US Fiat Dealers Losing Patience As Alfa Endures Another Delay

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

You want the truth? The Alfa Romeo brand sounds like it’s pretty much in chaos at this point. Since Fiat first got a toehold on the North American continent, we’ve heard so many variations of the Alfa-Romeo invasion plans, each one succeeded by a new and different set of plans, that I don’t know what to believe anymore.

Back in 2010, the brand was talking about a 2012 launch and 85k annual units in the US by 2014, with the initial launch lead by the Giulia midsized sedan. Then, earlier this year, the Giulia was delayed until “mid-2013” as CEO Sergio Marchionne “was not pleased with proposals he has seen from Alfa’s creative team in Turin.” Then, in June we got a “product plan” PowerPoint slide that was supposed to guide the new new Alfa invasion plan, which had the bulk of new products arriving in the US in 2013. Then, in July we heard that the Giulia was bumped to “the end of 2013 at the earliest” and the plans were changing again. Now, Alfa CEO Harald Wester tells Automotive News [sub] that there won’t be a single Alfa in the US until 2013, and that the bulk won’t arrive until 2014. Oh, and the rear-drive flagship that Alfa denied earlier this year is back on for “after 2014.”

And the worst part of this latest change in plans? They forgot to tell the dealers…

Here’s what the plan looks like now for Fiat/Alfa dealers

2011: Fiat 500/C

2012: Fiat 500/C/Abarth/EV

2013: Above, plus Alfa Compact CUV. 4C Coupe and MiTo subcompact hot hatch arrive “halfway through 2013”

2014: Above, plus Giulia midsizer, Giulietta compact, Spider roadster.

2015: Flagship

In other words, instead of getting Alfa products starting next year, Fiat dealers have to survive on Cinquecento variants for the next 15 months. And they aren’t happy, as AN [sub] reports

“Right now I’m pretty disappointed because I have a pretty big investment in Fiat,” said Carl Galeana, owner of Fiat of Lakeside in suburban Detroit and a member of the Fiat Advisory Committee, the dealer council. “I built my store predicated on the fact there would be more than Fiat.”

The CEO of a large dealership group that owns a Fiat store said: “This delay is not positive for dealers who have invested and committed to the Fiat franchise.” The executive asked not to be named.

Meanwhile, the US-market Fiat launch is already “a tiny bit behind” according to executives, and only the most desperate gambler would wager that the new dealer net will hit its 50k sales target for this year. Even if this is the last delay for Alfa’s launch, it’s going to be a lean couple of years for the Chrysler dealers who bet big on Fiat stores, and are legally required to have standalone buildings before the first Alfa even arrives. And with the all-important Giulia already having been delayed for insufficiently strong styling three times already, Alfa had better figure out what it needs to do… and fast. “Getting it right” on product is obviously important, but that step usually precedes setting up a dealer net that’s hungry for said product. And the Giulia was originally supposed to be arriving three months from now.

How much more time do you need in the dressing room, bella?

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2 of 23 comments
  • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Sep 20, 2011

    I was in Corsica last week (mostly French cars there)and saw a few new Alfas including the MiTo and thought when will these come to US Fiat dealers? The MiTo looked like a great alternative to Golf, Mini, 500.

  • Advo Advo on Sep 20, 2011

    Put all the Fiat managers, white collar workers, and creative teams on 12 hour, rotating shifts to maximize the time spent on the problem. But then I wouldn't trust the design quality in the same way I won't trust the built quality with sleep-deprived workers like that.

  • MaintenanceCosts This is a Volvo EX90 with swoopier styling and less interior room. I'm really not sure I understand the target audience.
  • Stuki Moi If government officials, and voters, could, like, read and, like, count and, like, stuff: They'd take the opportunity to replace fixed license numbers, with random publicly available keys derived from a non-public private key known only to them and the vehicle's owner. The plate's displayed number would be undecipherable to every slimeball out there with a plate reader who is selling people's whereabouts and movements, since it would change every day/hour/minute. Yet any cop with a proper warrant and a plate scanner, could decipher it just as easily as today.
  • Dukeisduke Is this the one that doesn't have a back window? Like a commercial van?
  • MaintenanceCosts My rant seems to have disappeared, but suffice it to say I agree with 28 that this is a vehicle about which EVERYTHING is wrong.
  • SCE to AUX Welcome to the most complicated vehicle you can buy, with shocking depreciation built into every one.And that tail - oh, my.