It’s been hard to keep track of the amount of false starts, false promises and ultimately meaningless Powerpoint presentations that Alfa Romeo has come up with in recent years about how it will transform itself into a credible car maker again.
At a launch event at Alfa’s historic Arese headquarters, the new Giulia was of course the star. Before the covers came off it though, Alfa boss Harald Wester gave a quite remarkable speech that was headline making in its own right where he branded the premium car makers of today as “boring”.
“Passion and identity used to be important to brands”, said Wester. “But we have now become accustomed to brands and they are very similar. They all look the same – they’re the same size, have the same power, the same features – but they’re interchangeable and repeatable.
“Even premium brands offer the same products. Some are more elegant, more sporty, more technological, but does anyone really know the difference when they sit behind the wheel?
“They’re good products, but cold and technocratic. To exaggerate you could say they are boring. They have kit and power, are quiet and safe, but they’re boring.”
Wester believes that making and creating are not the same thing, and set about designing the next generation of Alfas that allowed the driver to be put at the centre of the car again and create the car around them, rather than making the car and have the driver put in it.
Alfa will now be hoping that the market for “cars built by car enthusiasts for enthusiasts”, as Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne describes the people who populate the skunkworks Alfa division responsible for the new models, will buy into the brand’s relaunch.
It would be heartening to think Alfa is right, providing the cars do indeed live up to the dynamic promises for today.
By 2018, there will be eight Alfas built to this ethos to choose from, with the planned six-fold increase on 2014’s sales to 400,000 units by 2018. Sergio Marchionne believes these are achievable numbers only due to the strength of the brand, but of course those products must deliver.
Alfa’s most recent model, the 4C, has posed more questions than answers in giving a flavour of the new, more focused Alfas.
This too was built with the ethos of a pure, driver-focused model, but went too far the other way and is set-up to the point where it feels nervous, and on truth ready to let go at any point.
There’s no shame in using modern technology to improve the driver experience, to enhance rather than inhibit the performance, and the likes of torque vectoring and the new braking system on the new Giulia suggest Alfa might agree.
However the new Alfas turn out, Wester will surely be proved right on one thing: they won't be boring.