Alfa Romeo 4C video – (ir)relevant?

Here’s the 2-minute ‘fascination’ video for the new Alfa Romeo 4C.

The big question – Hot or not?

The other big question – will an ad like this kick-start interest in the USA?

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The Alfa Romeo 4C is almost an excruciatingly beautiful car. Actually, you could rightly say that’s both excruciating and beautiful. Its acute case of bug-eye is the excruciating bit and if they could fix that, the Alfa Romeo 4C might just be the most beautiful car of 2013/4.

Alfa Romeo is struggling. Some would say it’s hereditary. Parent company, Fiat, is only as buoyant as it is because of it’s American assets. Fiat’s own model sales are struggling thanks to economic conditions in Europe. Alfa Romeo’s sales have been falling for years, despite the perceived adequacies of the MiTo and Giulietta.

Falling how far?

According to Wards Autos, Alfa’s sales in the European Union totalled around 201,000 back in 2001. Last year, they sold just 89,000 in the same market – and it bears mentioning that the EU has grown from 15 countries in 2001 to 27 countries in 2012.

There are two things that are going to be crucial to Alfa Romeo’s future. The first is their model range. The Alfa Romeo 4C is a beautiful car but it’s also a two-seater sports car. It’s an aspirational flagship but it’s not a breadwinner. Alfa Romeo have to come up with a full range to compliment it.

The second crucial element for Alfa’s future is the United States market. The 4C is Alfa Romeo’s spearhead for re-launching the Alfa Romeo brand in the United States. It’s rumoured to be priced somewhere between $50K and $60K but I think you can count on it being at the northern end of that price range. With around 200hp propelling a vehicle less than 900kg, it should justify its Caymanesque price.

The US angle is probably the main reason why the video above was shot the way it was.

I wasn’t inspired. Let’s just say it’s not particularly imaginative to shoot a car going fast in the desert. The garage at the end was a nice touch but for me, if you’re selling Alfa Romeo, I’d rather see the car zooming along the French Riviera a-la James Bond with that lineup of Alfa classics outside the Casino de Monte Carlo.

That’s Alfa Romeo for me.

Alfa Romeo still has a wonderful identity and DNA. There’s plenty of brand equity there but they still have to craft something modern that relates to the historic. You have to either leave it alone or back it up with something relevant. Alfa Romeo, for me, is about two things: grass roots performance and Italian design.

Just as I hoped Saab would continue to emphasise their Scandinavian origins, I hope Alfa Romeo continue to push their Italian heritage. It’s part of their story, part of the allure. As I sit here in Australia, I’m not overly interested in seeing a 4C driving across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’m interested in seeing a 4C outside it’s home city of Modena.

What do you think….

  • ….Should car ads stick to the car’s roots, or place the car in your own setting?
  • ….Will Alfa Romeo succeed with the 4C, or do they need a whole bunch more?
  • ….About car ads shot in a desert – still interesting, or been-there-done-that?

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18 Comments

  1. Great post, Swade. I couldn’t agree more. In regards to your questions:

    1) Roots, roots, roots. When it comes to Italy, Germany, England, or Sweden please remind me of the marque’s heritage and ethos, not to mention where my hard earned dollars are putting food on the table.

    2) Alfa is going to need a lot more in the U.S. The upcoming Giulia is the model that matters most and Marchionne and his crew had better get it right. They will only have one chance to put a stick in the spokes of the German juggernaut.

    3) Desert settings are cliche, i.e. they suck. Much prefer Milan, the Stelvio, etc.

    All the best,

    Eric

  2. I agree the video is fairly generic, but I wonder if the attempt was to evoke a sense of the 4C taking on Route 66, that historic road known as the “Great American Highway”. But that does seem like an odd juxtaposition of Alfa with Route 66.

  3. The video is just 2 minutes of generic car promo. I would fire the agency that came up with the concept (or dug it out of a dusty filing cabinet).

    The main problem, as you’ve stated, is that they could have used any car and kept everything else exactly the same. Nothing says “Alfa,” except the vintage Alfas in the garage (which could have been any other brand).

