders in the auto world, producing cars for the wealthy. Fiat was the spearhead into the world for the Italian automotive industry and soon set up shop in other countries, licensing their products to be made by local partners (such as in Germany) and even crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1908 building a factory of their own in New York. Some even say Henry Ford got some of his inspiration for the assembly line watching the processes carried out by Fiat.

FS Class E626 locomotive

As time progressed, Fiat expanded and starting building locomotives, marine and airplane engines. In World War I, Fiat was a major supplier for the Allied forces. The War followed by the New York stock market crash impoverished Italy and the Italian industry changed its focus. The first Fiat 500 – better known as Topolino due to it looking like Mickey Mouse – came out. Designed by Dante Giacosa, it was one of the first people’s car and started to motorize Italy and other countries in Europe.

With the ascension of Benito Mussolini, Fiat was forced to recede back into Italy. It was rewarded by being given large government contracts and produced everything from planes to machine guns for the fascist hordes. Then Europe’s largest maker, it basically stopped production outside of Italy, though Fiat products were still built under license in other European countries.

Fiat’s success led to the development of other Italian brands. Vicenzo Lancia and Enzo Ferrari were Fiat race car drivers who of course went on to establish their own companies. Lancia in particular was very innovative building the first monococque car (the Lambda) among scores of other innovations. Those companies then spawned others. Everyone knows the story of Lamborghini. Ferruccio Lamborghini was a successful tractor maker. He bought a Ferrari and was so unsatisfied with the car (he thought its controls too heavy and a chore to drive) he went to complain to Enzo Ferrari. Enzo told him that if he, Ferruccio, thought he could build a better car, he should. And thus Lamborghini was born.

Alfa SZ AutoItalia Brooklands

Fiat’s success also birthed Alfa Romeo in a roundabout way. Jealous of Turin’s success, Italy’s most industrialized city Milan gave rise to that famous marque. It soon went on its way and became successful, establishing itself in racing (Juan Manuel Fangio started in Formula 1 with Alfa Romeo, with whom he won his first titles, then went on to Maserati, Ferrari and Mercedes Benz, winning championships with all) and gracing the garages of people of means. It also worked closely with the famous carrozzieri that were the origins of the famous Italian design houses. Zagato was a preferred partner. Many Alfa Romeo cars carry a Zagato body. So do Lancias and even Fiats. They also sit under other famous names like Bertone, Alemano, Fissore, among others. This is one of the reasons sales of those Italian cars seem unimpressive today. Besides the lower market volumes of the times, Italian cars splinter off into thousands of variations, all wearing carrozzieri’s names and not necessarily that of the makes.

Of course, to supply this budding industry, many suppliers were born. Magnetti Marelli, Comau, Pirelli, Brembo and many countless other recognizable names exist. Like most of the other Italian car makers, many of these suppliers would be incorporated into Fiat in a long drawn out process starting after World War II.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, Pirelli was sold off to the Chinese. That was a shock to many in Italy. Pirelli was an early partner of Ferrari and their stories are intimately linked. 7 billion euros (not to mention the 1 billion euro debt) overcame any inhibitions however.

Pininfarina Nuova Stratos

Other emerging nations are also looking to buy into Italian know-how. Mahindra is negotiating to buy Pininfarina (also closely associated to Ferrari and Fiat). Year after year of losses, debt (160 million euros) is high and the Indians could possibly soon see better looking cars on their streets. Pininfarina would have a lot of work as Mahindras are not exactly known for their stunning design.

It’s not just emerging market companies taking away Italy’s industry piece by piece. Local European vultures, or rather, partners, are also eating up the Italian industry slowly. Volkswagen has been a major profiteer or investor, depending on your point of view. It now owns Italdesign, former company of Giorgetto Giugiaro. Audi has raided Lamborghini and Ducati. Mercedes Benz has a large stake in MV Augusta. Even PSA has carved out a chunk of Bimota. In the case of the motorcycles, it’s been said the Germans are mostly interested in the light welding techniques the Italian companies use for engines and transmissions.

American companies have also taken chunks out of Italy. In 1970, Ford bought the Ghia design house, famous for VW’s Karmann Ghia, the Volvo P1800, quite a few Chryslers, and countless Fiats, Alfas and Lancias. Sadly, at Ford, Carrozzeria Ghia became a trim line and has since been forgotten in the group, being replaced with the rather more pedestrian sounding Titanium.

Ford-vs-Ferrari-Redux-placement

Ford’s interest in Italy is historic. In the mid part of the last century the Americans had a showdown with Ferrari. Interested in buying Ferrari, Enzo and Henry Ford II played power games which led to entertaining one upmanship like the famous Ford GT40 LeMan victories. On the business side, the potential loss of Ferrari led the Italian government to softly nudge it into the all-encompassing embrace of Fiat. The Italian government’s goal at the time was to strengthen the country’s auto industry.

The current piecemeal parting of Italy’s home auto industry is partly the result of recent governments’ lack of interest. At least Luca Ciferri over at Automotive News Europe thinks so. He cites the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler as examples of a government protecting its industry. He also mentions France’s recently increased 14% stake in PSA to help it ride out the current crisis. Germany fights tooth and nail whenever the EU makes moves that the Germans perceive as threatening to their makes. The British have set up a highly successful action plan, government backed, that has the UK again as one of the largest European car producers.

Meanwhile Ciferri asks, what has the Italian government done? In 2007, they had a sort of clash for clunkers scheme. Due to that program the Italian market peaked at 2.5 million units and has since been halved.

