Fiat's CEO on the future of Alfa Romeo and his hopes for 2010
12 January 2010

Autocar's Steve Cropley caught up with Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne at the Detroit motor show to discuss the future of Alfa Romeo, his hopes for 2010 and whether he plans on committing to selling cars in the UK long term.

Steve Cropley blog - Why the Chrysler-Fiat deal will work out

Is it true you’ve delayed the launch of Alfa Romeo in the US?

Alfa has been underperforming for a long time. It has been the most difficult part of Fiat’s recovery, even though on paper it looks so attractive. The marque isn’t for sale, or anything like that. It’s our problem. But we do have to rethink our objectives and be realistic with ourselves before we we do anything else.

Does that mean the US plans are off?

No, they’re being worked on diligently. But I want to see us achieve two things before we proceed. First, I want to see how well we do launching the Giulietta. From the technical point of view it’s a huge step forward, but I want to see how it fares. And I want to see how we can take advantage of that through the company. It’ll take about a year to make that assessment.

You showed a Lancia Delta with Chrysler badges and a Chrysler grille. Is that a real project?

The rebadged Delta could quite possibly make a Chrysler vehicle. Not far from now we may see an even stronger convergence of the two marques. In Europe, Lancia is an undersized, underdeveloped brand, with nothing bigger than the Delta. Chrysler, which has a true global reach, has nothing smaller. Put them together and you have a full lineup.

Doesn’t that damage the Delta?

Let’s get this straight. I’m not selling any Lancia in the US. There’s no structural conflict. We could have designed that car here. We could see the two converge as early as the end of the year.

What will the relationship between Dodge and Alfa Romeo be like?

That’s very different. These are two distinctive brands. Dodge is an American brand and must stay that way. Where the two have similarities is through their reputations for great dynamics. They might co-operate, but they’ll stay separate.

Why didn’t you have a big press conference in Detroit?

Because we don’t have anything to show yet. There’s been a habit at Chrysler of showing stuff very early. But if I’m going to battle, I don’t want to threaten my enemy with a weapon I won’t have for 18 months.

What do you expect from 2010?

In Europe, the market will be a million lower than 2009, but I still think it’s on the way back now. Chrysler will have a tough year, because we’re waiting for a lot of new products. In 2011 we’’ll have 11 new vehicles and five that have been heavily refreshed. This year, we’re shooting for 1.1 million sales in the US and about 1.6-1.7 milion in total, and not worrying much about market share. Those numbers are where we can more or less break even. But we’ve just come out of bankruptcy; we need to have a little humility.

Are you sorry your move to acquire Opel didn’t come off?

Personally I am. But I do think Opel finished up in the right hands, though I don’t think the journey it took to get there was very helpful. But General Motors has the industrial muscle needed to make Opel work. The proposal wasn’t right. There was no future the way it was proposed. Ask any CEO of a big European company and he’ll tell you the same.

The UK currency has fallen in value. Is it hard selling cars there?

It’s tough for any manufacturer to make money in the UK at present. Sometimes I wake up and ask myself why I’m there at all, apart from the fact that I love the place. But an emotional attachment only goes so far…

 

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Comments
12

12 January 2010

Much more reminiscent of a sweetly styled, correctly named, sensibly dimensioned evolution of the 156 than a development of the bulky, German-aping 159, doesn’t the new Giulietta look just like the perfect sports saloon? (OK, 5 door hatchback if you want to be pedantic.) Those rear light clusters, disappearing swage line where the front and rear doors meet, concealed rear door handles, painted dashboard, simply presented but nicely detailed instruments, perfectly styled and positioned Quadrifoglio Verde badge on upmarket models...I could go on! If Alfa have made it handle properly – and there can be no excuses this time after initial fumbling with Mito steering & suspension – then it’s exactly the kind of car I want, FPT (benzina fuelled) powertrains and all! Mercifully, it would remain all-Italian and don’t try to tell me that‘s not equally as important for Alfa Romeo as Montezemolo says it is for Ferrari.

