Saab people will remember all the discussion and hand-wringing that went on about Saab’s various model launches – whether they were too early or too late, poorly advertised or otherwise.
Well, at least they happened.
Sergio Marchionne, the head of Fiat (and therefore, Chrysler) has hinted a modified launch cadence for Alfa Romeo vehicles in the United States. Yes, another one. I’ll get to that in a minute. But first, Car and Driver have an excellent graphic covering Fiat’s ever-changing plans over the years for Alfa Romeo in the United States.
According to this, Alfa’s launch plans have more-than-bookended the rise and fall of Hummer as an automotive brand – by several years at either end. Heck, Alfa’a comeback plan even pre-dates George Dubya Bush becoming President of the United States!! In fact, I remember starting Trollhattan Saab in 2005 and enjoying it so much I created an Alfa Romeo website shortly thereafter with a view to getting content established prior to Alfa’s US launch. Oh, the foresight.
Click to enlarge.
Last year, Alfa were locked down to build the large Guilia sedan using a stretched version of the platform that debuted with the Dodge Dart in the US a few years ago (the same one the Giulietta is built on now).
Now – according to the new new plan – Alfa are developing a new (or modified) platform for the Giulia because they need something more refined, more capable of competing with the Audi A4 et al. The new new sale date is “2015”, which is effectively two full years away because it’ll probably come as a 2016 model, meaning a launch in late 2015.
Until that time, Alfa Romeo will only have the MiTo, the Giulietta and the still-launching-and-extremely-niche 4C coupe. That’s not much of a range, regardless of how exciting the 4C might be. Oh, and the 4C was meant to launch in the US this year, but is already delayed until early in 2014. Not a good start.
The new vehicle platform than engineers in Modena are working on for Alfa will be the basis of the Giulia sedan and wagon as well as a larger sedan model and an SUV. It may well see service as a base for a new Chrysler 300, as well, which would definitely help with the amortisation.
In addition to these models, there’s the roadster that Alfa are developing in conjunction with Mazda, which will be built at Mazda’s factory but featuring an Alfa engine and Alfa-specific bodywork.
The final riddle on Marchionne’s to-solve list is how to market the cars in the US when they finally get there. The premium option is to preserve the brand position that he’s trying to create for Alfa and market them through Maserati dealerships. The problem? Maserati only has around 70 dealers in the US. Marketing through Fiat dealerships won’t offer quite the same level of panache, but it’ll offer much greater exposure as there are more than three Fiat dealerships for every one Maserati dealership right now.
- How long does a company have to be out of a large market before they basically become unknown as an entity to their target market?
- Will the aspirational young American buyers that Alfa Romeo would like to attract, those in their 20’s and 30’s, have a properly formed idea as to who Alfa Romeo is as a company? I know the 40-something-and-older crowd will, but what about the ones that will carry the brand forwards? Will they have any sense of Alfa Romeo’s real legacy?
- How long until the next launch plan?
As a former Alfa owner and a long-suffering Alfa fan, I choose to see it as a positive that Sergio is taking the extra time needed to do this re-launch properly.
The new platform they’re working on will be RWD and AWD capable. The RWD part of that is very important because it’s what Alfa Romeo should be if it’s going to be true to its historical brand promise. That’s positive.
I just hope there’s still an interested market in the countries that count when it the new new Alfa Romeos finally arrive.