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Alfa-Romeo To Play Key Role In Fiat Re-Launch

Half-dozen or more models under consideration for U.S.

by on Aug.31, 2010

The Alfa-Romeo Giulia, shown in concept form at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, will help re-launch the brand in the U.S.

While the spotlight is focusing on the re-launch of the Fiat brand, late this year, another long-absent Italian marque is getting ready to make its own American comeback.

Hundreds of potential dealers were in suburban Detroit, this week, meeting at Chrysler headquarters to discuss plans to roll out the U.S. version of the Fiat 500 microcar, the first of several models Chrysler’s Italian affiliate intends to bring to market.  But at the meeting, sources report, Fiat also provided a road map for the re-introduction of its more upscale Alfa-Romeo brand.

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As many as a half-dozen different sedans, coupes and crossovers are under consideration and could make it to market in the years immediately after Alfa’s return, in 2012.  That’s on top of the various Alfa products that could be used as platforms for Chrysler-branded models.  A revival of the Dodge Viper sports car, for example, is expected to be based on an Alfa offering.

Dustin Hoffman drove an Alfa Spider in the 1967 hit, "The Graduate."

Founded in 1910, Alfa has been a part of the Fiat Group since 1986.  In the post-War period it was a familiar offering in the United States, particularly the Italian maker’s sportiest models, such as the little two-seater driven by Dustin Hoffman’s character in the 1967 hit movie, “The Graduate.”

Rising competition, complicated by Alfa’s reputation for quality problems, drove the maker out of the market in 1995, the last model offered in the States the 164 sedan.  But almost as soon as Alfa abandoned the market rumors began circulating of a return.

The maker tested the waters with 2009’s limited-edition launch of the Alfa-Romeo 8C, a small-volume supercar that was sold through Fiat’s other high-line outlet, Maserati.

Precisely what the product plans are going forward has yet to be revealed, but Alfa is expected to make its return with the next-generation 159, the brand’s mid-size sedan.  A wagon version may also be in the offing, along with a 159-based crossover.

Fiat is also reported to be developing a homologated version of the smaller Giulia, which will share its platform with the current 5-door, the Giulietta.  The Giulia made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show, earlier this year.

Other products reportedly under development include a subcompact, a larger crossover or SUV and a large Alfa convertible.

About 400 potential dealers attended this week’s meeting and about 160 of them will initially be chosen to represent the Fiat brand – though that could later grow to 250, based on prior discussions with company executives.

Initially, the new Fiat dealers will be able to share existing showrooms, but company officials will require new franchisees to eventually move the brand to its own lot.  The first Fiat offering will be the American version of the 500, with several spin-offs to follow.

Specific plans for the re-launch of the Alfa-Romeo brand’s distribution network have yet to be revealed.

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