Does my hero have feet of clay? Until now I’ve cheerfully subscribed to the Sergio-Marchionne-can-do-no-wrong school of thinking, based on two things: that he magically reversed the profit fortunes of Fiat by launching the 500 and Bravo at top speed, and that he wears sweaters to events that every other attendee reckons demand a three-piece suit.
However, it strikes me that his latest Alfa utterances - piled on top of the Keystone Cops confusion over the naming of the Milano, or whatever it is - make him look like all those confused Fiat-Lancia-Alfa managers of the past, a man who isn’t in charge of events.
To suggest, within a day or two of the launch of what everyone’s hoping will be the biggest-selling Alfa for years, that the marque is on the wrong track and you might just choke off its investment lifeline for a while to teach it a lesson, strikes me as about as counter-productive as anything you could possibly do. Pile this on top of the confusion over the car’s name (for months – years – it has been Milano; now it might or might not be Giulietta) and you have a picture of a car marque that appears to lack direction. This time last week, the Alfa Milano (which I was lucky enough to see a few weeks ago in Alfa’s Turin styling studios) struck me as a thoroughly decent little car, well capable of winning the marque a good foothold in the Golf-Astra-Focus class. Now I find myself speculating on what Marchionne reckons is so wrong with it.
One thing our very Rover Group proved effectively and repeatedly, not least in 1998 when BMW boss Bernd Pitschesreider chose the actual day of the brand new Rover 75’s motor show debut to read the riot act to the company’s workforce over their perceived inefficiency, is that a car rarely rises above a bad launch.
Is the Milano/Giulietta about to prove this again?