    The secondary issue is that they are just relying on the hackneyed concept of “this car will get you laid.” They barely even stretch this to “the type of person who owns this car is popular with the ladies (because they’re rich).”

    Those are the bottom-of-the-barrel concepts that agencies use when there is absolutely nothing good to say about the product. “All the women will notice your new 1974 Galaxie 500 with formal vinyl roof and premium wire hubcaps.”

    Alfa and their agency really need to start thinking about their core brand values, and about the fact the women also buy cars.

  4. Dorky. Even retro at this point. This video is to car ads what Rick Astley is to pop music — OVER. Right down to the bluesy slide guitar soundtrack and faux desert dwellers. Can we agree that California is NOT the cultural center of anything? I’ll cast my vote.

    About Alfa’s chances: the competition is very stiff. Very stiff. They cannot hope to compete without a solid advantage. “Almost” isn’t going to sway large numbers of people to buy Alfa-Romeo automobiles. Image ads like these will NOT get it done. They have to communicate a message of competence and mastery to sell cars.

  5. Agree with most everybody above. I was amused by the apology Marchionne made in May for making this comment: “I cannot come up with a schlock product, I just won’t,” Marchionne told a room of journalists. “I won’t put an American engine into that car. With all due respect to my American friends, it needs to be a Wop engine. There are some things that are well done in Italy.”
    http://www.autonews.com/article/20130527/OEM02/305279971/marchionne-apologizes-to-italian-americans#axzz2XEpWWT3l
    It wasn’t the “American” part that he apologized about, but the use of “Wop”. But, it seems he agrees with you Swade.

  6. Okay.
    You need to picture the meeting where the brief was laid out. ‘Sell this car to Americans’. The car looks so different to anything they would see, all curvy and such like…that alone will Evoke (?) a deep seated emotional ‘hook’ for many Yankee males in the 40-50 demographic.
    Actually, buy the Lotus Evoke…it looks even better….maybe that’s the problem. It is a copy. A really good one though.
    How good does that badge look, though…! No changes in how many years? Now there’s a whole ‘nother story…

  7. Have to agree with most of the previous comments. That ad was terrible! Cliche after cliche after cliche. From the red clad lady letting go of the red scarf to the quick shot of the red, white and green t-shirts on the line! Awful!
    Not a great idea to have the 4C driving past the older Alfa Romeos either in my opinion as it just made this car look no where near as good as those previous models.
    Sorry, but the 4C just does not do it for me. I just can’t see what all the fuss is about and the less said about those truly woeful headlights the better.
    IMHO Alfa needed to invest the money in adding to their terribly thin model line up not by having yet another spearhead model (we have had the 8C after all which is much better looking). I also agree with Andrew. The 4C says less Alfa Romeo and more Lotus to me. I think that may be why it leaves me cold.
    Alfa Romeo are one of my favorite marques and I do drive one so I hope the 4C achieves what Alfa want it to achieve, because if it doesn’t, I fear for the future of this truly iconic brand.

  8. I actually enjoyed the ad as the car looks so darn beautifull. Otherwise the ad is a cliche, but the quality of ads is not the crux of Alfa’s problem, it’s their quantity. German car companies continuously bombard us with their not so great ads, especially when their new models come out. They are always on people’s minds. Compare that to Alfa – just as people menage to forget all about them, they reapear for a short period of time and then vanish again. Quite far from the desired critical mass, wouldn’t you say?

  9. Alfa is dead. It doesn’t matter what image the Chrysler/Fiat brand that has, by coincidence, the same name as the former company, will get in the US. The cars will be built in the USA and Japan, right? Maybe the 4C will be built in a European assmbly, like at Magna Austria, but not at an Alfa plant, as there is not such a plant anymore.

    1. I’m sincerely hoping Alfa isn’t dead, though I do have concerns. The 4C, I believe, will be built in a Maserati plant, which isn’t a poor heritage to have at all.

  10. Seems you are right, Maserati. I wounder if it is possible for Maserati to have a sufficently efficient production for the anticipated price class.

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