Government action or inaction isn’t the only culprit. Bertone, the reputed carrozziere and design house of Marcello Gandini fame – Miura and Countach, among many others – went bankrupt without even being taken over. Fiat’s ongoing challenging market perception and Magnetti Marelli electronics’ reputation have also been a problem. However, larger trends and currents are at play. Surely part of the problem for the Italian automotive industry is Italy’s economy itself. Recently one the “I’s” in the infamous PIIGS club, many analysts claim Italy’s economy is much larger than officially measured as a heavy government hand drives many businesses into the informal market. The adoption of the euro has not done Italy many favors. In the past, the country could hide inefficiencies behind successive lira devaluations. This is not possible any more. At the turn of the century, Italy was the fourth largest car market in the world. Today it is not even in the Top 10.

As the annual general meeting unfolds in Amsterdam and FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne again beats on his consolidation drum aiming to strike that one last deal, the halls in Turin will be dark. Ghosts of the past walk those halls reminding us of a certain flair, a peculiar lifestyle, a particular way of doing things. Around the world, other people will be using the names of the brands that promised and offered this Italian style to consumers. Ideas will be discussed in other languages, not the original. Documents will be drawn up and plans presented in foreign tongues. If those companies keep the promise of the dolce far niente lifestyle the creators of those marques created, it could strengthen that ideal. However, much is always lost in any translation. A Lamborghini dreamed in German is not the same as one imagined in Italian.

A part of the variation in the auto world is being lost. A peculiar taste and flavor will be lost. And we will all be the poorer for it.

[Image credits: Przemysław Jahr via Wikimedia Commons, Icarus83 via Wikimedia Commons, Tony Harrison (Flickr: AutoItalia Brooklands May 2012 THP_7123) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

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NAIAS 2015: Alfa Romeo 4C Spider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-alfa-romeo-4c-spider/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-alfa-romeo-4c-spider/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 05:24:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=976593 Who likes topless Italians? I sure do… The big news is an optional dual mode Akrapovic exhaust for extra noise. A cloth removable roof and a carbon fiber hardtop are available.

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2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

Who likes topless Italians? I sure do…

The big news is an optional dual mode Akrapovic exhaust for extra noise. A cloth removable roof and a carbon fiber hardtop are available.

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This Is Why Alfa Romeo Matters: Alfa Romeo Montreal http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-matters-alfa-romeo-montreal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-matters-alfa-romeo-montreal/#comments Sat, 27 Dec 2014 16:42:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949777   Alfa Romeo is an automotive brand that’s so poorly known in America that some folks think it’s named after a guy named Alfred Romero, so to a casual observer it probably seems odd that Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne keeps insisting that he wants to revive the brand in the United States. The passion that car […]

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Alfa Romeo is an automotive brand that’s so poorly known in America that some folks think it’s named after a guy named Alfred Romero, so to a casual observer it probably seems odd that Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne keeps insisting that he wants to revive the brand in the United States. The passion that car enthusiasts have for a brand that has had, at best, minimal market penetration in North America, seems out of proportion. If you want to know why the Alfa brand evokes such passion, however, look no further than the Alfa Romeo Montreal. Even if  you’re not into Italian cars in general or Alfa Romeos in particular, if your heart doesn’t start beating just a little bit faster when you see a Montreal, you’re not a car enthusiast at all. The Montreal is sexy on wheels.

The Montreal is one of the few concept cars that made it to production mostly intact. Introduced at Expo 67, the world’s fair held in Montreal, and given the name of the host city, the Montreal had great lineage. The 2+2 body design was led by Marcello Gandini at Bertone, and the Montreal shares some of the lines of the Lamborghini Miura, Gandini’s chef-d’oeuvre. It’s four-cam 2,600 cc V8 engine was designed by famed Ferrari engineer Carlo Chiti, who headed Autodelta, Alfa’s racing division, at the time.

The Montreal looks just right. While mid-engine configurations rule the supercar roost, there’s something about the classic long hood / short deck that is just perfect for a grand touring coupe. That’s been true since the classic era. It was true about the 1956 Continental Mark II, it was true about the Ferrari Daytona and it was certainly true about the Alfa Romeo Montreal.

The Montreal doesn’t just have good lines. Gandini put in all sorts of flourishes and fillips. That long hood overhangs and slightly conceals the headlamps, not entirely unlike a lover’s lidded and sexy eyes. Fitting the relatively large (well, compared to the Alfa fours) engine in a car with such a low slung hood required both dry sumping the lubrication system and putting a power bulge on the hood. To make that bulge visually interesting Gandini and his team added one simple, elegant and purposeful looking NACA duct for the engine’s air intake. Though it looks purposeful, the sources say it was cosmetic. The series of slots carved into the C pillar also looked good but were actually functional, drawing ventilated air out of the cabin. They give that part of the Montreal some visual pop and the look might have been imitated by the 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner’s “strobe” stripe that ran up the C pillar and across the roof.

Alfa and Bertone, which was in the business of building bodies as well as designing them, considered putting the Montreal into production even before it went on public display at Expo 67. While public reaction was promising, the concept cars that were on display in Montreal were based on the Giulia Sprint GT and its 1.6 liter twin cam inline four and Alfa knew that would not be sufficient for a relatively large touring car.

Fortuitously, Autodelta was just then introducing the Tipo 33 racer and its road car sibling, the Type 33 Stradale, powered by an all-new two liter V8 engine Chiti had designed. A 90 degree design with double overhead cams for each cylinder bank, when bored out to 2.6 liters, with Spica mechanical fuel injection and twin electronic ignition, the Montreal’s engine was good for 230 hp at 6,500 rpm. At 1.25 horsepower per cubic inch it had to have been one of the highest specific output street production engines ever, even though it was detuned from the racing version, with a significantly reduced compression ratio. Performance was brisk, for the era, with a top speed of 137 mph and a 0-62 mph time of 7.1 seconds. To slow the car from that speed, vacuum assisted disc brakes were fitted at all four wheels. The Montreal braking system also featured two hydraulic circuits, a safety feature that became fairly standard as the 1960s went on.

