Right. Yes. Indeed. Those Product Plans…Well…

Sometime back we expressed a degree of scepticism about Alfa Romeo’s product plans. What did the good people at Automotive News report on November 4th?

1992-1998 Alfa Romeo 155. Mediocre as this might have been, they were relatively happy times: motorstown.com
1992-1998 Alfa Romeo 155. Mediocre as this might have been, they were relatively happy times: motorstown.com

You can read the rest of the report at Automotive News which saves me a fair amount of cut and paste-work. However, I will find strength to paste this for your comfort and convenience: “FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said on Oct. 28 that the company is re-examining Alfa’s global expansion because of the slowdown in the Chinese market.

He reaffirmed a planned 5 billion euro investment announced in May 2014 to boost Alfa’s annual global sales to 400,000 units with eight new models but said the investment will be completed in 2019 or 2020.” The Quadrifoglio version of the Giulia will be ‘delayed’ as will the proposed SUV which will supposedly appear in 2017. I’m not sure what six and nine month delays really do for anyone.

At this point most of the work has been done. Further hold-ups will only shorten the cars’ lifespan in the market. Every half-year you lose at one end is a half-year less competitiveness at the other end of the product’s life-cycle.

Earlier today I expressed worries about the broader state of the world economy in the light of that harbinger of doom, the new upscale brand from a middle market manufacturer. And the construction machine industry is showing signs of contraction. Now we have FCA sweating about the state of the Chinese economy.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

12 thoughts on “Right. Yes. Indeed. Those Product Plans…Well…”

  1. That’s a nice 155 pictured there in a bright dark blue, although the heavily revised facelift looked (and drove – from what I read) much better. I think it gets overlooked these days by what came next, which, I believe was build on the same platform. I still rate the 156 as the most lovely mid-sized saloon to ever grace the road and I am annoyed with myself for never having bought one (much like the Mk1 Focus). I guess there is still time, but I imagine prices are appreciating.

  2. I bet 156’s are still going for a song. It’s amazing how tiny they look now but still beautiful.
    I’d prefer a late 155 2.0 Twin Spark. The angular look reminds me of the 75.

    The 6-9 month delays are odd periods of time. I expect they’ll stretch to 12 months on both lines.

    1. Does he not get that the delays save little and just make a car closer to being out of date before they are even launched. Having shown the Giulia, it will immediately start to date – I feel the XE is suffering from a very long gap between the launch/ reveal and its eventual commercial release into the market. History is littered with such stories of elongated gestation periods that seem to ruin the car’s chances from the outset – many BL/ ARG and Alfa models come to mind, the last of the line SAAB 9-5 and the latest Mondeo is another prime recent example… One wonders whether we will ever get to buy one of these cars?

  3. Remember the current Mercedes-Benz S-class was delayed for a couple of months? Or VW’s planning issues (certainly on the SUVs)?

    About the China thing: Maybe it should be a warning when a small company like FCA changes its planning, but so far VAG (30% market share in China) doesn’t?

    And what with the superluxury SUV’s from Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini? All 3 do huge investments to expand factories and model ranges, at the same time when large target markets in China and Russia may be shrinking. I hope they know what they are doing…

    1. The Mercedes is a special case of a car people will buy regardless, it seems. As far as I know they sell strongly until nearly the end of their run. The others are more serious. I expect that the Chinese economy may be about to take a dive and these SUV´s will lose half of their buyers. The time to plan and prepare a super-luxury car might be in the middle or start of a recession. By the time it´s ready the market will have recovered. But a recession is just the time investment gets pared back, starting with investments in luxury cars.

  4. I had a 155, and still own a 156. They’re quite different cars, and not just in looks. The 156 is far better made, far more reliable, far more refined, and yet… it’s not quite as fun to drive as the old one. I suppose that was the trade-off. If the 155 hadn’t tried to bankrupt me, I’d still have it today. The luxury of walking out to the driveway each morning with both keys and deciding which one to take is greatly missed.

    1. Funnily enough, I had a Tipo as well, which never seemed to give me much trouble. The 155’s list of woes included coil and leads, power steering rack, radiator, and a whole bunch of smaller stuff. The final straw was when it needed to be completely rewired. And being in New Zealand, it was quite a long way from home, so parts were a bit of a pain to get hold of.

  5. Scott: the coil and leads ought to have been similar to Fiat bits. But they weren´t, were they? I think that list sounds like it wore you down by attrition. No one thing was terminal but they added up to exhaustion. That is a common phenomenon, I think. The other thing you say about the Tipo strikes a chord. Somewhere else here we have an article about an 1989 Tipo for sale in Denmark. To research it I looked at owners´comments about the car and found that most were very happy with its reliability and durability. This makes me think that where a car is made as much as what it´s made of matters. Maybe the Fiat plant had a better culture than the Alfa one where the 155 was put together.
    Leaving that aside, wasn´t the second series 155 a really good looking car? For me the Alfa 75 was the first Alfa I noticed as a young adult and it set the template for what a proper Alfa should look like: a bit square, a bit ugly. The 155 had a bit of that and the widened wheel arches improved the stance a lot. it was a real bloke´s car. The 156 is more unisex. I wonder was that intentional?

    1. Being the old Busso V6, I assume the coil and leads were Alfa bits, but I’m not sure. I truly think I got a Friday afternoon car, despite choosing one with FSH and fairly low mileage. When I totted up all the receipts in the glovebox at the end, the first owner actually spent twice (!) as much as I did on it. Agreed, the 75 is a great looking car. When I started school, my first teacher had a Giulietta, which the 75 seemed to follow stylistically, flowing into the even edgier 155. I know a lot of people thought it was ugly – they told me so! But I loved the aggressive stance and razor sharp lines. In DTM form on the track, it just looked wicked. No doubt the 156 was deliberately made more neutral. I think many carmakers in the late 90’s were doing that – Honda’s final Prelude is a good example.

  6. The French have a term for something like the 75, jolie laide or happy ugly. I don´t really care if the car was designed deliberately to look that way or whether it was an accident. It turned out right, which is sufficient for me in this case.
    The final Honda Prelude is for me a car that is challengingly, almost wrong. I think it was designed by person or persons who knew something of the tension between interest and beauty and pushed the “interest” factor up by making the car nearly, but not quite, wrong. They didn´t want a conventionally pretty car like the forerunner and didn´t want to make the car bland like an Avensis. They made some of the lines almost but not fully technically wrong, I think but did not go all the way. Or looks that way. I really like it. It´s fascinating and also exactly the kind of “intellectual” design punters ignore or write off. When it came out I didn´t “get it” which is a bad thing.

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