The Fiat-Chrysler group on Tuesday unveiled the production version of the all-new Alfa Romeo 4C — a sexy sports car that will spearhead the brand’s return to the United States later this year.
“This is the car that will herald the return of the brand to the North American market,” Fiat SpA spokesman Richard Gadeselli told The Detroit News. “It is a halo car. It will be followed by a complete range of vehicles.”
But not all dealers will be getting one. Although Alfa Romeo pulled out of the U.S. market in 1995, echoes of its past greatness have continued to reverberate among automotive aficionados. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was quick to appreciate Alfa’s profit potential and made the return of the iconic Italian brand a central part of his North American strategy after taking over a bankrupt Chrysler Group LLC in 2009.
The promise of future Alfa Romeos was the bait Marchionne used to convince some 200 Chrysler dealers to build standalone Fiat “studios.”
The first Alfas were supposed to arrive last year, but economic problems in Europe have delayed the planned reboot of Alfa Romeo until next month, when the 4C makes its debut at the International Motor Show in Geneva.
The curvaceous rear-wheel drive, mid-engine coupe will be powered by a new four-cylinder 1750 Turbo Petrol all-aluminum engine mated to Alfa’s TCT twin-clutch automatic transmission. The new engine features direct fuel injection, dual continuous variable valve timing, a turbocharger and “a revolutionary scavenging control system that gets rid of any turbo lag,” the company promises. Alfa is keeping mum on the performance figures but promises a weight-to-power ratio of less than 9 pounds per horse thanks to an all-carbon fiber chassis.
Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics LLP said the new Alfa will compete with the Lotus Elise but be “much, much better.”
The design of the Alfa Romeo 4C hews closely to the concept car, which was unveiled to critical acclaim at the Geneva show in 2011 and won numerous design awards in Europe. Its designers were inspired by the 33 Stradale and other legendary Alfas. But the company says the carbon fiber interior will be a major step up from current offerings.
Pricing has not yet been released, but Hall said it will likely cost $60,000 or more when it arrives in U.S. showrooms in the fourth quarter.
“It’s expensive because of its carbon-fiber structure, but it’s the car Alfa needs,” he said. “The idea is to use the 4C to relaunch the brand. You end with up with a high-performance sports car that’s an image maker, and then you follow you up with higher-volume products.”
But with only 1,500 Alfa Romeo 4Cs scheduled to be produced this year — and only half that figure earmarked for the United States — not every Fiat dealer will be getting one.
While Gadeselli said every Fiat dealer will ultimately “be offered an opportunity to take on an Alfa franchise,” the company has said the first 4Cs will go to those with the highest volumes and customer satisfaction ratings.
Andrew Shaver, who owns a Fiat franchise in Sherman Oaks, Calif., just north of Los Angeles, hopes to be one of them.
“Having Alfa would unlock the true value of the franchise,” he said. “I do think Alfa Romeo would do well in a market like southern California.”
Other vehicles that will follow the 4C include a new Alfa Romeo roadster based on the next-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata and a crossover based on a Chrysler platform.
“Alfa has a market opportunity to go where Audi used to be before it moved into first-tier luxury,” Hall said.
“But Alfas need to be unlike anything else in the segment that they’re in. They’re going to have to offer the most performance for the money.”
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130213/AUTO0101/302130318#ixzz2Ku9Ddu6H