Most of the 3,700 or so Montreals had recirculating ball steering boxes while the 180 right hand drive models had worm and roller steering units. Intended for long drives on the autostrada, not for ten tenths handling, the Montreal has a live axle in back while the front suspension features lower A arms with upper transverse and longitudinal links. Wheels were 14 inch Turbina made by Campagnolo out of their proprietary Elektron aluminum and magnesium alloy. They were so popular that Alfa would later use the same style wheel on Alfettas and Spiders.

It took four years for the Montreal to reach production, which started in 1971. Though it was expensive, about $10,000 (4,200 pounds in the UK), about $1,000 more than the Porsche 911E, it sold fairly well until the oil crisis of 1973.

Full gallery here

The Montreal’s interior has a classic Italian configuration for drivers with long arms and short legs. Note the canted steering wheel. Full gallery here

Despite being named after a city in the New World, the Montreal was never officially marketed in North America. As a result it’s estimated that there are only about 100 examples in the U.S. As mentioned, less than 5% of Montreals built had the steering wheel on the right hand side. That makes this 1974 RHD Montreal particularly rare to see on this side of the pond. For a car with just 20,000 miles on the odometer, it’s been particularly well traveled. Originally delivered in Australia, this Montreal now calls the Detroit area its home, owned by Karl and Vivienne Robinson of Bloomfield Hills. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson’s Alfa Romeo (sorry, but I couldn’t resist, Katherine Ross’s enigmatic smile on the bus in the final scene sticks in my mind) was photographed this past summer at the Ford Product Development Center employees’ car show.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Alfa Romeo To Build Spider On Own Platform, Mazda MX-5 To Fiat-Abarth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-build-spider-platform-mazda-mx-5-fiat-abarth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-build-spider-platform-mazda-mx-5-fiat-abarth/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=963858 Alfa Romeo will be going its own way for its upcoming Spider, directing Mazda to take its 2016 MX-5 over to Fiat-Abarth instead. Car reports the new roadster will be “a derivative of project Giorgio,” per Alfa and Maserati brand boss Harald Wester. Giorgio is, of course, the RWD platform that will underpin many a […]

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Alfa Romeo will be going its own way for its upcoming Spider, directing Mazda to take its 2016 MX-5 over to Fiat-Abarth instead.

Car reports the new roadster will be “a derivative of project Giorgio,” per Alfa and Maserati brand boss Harald Wester. Giorgio is, of course, the RWD platform that will underpin many a new Alfa, including the expected 159 successor due early this coming summer.

As for the MX-5’s role in the matter, the platform will be heading to Fiat-Abarth, raising the possibility for a new Barchetta or stand-alone Abarth model to emerge from Mazda’s Hiroshima facility in the near future. Alfa’s Spider, however, will be made in Italy, per CEO Sergio Marchionne’s vision for the Alfa brand.

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Alfa Romeo Readies New Engines For 2015 Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-readies-new-engines-2015-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-readies-new-engines-2015-debut/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962314 Aside from rebuilding itself in North America, Alfa Romeo is set to introduce a new family of high-performance engines into the lineup, the first of which will come in the next six months. Automotive News Europe reports three of those engines — two gasoline, one diesel — will debut with the automaker’s new midsize sedan […]

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Aside from rebuilding itself in North America, Alfa Romeo is set to introduce a new family of high-performance engines into the lineup, the first of which will come in the next six months.

Automotive News Europe reports three of those engines — two gasoline, one diesel — will debut with the automaker’s new midsize sedan in June 2015, hitting showrooms sometime in 2016.

The main unit will be a direct-injection 2-liter turbo-four with MultiAir VVT on-board. That engine, dubbed the Global Medium Engine, is expected to produce 180-330 horsepower, with the power directed to the back or all four corners via a range of automatic and manual transmissions. A 2.2-liter turbodiesel four-pot will also be available, delivering 135 to 210 horses in the same manner.

The crown jewel, however, will be a 2.9-liter direct-injection twin-turbo V6 — remade from Ferrari’s 3-liter unit found in the Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli — which will throw down up to 480 stallions for the trouble.

VM Motori has also been called upon, working with Alfa to develop a new version of the 3-liter V6 diesel found in a handful of Jeep and Maserati products. Two variants are expected, ranging from 275 horsepower — like the current mill — to 340 horsepower. The engines will be used in AWD applications, and will only be found under the hoods of a large sedan and midsize SUV down the road.

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Alfa Romeo Sedan Entering Showrooms Next June http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/alfa-romeo-sedan-entering-showrooms-next-june/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/alfa-romeo-sedan-entering-showrooms-next-june/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 11:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951881 Right now, the only Alfa Romeo anyone in the United States can buy is the 4C, a model one of our B&B recently talked about in their ownership AMA. By next June, though, a sedan could be on the showroom floor, as well. Automotive News Europe reports the sedan — codenamed 952 — will be […]

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alfa-romeo-159-3.2-7

Right now, the only Alfa Romeo anyone in the United States can buy is the 4C, a model one of our B&B recently talked about in their ownership AMA. By next June, though, a sedan could be on the showroom floor, as well.

Automotive News Europe reports the sedan — codenamed 952 — will be the successor to the 159, and will be positioned between the BMW 3 and 5 series. As for the name, it was to have been dubbed the Giulia when it was expected to go on sale this year, but will have a new name instead.

The new sedan is part of eight models set to help build up Alfa Romeo’s portfolio by 2018, leading field that will include a midsize SUV and a large flagship sedan. The portfolio expansion is part of an overall plan to boost the brand’s sales, with a goal of 400,000 sold annually by 2018, and a jump from nil to 150,000/year in the North American market in the same period.

