By on June 23, 2017

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti - Image: FCA

The Alfa Romeo brand is an odd duck, and not just because of its “exotic” status or its on-again, off-again history in the United States. Italian car fans love it. Design enthusiasts drool over it. Performance enthusiasts and sports sedan traditionalists pine for a finely balanced, twin-turbocharged Giulia Quadrifoglio. Concerned friends warn them that other, perhaps safer options exist. Money lenders with soft hearts try to raise concerns about reliability.

Love it or fear it, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has high hopes for the Alfa brand in the U.S. but, unlike FCA boss Sergio Marchionne, top American brass are hesitant to put a number to their hopes. For now, Alfa remains a brand without numerical expectations. And that’s the reason you won’t find incentives heaped on Alfa models in the near future.

According to Automotive News, Alfa and Maserati chief Reid Bigland, who’s also head of U.S. sales, claims FCA has no plans to play Let’s Make a Deal with Alfa customers. Bigland made the pronouncement as many wonder whether the automaker might try to stimulate sales which, despite being early in the brand’s return, seem sluggish.

Sales targets? We haven’t got any, Bigland claimed at this week’s Stelvio SUV drive event.

“Really no volume projections,” Bigland told assembled media. “We’re going to work the long-term game with Giulia as well as with Stelvio and we’ll see how it goes as to how many we’re going to sell.”

While Alfa’s top dog seems to be content to let sales play out organically, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne is the other side of the coin. Marchionne has made numerous predictions regarding Alfa sales — predictions that, like the automaker’s model timelines, frequently bear little resemblance to reality.

After selling 73,000 vehicles last year, Marchionne expects Alfa to reach 170,000 sales in 2017. Industry analysts, however, have poured cold water all over those projections. Not only do they favor a lower number, they’re are only too happy to point out the vast divide between the CEO’s Giulia projections and actual buyer desire.

Buyers who do lust for a Giulia or Stelvio might be pleased to see the manufacturer offering cash back, but those who remain wary of the brand might see that as an indicator of poor quality. Markdowns do not scream “premium!”

“It’s a completely different game, with the two games really not to be confused,” Bigland said of the Alfa sales strategy compared to that of the Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram lineup.

In order to reach more buyers, the roll-out of Alfa retail locations continues apace. The brand chief claims 215 Alfa dealers should be in operation by the end of the year, up from 184 today. Some of those dealers will share space with Maserati.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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38 Comments on “Cash: Not Coming to an Alfa Hood Near You...”


  • avatar
    Speed3

    If I were in the market, I would get one. What, am I supposed to get something practical like an Odyssey?

    Ask yourself, how many more cars will you buy in your lifetime before you are hailing an autonomous Uber whenever a ride is needed? My guess is that its less than you think, so why not take a chance and get something cool.

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    I would love a Giulia if it didn’t look like the car would fall apart from looking at it wrong.

    I’d rather have a Giulia wagon than Stevio SUV, but… you know me.

  • avatar

    “Markdowns do not scream premium”.

    No, but at this point, pretty much everything has one…you can even get a deal on a C7. Maybe an S class, Ferrari or 911 has no “deal”, but any normal type of car has one. I keep getting emails from a local BMW store that are all about the deal. They don’t say cash on the hood but the leases are clearly subsidized, and yes, even the mighty roundel is hard to see for the 100’s stacked on it.

    Here in the Green Leafy burbs, where Tesla is a common car, and BMW 3 series are like Corolla in normal places, I’ve seen zero non classic Alfas……even Caddy (ahem) has more penetration.

    A local dealer has a few, all 4 cylinders, for $51/52K. Y’all know how I feel about a premium car with a 4, but at least they toss in AWD. For the same money at the BMW store, I get a six….

  • avatar
    northshoreman1

    I wonder if part of the lack of market growth is because Alfa has set expectations with top-model reviews that its Giulia “bread and butter” lower-priced model can’t help break. I’ve seen plenty of reviews of the loaded $75k model, and how it compares to upper level sports sedans, but don’t recall seeing any reviews of the entry- or mid-trim models, and how they compare to matching BMW/Merc/Audi classmates. (And yeah, could have easily missed such reviews, so open to correction on this, but I have been interested in a lower-price comparisons.) So, just exactly how good is the mid-trim model? Who knows?
    If your top-line model is THAT price, are buyers going to feel they’re having to “settle” for a $50k version? And if they’re “settling”, are they more likely to settle for a known quantity from other competitors at that price point?
    Cadillac at least provided 4-cylinder versions of the CT6 for reviews, as well as the top-of-the-line Platinum version…with it’s $30k price premium. Buyers could know the advantages/disadvantages of each model, beyond just price and trim.
    Just how confident is FCA of the basic goodness of Giulia, not obscured by “gingerbread” or costly performance enhancements?

