Can Alfa Romeo Succeed in the US?
Alfa hopes to make a comeback after years of bankruptcy and neglect.
Alfa Romeo put itself directly in the spot light after a series of advertising spots during this year's Super Bowl. Alfa started shipping vehicles to North America in 2014, after a 19 year hiatus, but hopes to make a roaring comeback. The debut of the 4C was fairly successful, a two-seater sports car widely regarded as fun to drive but with a spartan interior for the price tag. Although Alfa has begun to establish itself as a sporty and desirable brand, only 1,106 sales were made in the first quarter of 2017—in other words, Mitsubishi sold nearly five times as many Lancers as Alfa sold cars in that period. After making a bold comeback by introducing the 4C into the North American market, Alfa Romeo began looking into higher volume automobile segments, such as the competitive premium mid-size sedan sector. Director of Alfa Romeo North America, Pieter Hogeveen, believes in the brand, "If you look at the premium mid-size sedan, customers have only had a few choices when it comes to vehicles and brands in the last decade. We believe Giulia will do very well based on its positioning, rich content, and race inspired performance." In addition to focusing on brand awareness and building exhilarating cars, Alfa Romeo has quietly grown their number of U.S. dealerships. By the end of 2015, there were 122 dealerships. In 2016, Alfa increased this number by 35% to 165—and 2 more showrooms have opened since 2017. According to Hogeveen, many dealerships are reporting visitors walking in their doors to learn more about the brand and their cars.
The Giulia has begun to successfully cement Alfa Romeo's brand as a top-notch luxury and performance-inspired brand. Just to name a few, the Giulia was named one of Ward's Best Interiors for 2017, won the prestigious EuroCarBody 2016 award, and was given Popular Mechanic's 2017 "Super Sedan" award. Many journalists have consistently attested to the car's fun-to-drive nature and even its practicality. To appeal to an even greater number of buyers, Alfa Romeo released the 2018 Stelvio with an accompanying racy Quadrifoglio version. Sharing much DNA with the Giulia, the Stelvio is bound to be a performer, with its sights set on rival Porsche SUVs. By 2020, Alfa has plans for six additional vehicles, including a full size sedan, two utility vehicles, two "specialty" vehicles, and a hatchback. However, these plans hinge on today's success. Despite previous broken promises made by Alfa—specifically the 159, which lacked performance and quality -- Harald Wester, Chief Executive at Alfa Romeo and Maserati, is aware that disappointing vehicles will destroy the brand in today's market. Although Alfa Romeo could steal form the Chrysler or Maserati parts bin for its cars, an emphasis has been made on 100% new and improved body, suspension, and engines. Wester reports that FCA will be spending around €5 billion on structure, costs attributed to building factories and designing the automobiles. With this heavy influx of resources, and a dedicated 'skunk works' group of engineers committed to building the perfect car, free from corporate constraints, Alfa Romeo shows the potential to revolutionize the North American car industry. Germans beware.