US: Alfa Romeo is coming back early - report
Fiat's Alfa Romeo will return to the US this year with a two-seat roadster called the 4C, a Detroit newspaper reported.
Fiat withdrew in 1979 and Alfa in 1995.
"For sure [Alfa Romeo] is coming back this year with the 4C," Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was quoted by the Detroit Free Press as saying, after speaking to Inforum, a women's leadership organisation. "We are finalising the car now, so it should be here by the end of the year."
The company last week said it had signed a final agreement with Mazda to design and build a new Alfa Romeo roadster based on the next generation MX-5 but using "proprietary" Fiat Group engines.
The Free Press said news of Alfa Romeo's return to the US was a pleasant surprise for Fiat dealers, who have been eagerly waiting for something to expand its limited offering of the Fiat 500. The slightly larger 500L is coming later this year. After a slow start in Fiat's initial year in the US, sales more than doubled last year to 43,772.
Fiat now has 202 dealerships in the US and those dealers are eager to offer more models and a second brand, the paper said.
The paper noted the timeframe for Alfa Romeo's return to the US has been a moving target since Fiat took control over Chrysler in 2009.
Earlier last week, Marchionne said the brand was "not ready" to be launched in the U.S.
But, on Friday, Marchionne said one of his top priorities was to prepare a full Alfa Romeo lineup for North America.
"A lot of work has gone on in the choice of architectures and models," Marchionne said. "But we've got to make sure that we have the powertrain set up."
Fiat is planning to launch nine Alfa models globally by 2016. Most will be produced in Italy to help bring its factories there closer to their full capacity.
The Free Press said Alfa Romeo sales in the US were modest throughout the 1980s - about 3,000 cars annually but peaked at 8,201 in 1986. After that, Alfa Romeo lost momentum and Fiat eventually pulled competely out of the US in 1995.