Exploring Alfa Romeo's Big 'Sales Surge' in 2017

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Alfa Romeo “outperformed all others in U.S. sales last year,” posting astronomical year-over-year gains. At least, that’s how Bloomberg frames it in a recent news article. By that logic, infants everywhere outperformed long-distance runners by taking their first steps last year.

As Fiat Chrysler’s sexiest brand, Alfa has only recently made its return to the North American market. Therefore, referencing a large improvement in overall sales isn’t quite so impressive, considering the borderline mainstream Giulia has only just been added to the product lineup. Prior to 2017, the brand’s singular offering in the United States was the mid-engined 4C sports car.

In 2016, Alfa Romeo only shipped 516 cars inside the United States — which was actually a modest decrease from 2015. However, adding the sedan to the lineup yielded 12,031 deliveries in 2017. While that’s all well and good for the company, the vast majority of those can be attributed to the Giulia, and that model was trounced by the Audi A4, BMW 4 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and most other vehicles in the entry-level Euro luxury segment. Even outliers like the Jaguar XE managed to beat the Giulia by a few hundred cars.

That’s not to say the Alfa isn’t deserving of a place in the market. Despite some questionable reliability issues, the Giulia has been exceptionally well received by automotive enthusiasts. FCA definitely delivered on the brand’s historic charms (and faults). But it’s still too early to call Alfa Romeo an American success story.

This year will give us a much better sense of where the brand is heading, and whether or not FCA is ready to move more volume. The Stelvio crossover arrives in larger numbers in 2018 (FCA moved 997 of them in December) and Alfa has admitted it needs to work on figuring out what the market wants from it.

Carlock Motor Cars in Nashville told Bloomberg it had trouble keeping desirable Giulias in stock. Buyers are looking for a particular version — the souped-up TI Sport package, typically in a bright color. “It was a little counterintuitive for us,” sales manager Mitchell Sherwood explained. “They’re definitely not buying it in silver with black interior and trying to blend in.”

Picky customers haven’t crippled sales, but Alfa Romeo will still need to tweak its supply to ensure the most tempting offerings populate dealer showrooms. Even still, it’s a long climb to the top and the brand is still on the bottom rung of the ladder. “We want to make sure we earn our position in the segment,” said Pieter Hogeveen, Alfa’s director in North America. “It’s not just chasing sales numbers for us.”

[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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  • Bd2 Bd2 on Jan 06, 2018

    Not surprising that Giulia buyers are looking for the higher performance models in brighter colors as it is the type of vehicle/brand that appeals to enthusiasts. As for the rest of the luxury sedan buyers, the vast majority don't care about the Giulia's handling prowess and/or scared off by Alfa's quality woes.

  • Akear Akear on Jan 07, 2018

    Every Cadillac model outsells the Giulia. It is probably one of the slowest selling luxury cars in North America.

  • Cprescott This is what happens when you are an early adopter. You are a test subject. Why do Toyoduh (and Honduh) owners feel so entitled?
  • Kosmo Love it. Can I get one with something other than Subaru's flat four?
  • M B When the NorthStar happened, it was a part of GM's "rebuilding" of the Cadillac brand. Money to finance it was shuffled from Oldsmobile, which resulted in Olds having to only facelift its products, which BEGAN its slide down the mountain. Olds stagnated in product and appearances.First time I looked at the GM Parts illustration of a NorthStar V-8, I was impressed AND immediately saw the many things that were expensive, costly to produce, and could have been done less expensively. I saw it as an expensive disaster getting ready to happen. Way too much over-kill for the typical Cadillac owner of the time.Even so, there were a few areas where cost-cutting seemed to exist. The production gasket/seal between the main bearing plate and the block was not substantial enough to prevent seeps. At the time, about $1500.00 to fix.In many ways, the NS engine was designed to make far more power than it did. I ran across an article on a man who was building kits to put the NS in Chevy S-10 pickups. With his home-built 4bbl intake and a 600cfm Holley 4bbl, suddenly . . . 400 horsepower resulted. Seems the low hood line resulted in manifolding compromises which decreased the production power levels.GM was seeking to out-do its foreign competitors with the NS design and execution. In many ways they did, just that FEW people noticed.
  • Redapple2 Do Hybrids and be done with it.
  • Redapple2 Panamera = road porn.