Cars that have you thinking there's no recession are one of the major attractions at the Geneva motor show, the Rolls-Royce Wraith and LaFerrari among them.

What's interesting to hear, however, is how Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne plans to rejuvenate Alfa Romeo.

This is not the first time he has attempted a revival, and the challenge looks as mountainous as ever — how Fiat plans to elevate Alfa to the level of the German premium three, in product terms at least, is intriguing to learn.

Future Alfa Romeos will have three core characteristics, says Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne. "First, design. Second, the light-weighting of vehicles and third, unique powertrain solutions. And we have met the target with the 4C," he says. America is the priority, the 4C to spearhead the reintroduction of the brand which departed in 1995.

Marchionne dismisses criticism that previous Alfa US revival plans have come to nothing by saying that "they never got executed". It will be different this time because of Chrysler, which provides a near-instant dealer network and platform-sharing opportunities that provide the foundation for long-term viability. "It couldn’t have been done before – the baseline investment would have exceeded the revenue," he commented.

But he’s not so certain about how Alfa can achieve a revival in Europe. "I don’t know at today’s price levels," he says referring to the current market's heavy discounting. "The degradation of prices is occurring not just in the mass market but the premium end, too."

Lightweight cars are expensive to make, as are advanced engines, as the 4C’s lofty sub-£50,000 ticket demonstrates. This price takes it well above a Porsche Cayman.

But there’s promise in this strategy, lightweight being something new for Alfa and a philosophy with the potential to yield real advances, especially in combination with strong design and the advanced engines that the brand has always offered.

"Without which means 300,000 sales by 2016 rather than the 92,000 Alfas sold last year," says Marchionne.