Alfa Romeo coming to the U.S.?

Posted by: David Welch on October 28, 2009

MiTo.jpg

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne will soon deliver his fix-it strategy for Chrysler. One big piece appears to be the return of Fiat’s upscale Alfa Romeo brand to the U.S. with a dedicated dealer network. It would be sold as an upscale performance line that offers a bit of snooty European cachet but at lower prices than BMW and Audi. And it could work.

It will be a grand experiment by the Italians. The U.S. luxury market is already hotly contested with Lexus, Mercedes, Audi and BMW holding sway. Infiniti and Cadillac have new models coming. Alfa Romeo retreated from the U.S. market in 1995 and wasn’t exactly known for its quality. So its entrée won’t be an easy one.

But I’ll go out on a limb and say that Alfa has a real chance. I don’t expect the brand to sell cars in big numbers, especially at the start. Alfa will have to establish its name, brand image and prove that its car have real quality. The marketing push will cost a couple hundred million a year. But the styling is sophisticated and sexy, especially the MiTo compact. The MiTo would take the Mini Cooper head on. The 159 sedan is a looker. Check out the GT coupe, as well. The 8C is an absolute stunner. No word on which cars would arrive here from the boot. But they have some product that would turn heads. They are also pretty zippy cars that are fun to drive. Simply put, the brand offers something different than most premium makes sold in the States. And if fuel prices jump again, small and efficient upscale cars could catch on.

Reader Comments

blowfish

October 29, 2009 2:26 AM

Is interesting to learn Alfa's dealer in Hong Kong of Middle Kingdom has pulled its tent, wonder why?
Usually HK is a pretty good market, RR sold 10% of what she can crank out in the early 70s till 82ish, as when the ownership talk commenced all the high end market just went totally banana.

Stupid European

October 29, 2009 8:39 AM

In my fairly limited European view, I never thought that Alfa Romeo was a competitor of Mercedes, Audi, and the likes. If at all, it is a competitor for BMW's smaller, sportier models.

And yes, quality used to be problem with all brands of the Fiat group, but this seems to have been overcome since Marchionne took over. That is one of the reasons why Fiat's new 500 or Grande Punto are such successes in Europe.

On the whole, Fiat's politics seem to somehow resemble that of VW, except therei is no equivalent of Alfa Romeo within the VW group.

Cardo

October 29, 2009 1:51 PM

The bane of all Alfa cars in europe contributing to low sales volumes is the poor levels of reliability. The cars look stunning and one can drool over the baby all day, but if at the end of the day, all you see is a mechanic groping the baby with his greased hands, it is an unpleasant sight and you dont want that baby. Alfa's have been here before, if they want to come back, they better fix their quality issues before the relaunch. Even in this economy, people are ready to pay a few more pennies for something that looks and feels cool. La Apple! But apple products are of high quality and are generally deemed reliable...and a cool company can always get off with siphoning other companies patented technology.

So Alfa just try to be the apple of the car industry and you can happily beat the industry estimates and laugh your way to the bank.

Thad Cummins

October 30, 2009 12:04 AM

Well where to begin. Alfa Romeo has the legacy, craftsmanship and sweet life “Dolce Vita” Americans’ need in their life. I am guessing few readers or writers have ever driven an Alfa. I challenge any American to drive one in the city and on the highway and get out without a smile on their face. And how can this be – It starts with culture. The Italians live in the land were the word ‘tech’ means practical beauty. Italian engineering is an art form where daily necessities are a joy to have. This is a difficult balance and foreign to many Americans. For legacy - the founder of Ferrari was an Alfa Romeo mechanic. He left Alfa because Alfa had decided to market to the middle class. Problems with Alfa Romeos are the same as with Dodge Caravans. Why do 70% of Dodge Caravans burn oil? Because mom never changes the oil. It’s not a mechanical problem. It’s a maintenance issue. Alfa Romeo’s are a performance vehicle. If you don’t take care of it, it will not perform. I will admit my 1987 Milano was sketchy at best in snow with Pirelli’s and rear wheel drive. But on a clear day and dry roads she held the road like a low flying bird. The suspension was as comfortable as a Buick and as certain as a BMW. While cleaning the fire breathing snake on the grill in my drive neighbors would stop to ask about the car. It was pleasing to the eye. It’s amazing what a little more attention to a craft can do for the benefit of ownership. There is more to life than ponzi finance. I say cheating your neighbor is not good form and there is honor in designing “tech” as the Greeks did and the Italians do. As you may have well guessed, I welcome Alfa Romeo to America and look forward to a little more “Dolce Vita” in American culture.

tom polcari

November 2, 2009 9:56 AM

I'm buying my 51st new Chrysler product today and have never had a major problem with any of them. Fiat/ Alfa is well aware of the importance of quality control and customer satisfaction. I believe Chrysler, under the leadership of Mr. Marchionne, is on the right track of success. The current line up is great and the future line up will be better yet...

xander jean

November 4, 2009 1:52 AM

This is really interesting. Thanks for sharing this with us!

