Archive for November, 2014

Alfa Romeo midsize sedan will be unveiled next June

Automotive News Europe
November 20, 2014 10:04 CET — UPDATED: Nov. 21 15:00 CET – adds details on new models

LOS ANGELES — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will debut Alfa Romeo’s new midsized sedan next June, according to Automotive News Europe sources.

The sedan will be positioned in the market between the BMW 3 series and BMW 5 series, sources said. Codenamed project 952, the sedan is a successor to the Europe-only 159. Originally due in 2014 badged as the Giulia, the new sedan most likely will get a different name.

At the Los Angeles auto show, Alfa Romeo brand chief Harald Wester said the new model will debut in June but declined to comment on the type of vehicle.

Alfa will introduce eight new models by 2018 as part of Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s plans to boost the brand’s annual sales to 400,000 vehicles in 2018 from 74,000 last year.

Alfa has started development on three of the eight new models, sources told Automotive News Europe earlier this year.

The midsize sedan is one of those three models, along with a midsize SUV and a flagship large sedan. The flagship sedan will be sized between the BMW 5 series and BMW 7 series. The midize SUV will be about the same size as the Audi Q5. A second, larger SUV will follow later.

U.S. sales

North America, where Marchionne expects Alfa Romeo sales to go from nearly zero to 150,000, will be a key market for the brand.

Alfa’s growth into one of Fiat Chrysler’s main global brands, along with an imminent U.S. relaunch, is on target, Reid Bigland, the brand’s North American chief, who also heads U.S. sales for the Chrysler Group, said at the show.

The first shipment to the United States from Italy of 54 of the Alfa Romeo 4C, a niche sports car, was sent last week, Bigland said. They will be the first Alfa Romeos sold in the U.S. market since 1996.

The 4C will launch in the U.S. with versions priced around $70,000. A base model that costs about $55,000 will be available later.

Bigland said that about 82 Fiat or Maserati dealers will initially sell the Alfa 4C in the United States, along with two in Canada. The sales outlets will increase to a total of 120 by the first quarter, and 200 by the end of 2015.

The 4C will be followed by a line of Alfa models to be sold in larger numbers, but Bigland would not talk about the timing of future models.

Fiat Chrysler has previously said that the next new Alfa model will be introduced in mid-2015, but Bigland declined to say when it would reach the United States or give details about the model.

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Alfa 4C: The Right Car for the Right Time?

Written by Keith Martin

I’ve been around Alfas for a long time.

When I was at Ron Tonkin Grand Turismo in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the Alfas we were selling were the Milano, the 164 and the beloved-but-aged Spider.

At that time, corporate Alfa had, in its infinite wisdom, decided that since Americans bought a lot of four-door sedans equipped with automatics, they would send four-door automatic sedans to the U.S. They were sure buyers would snap them up in droves.

We all know how well that played out. Alfa enthusiasts wanted convertibles and two-door coupes. Four-doors with slushboxes just didn’t cut it. With the demise of the GTV-6, Alfisti in the U.S. really didn’t have a modern sports car to buy. Alfa withdrew from the U.S. market in 1995.

Leading the Chant

Every year since then, I have led the assembled crowd of true believers at Concorso Italiano in the chant, “Alfa Come Back!”

But at the same time that I anticipated an official Alfa presence in the U.S., I was cognizant that the automotive world has become an extremely competitive place, especially in the $60,000-and-above segment that Alfa was projected to enter.

After much hemming and hawing, the Alfa 4C is now officially being imported into the U.S. Before ever having driven one, I found the car visually quite exciting. The mechanical specs were intriguing as well, with a 6-speed paddle-shifted transmission and a turbo-charged, mid-mounted 4-cylinder engine.

So it was with excitement as well as some trepidation that I approached the white test car that was delivered to our offices. I don’t claim to be fluent in modern day Alfas, so I can’t evaluate the 4C as it relates to the late-model Alfas that have preceded it. But I can evaluate it as an entrant in the above-$60k sports car market.

The 4C carries many burdens: it has to satisfy the old-line Alfisti as being a “pure Alfa,” it has to be a good introduction to the those unfamiliar to the marque, and it has to be a competitive player in its market segment. The MSRP is $62,195.

Challenged

This is not meant to be a technical analysis or a road test. There have been plenty of those written. Rather, it is a reaction to this car as one of many choices available in this price range.

I found the 4C to be lacking in many ways. Yes, it’s a real sports car. It has blistering performance. It makes the right sounds. If you really hammer the car, you can have the ride of a lifetime.

But there are many details on the 4C that simply aren’t well thought out. They may each seem small, but together they give the feel of a car that was cobbled together for the U.S. market with no concern about the overall experience.

The Hateful Buzzer

Let’s quickly run down the list. There is keyless entry, but the key itself is a throwback to the 1990s. The long metal key pops out of the fob, and you then put that into the slot in the dashboard. No keyless ignition, and no pushbutton start. All of these “user-friendly” attributes are nearly the norm in a $60k+ car today.

