If you ask most Americans to name a car built by Alfa Romeo, chances are you’ll get replies like “the Spider,” or “the Graduate.” You probably won’t hear many people mention the 164, or the GTV or the Giulia, since these cars are long gone from the U.S. market. Worse, I suspect that the question would be met with a blank stare from most people, since Alfa Romeo hasn’t been active in the U.S. market since 1995, and 17 years is a long time in an industry that turns over product every three to five years.
It turns out this is a good thing for those of us on this side of the pond. In Europe, Alfa Romeo has been plagued by an uninspired product line and spotty build quality, which means successfully relaunching the brand in the EU will be an uphill battle. Not so in the United States, where Alfa Romeo is largely a forgotten brand.
We won’t see products from Alfa Romeo (which will be sold through Fiat dealerships) before 2013, and the bulk of the offerings won’t arrive before 2014. When we do get cars like the 4C sports coupe and the Giulia hatchback, they’ll arrive with new engines and will be built on new platforms, which should ensure that the next generation of Alfa Romeos restore some luster to the tarnished brand.
Sergio Marchionne has confirmed to Automotive News (subscription required) that U.S. sales of 85,000 units in 2014 is still a realistic and achievable goal, thanks to the mix of products to be offered. In addition to the 4C coupe, Alfa will offer a Giulia hatchback and sedan, as well as a small crossover which will share a platform with the replacement for the Jeep Liberty.
Longer term, Marchionne’s plan is to springboard off Alfa’s success in the U.S. market to relaunch the brand in Europe. That means. ironically, that we’ll get the good stuff here first, instead of it going to customers in the EU. As someone who remembers the brand with a certain fondness, I can’t wait to see them back on these shores.