As for the 4C, the first few U.S.-bound models will sell for $70,000 once they leave the container dock, while the $55,000 base model will follow later. Those cars will head for 84 Fiat and Maserati dealers in the U.S. and Canada, a number that will expand to 200 by the end of 2015.

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TTAC AMA: I Own An Alfa Romeo 4C http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/ttac-ama-alfa-romeo-4c/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/ttac-ama-alfa-romeo-4c/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 20:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=951129 This week, TTAC reader vaujot from Frankfurt am Main chimes in. To start, you may wonder why I bought this car. Two reasons: Firstly, I am an Alfista. I have memories of sitting in my uncle’s Giulia sedan as a five-year old and the unusual smell of leather interior (he eventually gave up on Alfas, […]

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DSC04704

This week, TTAC reader vaujot from Frankfurt am Main chimes in.

To start, you may wonder why I bought this car.

Two reasons:
Firstly, I am an Alfista. I have memories of sitting in my uncle’s Giulia sedan as a five-year old and the unusual smell of leather interior (he eventually gave up on Alfas, they’re not well suited for Swiss winters). Since eight years, I own a 1962 Giulia Spider and through this have made the acquittance of nice and interesting fellow Alfa owners. I think it is great that they again make a car that you can drive to a meeting of Porsche owners and get compliments.

Secondly, the car is special. I see Porsches around where I live all the time. Some of my neighbors don’t even bother to keep them in a garage, parking on the street instead. In contrast, I have only once met another Alfa 4C owner and that happened after making an appointment via the 4C-forum. We met at the Nürburgring.

Alfa treats the car and its buyers as special, too. When you take delivery, you get a box containing an owners card, a key ring, a memory stick (the long users manual is stored, there) and a leather-bound folder including among other things a few photos that according to the salesman show the making of your very car.

In Europe, the 4C is sold as a low-volume model. They may only sell 1000 cars a year and it is exempted from certain regulations (I think pedestrian impact, side airbags and, of course, noise – the car is embarrassingly loud in town). Each car gets its own numbered certificate of conformity and mine is number 604 out of 1000 for this year.

Looking forward to your questions.

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Management Shuffle At FCA Sends Bigland To Head Up Alfa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/management-shuffle-fca-sends-bigland-head-alfa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/management-shuffle-fca-sends-bigland-head-alfa/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:56:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=894242 FCA is shuffling the management deck, assigning two experienced executives to new roles within the company. Reid Bigland, formerly the head of the Ram Brand, will now become Alfa Romeo’s top executive for the NAFTA region. Bigland, who once oversaw the Dodge brand, currently is also responsible for Chrysler Canada and is on the company’s […]

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FCA is shuffling the management deck, assigning two experienced executives to new roles within the company.

Reid Bigland, formerly the head of the Ram Brand, will now become Alfa Romeo’s top executive for the NAFTA region. Bigland, who once oversaw the Dodge brand, currently is also responsible for Chrysler Canada and is on the company’s Board of Directors. Bigland has been mentioned as a potential successor to CEO Sergio Marchionne, and the Alfa appointment will be a major test of his management abilities, given the uphill climb that the brand will face in establishing a solid foothold in North America, and meeting Marchionne’s lofty sales goals.

Taking Bigland’s place at Ram is Bob Hegbloom, a Ram veteran with wide ranging experience both at the truck brand and with Chrysler’s other truck products. Hegbloom will assume control of one of FCA’s growth engines, but will also be responsible for ensuring that the truck brand doesn’t fall behind technologically, in the wake of developments like Ford’s upcoming aluminum F-150, and the new V8 diesel Nissan Titan being developed by former Ram boss Fred Diaz.

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Marchionne: Alfa Romeo Still Not For Sale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-reveals-face-2016-xe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-reveals-face-2016-xe/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876841 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is open to forming new alliance with other automakers as far as cost-savings are concerned, but he maintains that Alfa Romeo is not for sale. Automotive News Europe reports Marchionne said as much during a conference call regarding Fiat’s Q2 2014 earnings, reaffirming the parent company’s commitment to Alfa […]

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is open to forming new alliance with other automakers as far as cost-savings are concerned, but he maintains that Alfa Romeo is not for sale.

Automotive News Europe reports Marchionne said as much during a conference call regarding Fiat’s Q2 2014 earnings, reaffirming the parent company’s commitment to Alfa Romeo and proclaiming his company is not “in the business of brand-trading.”

Said commitment includes a €5 billion ($6.7 billion USD) investment to help the premium brand become a sought-after global brand of eight new models — underpinned by the upcoming Giorgio RWD/AWD platform — with annual sales of 400,000 by 2018, up from 74,000 in 2013.

As for alliances, Marchionne is open to the idea, though nothing is on the table as of this writing.

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Crapwagon Outtake: You Don’t Have To Wait For A $30k Alfa Giulia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/crapwagon-outtake-you-dont-have-to-wait-for-a-30k-alfa-giulia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/crapwagon-outtake-you-dont-have-to-wait-for-a-30k-alfa-giulia/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 17:38:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861033   Why wait to pay $30,000 for Alfa’s new, long-rumored, often-postponed rear-drive Giulia when you can have one right now? Bring A Trailer has this example, lovingly cared for by Automobile Magazine’s Jamie Kitman, for as much as an Audi A3. Like all of Kitman’s vintage motors, this one is in tip-top shape and has […]

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Why wait to pay $30,000 for Alfa’s new, long-rumored, often-postponed rear-drive Giulia when you can have one right now?

