Alfa's America Amore
Alfa has rekindled its long lost love with a mature lady: Aunt America.
Last December, Cammy Corrigan reported on TTAC that there are “very important opportunities for Alfa Romeo in the United States.” At least in the eyes of Luca di Montezemolo, Chairman of Fiat. Despite being the object of unconditional admiration of Alfa-crazed owners, commonly known as “Alfisti,” Fiat’s sporty brand has reportedly lost €200m-€400m per year for the last decade. So something needs to be done.
“Andiamo a America,” appears to be la soluzione in Torino. Reuters reports that “Alfa Romeo is likely to return to North America by 2012 after a 15-year hiatus.” Alfas were last sold in America in 1995.
“I’m a lot more confident now … that Alfa Romeo will reconstitute a product offering that is acceptable globally, and more in particular in the United States and Canada,” Sergio Marchionne said in Toronto. “There is a strong likelihood that the brand will be back here within the next 24 months.”
And because he was in Toronto, Marchionne mumbled that it may be possible that Canada “may play a roll” (phrasing by Reuters) in manufacturing the Alfa Romeo. The nature of the roll remained unexplained. Apart from the impending roll in the hay, it could be anything from a roller bearing to a production line from which Alfas roll, bound for the former land of plenty.
As for Alfa’s chances to convert a lot of Americans into Alfisti: Well, cougars are big these days, and we are not talking Mercurys. In the words of Simon and Garfunkel: “God bless you please Mrs. Robinson. Heaven holds a place for those who pray, hey hey hey.”
I think Rod Panhard, Charleywhiskey and ra_pro are on the right path. Perceptions of Alfa were, like all cars, influenced by the dealer experience. At least by the time I was in the market, Audi and BMW were not sold next to American cars in the same dealership where (I presume) margins were better, distributor/maker pushback was lesser, and customer service demands were lower on the American cars. So I wasn't the redhead at the reunion when I needed service. And I had confidence the mechanic could read the service manual. More important, there was “free” service for the first few years on the German cars, so I was insulated from the niggling problems that pi$5 me off, especially now on the Audi. I worry about a Chrysler sales channel, but getting a few dealers comfortable selling and servicing the cars at a reasonable sales volume can only help. A select market rollout, with a “3 year test drive” service plan, would fight reliability and resale concerns (and alas, if Fiat can't afford it, they shouldn't come). As for the cars, well, even the current FWD crop sell themselves. And a few of us would buy them shipside if that was the only way.
Spent alot of seat time in a late 80s Spider...sure, it wasn't the fastest convertible out there, but the look of that car when it was waxed and the top was down always made me look back and grin like an idiot. I, for one, sincerely hope that they find a way to grace our highways again. Given the jellybean, appliance-grade cars on the road right now, a little vehicular sexiness would be most welcome...:)
I bet MG will be watching Alfa's US re-entry with interest. MG have just started work on a new sportscar so the US may soon get a range of new Alfa's and MG's to play with...
Clearly no Alfisti here at TTAC! We faithful have been promised that sales of Alfas in the US will start "soon" since 2005 or so. The 8C Competizione was a nice start. Now, how about Alfas for the rest of us! BTW Alfa's 100th anniversary (1910-2010) will be celebrated in the US by the Alfa Romeo Owners Club in Maryland in June.