Romeo In Long Awaited USA Return
The auto industry is going through a period of nostalgia, looking back to old models for inspiration.Alfa Romeo returns to the shores of Americaland with its new, iconic Spider. Will the ‘graduates’ of today find it appealing? Guest writer, MAC, writes about the Alfa’s comeback.
Alfa Romeo has announced that it intends to start sales of its successor to the iconic “Alfa Spider” in the USA this year. The CEO of Chrysler-Fiat, Sergio Marchionne, announced that sales of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider would recommence this summer when the first 100 of 850 4C’s would arrive. The sleek and low to the ground sportster is obviously meant to compete in the Boxster and TT sector of the market and is said to have performance figures to match, with a zero to 100km/h of just over four seconds and a top speed of 160mph. It is described by Alfa Romeo as being an ultra-lightweight, mid-engine, turbocharged sportscar that was designed to deliver supercar performance at an “affordable” price.
Cut its roof off and I’ll have me a Spider!:
Alfa Romeo has been owned by Fiat since 1986 but struggled to compete in the US with just a few luxury cars in a market filled with big players. Thus, it withdrew from the market in the mid 1990’s. Like many companies that withdraw from a market, Alfa Romeo had found it hard to plot a way back into the market and whilst there had been rumours of a re-entry, nothing had come of them. Not until Sergio Marchionne became the CEO of Fiat Chrysler that the rumours started to gather momentum.
‘Alfa needs to play here. They really need to expand their volumes and begin to pay off the product development that’s come from Fiat,” says Bill Visnic, Senior Analyst from automotive information site, Edmunds.com. ‘It’s difficult to call yourself a legitimate luxury brand and not be playing in the US market.’
Visnic added that the merger between Fiat and Chrysler could benefit Alfa Romeo because it gives the brand access to Fiat and Chrysler car dealerships throughout the US, and thus it would not need to build a dealer network from scratch.
So far, Alfa Romeo has only made firm announcements about one car and most analysts will tell you that that will not be enough to re-launch the brand. Jiyan Cadiz, a spokesperson for Alfa Romeo, said that only 500 4C Launch Edition cars would be available to buyers over the summer, priced at about USD70,000 (GBP42,000). The company says it expects to sell just under a thousand regular 4C models, at a base price of USD54,000 by the end of this year.
However, Cadiz added, ‘We do have more products to come – know that we wouldn’t start now unless we were truly ready.’ The next piece of Alfa’s US relaunch could be the new Giulia sedan. Based on the Compact US Wide platform, a stretched version of the architecture used for Alfa’s Giulietta compact that underpins the new Dodge Dart, the new Giulia will take aim at the Audi A4 when it arrives in late 2014. In an attempt to minimise cost, the first new Alfa to be offered in the USA for nearly two decades will be built there too.
For those of you old enough to remember the iconic 1967 film “The Graduate” starring Dustin Hoffman and featuring music from the then relatively unknown Simon and Garfunkel, you will well remember the beaten-up old Alfa Spider driven by Hoffman (pictured on top). You may be forgiven for being surprised that Alfa Romeo has been absent from the American market for almost twenty years. It still remains to be seen if Alfa Romeo can appeal to today’s graduates, but for a driving purist like me, you have to own an Alfa at least once in your life. So here’s to you Mrs Robertson!