Fiat-Chrysler unveils sexy sports car Alfa Romeo 4C

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

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