Bring A Trailer has this example, lovingly cared for by Automobile Magazine’s Jamie Kitman, for as much as an Audi A3. Like all of Kitman’s vintage motors, this one is in tip-top shape and has an interesting history to go along with it, having made the trip from Rome to New York via London. If anyone is interested, you can contact Jamie through the BaT ad.

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1981-alfa-romeo-spider/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1981-alfa-romeo-spider/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856321 Prices for (non-164) Alfa Romeos have been getting somewhat crazy in recent years, but it’s still possible to get a restorable 1970s or 1980s Spider for non-insane bucks. The proof of this is that rougher examples still show up now and then at the self-service wrecking yards I frequent. In this series so far, we’ve […]

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13 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPrices for (non-164) Alfa Romeos have been getting somewhat crazy in recent years, but it’s still possible to get a restorable 1970s or 1980s Spider for non-insane bucks. The proof of this is that rougher examples still show up now and then at the self-service wrecking yards I frequent. In this series so far, we’ve seen this ’74, this ’78, and now today’s ’81.
01 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is ugly, but it doesn’t show the atomic-testing-grade obliteration that Colorado convertibles get when left outside for years with no top.
07 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAlfa Spiders love to rust, even in single-digit-humidity Colorado.
06 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot worth restoring, but a good parts car.
11 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIts final parking place is next to a Mazda RX-7.

01 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Alfa 4C Arrives In 86 North American Showrooms, Brings 342 Pounds Of Luggage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/alfa-4c-arrives-in-86-north-american-showrooms-brings-342-pounds-of-luggage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/alfa-4c-arrives-in-86-north-american-showrooms-brings-342-pounds-of-luggage/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 10:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=841969 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has just released their initial list of dealerships who will have the right to sell the Alfa Romeo 4C to North American customers, while the sports car will bring 342 pounds of luggage for the trip from Modena to the selected showrooms. Autoblog reports all but four dealerships will be in the […]

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has just released their initial list of dealerships who will have the right to sell the Alfa Romeo 4C to North American customers, while the sports car will bring 342 pounds of luggage for the trip from Modena to the selected showrooms.

Autoblog reports all but four dealerships will be in the United States — the remaining four are in Canada — and the majority of those will be concentrated in three of the 33 states on the initial list: California, Florida and Texas. The chosen ones were drawn from a list of existing Fiat and Maserati dealerships, and though expected cities like Los Angeles, Orlando and Austin will be among the chosen, a few big names didn’t make the first cut, including New York, Seattle and Louisville, Ky.

Meanwhile, the chosen dealerships “will have a unique staff dedicated to the brand’s premium market clientele,” per the words of Chrysler Group vice president of network development Peter Grady. The dealerships are undergoing “an intensive curriculum” to ensure the success of the 4C and limited-edition 4C Launch Edition as FCA presses forward toward its goal of over 300 Alfa dealerships in North America.

As for the 4C itself, Jalopnik says the sports car packed on an additional 342 pounds to its 2,153-pound Euro-spec frame for the U.S. market, coming into port at 2,495 pounds. Aside from the usual federalization mandates, some of the weight comes from the standard air-con and radio equipped in the U.S.-spec model.

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Junkyard Find: 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1978-alfa-romeo-spider/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1978-alfa-romeo-spider/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 13:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=825178 While Fiat 124 Sport Spiders are commonplace in junkyards, the Alfa Romeo Spider has remained sufficiently valuable that few examples make it to the kind of self-service, high-inventory-turnover wrecking yards I frequent for this series. We’ve seen this ’74 and that’s it prior to today (though I have passed by a few junked Alfa Spiders […]

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11 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhile Fiat 124 Sport Spiders are commonplace in junkyards, the Alfa Romeo Spider has remained sufficiently valuable that few examples make it to the kind of self-service, high-inventory-turnover wrecking yards I frequent for this series. We’ve seen this ’74 and that’s it prior to today (though I have passed by a few junked Alfa Spiders that were picked clean before I got there). The Alfa Spider was more expensive than the Fiat Spider when new— in 1978, the Alfa listed at $9,195 (about the same as a new ’78 BMW 320i), while the Fiat cost a mere $6,495 (just a bit more than a Volkswagen Scirocco)— and American Alfa Romeo fanatics have always been more maniacally obsessed than Fiat fanatics. Here’s an unrusted, not-yet-completely-stripped ’78 that I found in a San Francisco Bay Area yard a couple months back.
02 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOutdoor storage with no top in Northern California, with its sunny summers and rainy winters, tends to be rough on car interiors, and not much was worth saving out of this Alfa.
03 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 111-horse, 1,962cc Twin Cam engine is still there.
08 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe giant 5-mph crash bumpers looked pretty ugly on small cars during the Malaise Era.
12 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSpica mechanical fuel injection! This system worked amazingly well given all the moving parts.
20140113_135806When I find a rear-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo with any good stuff on it, I always call my friend Conrad Stevenson to see if he needs anything. Conrad runs an amazing Alfa restoration shop in Berkeley, uses a ’58 Fiat 600 Multipla as his parts runner, and races a profoundly terrible (yet fast) Spica-equipped Spider in the 24 Hours of LeMons.
IMG950181Conrad burned rubber right over to this Oakland wrecking yard (in his ’64 Ford Ranchero, which he uses for hauling parts too big for the Multipla) and grabbed the rear end, the transmission, and a bunch of smaller goodies. The Alfa Mafia is strong in the Bay Area, and no doubt many of Conrad’s fellow capos swooped down on this car during the next few days and vultured it down to a bare shell.

