Alfa Romeo Plans to Beat Germany by Tapping Its Proud SUV Heritage

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Alfa Romeo, the company that has had repeated difficulties getting the Giulia into North America, is planning to launch nine new models over the next five years.

How it actually plans to do this is anybody’s guess.

“Our goal is absolutely to go toe to toe with the Germans, but that’s not a two-year plan,” Alfa’s Reid Bigland explained in an interview with Autocar. “We’re just not going to get there that quickly. They’re in every segment and spinning derivatives off those segments.”

He specified SUVs being a large portion of Alfa Romeo’s plan to take on the Germans. The Giulia-based Stelvio SUV is already scheduled to arrive at dealerships in summer 2017 to compete with the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW’s X3. But Autocar hinted there might also be a performance-oriented competitor for the F-Pace and Porsche Macan, possibly using the Kamal crossover concept’s name.

Bigland also suggested that a larger SUV would make it to production as part of Alfa’s five-year strategy. “The whole world is gravitating to SUVs,” he said. “A few years ago, an Alfa SUV would have been sacrilegious, but now it makes perfect sense. Our job is to keep an eye on consumer preferences and give people what they want.”

The large SUV could be based on the same platform as Maserati’s Levante and arrive as early as spring of 2018. Bigland touted Alfa’s performance heritage, stating that the larger sport utility vehicle would focus more on sporting aspects than utility.

“Whatever car Alfa Romeo makes must stand apart for its agility, noise and general driving experience,” he said. “A large SUV can work in that space — the Maserati Levante proves that, but it’s a five not seven-seater.”

Alfa sounds as if it is banking particularly hard on SUVs and crossovers remaining popular. Bigland even went so far as to say that the company’s flagship vehicle may end up being one, putting off the finalization of a BMW 5 Series fighter.

However, Alfa hasn’t abandoned cars entirely. The next vehicle to go into production after the Stelvio will be another car. Estate cars remain popular in Europe and Alfa Romeo wants to make sure that the Giulia has a wagon variant. The estate is scheduled to be revealed at the 2017 Geneva motor show and insiders say the design emphasizes sporting form over practical function.

There will also be a successor to the Giulietta, but not immediately. While the European market hasn’t yet turned its back on the little hatch and the U.S. market would likely find a niche for a future incarnation, Alfa has decided to hold off on production. The company says a launch of a new hot hatch will be least three years away.

Autocar suggests the delay in replacing the current car, which has remained its sales leader, is due to a debate over whether to upgrade the current front-wheel-drive platform or spend the money to modify the Giulia’s Giorgio rear-drive platform.

In order to cling onto its sports car heritage, Alfa needs sporting cars. The company has only the 4C, but is talking about a replacement for the defunct Brera. Still, the model wouldn’t come into existence before 2020. Alfa wants the car to come in coupe and spider variants.

Shelving the excitement of a sexy slew of new automobiles for a moment, the plan’s success seems to hinge on every part of it going off without a hitch. The Stelvio has to be a success to pave the way for the next SUV. There has to be money to rationalize updating the Giulietta. The 5 Series rival won’t be made if the 3 Series-rivaling Giulia doesn’t sell strong.

None of it will work without strong sales and profits to back up the next big push, but Alfa is struggling to gain traction in North America as it is. The company is also about to attempt to sell premium luxury vehicles without competitive hybridization technology — going into battle with a sword but not a shield.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Budda-Boom Budda-Boom on Nov 12, 2016

    FCA is in trouble. Already spread too thin, attempting to add Alfa-Romeo back into the mix at this point will be a fail. No matter how good the car is, they probably could've rolled the same car out with a different skin as a reborn Chrysler 300 and had a hit. But once you add together the costs of establishing a new brand - which to everyone but enthusiasts, Alfa-Romeo will be - along with convincing dealers, already burned by the ongoing debacle that is Fiat, that they should invest in Alfa-Romeo too... Epic. Fail. Within ten years, Jeep and maybe Ram will be Hyundai/Kia products. And the rest of FCA will be history. And the folks at Allpar.com will have hung Serge in effigy.

    • See 2 previous
    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Nov 14, 2016

      @Old Man Pants I'm just spitballing, but I say SAIC. GM and VAG have partnerships with SAIC and I have no doubt the obsession with marketshare has not been remissed on them.

  • Automaniak Automaniak on Nov 12, 2016

    @Lorenzo Italy car registrations: 2014 +4.4% 2015 +15.8% 2016 +16.7% (jan-oct) Alfa Romeo registrations in Italy recent months: SEP - + 47% OCT - + 31% Other important markets for Alfa Romeo like France, Germany, UK, Spain, Poland - all show positive year on year figures since 2014. In Germany Alfa Romeo is + 45% this year after flat first months and nearly +100% for MAY-OCT period. Just Giulia started, with sedan version only, SW will boost sales further.

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Nov 14, 2016

      You can't fool me with percentages! Going from 15 cars sold to 21 is a 40% increase! Besides, accountants and mathemiticians don't go past 100%, so to them, an increase of 6 to 21 is 6/21=28.57%.

  • 28-Cars-Later They were mocked as whales in their time but the last B-bodies really were ideally suited for decades of family use and long distance travel.
  • 28-Cars-Later "Naturally, GM turned to its most tech-forward engineering team to work on the [Cadillac] Northstar: Oldsmobile."The most GM phrase I have seen yet.
  • Carson D The automotive equivalent of necrophilia appeals to people who have no redeeming social value.
  • Funky D These cars appeal to such different clienteles that it is completely comparing apples to oranges. I would go for the Mustang, especially in convertible form, but wouldn't mind at all a weekend behind the wheel of a Z.
  • Funky D Take it from an IT professional: ALWAYS have a backup plan! And then have a backup to that plan if possible. And always rehearse the plan every once in awhile.Always keep local copies of your data, or you don't really have a backup. My current company is working on revising our plan now, while we still have the opportunity.
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