In 1995, Alfa Romeo quietly pulled out of the U.S. market with its head hung lower than Stan Humphries’ after losing that year’s Super Bowl XXIX.
The automaker was suffering from an image of poor quality and low sales, a combo that doesn’t bode well for marketing cars in North America.
Since then, there have been rumblings about Alfa Romeo coming back, including plans for a 2003 re-introduction as a result of a GM/Fiat alliance. Obviously that fell apart.
Now Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne has been quoted as saying,
I’m a lot more confident now that Alfa Romeo will reconstitute a product offering that is acceptable globally, and more in particular in the United States and Canada.
North America’s re-introduction to Alfa Romeo could happen in the next 24 months, with a plan that would use a Fiat/Chrysler architecture to underpin a new front-wheel-drive sedan and station wagon. That car would replace the European Alfa Romeo 159.
Those two new models would be built in the United States starting in mid-2012.
As exciting as the prospect of Alfa’s return is, I have to wonder if relying on Chrysler architecture will be enough to pull Alfa out of its slump. Consider this: in 2000, Alfa Romeo sold 203,000 cars. In 2009, that number dropped by about half to 102,000. Fiat has to do something about that, but I remain doubtful that one falling brand can resurrect another.
Can Alfa Romeo succeed in North America using Chrysler architecture? Make all Alfas as sexy as the 8C Competizione, and maybe!