By on March 15, 2011

Volkswagen’s long flirtation with Fiat’s Alfa Romeo brand has hit a few obstacles recently, as Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has been adamant that he won’t sell its money-losing brand to his European rival, saying

As long as I am CEO of Chrysler and Fiat, Mr [Ferdinand] Piech will never have Alfa Romeo. It’s hands-off. I told him. I will call him and I will email him. I’m not the one who bought Seat. He’s the one who bought it. I don’t know if he can [fix it], but he needs to try.

Which, as Bertel has pointed out, is a harsh burn: after all, VW may not be “winning the future” with its “Spanish Pontiac,” but at least it rescued SEAT from a struggling Fiat in the early 1980s. And now Herr Piech doesn’t want to take no for an answer, telling Autocar that it would fix Alfa up quick-smart. How? The same way VW might sex up its Audi brand: by using Porsche engines. Yes, really…

According to VW Group, what makes an Alfa purchase so attractive is the opportunity presented by the new four-cylinder boxer engine that Porsche is developing. Autocar reports

That engine could be installed in mainstream Alfas, bringing a useful historical link to models such as the Alfasud and 33 and setting the brand’s cars apart from VWs, Seats, Skodas and Audis. Such a deal would benefit Porsche too, since it would increase the economies of scale on the motor’s production.

Unless, of course, VW drops Porsche’s boxer engines into Audis as it has threatened to do. Meanwhile, what percentage of modern-day Alfisti really look back at the flat-four engine as having had a lasting impact on the brand’s DNA? Couldn’t VW make just as strong a case for taking over Lancia, due to its use of a flat-four in the Flavia? Or, if volume is such a problem for the Porsche flat-four, why not buy out Subaru? After all, the Alfasud’ most significant modern legacy to the Alfa brand is the Pomigliano plant that was built new for it in 1968, and now suffers from overcapacity and terminal labor issues. VW definitely doesn’t want that problem on its hands, does it? Other expensive Alfa accoutrement: an expensive-to-maintain collection of classics and the Balocco test track. In short, VW would get lots of expensive problems and a damaged brand to add to its already excessive collection of brands.

Besides, Fiat couldn’t make it more clear that it doesn’t want to sell.

A Fiat Group spokesman told Autocar that the firm has “drawn a line” under any sell-off. “We shut the door in their [VW’s] faces and now they’re trying to get in the window,” he said.

Besides, Fiat has a plan for Alfa that involves largely merging it with Dodge and using it to sell lots of Crossovers in America. Obviously that’s more rational than trying to slot it into a niche between Porsche, Audi and SEAT, but it’s probably a less satisfying plan for Alfisti than Piech’s wild-eyed, boxer-engine dreams. And if the Porsche-Alfa cross-breeding sounds like a match made in gearhead heaven, feel free to keep ignoring Fiat’s “thanks but no thanks” routine: according to VW, Piech is willing to let Marchionne’s plan flop before riding to the rescue. In the words of one spokesman,

Volkswagen has time

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11 Comments on “VW Counting Its Un-Hatched (Porsche-Powered) Alfas...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Ah, Volkswagen.  Looking to usurp General Motors’ place as the number one automaker by duplicating General Motors’ methods.
     
    Ask General Motors how well that worked out.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      If you mean excessive platform/powertrain sharing across brands, in the case of the versatile Delta, Epsilon II, Lambda, and Theta platforms, it seems to working out quite well…at the moment…

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Platform sharing is fine.  Selling six-plus models in the same market segment under different brands at competing dealers was not.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    I’ve never understood the corporate compulsion to define anything but #1 as “losing”. “We only made 5 billion dollars this year, The other guys made 6b. We’ve failed”. Uh… you made 5 BILLION DOLLARS. That’s not good enough? VW has decided to go to war with Toyota to claim the #1 production spot… Me? I’d be happy to just make a comfortable living. Only one direction to go from #1.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Why don’t they just take the Mona Lisa and airbrush that chick out of the picture?  An Alfa with a Porsche engine is just a red Porsche with better handling.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    Absolutely loving the way most Alfas look and feel, their maintenance though is like caring for a terminally ill family member.

    Yet there is a good part in it. There is a saying that when you buy an Alfa, you get 100 friends as standard equipment. Heard the same about Land-Rovers, vehicles that are similarly notorious for… character and being temperamental.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      It’s like what people used to say about Harley owners. They’re such a close-knit community because they keep seeing each other broken down on the side of the road.

  • avatar
    charly

    A big reason why VW wants Alfa is because they would get another home market. An especially attractive home market as Italy has the habit of implementing car subsidies when Fiat goes through bad weather. The same would happen when VW would own Alfa.

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