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. Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Alfa Romeo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 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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New York 2014: 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-alfa-romeo-4c-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-alfa-romeo-4c-live-shots/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:28:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=802842 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 […]

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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? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/qotd-italian-government-auctions-1500-cars-whats-your-pick/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/qotd-italian-government-auctions-1500-cars-whats-your-pick/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 22:28:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=783049 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 […]

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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? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/piston-slap-when-to-exit-the-alfa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/piston-slap-when-to-exit-the-alfa/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 12:13:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=769354 Mike writes: Sajeev, 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. […]

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Mike writes:

Sajeev,

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 sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-alfa-romero-4c-spider/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-alfa-romero-4c-spider/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 21:36:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=763929 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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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/only-select-fiat-dealers-will-get-alfa-romeo-franchises/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/only-select-fiat-dealers-will-get-alfa-romeo-franchises/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753569 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/fiat-punto-to-be-axed-13-2-billion-spent-on-20-new-models-over-next-3-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/fiat-punto-to-be-axed-13-2-billion-spent-on-20-new-models-over-next-3-years/#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 13:30:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=676138 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/marchionne-to-reveal-yet-another-relaunch-plan-for-alfa-romeo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/marchionne-to-reveal-yet-another-relaunch-plan-for-alfa-romeo/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 12:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=668922 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/marchionne-presents-yet-another-turnaround-plan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/marchionne-presents-yet-another-turnaround-plan/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 18:03:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=639241 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/junkyard-find-1991-alfa-romeo-164-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/junkyard-find-1991-alfa-romeo-164-s/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=637561 I 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. […]

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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!

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Alfa Romeo: “Customers Want a Mechanical Car With Minimal Electrical Interference.” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/alfa-romeo-customers-want-a-mechanical-car-with-minimal-electrical-interference/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/alfa-romeo-customers-want-a-mechanical-car-with-minimal-electrical-interference/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 11:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=634929 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/chris-harris-likes-the-alfa-romeo-4c/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/chris-harris-likes-the-alfa-romeo-4c/#comments Wed, 25 Sep 2013 10:30:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=528065 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/alfa-romeo-4c-to-cost-54k-in-u-s-when-it-arrives-in-q2-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/alfa-romeo-4c-to-cost-54k-in-u-s-when-it-arrives-in-q2-2014/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 11:30:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=526305 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/more-changes-for-chrysler-product-plans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/more-changes-for-chrysler-product-plans/#comments Tue, 03 Sep 2013 13:29:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=507169 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 […]

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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? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/what-can-alfa-romeo-learn-from-mclaren/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/what-can-alfa-romeo-learn-from-mclaren/#comments Thu, 22 Aug 2013 13:58:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499745 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 […]

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Cars.com 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 Cars.com.  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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/editorial-dont-get-your-hopes-up-for-rear-drive-alfa-romeos/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/editorial-dont-get-your-hopes-up-for-rear-drive-alfa-romeos/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 14:25:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496604 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/car-magazine-alfa-romeo-to-go-rwd-only/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/car-magazine-alfa-romeo-to-go-rwd-only/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 12:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496557 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-alfa-giuletta/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-alfa-giuletta/#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 13:30:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495135 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 […]

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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?


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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?

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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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