    • 0 avatar
      moff90

      Some comparisons:

      http://www.motortrend.com/cars/alfa-romeo/giulia/2017/alfa-romeo-giulia-bmw-330i-audi-a4-mercedes-benz-c300-cadillac-ats-jaguar-xe-lexus-is-200t-volvo-s60-comparison/

      https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/new-cars/bmw-3-series-vs-alfa-romeo-giulia-vs-jaguar-xe-group-test

      • 0 avatar
        moff90

        Can’t edit my previous comment, so here’s some reviews:

        http://www.motortrend.com/cars/alfa-romeo/giulia/2017/2017-alfa-romeo-giulia-first-drive-review/

        http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/first-drive-2017-alfa-romeo-giulia-review

        http://www.evo.co.uk/alfa-romeo/giulia

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Cadillac even lets you buy an ATS with a stick shift. Alfa Romeo won’t sell you a Giulia with a stick shift in the USA. I get that it costs them money to do it. But I also don’t think you can sell a Giulia to a Toyota Avalon buyer. If “enthusiasts” don’t buy an Alfa here, who will?

  • avatar
    IBx1

    AUTOMATIC-ONLY

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Exactly. They need to think about the nature of the brand they are re-launching. I am not saying a FLOOD of buyers would show up for manual transmissions, but it’s a significant number when dealing with a car that is already a niche vehicle. I mean, if the “enthusiasts” niche is already set up for you, why focus on a niche of the niche (“enthusiasts who like auto transmissions”)? Seems silly.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        I’m starting to get comfortable with the fact that I’m growing further and further out of touch with the average auto consumer. But if you’re going to offer a niche product like this aimed at oddballs like me, with no sales expectations, why not throw a manual in?

        The unicorns will love it and you might double your sales (from 50 to 100 but still double). I, for one, love the Giulia Quadrifoglio. But wouldn’t buy one because no manual.

    • 0 avatar

      MB auto only BMW manual take rate close to 5% not sure it would make sense for 500-1000 cars a year.

      • 0 avatar
        Chris FOM

        Did a quick look at all the competitors I could think of for the Giulia.

        Audi: Manual available for the A4 only. S4 or higher comes only with the dual clutch.
        BMW: Manual available at all levels, from 320m to M3.
        Cadillac: Manual offered at all levels, including the ATS-V.
        Jaguar: No manual offered.
        Lexus: No manual offered.
        Mercedes-Benz: No manual offered.

        Only two manufacturers have significant support for manual transmissions, and the ATS is a flop. Of the main 3 entrants, one doesn’t offer a manual at all and one offers it on the lowest performance version only. Only BMW, for all the flak they get, both have widespread offerings of a manual transmission and a successful offering. And by the way they’ve noted plummeting take rates on manuals, even in the enthusiast-oriented performance version (where you’d think manuals would dominate). Manual made up a little over half of previous generation M3 sales; this generation less than 20%. Even BMW’s support for the manual is wavering.

        A manual transmissions is not a requirement to build a competitive, successful sports sedan. When Alfa fails again in the US (and I’m under no illusions that they probably will no matter how drool-worthy I might find the Giulia QV) it will be because of their horrendous reliability and lousy dealer network. The lack of a manual transmission won’t make the top 50 reasons.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I agree, there seems to be relatively little PR and magazine tests of the base models.

    That said, I drove a very nicely loaded Giulia at a dealership in Michigan and the sticker was around the $43k range. This included a sport package, AWD, and had an luscious red leather interior. There may not be factory cash on the hood but the salesperson was pretty clear that transaction prices could be much much lower.

    At that price range, I think the car compares very nicely to something like an Audi A4 or base 3-series which also have 4-cylinder engines. And, based solely on my personal experience, I wouldn’t be more fearful of the Alfa’s reliability than what I experienced with my Audis and BMWs. I would, however, be more fearful about the dealership still being around in a couple of years. I’ve seen an awful number of Fiat franchises evaporate into thin air. I’m still eyeing those ultra low values on used 500 Abarths, though. Yum.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Steve,

      You may want to think twice on that reliability point: the Alfas used in various tests this spring were notoriously buggy, and on the flipside, Audi has done an outstanding job with its overall reliability in the last seven years. I would put the current Alfas somewhere below where Audi was even fifteen-twenty years ago. No joke or hyperbole.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    FWIW, The Alfa did outsell the Jaguar XE last month. The 3 series was down 30% last month and 13% this year (total market is down 3%).