01 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin IMG950181

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Analysis: The Definitive Guide To The Fiat Chrysler 5-Year Plan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/analysis-the-definitive-guide-to-the-fiat-chrysler-5-year-plan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/analysis-the-definitive-guide-to-the-fiat-chrysler-5-year-plan/#comments Tue, 06 May 2014 22:34:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=816249 Wednesday marks the 16th anniversary of the Daimler-Chrysler merger. One day prior to this milestone, Fiat Chrysler has unveiled their business plan for the next 5 years. While the industry norm is to keep future product plans, brand strategies and sales targets as a closely guarded secret, FCA took the unusual step of making it […]

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Wednesday marks the 16th anniversary of the Daimler-Chrysler merger. One day prior to this milestone, Fiat Chrysler has unveiled their business plan for the next 5 years. While the industry norm is to keep future product plans, brand strategies and sales targets as a closely guarded secret, FCA took the unusual step of making it all public, with FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne headlining the event (billed as a conference for investors) at an event in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Each of FCA’s brands and subsidiaries was given the chance to present their strategy through 2018, with healthy helpings of new vehicles, future technology and corporate strategy being revealed.

ChryslerCurrently, the Chrysler brand is arguably the weakest in FCA’s portfolio, with just three offerings – the D-segment Chrysler 200, the E-segment Chrysler 300 and the Town and Country minivan. Combined, those account for just 350,000 units globally, a tiny number in the context of a 16 or 17 million unit market in the United States alone. As part of its growth plan, Chrysler will shift away from being a pseudo-premium brand to a mainstream line, aiming to compete with brands like Ford, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Toyota and Honda. The brand will add a new compact sedan, and two new crossovers, as well as hybrid capability on the larger CUV and the Town & Country minivan. Chrysler is aiming to increase sales to 800,000 units globally by 2018, equal to its best years ever in America, in the middle of the last decade – but Chrysler will be relying on stronger global sales to reach this number.

  • The Chrysler 100 sedan will debut in 2016, ostensibly as a sister car to the Dodge Dart. While details were not revealed, we can expect both the 1.4L Turbo 4-cylinder engine, as well as the 2.4L 4-cylinder paired to a 9-speed automatic. Although the latter combination was promised for the Dart long ago, it has failed to materialize. The Dart is scheduled for a 2016 refresh, and the 2.4L/9-speed could appear at that time.
  • The Chrysler 300 will receive a refresh later this year, while the 200 will get one in 2017.
  • A larger crossover, sized to compete with the Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Traverse, launches in 2017. This will likely share a platform with the Chrysler Town & Country minivan, due to its footprint and its plug-in hybrid capability.
  • A mid-size crossover, comparable to the Hyundai Santa Fe or Ford Edge, bows in 2018. This will likely share the CUSW underpinnings of the Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee.
  • The Chrysler Town & Country will be the sole minivan in FCA’s portfolio, bowing in 2016. It will be available as a plug-in hybrid to help meet regulatory requirements for ZEVs.

Dodge: In the “internal turf war” for mainstream volume offerings, Dodge is the clear loser. The upshot for enthusiasts is that Dodge will transition to being a more emotional and performance oriented brand, while still retaining its price point as a mainstream value brand. As part of Chrysler’s consolidation and push for “brand purity”, the Grand Caravan and Avenger will disappear, with the former departing in 2016. Dodge sales are expected to stay flat, with 600,000 units targeted in 2018 – Dodge sold roughly 596,000 units in 2013, and is expected to see lower volumes in the intermittent years.

  • A new B-segment Dodge will debut in 2018, offering both sedan and hatchback bodystyles, as well as undisclosed turbocharged engines. Previous rumors have suggested that a small Dodge would carry the Hornet name.
  • The Dart will soldier on until 2016, with FCA planning to market the car with aggressive leases and better content. 2016 will bring cosmetic changes as well as improvements to the driving dynamics and powertrains. A Dart SRT, with a high-performance turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, will bow at the end of 2016.
  • A replacement for the Dodge Journey – including an SRT version – will bow in mid-2016.
  • All-new versions of the Dodge Charger and Challenger will bow in 2018 (alongside a new Chrysler 300), with SRT versions arriving at the end of 2018.
  • The Dodge Durango will continue through 2018, though it may disappear to make room for a three-row Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
  • The SRT Viper will become a Dodge again, and carry on through 2018.

FerrariFCA CEO Sergio Marchionne presented Ferrari’s outline, which was light on product plans. Ferrari will cap production at 7,000 units per year, introducing one new model every year. There are provisions to increase capacity to 10,000 units annually, and each model will be on a four year cycle, with updated variants (think 458 Speciale) launched as well. While Marchionne stressed that “Ferrari is not for sale”.

With a volume of 10,000 units, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) is estimated to be around $1 billion for Ferrari alone, thanks to its three custom car lines (which presumably generates huge margins) and the extremely lucrative revenue stream built into the brand – its merchandising and licensing business. Ferrari licenses its brand to everything from laptops to athletic apparel to model cars, and these are frequently sold as luxury goods. By comparison, Marchionne noted that conventional luxury good companies are often valued at 9x-12x EBITDA – and his presentation made explicit mention of Ferrari’s target of 15 percent gross margin, and an apparent valuation of between 3.3 and 5.4 billion euros.

FiatFiat’s presentation was the most confusing, with the brand eschewing the unidirectional approach taken by the other marques in FCA’s portfolio. A more apt-description is that Fiat is the exact opposite of “One Ford”, with the brand offering distinct product for NAFTA, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

  • Fiat will dump the Suzuki SX4-based Sedici (replaced by the Fiat 500L) and the C-segment Fiat Bravo (replaced by the Fiat 500/Panda).
  • Future product will straddle the line between functional, mainstream transportation with a “cool” bent (mostly in Europe and other developed world markets) and a novel, European brand (NAFTA). This dichotomy was presented in the form of the Fiat 124 and 124 Sport (a family car and a sports car) and the smaller Uno being sold alongside the dramatic, performance oriented Fiat Coupe of the mid-1990s.
  • In Brazil and Latin America, Fiat will shed many of its legacy nameplates, including the Palio, Siena and Linea. They will be replaced with a new A-segment car, a new Uno, a Punto/Palio replacement, a new Grand Siena, a new compact CUV and a new pickup, as well as the Strada small pickup.
  • Fiat will bring the Renegade-based 500X crossover to North America, as well as a “Speciality” product, presumed to be a Fiat/Abarth branded sports car, based off the next Mazda MX-5.

