1982 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce on 2040-cars
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Alfa Romeo Spider for Sale
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Auto blogWed, 16 Jan 2013 17:58:00 EST
Sergio Marchionne and his Fiat empire have a lot riding on the US return of the Alfa Romeo brand. The endeavor has been in progress for what feels like a lifetime - certainly for as long as Fiat has had the Chrysler brand under its Italian wing.
It's not surprising that Fiat CEO Marchionne needs a perfect first Alfa to mark a return to America. And here's where things get dicey. Nobody would argue with Marchionne's insistence that Alfa Romeo's be powered by Italian engines - as Marchionne himself is quoted to have said at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, "There are some things that are well done in Italy."
If not what he said, then, it's how he said it that has eyebrows raised. "I cannot come up with a schlock product, I just won't. I won't put an American engine into that car. With all due respect to my American friends, it needs to be a wop engine." Wait, what's that?
According to a report in Automotive News that quotes "people familiar with the matter," the next big play in Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's plan for Alfa Romeo is to break it off from Fiat Group Automobiles and set it up as a separate company within the Fiat empire, giving it the same structure as Ferrari and Maserati. The idea, say the sources, is that a transparent, standalone Alfa Romeo that has to justify its every move could clearly prove its success in the public financial statements it would have to report, finally achieving Marchionne's aim of making Alfa Romeo "a credible business proposition."
That, of course, assumes that Alfa Romeo will make a success of it. The brand hasn't made a profit in any year of Marchionne's decade at the helm; sales last year fell to numbers not seen in almost half a century and its new product offensive might not include the two vehicles currently responsible for 99 percent of its sales. We're told that the brand's six new models will begin arriving in 2016 - a roadster, a midsize sedan and large sedan, a compact SUV and large SUV, and a large coupe.
Marchionne aims to expand Alfa's global appeal in several ways, the first by stressing that they are Italian products that 'belong' to Italy. This is the stance that appears to have put the kibosh on the roadster twinned with the coming Mazda MX-5/Miata. Alfa Romeos will all be made in their home country, and if they take off they'll help bandage Fiat's problem with underused plant capacity, a bugbear that is just as problematic culturally and politically as financially. Top-tier trims would use V6 engines developed by Ferrari, and global access would get a boost by selling Alfa Romeos in Jeep's 1,700 international dealerships.
Following this week's Fiat Chrysler extravaganza, where the Italian-American manufacturer announced its plans for the next five years, the Autoblog staff was cautiously optimistic of the company's future. Investors? Not so much.
Fiat saw its shares tumble 12 percent in Wednesday's trading, falling from 8.67 euros ($12.06 at today's rates) to 7.44 euros ($10.35) as of this writing, with blame partly going to the Italian half of the FCA marriage, which recorded a pretty significant drop in profits during the first quarter of this year.
The plan, which will cost around $77 billion over the next several years, is facing criticism from investors thanks in part to a 1.4-percent drop in Fiat's first-quarter profits, to 622 million euros ($862 million). That figure is also short of Bloomberg analysts' projections, which predicted $1.18 billion in profits before taxes, interest and one-time items.