By on February 8, 2019

Image: FCA

No, it’s not a Fiat of any size or description — it’s the Alfa Romeo 4C. Specifically, a limited edition of an already scarce product, one that will only see 15 examples sent to the U.S. from the brand’s Modena, Italy factory.

Through this product intro, Fiat Chrysler revealed the 4C will linger on for the 2020 model year. While the 4C Spider Italia, priced five grand above a regular 4C Spider, doesn’t add a whole lot to the plate, it does give us an opportunity to look at Alfa’s sales health.

If you’re at all curious, the 2020 4C Spider Italia dons Misano Blue Metallic exterior paint and a piano black front intake and rear diffuser, plus graphics, special interior trim, and a numbered console plate. All yours for $5k above the Spider’s $68,495 (after destination) asking price. No doubt you’re on the phone with the bank already.

Of course, the 4C is not where Alfa Romeo draws its volume from. In 2018, just 238 Americans picked up a 4C — a 42 percent drop from the previous year, and less volume than the much-ignored Fiat 500X moved in January.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti black

As sales of the two-seater decline, Alfa sales are picking up, though not to the levels once envisioned by the late Sergio Marchionne. Thank a longer-than-expected timeline for new vehicle introductions. Still, the Italian marque saw U.S. volume rise 98 percent in 2018, with the Stelvio SUV leading the way. Introduced in late 2016, the Stelvio sold 12,043 units last year, beating out the Giulia sedan. Some 11,519 Americans took home a Giulia in 2018.

Part of Alfa’s problem is a relative dearth of Alfa/Maserati dealerships in North America, with its Italian sister brand not doing much to help generate interest in FCA’s luxury portfolio. Concerns over quality can’t be ruled out, either.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport - Image: FCA

Perusing the sales numbers, it’s clear Alfa needs new product to bolster its sales presence. The Giulia, for one, is a sedan, and no four-door is safe in today’s market. While Giulia sales rose 29 percent in 2018, it was only just coming online in early 2017, skewing the numbers a bit. Sales of the sedan sunk 14 percent in December, year over year, and 44 percent in January.

The Stelvio saw its sales sink 11 percent in January, which means little in the grand scheme of things. However, the struggling Jaguar brand provides ample evidence that one or two SUVs in a crowded market can’t always be counted on to boost a brand’s overall sales, though they do help margins (assuming the manufacturer doesn’t go wild with passenger car incentives).

Right now, the only new Alfa product on the horizon is a smaller SUV that reportedly borrows the Jeep Compass platform. The unnamed vehicle will appear with a plug-in hybrid option. While no doubt a volume-booster, forgive this author for not feeling the sexiness emanating from this mythical Compass-based hybrid crossover.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, © 2017 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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28 Comments on “Here’s a Car Guaranteed Not to Boost Fiat Chrysler’s Sales Numbers...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Having test driven the Stelvio, I could have written this story:

    The brakes and steering made it one of the weirdest cars I’ve driven. I wanted to like it, but what a disappointment.

    • 0 avatar

      The infotainment thing is funny because FCA has the very well-regarded uConnect system. However, when they put it in the Maseratis all the journosaurs went “ZOMG, the Quattroporte uses uConnect like a Jeep Cherokee, how embarrassing!”

      So FCA cobbled together some sh*ta$$ed unique system for the Alfas and now the journosaurs complain about how it is worse than uConnect.

      FWIW, uConnect works well in the Maseratis and anyone complaining about that is being a goofball.

  • avatar

    Alfa makes Mazda seem thriving.

  • avatar

    Exactly, I’m not sure why FCA would dump so much money into Alfa. They would sell quite a few more vehicles if they invested money into Chrysler vehicles. Produce an SUV and CUV on the Pacifica platform and call it a day.

  • avatar

    Since Alfa’s return, I’ve spotted 4 of them in the wild. All Giulias, 1 in L.A., and 3 in D.C. (one of which was the quatrofromagio version).

    I’m still not sure what Alfa’s supposed to be. An Italian Audi (mainstream luxury) or an Italian Saab (quirky/weird foreign car).

  • avatar

    Here’s a performance tip for 4C owners. Want to improve the acceleration of your 4C? :

  • avatar

    Automatic garbage. If one car should have a manual, if one brand should have that option, it’s Alfa. I can’t touch one as they are, but if the 4C had a stick I’d be driving one now instead of my Abarth Cabrio.

    • 0 avatar

      Ditto. Between the two of us we would have made a statistically significant improvement in 4C sales numbers!

    • 0 avatar

      Go figure. They didn’t put power steering for a more raw experience, and then added an automatic transmission.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. I don’t care about a few less hundredths of a second around a track and that Ferrari doesn’t offer a three-pedal car anymore. The auto only ruins the car. Not only is it less fun to drive (the only reason this car exists) but, worse, it makes that glorious engine note sound like a flatulent elephant during gear changes. I am with you, I also owned a 500 Abarth and found it brought more smiles per mile (and certainly per dollar) than when I drove the 4c.

    • 0 avatar

      Yea, you choose wrong. Baby Ferrari vs uh I won’t insult you… Muh stick shift

  • avatar

    The QV is acclaimed by car journos who will never deal long-term with reliability issues. I don’t know if Alfa has the staying power to establish a good reliability rep. That car was developed in a helluva hurry. OTOH, V6 developed by Ferrari engineers……

    • 0 avatar

      “OTOH, V6 developed by Ferrari engineers……”

      I can hear the conversations now about how its preposterous the engine cannot be entirely CNC machined from the pan rails to the ribs on the side of the block to the intake ports.

      And what’s this talk of “only” using stainless steel for the valves and powdered steel for the connecting rods when titanium is the correct choice.

  • avatar

    “Here’s a Car Guaranteed Not to Boost Fiat Chrysler’s Sales Numbers”

    — At least, not here in the States. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want one as a toy car but I have no place to park it, protected from incidental damage and weather.

  • avatar

    Alfa isn’t helped any by Fiat’s refusal to go much past the 500 variants in its lineup. How would Lexus do, if Toyota offered mainly the Yaris and stretched-Yaris?

  • avatar

    FCA should sell Alfa or make it electric only to combat cO2 regs at Jeep. Ironically JLR could be the right owner for Alfa if they want another go at the 3 series market. Spinning Alfa and Jaguar models of the same component set may be the best way forward.

  • avatar

    I’m a prospective Alfa buyer and one who gleefully welcomed the brand back to the states, yet I have been disappointed with the lack of manual across the line, or at least with the 4C and Giulia (base and QF versions). I know manual take rates are low single digits, but with Alfa I’m certain it would add a significant sales boost.

    A new Giulietta with RWD (and manual) would be nice. But it looks like the new Mazda 3 is the closest thing we’ll see to that.

    A small hybrid crossover Alfa Compass is an awful idea. If that is FCA’s vision, go ahead and shut the brand down.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    You should look into a 124 Abarth manual. If I were in the market for a 2 seat manual that you don’t see everywhere (at least in KC), I ‘d start there.I prefer it’s looks to the miata, and the tunability of a turbo powerplant .

    • 0 avatar

      Drive it back-to-back with a Miata, like I did, and you’ll see why the Abarth Spider doesn’t sell. The Fiat is inferior in all the sporty things you want a roadster to do, like steer, brake, and shift.

  • avatar

    Alfa’s are seen with at least some regularity in SWFL. I recently traded my GT350 for a 4C. The 4C is a pocket Ferrari with a much more useable performance window vs the long legged felony baiting Shelby. Look for a clean low mile preowned if interested, fun and interesting cars!

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