JeepJeep is one of FCA’s profit centers, and the SUV brand will undergo a major re-orientation from a NAFTA-centric maker of rough-and-ready SUVs to a global brand composed of both crossovers and traditional off-road vehicles. Jeep will transofrm from a brand of 800,000 American-made vehicles to one with manufacturing facilities in the USA, Brazil, India, China and the EU, with sales projections of 1.9 million units globally. Jeep will gain 9 new plants in 5 new countries .

  • Jeep will introduce a new replacement for the Compass and Patriot in 2016, consolidated under one nameplate.
  • The Grand Wagoneer will return in 2018 as a three-row vehicle, potentially replacing the Dodge Durango.
  • A new Wrangler and Grand Cherokee will bow in 2017.

MaseratiAlong with Alfa Romeo, Maserati will be positioned as a premium performance brand, with new product offerings. Although the Levante SUV is still on, more details were released about the Alfieri Coupe and Convertible. Maserati is aiming to increase sales from 15,000 to 75,000 units.

  • The Alfieri will offer turbocharged V6 (410, 450 and 520 horsepower), and all-wheel drive. Rear drive will be available only on the lower output V6 model.
  • The Levante will offer 350 and 425 horsepower V6 engines and a 560 horsepower V8 as well as a range of diesels.

Alfa Romeo: After nearly a decade of broken promises, we have yet another Alfa Romeo product plant that is being presented as the savoir of this once hallowed brand. Alfa Romeo’s narrative has always been grander than its financial success, but things are particularly dismal, with sales below 200,000 units and a lineup of just two small, front-drive hatchbacks and a low volume sports car.

As part of Alfa’s latest revival attempt, the brand has been transformed into what it dubs a “skunk works”, akin to what Chrysler wanted to do with SRT – create an independent workshop that is conducive to experimentation and creativity, free from bureaucracy and rigid corporate processes. Alfa’s top bosses are two Ferrari engineers, with a staff of 200 hand-picked individuals, which FCA hopes to expand to 600 by 2015.

  • Alfa is aiming to launch 8 new products by 2018, with a range of 4 and 6-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines. Alfas will be exclusively rear or all-wheel drive.
  • The first new vehicle, a mid-size sedan, will bow in 2015. From there, a full-size sedan, two CUVs and a new “speciality” car will debut by 2018.
  • The Mito and Giulietta compacts will die.
  • FCA is aiming for 400,000 units by 2018, including 150,000 units in the United States.

RamAs one of FCA’s other big profit centers, Ram is a key brand for the company, but exists largely in the NAFTA region. The half-ton trucks will see a refresh in 2015, along with a redesign in 2017, with heavy-duty trucks getting freshened in alternate years. Aluminum will likely not be a part of the new trucks, as Ram feels that the diesel half-ton truck is competitive against Ford’s aluminum RAM, and has been downplaying the durability and cost-effectiveness of the aluminum F-150. On the commercial vehicle front, a small Ram ProMaster City, based on the Fiat Doblo, bows this year.

Powertrains and Architectures:

While auto makers like Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan are moving to radical solutions for platform consolidation, FCA’s plan showed little evidence of any move to substantially combine existing product architectures. Currently, FCA has 18 vehicle architectures, with the top 4 platforms accounting for just under half of total volume, 12 architectures representing 95 percent of volume. By 2018, this number will shrink to just 15 architectures, with the top for accounting for 70 percent of volume, and 9 architectures accounting for 95 percent of volume.

Proportionally, this is not much of a reduction, and it lags far behind Volkswagen’s strategy of just 4 modular “kits”. FCA also lacks the level of scale and volume that VW has, which would make it easier to absorb the costs and inefficiencies that come with having so many different architectures. FCA discussed its goals of bringing down costs via better purchasing practices, more shared components (like lighting, HVAC systems and interior pieces), but their plan for increasing efficiencies via shared architectures was markedly less sophisticated than much of the competition. Given the importance of achieving significant economies of scale in the future (a topic that Sergio Marchionne frequently expounds on), it was surprising to see FCA unveil a plan that is already behind the times relative to the larger OEMs that it must compete with.

On the powertrain front, FCA is downplaying the importance of fuel cell and EV powertrains, introducing EVs for regulatory compliance in the USA. Plug-in hybrids will trickle into the lineup in future, as will mild-hybrid technology like start-stop systems and Belt Starter Generators. FCA dismissed fuel cells as a non-viable alternative, and said that CNG and diesel will play a role in world markets more than in NAFTA. FCA will continue to buy emissions credits in the interim.

FinanceWhile much of the presentation material was focused on global issues, two things stood out.

  • FCA will continue to use Santander as its captive arm, and will not start a new one.
  • The overall tone regarding subprime financing was bullish, with executives dismissive suggestions of any systemic issues.

Sales and Global Markets: Separate presentations were conducted for Asia, Latin America, Europe and NAFTA regions.