Paulo Ungar

November 4, 2009 11:13 AM

As far as marketing Alfa Romeo's it shouldn't be that difficult...the US is the #1 market for Ferrari's and they belong to the same group...therefore at first it would be cheaper to show a few Alfa Romeo models in the same dealerships where Ferrari's are sold...and later on...building their own and exclusive dealerships...

There are many ways to bring great awareness to such an iconic brand...and obviously they have to be very sensitive to pricing their vehicles in order to gain market share from the BMW's and Audi's of the world!! I love European cars, mainly Italian ones...GO ALFA!!

Charlie Taylor

November 5, 2009 12:10 PM

Speaking about being pleased!! Like one writer wrote, once you drive an alfa the smile stays on your face.

I owned a 66 Alfetta GTV and drove it across Europe and here in the USA until the rusty body couldn't be patched any longer. Sold the solid drive train. I loved driving that car. Owned all Marques and still have a special place in my heart for Alfa.

I have been drooling while looking at the Alfas on the web and feeling disappointment that I couldn't have one here in the US. Only problem now will be picking out which model I want to buy.

Terry Quilico

November 11, 2009 12:43 PM

Ah, Alfa! Would still have my GTV6, if not for a rust issue (A well known Alfa bugaboo in the 70's)---A sweet car with great handling and a unbelievable V-6---Yes, it had issues but nothing I've ever owned ever came close to the pleasure factor it delivered.

Also, had a Fiat Spider 2000 and a Strada and those were also very good with the added bonus of being very reliable with cheaper parts than the Alfa----Definitely be getting a 500 (Hopefully the Abarth version will arrive with the standard one)

Rick

November 14, 2009 4:16 PM

Alfa Romeros, in general, are solid in manufacturing quality and competitive vehicles. (Not stating that they are superior, or have proven elite dependability.) If they desire to enter the U.S. Market, now is the time to develop entry and need be acid/exit startegies. I am basing this on: One Timing for when the economy does upturn to be well-positioned 360 perceptual mapping; and (Two) the dissolving manufactures giving the U.S. consumer less choices than yester-years.

They can start with dealerships near major ports to cut transportation and test the U.S. Marketplaces in major cities.

My Two-Cent Opinion: I believe their 2010 159 will compete head on with G37, BMW 3 Series, Buick LeCross, Acura TL, and maybe grab a few indirect sales from Mercedes (C Class) and Lexus (those normally torn between the ES and IS).

Thomas

November 20, 2009 9:00 AM

Alfa Romeo: high tech and high style against luxury establishment and quality comparisons with Dodges?

The problem for US folks/customers is that they miss out on one very important positive decade of the brand here in the US as compared to Europe- the last ten years. No Alfa 166, no 159, no MiTo (yet). Why is Germany still the most important export market for Alfa? As the Germans not only demand performance and appreciate Italian styling, they know how to maintain more sophisticated machinery.

In my 30 years of driving Alfa I have experienced many events of quality frustration, but none essential that was not "selfinflicted" due to the fact that these cars have a soul and require a steeper pocket to remain on par level over the years. Georgeous engineering, but many dreamers (maybe like me when I was young), who are even mechanically/technically inclined, but do not or do not want to spend money on overpriced OES parts and service. Results are devastating.
But one thing is for sure: Alfas do NOT fail in all saftey relevant arenas! Other than VW's, where people died due to rusted steering systems and other, these cars shine more with the little ennoying inconsistent electric things here and a bad interior plastic there.

And last but not least: if I would not have had my Alfa's along side my (brandnew and old) Porsches 911, 944, 968, 996 Turbo, Mercedes CLK, ML and various other Mercedes, Lincoln and Chrysler cars, well, I would have walked for a long time. The so called quality brands are at best shady in quality (especially between 1997 and 2006). Customer are still willing to pay top dollars for what Ford is doing much better with Fusions and Mustangs today, not even speaking about the millions of happy and less emotional Japanese car owners!

So give it a try: in best American manner: lease a new one. Why would you care about a warranted issue?

Happy motoring. An don't forget to wind them above 6000 rpm!

Lydie

December 10, 2009 4:14 PM

As an Alfa GT owner (I live in Europe), I am thrilled that Alfa Romero is returning to the US. Before this, I had an Alfa 145, the precursor to the Alfa 147.
Speaking from experience, in 15 years of driving Alfa Romeros, I have never had a single issue, just pleasure.
As far as German cars, there is no comparison to be made, Alfa Romeros exude Italien Designer style and elegance and drive like a dream.

MarkT

February 12, 2010 2:11 PM

AutoBlog is no longer relevant, take it off the web. This article is the 'feature' from October...

I get my information and editorial content on a site that updates its info often....

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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