Alfa Romeo to return to North America in 2013

Jan. 21, 2013
Fiat stopped exporting Alfa Romeo to U.S. in 1995.

Alfa Romeo will return this year in the U.S. and Canada with the introduction of the sporty 4C, Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said in Detroit, Mich.

While work remains to prepare the Alfa Romeo lineup for the U.S. Marchionne said that won't delay the introduction of the 4C.

"For sure it's coming back this year with the 4C," Marchionne said of the Alfa Romeo brand after speaking to Inforum, a women's leadership organization. "We are finalizing the car now, so it should be here by the end of the year."

The introduction of the 4C would mark the return of Alfa Romeo since Fiat stopped exporting it in 1995.

Marchionne's comments seemed to contradict statements made earlier this week when he said Fiat's sports luxury brand was not ready for a reintroduction to the U.S.

Marchionne said one of his top priorities is to prepare a full Alfa Romeo lineup for North America.

"A lot of work has gone on in the choice of architectures and models," Marchonne said. "But we've got to make sure that we have the powertrain set up. This remains my key objective right now."

Fiat is planning to launch nine new Alfa Romeo's by 2016 as part of its strategy to focus on higher-margin luxury cars and launch Alfa into a global brand.

Most will be produced in Italy to help return European operations to profitability and revive production at underutilized plants.

Fiat also said it signed a final agreement with Mazda that calls for the Japanese automaker to begin producing a two-seat sports car for the Alfa Romeobrand and a Mazda sports car in 2015.

Both roadsters will be built at Mazda's plant in Hiroshima, Japan. Fiat's car would be the next-generation Alfa-Romeo Spider and also would eventually be sold in the U.S.

"This is territory that belonged to Alfa," Marchionne said of the Spider. "I think it's going to provide great support for Alfa coming back to the Untied States."

He noted that the Spider was featured in the movie "The Graduate," in 1967 and is still fondly remembered by many.

Fiat said the new Alfa Romeo Spider roadster will be developed for sale globally and will be based on the architecture of the next generation Mazda MX-5.

Fiat described the cars as "two differentiated, distinctly styled, iconic and brand-specific roadsters featuring rear-wheel drive."

The announcement builds on a memorandum of understanding signed in May by the automakers.

Marchionne also elaborated on the issue facing the Dodge Dart, a compact car launched last summer that has failed to live up to sales expectations.

Chrysler will sell more Darts, Marchionne said, once it can be offered with a new nine-speed transmission that would give better acceleration.

However, Chrysler will need all of the nine-speed transmissions it can make to launch the replacement for the Jeep Liberty SUV that it is launching later this year and the Chrysler 200 that will follow shortly afterwards.

"I need to put it into the Liberty successor first and the next one in line is the Chrysler 200," Marchionne said of the nine-speed transmission. "(The Dart) is either third or running parallel with second."

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