There’s been many false dawns for Alfa Romeo, but the two 4Cs on a modest stand at this week’s New York motor show could be quite significant. In June, for the first time since 1995, Alfa will return to the US market.
Whether the cars will be sold through Fiat or Maserati dealers won’t become clear until early May. Nor will exactly what models will eventually be sold. But going all guns blazing with a niche, lightweight sports car like the 4C is hardly the route to fame and fortune in the American market. So it will probably be joined eventually with a range of executive rear and four-wheel-drive saloons - using the same architecture as the Maserati Ghibli - and at least one SUV, utilising Jeep bits and pieces.
But will it work. That’s a big question. Even at the height of Alfa’s US success it only sold just under 9000 cars per year and in the current climate that’s hardly going to keep the notoriously demanding US dealer groups happy. Nor is it going to satisfy Sergio Marchionne’s ambitious plans for the brand.
Don’t forget too that all Italian cars, despite their glamour, have an uneviable reliability reputation in the US. And coming at the bottom of satisfaction surveys such as JD Power is suicidal for US sales.
So the new Alfas have to outgun the Germans and Jaguar for glamour, and be as unburstable as a Lexus. That’s a tough ask. But if Alfa doesn’t make it in the US you have to question whether it’s going to make it at all.