  • In the NAFTA region, FCA sold 2.1 million units in 2013, and is projecting a steady increase in the U.S. SAAR, rising to 17 million units by 2018.  By that time, FCA is looking to sell another 1 million units in the NAFTA zone and increase exports by 33 percent to 380,000 units. However, no capacity increases were discussed for NAFTA, and Marchionne commented on his distaste for two-tier wages in the UAW, suggesting that profit sharing was an option in the future. Difficulties negotiating with organized labor could spell trouble for FCA’s plans.
  • In Europe, FCA has seen sales decline by over half since 2010, while capacity utilization has declined from over 100 percent to around 67 percent – a dangerously low level for a volume auto maker. Fiat’s home market of Italy was among the hardest hit, and Europe’s 13.8 million vehicle market in 2013 is at its lowest levels since 2007. FCA now has to reposition Fiat not just as an Italian mainstream brand, but one that fits the current paradigm where “cool” budget brands like Dacia and premium brands like Audi are stealing market share with their offerings that encroach on the turf of volume vehicles. Higher margin brands like Jeep, Alfa Romeo and certain Fiat products (like the 500) are their weapons of choice, as FCA aims for an increase from 1.1 million in 2013 to 1.5 million units by 2018.
  • In Latin America, FCA is well established in Brazil and Argentina, with multiple assembly plants in the two countries running at over 100 percent capacity. FCA expects the market to grow from 5.9 million units this year to 6.9 million units in 2018, with most of that growth coming from Brazil, a country where Fiat is the closest thing to a national brand. Jeep is also expected to be a strong player, with Brazilian production of the Renegade expected to start in 2015. FCA is planning to increase sales from 900,000 units this year to 1.3 million units in 2018. Fiat is expected to account for 1.1 million units, Jeep for 200,000 units and other brands making up the remainder.
  • Asia, India, Australia and other Pacific markets are also being given increasing attention by FCA, with China remaining the dominant market at 28 million units. FCA expects India to overtake Japan as its second largest market by 2018, with 5 million units annually. While FCA projects an increase from 200,000 units in 2013 to 1.1 million units by 2018, on the back of strong sales of Jeep crossovers in India and China, as well as a wide new range of Fiat product. The only question is – how will they pay for all this new product?

Conclusion:

FCA’s day-long meeting was an anomaly in the industry, providing car enthusiasts with a detailed look at future product offerings, and intense discussions of FCA’s various brands and their respective visions. No other OEM is so candid with their upcoming debuts, and FCA deserves praise for setting a positive example for other OEMs.

But dig a little deeper, and many important questions remain answered.

  • FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne is one of the biggest advocates for the necessity of economics of scale via increasing volumes, yet his plan for reducing the number of architectures looks amateur compared to the extremely aggressive plans laid out by archrival Volkswagen. While VWs global volume was 9.7 million units in 2013, it is paring down its architectures to just 4. Meanwhile, FCA, which sold 1.5 million units globally in 2013, will have 15 architectures and volumes of 5.7 million units worldwide. Compared to VW, Nissan, Toyota and even General Motors (which has a sophisticated set of architectures for its global products), FCA’s strategy seems bloated, if not obsolete, from Day 1.
  • FCA is all-in on the internal combustion engine, and is only just dipping its toe into the water of plug-in vehicles, with a plug-in hybrid. EVs are solely produced to appease regulators, and fuel cell vehicles are not in the cards. Even long-time advocates of the internal combustion engine have some kind of ZEV program (such as Hyundai, which has a fuel-cell program). This is a risky gambit, with significant upside and downside potential. Many EV programs aren’t going as well as OEMs had hoped, but FCA could be left in the dust in terms of R&D.
  •  FCA is dangerously reliant on both Jeep and RAM for their profits. A 2008-like combination of spiking gas prices and a downturn in the economy (especially housing starts, which are a key driver of pickup sales) could leave FCA exposed to both falling demand for gas-guzzling trucks and have a severe impact on the high numbers of FCA vehicles financed via subprime rates. These less credit-worthy borrowers would likely be the first to default on their payments, and a mass repossession of FCA vehicles could be another blow at an inopportune time.
  • There has been no mention of how the substantial increase in NAFTA sales will come without any additional NAFTA capacity (something Sergio Marchionne has previously sworn off). Jeeps imported from Italy and Brazil (and even China) could be an option, but booming sales of Ram trucks couldn’t be built anywhere else. Marchionne’s comments about his distaste for two-tier wages could also spell trouble for his hourly workforce when it’s time to negotiate their contracts in 2016.
  • Who is financing all of the(mostly Fiat) new product earmarked for Asia? And why all this talk of Ferrari’s value if the company is not for sale?
  • Is Alfa really going to sell 150,000 units (volumes comparable to Audi) in America? Even the most dewey-eyed Alfa diehards in the industry find that to be a bit of a stretch.

Marchionne and FCA have been known to say one thing and then completely change direction, miss deadlines and dodge questions about missing deliverables (the 9-speed Dart is the automotive world’s Jimmy Hoffa). But they’ve also presented an admirable turnaround for a once-ailing car maker, even when the rest of the world was prepared to write them off. Yes, one may argue that Marchionne and Fiat bought Chrysler’s assets for a song, and that the road has at times been rocky. But a decade ago, plans for Jeep’s global expansion, Ram’s possible conquest of GM trucks and a thriving line of Chrysler and Dodge products would have been the stuff of only the most zealous Mopar fan. It’s now a very real possibility.

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Beijing 2014: Audi TT Offroad Concept http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/beijing-2014-audi-tt-offroad-concept/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/beijing-2014-audi-tt-offroad-concept/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:43:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=806722 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 […]

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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.

Audi-TT-offroad-concept audi-tt-offroad-concept-2014-beijing-auto-show_100464930_l Audi TT offroad concept Audi-TT-Offroad-Concept-0 Audi TT offroad concept Audi TT offroad concept audi-tt-offroad-concept-2014-beijing-auto-show_100464923_l

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