Via TTAC, we come across an article in Autocar that discloses Alfa Romeo’s conscious decision to leave out the newest generation of electric safety devices.
Alfa Romeo doesn’t intend to fit much next-generation advanced safety equipment, such as adaptive cruise control and emergency braking, to its cars.
Alberto Cavaggioni, Alfa’s marketing boss, said, “We can look at our cars from an emotional point of view or from a technical point of view. We give the Alfisti all that’s needed [in electronic aids], but not more. At Alfa we give the maximum fun to drivers.
“We don’t put safety into the discussion, apart from our NCAP scores.”
Maurizio Consalvo, the manufacturer’s head of product planning, said, “Customers want a mechanical car with minimal electrical interference.”
Big call, Alfa.
I’m one of those old-fashioned types who takes a long time to accept some of the newer safety and convenience devices. Some devices actually replace skills that I think should be important to a driver. I think every driver should have the skills to park their own vehicle, for instance. I think drivers should be able to regulate their own speed according to the conditions and the traffic around them. I think they should know how to brake safely in the shortest possible distance.
In fact, I think every driver should develop every skill needed for car control in all situations, just in case the electronic nanny fails.
I know that I’ll always have to have one relatively modern car for our family. However, I’ve vowed in recent years to always have at least one predominantly mechanical car (I can accept a computer for fuel injection, but that’s about as modern as I’d like to go with such a car). That’s partly because I really like old cars. But it’s also because I value the man-machine connection that a mechanical car gives and I admire the old-school engineers who broke new ground with a much smaller knowledge and experience base than what we have now.
Personally speaking, I welcome this decision by one of my favourite brands to stay away from the newer electronic nannies. I’m sure it’ll still have ABS, airbags and a bunch of other proven doo-dads. But enhancing that connection between the driver and the road and removing anything that takes away from that (as much as possible) should be the aspiration of every company that makes a driver’s car.
My question, though, is whether or not the market will accept this decision in sufficient numbers. The more companies give, the more the market wants. Alfa Romeo has had such a muddied identity in recent years that it’s expected to be a passenger car these days, albeit one with some sporting style.
Are there enough punters out there looking at Alfa as a higher-end sports car, the type of niche where you can get away with charging more and delivering less technology? Will the mechanical product be good enough for them to get away with it?
Talk is cheap. As always in the car business, it comes down to the product. Alfa hasn’t had a compelling, ground-breaking driver’s car for some years. The future looks better with the 4C on its way and a new Spider with a good pedigree to follow. Every news story I see about Alfa Romeo, however, seems to include some sort of delay or a new twist that contradicts previous stories. The plan for Alfa seems confused and while they sort themselves out, the market is moving on.
I simply hope that Alfa can get its products out soon and stake a claim in some area of the market with a coherent range of emotionally charged products that actually deliver on it’s long-held brand promise – cuore sportivo.