This morning Automotive News Europe ran a story suggesting that Alfa Romeo will be split off to become a standalone company within Fiat-Chrysler, just like Maserati and Ferrari. The jokes about this being a prelude to selling the ailing Alfa brand to Volkswagen have already started.

Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne will reveal the absolutely, definitely, no-kidding final revival plan for Alfa Romeo next Tuesday. Despite pulling off the audacious merger with Chrysler, which has underpinned a Fiat brand that was in desperate trouble, Marchionne has been twice burnt by previous Alfa revival plans.

In 2010, Marchionne predicted Alfa would sell 500,000 cars per year by this year. It was pushed down by 100,000 12 months later, before being abandoned altogether. Last year, Alfa sold a dismal 63,000 vehicles, with the flawed Mito and ageing Giulietta the only mainstream showroom models.

Marchionne had no choice but to kill off the 159 and Brera models. They were built on a unique platform in small numbers, which is a recipe for big losses. Coming off the back of a huge recession and with product development money in short supply, the 159 family clearly couldn’t be replaced immediately. 

To me, it’s rather more worrying that what was the best (certainly best made, safest and most reliable) Alfa range for many years didn’t sell well. If the 159 couldn’t make a sales breakthrough, what will?