Personally, I don’t buy all the negative journalistic interpretations currently appearing about Alfa investment being sacrificed for the sake of of Lancia. If Fiat Group needs large cars and 4x4s, surely they are already – or soon will be - well catered for within Lancia, Maserati, Chrysler and Jeep parts of the operation. Exactly why the Alfa range would need to include a grand limousine, SUV or any kind of big-engined 4 x 4 beats me. Megalomaniac-satisfying monstrosities have never been part of Alfa Romeo’s heritage so why consider them now? Leave excessive power, vulgarity and size to the Germans because they do it so well!

Cravero, Marchionne and Montezemelo aren’t stupid; I bet they know exactly what they’re doing. If what they are saying is that Alfa investment is to be directed at Mito and Giulietta type cars to the exclusion of anything aimed at size freaks, then that’s just perfect with me. Imagine the possibilities based on those two models alone if properly honed and presented; entry level models through to Quadrifoglio Verde derivatives....maybe seriously sorted GTAs just to put icing on the cake..... mmm... yummy!

Please Snr. Cravero and colleagues, please concentrate on making Alfa Romeo excellent at just one thing viz. truly competent compact sports saloons and close derivatives. Forget about all of the other extraneous junk and simply accept that those who exhibit megalomania (in other words, those poor souls who feel in need of genitalia augmentation) will just have to shop elsewhere.

cheeky is good...up to a point!

12 January 2010

In my opinion what Alfa Romeo is in need of most of all is a good RWD platform.

12 January 2010

Marchionne words make sense. I just wish they hadn't presented that Delta with a Chrysler grill, that really wasn't waranted. There's nothing bad in using the Delta as a base, but the visual changes have to be a bit more extensive...

12 January 2010

Seems quite straight and to the point. Good interview but Mr CEO, please sell Alfa to VW/BMW or someone who can handle it. I just cant see my favourite brand dying a dog's death or even be regarded as an underdog.

12 January 2010

[quote ambs123]Seems quite straight and to the point. Good interview but Mr CEO, please sell Alfa to VW/BMW or someone who can handle it. I just cant see my favourite brand dying a dog's death or even be regarded as an underdog.[/quote]

It could be worse, Alfa could be Saab...

12 January 2010

Do you sense the undertone of panic? Alfa is bad, Lancia a micro brand, Chrysler shrinking under 1m sales all carried by Fiat, the weakest of the European manufactures. This can all go horribly wrong.. and probably will

12 January 2010

It's dead simple:

Alfa (and Fiat for that matter) need to make small / medium sporty, 'drivers' cars that make you smile at real world speeds on real world roads. Make them light, make them responsive (edgy, even), make them pop on the overrun and keep the price down so that car enthusiasts will buy them over a Golf / Focus. And dont tell me it cant be done under modern legislation.... Renault Clio Cup - Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

13 January 2010

You wouldn't think that saving Alfa should be that hard, but they just don't seem to understand their own brand. Like Peugeot, they've lost their mojo and don't seem to have the ability to produce real driver's cars anymore. Like someone else said, Renault can make FWD work, but Alfa lost the FWD magic with the Alfasud. Look at those GTs, Spiders and Breras - duds, every one of them. Would they really know how to engineer a great RWD chassis either? I'd love to see a revived Alfa Romeo range, but I'm losing hope.

13 January 2010

ITS BECUASE EUROPEANS ARE GETTING SMARTER AND BUYING LESS FIAT RUBBISH!!!!!

Damm it Obama, You have to keep these guys from bringing rtheir 3rd world quality cars over!!! Stop using my tax dollars for this crminal's (Marchionne's) exploits.

13 January 2010

HEY, BEFORE YOU GUYS JUMP ON ME, look at this artcle.

http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle.aspx?AR=226819

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