After an unexpectedly long delay, Fiat’s Alfa Romeo brand is finally giving the public a closer look at the little 4C sports car that will usher in its long-awaited return to the U.S. market.
The production version of the 4C, a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe, is making its debut at the Geneva Motor Show this week, and will go on sale in Europe, and then the States, by year’s end.
A concept version of the super-light sports car was shown in Geneva in April 2011 and Alfa officials said then that it would be one of several models that they would use to bring the brand back to the American market after a roughly two-decade absence. But that revival — a cornerstone of the alliance formed between Fiat and Chrysler after the U.S. maker emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy – has proved far more difficult to achieve than originally anticipated.
CEO Sergio Marchionne has repeatedly delayed the move, scrubbing plans to bring over the little Giulietta, for example, because it didn’t justify the necessary price premium in its current form. As recently as January, during an appearance at the Detroit Auto Show, Marchionne said he wasn’t ready to authorize the U.S. version of the Alfa 4C, either.
In typically blunt form, he complained about the performance feel and sound of the powertrain Alfa engineers had come up with, declaring “We need a real Wop engine,” using a term normally seen as derogatory to Italian-Americans but here making it clear that if it were to succeed in America, Alfa will have to deliver a truly distinctive Italian look and feel.
“This undertaking to bring Alfa back is a one-shot deal,” Marchionne cautioned. “We are not going to do this twice.”
Curiously, Marchionne reversed course and announced the 4C was up to snuff just a few weeks later, and it is now expected to be the first of several models that will come to the U.S. over the next few years.
Alfa Romeo has always had a special appeal to American motorists, a convertible playing a supporting role in the classic 1967 film, “The Graduate.” Like that little Spider, the 4C is visually striking but it adopts an almost futuristic design unlike anything else in its segment now on the market.
It makes extensive use of ultra-light carbon fiber and other materials to hold weight down to around 2,000 pounds, according to Alfa. Meanwhile, it is expected to produce around 240 horsepower from a turbocharged engine of just 1.75-liters displacement, giving it an impressive power-to-weight ratio.
While final U.S. pricing hasn’t been revealed, the Alfa Romeo 4C is expected to go for around €60,000, or $78,000, in Europe.
Tags: alfa 4c, alfa giulietta, alfa romeo 4c, alfa romeo giulietta, alfa romeo return to us, alfa spider, alfa us, alfa-romeo news, auto news, car news, chrysler news, fiat news, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, sergio marchione, thedetroitbureau