The 4C is very difficult to get in an out of, which has not been true of any Alfa I have driven in the past. If you are young and limber, this car will be fine. Otherwise, it is a struggle, similar to a Lotus Evora. This isn’t exactly what you are looking for in a car designed to attract newcomers to the marque.

Once inside, the “put your seatbelt on” buzzer is perhaps the loudest and most obnoxious I have ever encountered. Everyone who rode with me immediately commented on it. Wouldn’t you think the engineers at Alfa would care enough about first impressions that they would install a more mellifluous warning system? If I owned a 4C, the first thing I would do is clip the wires to the buzzer – although with the interconnected electronic systems of today’s car, that would probably simultaneously disable the windshield wipers and the anti-lock brakes.

The driver’s seat has no height adjustment, which meant that my daughter Alex, at 5-foot-2, could not find a way to comfortably see out of the car. By contrast, she could find a way to see out of our Viper, as well as the Lotus Elise we once owned. At $63k, not having a height adjustment represents ergonomic thoughtlessness.

The vision out of the rear is poor, but I can live with that. However, when $25,000 Hyundais have backup cameras and touch-screen nav systems, along with temperature-regulated heat and a/c systems, the center stack in the 4C is sorely lacking. There is no backup camera and no navigation, and the cockpit temperature does not have an automatically-controlled system.

The clock/radio display is in an over-sized, ponderous font, and the device is not particularly user-friendly.

The road noise in this car is the loudest I have ever experienced. Not the exhaust noise, but the actual rumble from the pavement. The Elise was much quieter. When driving on the freeway, conversation in the cockpit is nearly impossible due to this intrusive rumbling.

The rear hatch lid is very heavy and has to be propped up with a support rod, as there are no pressurized struts to hold it open. This means that just lifting the lid to get something out of the tiny trunk is a two-handed operation: one to lift and support the lid and another to locate the metal rod and put it into place.

I was surprised at the number of times I had something in one hand and went to pop the trunk open to fetch an article from the trunk – and had to balance the hatchlid on my head rather than go to the trouble of locating the support rod.

It’s just not what you expect from a car in this price range.

None of the above things make the 4C a bad car. It squirts when you press the throttle, the automatic makes reasonably good shifting decisions, and the brakes and handling are excellent.

Sexy But Hard to Love

For die-hard Alfa enthusiasts, this car will be a dream come true. It has striking looks and makes the right sounds.

But that’s not the market that Alfa needs to attract if it is going to have reasonable market penetration in the U.S.

Between the difficult entrance and egress, the user-cruel ergonomics and the overwhelming road noise, this Alfa will appeal primarily to hard-core sports car purists, and that market segment is not a large one. Certainly not large enough to support a full-scale re-entry into the U.S. market.

While I am thrilled to have this sexy Alfa Romeo being officially sold in our country, I don’t think it will be an easy sell. And I don’t think it will be an effective agent to introduce non-Alfisti to the brand.

I hope the next car Alfa brings in will be equally quirkly, but at the same time more user-friendly and contemporary in its presentation.

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Holiday party set for December 6

The business meeting and Holiday party will be held at Bo and Penny Richardson’s home in Nashville on Saturday, December 6.

President, Tom Rossi, has set the time for the business meeting at 11:30 A.M. with the Holiday party and lunch to follow. On the agenda for the meeting will be nominations and election of officers for A.L.F.A., Inc. Board of Directors.

The Richardson’s reside at 5946 Post Road in Nashville. Please let them know before Thanksgiving if you will be attending. Their email address is: penwan43@comcast.net and phone number is: (615) 356-2295.

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Marchionne increases his Fiat Chrysler stake to one percent

November 5, 2014 11:11 CET

TURIN — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has increased his stake in the automaker to 1 percent and nearly doubled his voting stake after exercising stock options and cashing in on a share price jump after a plan to spin off Ferrari was unveiled last week.

Marchionne owns 12.1 million shares in FCA, equivalent to a 1 percent stake in the company, up from 0.65 percent he had before. The shares were worth $134 million at Tuesday’s closing price in New York. Marchionne held 6.8 million shares before the transaction.

Marchionne also has a 0.75 percent voting stake based on a total share capital of 1.6 billion shares, including loyalty shares, according to Reuters calculations. This compares to a 0.4 percent voting stake he held previously.

The shares purchase makes Marchionne the fifth-largest shareholder in FCA, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. FCA’s biggest shareholder is Exor, the Agnelli family’s holding company. It has 30 percent of common shares and 46.6 percent of the voting rights. Other shares are widely distributed with various investment funds holding stakes of about 2 percent.

For the complete story: http://europe.autonews.com/article/20141105/ANE/141109930/marchionne-increases-his-fiat-chrysler-stake-to-1?cciid=email-ane-daily

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