    The business cycle has peaked so Alfa is entering the market right at the time it is shrinking. I think 10-15K a year would be pretty good considering the lack of dealer network and not being an established brand.

    I used to really want Alfa to bring over the Giulietta and MiTo, but now I’d rather see them succeed and that means as many crossovers as possible. They should have 3 different crossovers before adding any more sedans or sports cars.

  • avatar
    slap

    Soooo, once the lots are full, and the cars are a model year old, we’ll see a fair bit of cash on the hoods. They say they won’t do it, but that is to keep from scaring away potential buyers who would otherwise just wait.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Not sure if cash needs to be on the hood; the current BMW 330i lease offer is $350/mo with $4200 down for 10K m/yr on a 36 month lease and the Alfa is $299 w/ $3000 down for 24months. Pens out to the same basic annual cost.

    If you’re going to torch $5500/yr you may as well do it in style. Get the Alfa.

    Make sure the dealer has service loaners.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I would be in Las Vegas in one hour if some casino would put this bet on the board. It is a matter of when, not if.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Nice story, but doesn’t explain the $10,000 + discounts on Maseratis.

  • avatar
    MatadorX

    Well,

    Doesn’t help that Alfa dealers here in SoCal are refusing to offer test drives. Arrived at the local store with a well healed buddy in his 3 series convertible. Salesman saw us pull in, “Sorry too “rare” to allow test drives” with well over a dozen on the lot. And we were trying to drive the plain vanilla one….

    I told the guy we were trying to comparison shop for a replacement, with a Caddy, Lexus, Infinity, and Bimmer store on the same road should we go ahead and cross the Alfa off the list? He shrugged and walked off, across the empty parking lot of the Fiat/Alfa store lol.

    Anyhow we inspect these cars when they get off the boat at my job. The material quality in these is absolutely atrocious. Crappy switches/plasticy interiors that would be downmarket in a Kia. Other than the seat material, the entire rest of the interior is a low bidder supplier’s delight. I believe the Renegade actually has nicer bits on the inside. Ah well. How many can they possibly expect to sell if they are turning away nicely dressed white guys in a late model Bimmer. They will be just like Fiat…living dead brand in under 2 years.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      That’s silly of that dealer. Do they by chance also happen to have a Ferrari franchise?

      The dealer here is pulling in people for test drives from all over the place.

  • avatar
    frankev

    MatadorX: it sounds like you have an interesting job–I think it’d be worthy of an article here on TTAC.

    That said, the Giulia is a no-sale for me unless they offer a manual. The television ads scream “sporty”, but the decision to only fit it with an automatic makes me think “grand touring”, and if I want that I’ll just drive my wife’s well-equipped Fusion (2014 SE with the luxury package).

  • avatar
    dmoan

    Am I the only one that who gets impression that FCA is killing off Chrysler and Dodge to promote Fiat, Alfa and Maserati??

  • avatar
    Forty2

    Minimum two strikes against it:

    1: No manual. You can claim this is irrelevant to most buyers but as noted above you’re not going to sell even an automatic Giulia to an Avalon driver. This matters. As long as BMW stills offers manuals, I’ll keep buying manual BMWs. The Quadrifoglio at least deserves it.

    2: It’s ugly. It looks like a Chrysler 200 with an Alfa vagina nose grafted on, and barely modified tail.

    3+: thin dealer/service network, unknown reliability, probably-shitty resale.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Seems that on the USA’s west coast (with possible exception of Los Angeles) Alfa’s (and their dealers) are made of Unobtainium (there ain’t none of ’em ’round). I’d wait a while anyway to be sure the FIAT acronym (Fix It Again Tony) doesn’t apply.

  • avatar
    MGV001

    They would sell a few more if they provided the right incentive: a six speed manual gearbox.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    When do you get a discount on an Alfa?

    When it’s an orphan brand.

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    Want higher Alfa sales? Easy…it’s called 10 year/100,000 mi. bumper-to-bumper warranty. It worked for Hyundai.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Alfas, like most BMWs and Mercedes aren’t bought as keeper cars, most are leases or to buyers who turn cars at below average lengths of time. So a 10 year warranty might be great for the 3rd owner, it would do nothing to move new metal.

      Things that will move new Alfas are no charge maintenance, great lease residuals, concierge type services etc.

  • avatar

    I’m now starting to see these with some regularity on the roads here in southern New England. The more startling thing is the amount of Maserati’s. In the past week I have seen close to 20 trident badged cars roaming the streets of CT RI and MA. I saw so many I took a look at a couple dealers sites and was shocked how many they had in stock.

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