ITALY: Alfa Romeo plans US return with Giulia
Alfa Romeo will return to the US market after 15 years with the new Giulia saloon, the 159 replacement, CEO Sergio Cravero said in Turin.
That car was likely to appeal more to American buyers than the smaller MiTo or forthcoming Milano hatchbacks.
"The Giulia is a car that could be the most interesting for the US market," Cravero told Bloomberg News. "We need to build cars together with Chrysler that have an Alfa Romeo soul."
Sales are due to start in 2011 or 2012 and the new Giulia will be built at a Chrysler factory and share its platform with Chrysler.
Alfa Romeo, which pulled out of the US in 1995 after the large 164 sedan flopped, needs to sell 250,000 cars a year to break even and plans to add a SUV and a larger saloon, which could both be developed jointly with Chrysler, Cravero said.
"We have to find a solution that makes sense economically. We can't wait 10 years to see results."
Fiat's first model for the US in 20 years will be the retro look 500 city car due to be launched there next year.
The 159 was introduced in 2005 and was a successor to the 1960s Giulia used by Italy's police force. The new version could be built either on Alfa Romeo's C-Evo platform or Chrysler's 300C platform (developed with Mercedes in the DaimlerChryler era). Plans will be disclosed by September or October, Cravero said.
The challenge is to find a platform that will work for both Chrysler and Alfa Romeo. The 300C platform isn't competitive enough because it's too heavy and lacks the smooth handling of newer cars, according to IHS Global Insight auto analyst Andrew Close in London. Retooling the C-Evo for a bigger car isn't ideal either, he said.
"There are problems with both platforms," Close added. "Chrysler's 300C is very old and isn't an ideal starting point, while the C-Evo is small and would have to be stretched for a segment that has high standards."
Cravero estimated Alfa Romeo would lift annual sales next year to as many as 145,000 cars, an increase of more than 20%, following the introduction of the Milano, the five-door hatchback scheduled for a March Geneva show launch.