Topolino Trouble: Chrysler Dealers Losing Interest In Italian Brands

The enthusiasm for the Fiat coming to the market has diminished. At first, it was something that would be mixed in… now [Fiat-Chrysler is] going to have to present a compelling story and product to back me investing at least $1 million to build a new showroom

Everyone loves the Fiat 500, but Chrysler’s dealers aren’t exactly thrilled that they have to build brand new showrooms to sell the Italian (er, Mexican) subcompact, as witnessed by the quote above in the WSJ [sub]. Another dealer adds that he knows enough troubled MINI and Smart stores to be spooked by the prospect of dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars on what will clearly be a niche offering. Yet another calls it an “excellent opportunity,” but Chrysler needs to find 200 qualified dealers to make Fiat’s American adventure a reality. The credit and car markets, gas prices and Fiat’s less-than-stellar American-market legacy all conspire against the scheme. To say nothing of the poor historical precedents for Chrysler’s ballooning brand portfolio. But as usual, CEO Sergio Marchionne has it all figured out…

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What's Wrong With This Picture: Alfa's SUV Plans Parody Themselves Edition
Happy 100th Birthday, Alfa Romeo
What's Wrong With This Picture: Masters Of The Hooniverse Edition
Quote Of The Day: The Good Husband Edition

Fiat doesn’t need other partners. We have a strong relationship with Chrysler and that is what we are actively working on

Fiat’s new Chairman, John Elkann, told shareholder’s in his family company Exor, exactly what every good, newlywed husband would say. Then again, not every husband had, shall we say, the appetite for partners that pre-Chrysler Fiat had. Just ask GM. Or BMW. Or Tata. Or Sollers. Or Zastava. Or SEAT. Or, you get the picture. Literally.

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Happy Birthday Alfa! Love, Zagato
Fiat Five Year Plan: Alfa-Romeo Lives, Coming To America.

The last ten years have not been kind to Fiat’s Alfa-Romeo brand, as 2009 sales levels fell to about half their 2000 volumes. Having put Alfa on “strategic review” and stuffed it into a “brand channel” with Maserati and Abarth, CEO Sergio Marchionne has had a change of heart, and is now “determined” to build the brand into a “full-line premium carmaker.” According to Automotive News [sub]’s coverage of Fiat’s five year plan presentation, that means committing to a US presence targeting 85,000 annual sales by 2014. For a sense of scale, the Alfa brand sold a grand total of 103,000 units globally last year. And Alfa is going to have to kick ass around the world to meet Sergio’s goals. By the time Marchionne expects American Alfisti to buy 85k units each year, he wants the brand’s global sales to have increased nearly five-fold to half a million units. Ambitious doesn’t even begin to describe it…

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Quote Of The Day: Revisionist History Edition
The Art Of Alfa Romeo
What's Wrong With This Picture: A Solstice For Alfa's Dark Night Of The Soul Edition
Alfa In America: Glorious Return or Cynical Ploy?

Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne seems ever more committed to the idea of bringing the Alfa Romeo brand to the United States, telling Automotive News [sub]:

I’m a lot more confident now that Alfa Romeo will reconstitute a product offering that is acceptable globally, and more in particular in the United States and Canada. There is a strong likelihood that the brand will be back here within the next 24 months

Needless to say, this is the kind of news that gets automotive enthusiasts all hot and bothered: a European brand known for its small hatches and dynamic brio coming to a US market that’s not known for offering either. And though more choice for consumers is typically a good thing, Marchionne’s motivations for bringing Alfa to the US are less than entirely admirable. As with so many decisions made in the auto industry, keeping enthusiasts happy comes at the expense of smart business choices.
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An Illustrated History Of Automotive Aerodynamics – In Three Parts

[Note: A significantly expanded and updated version of this article can be found here]

That air presented the greatest obstacle to automotive speed and economy was understood intuitively, if not scientifically since the dawn of the automobile. Putting it into practice was quite another story. Engineers, racers and entrepreneurs were lured by the potential for the profound gains aerodynamics offered. The efforts to do so yielded some of the more remarkable cars ever made, even if they challenged the aesthetic assumptions of their times. We’ve finally arrived at the place where a highly aerodynamic car like the Prius is mainstream. But getting there was not without turbulence.

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Alfa's America Amore

Alfa has rekindled its long lost love with a mature lady: Aunt America.

Last December, Cammy Corrigan reported on TTAC that there are “very important opportunities for Alfa Romeo in the United States.” At least in the eyes of Luca di Montezemolo, Chairman of Fiat. Despite being the object of unconditional admiration of Alfa-crazed owners, commonly known as “Alfisti,” Fiat’s sporty brand has reportedly lost €200m-€400m per year for the last decade. So something needs to be done.

Andiamo a America,” appears to be la soluzione in Torino. Reuters reports that “Alfa Romeo is likely to return to North America by 2012 after a 15-year hiatus.” Alfas were last sold in America in 1995.

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Review: Alfa Romeo MiTo

Today’s tester is a Red Alfa Romeo. So I really shouldn’t be telling you how its name is derived from the cities of Milano and Torino. I shouldn’t be revealing that it’s based on the Fiat Punto and I really needn’t elaborate about its underhood gadgetry, because in days of yore, “Red” was all you needed to know about an Alfa Romeo. On the other hand, to paraphrase Dylan, things have changed.

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What's Wrong With This Picture: The Journey To The Chrysler TC Begins With A Single Step Edition
  • MaintenanceCosts This looks really surprisingly different from the Blazer EV. It's more boring, but it's also more Honda, and for that reason alone it will be taken a lot more seriously in US markets.
  • ToolGuy I found this interesting; you might too:
  • SCE to AUX Q: "How do you fix automotive media?A: The same way you fix the auto show.That is to say: Don't live in the past, believing every story is original with you. Offer something insightful and useful to your audience that they can't get anywhere else.The auto show allows consumers to sit inside many vehicles under one roof, without sales pressure - something unavailable anywhere else. That's it. The media should accept that the auto show offers nothing new for them anymore, and the auto show should stop pretending that it does.Good examples:[list][*]I've flamed Posky many times, but his long background stories can be thought-provoking and informative. I may not always agree with some of the posturing, but at least they dig deeper than someone's press release.[/*][*]Alex on Autos has some of the best video reviews. He wastes absolutely no time getting to the substance, and his formula is reliable. He packs a lot into 25 minutes.[/*][*]Everyday Reviews: This likeable couple/family covers the daily life aspects of new cars they test - child car seats, user interface, fuel economy, and so on. No hype - just useful.[/*][/list]Bad examples:[list][*]DragTimes: In a 20-minute video, you get 1 minute of racing and 19 minutes of bromance talk. I keep hoping it will improve, but it doesn't.[/*][*]Road and Track's web page is heavily tilted toward unaffordable niche sports cars and racing, with a few feature articles on daily drivers. I visit, but it feels like I'm in a Porsche dealership.[/*][/list]
  • BSttac Honestly automotive journalism is all but dead. Its mostly bloggers with a left based agenda. Cnet and the Drive especially had some really horrible bloggers. Road and Track also has some terrible bloggers so it would not surprise me if they are next. Just look at most bloggers complain about going to an automotive show when they dont realize its not even for them. Very spoiled and out of touch individuals
  • Jkross22 I forgot to include Bring a Trailer. It's so enjoyable to revisit cars from different eras and to read what the most knowlegable have to say about those types of cars.