The rebirth of Alfa Romeo hinges on an expanded range of eight new or revised models, a new focus on rear and four-wheel drive architecture and a heavier emphasis on the brand’s Italian heritage.

Speaking at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) investor relations event in Michigan today, Harald J Wester, chief executive of Alfa Romeo, unveiled plans for an expanded range of cars set to appear between 2015 and 2018.

It has also set its sights on offering "best-in-class rear and all-wheel drive architecture for global products", echoing previous comments from Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne that Alfa will focus predominantly on rear-drive machines.

Alfa’s current model range comprises just four cars – the Mito, Giulietta and the Alfa Romeo 4C and 4C Spider sports cars. In the fourth quarter of 2015, this range will be augmented by the Giulia, a new mid-size model to rival the BMW 3-series.

After that, however, it appears the company will exit the sub-compact market that the Mito currently competes in. Instead, Alfa’s product plan for 2016 onwards allows for two cars in the compact segment, the Giulia, a full-size saloon, two SUVs and a new “speciality” offering in the vein of the Alfa Romeo 4C.

The product plan also allows for high-performance Cloverleaf-badged variants of the new models.

Proposals for an Alfa Romeo-badged SUV date back as far as 2003, when the Kamal concept car was revealed at the Geneva motor show.

Alfa’s future cars will choose from a pool of five engines, three petrols and two diesels. Two of the petrol-fuelled engines will be four cylinders, with the other being a six-pot, while four- and six-cylinder diesels will be offered.

The Italian company hasn’t revealed specific performance figures for each unit, although the six-cylinder petrol could produce around 500bhp in its most powerful state of tune.

In the presentation to investors, Alfa acknowledged that striking past models such as Brera, 159 and Spider had “missed the historical DNA of the brand”. This, it admitted, had enabled “our German competitors to build up a phenomenal lead over us over a number of years”.

The DNA, says Alfa, comprises “advanced, innovative engines, perfect 50/50 weight distribution, unique technical solutions, class exclusive power-to-weight ratios and groundbreaking and distinctly Italian design”.

The company says the Alfa Romeo 4C marks the start of a return to this process and is “the perfect embodiment of the brand’s DNA”.

Alfa also wants to return to the ‘skunk works’ ethos that underpinned its formative years of car making. It will develop its own technical solutions with a large degree of autonomy from parent company FCA and hand-pick its engineering talent from across the FCA group and the outside car industry. The cars and engines will all be made in Italy.

The company intends to grow its global sales from 74,000 last year to 400,000 by 2018.

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