Alfa’s Product Plans For 2018 Or Whenever

Autocar reported on the 27th of January that Alfa Romeo’s product plans have been set back by two years. All their eight cars arrive by 2020. 

1995 Alfa Romeo Spider:
1995 Alfa Romeo Spider:

You can read the full text at Autocar if you are interested. I think at this point the whole Alfa Romeo thing has become a kind of extended joke. In comedy there have been two examples of the joke involving something overly prolonged and the tension of the joke running on too long. In Dead Men Don´t Wear Plaid (1982) Steve Martin’s character pours the last grains of coffee out a bag and the grains never quite

1989 Buick Riviera: quite like the Alfa?
1989 Buick Riviera: quite like the Alfa in conceptual terms. Nice. I love this car.

stop falling out. It’s been a while since I saw it. I think there are several false ends and this gets quite funny (funny enough for me to remember after 30-years). In Austin Powers In Goldmember (2002), Powers is revived from a long sleep and, of course, needs badly to empty his bladder. This process goes on a long time and, like the coffee grains, has several false starts. Of course, this time the gag is edgier than in Steve Martin’s film and has other dimensions to it such as embarrassment. Both jokes work with seeing how long you can extend a false ending so it goes from boring to funny again.

With all that in mind, we need another Alfa Romeo delay story in two or three weeks. Maybe they can vary it a bit by cancelling one or more of the eight models. And then bringing them back a week later. And cancelling them again, finally.

Author: richard herriott

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

21 thoughts on “Alfa’s Product Plans For 2018 Or Whenever”

  1. Following the Alfa story used to be a kind of bitter-sweet experience, but since the demise of the 156, 147, etc., it’s just plain bitter. Maybe it would have been better if VW had bought the marque after all?

  2. If VW had bought Alfa, the 156/169/Giulia would be a Leon saloon with the Golf R drive train in its top guise and perhaps some cabin details nicked from Lamborghini, such as brash digital dials and massive, diamond-patterned sports seats. Actually, that doesn’t sound too terrible.

  3. The Bejumpered One has had a lot to say recently. According to Sergio Marchionne (sigh), the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart will not receive updates unless FCA can jump into bed with another manufacturer. Clearly the numbers are not stacking up for either model and FCA wants someone else to share the burden of producing small sedans in a market that increasingly favours CUVs, SUVs and pick-ups.

    Speaking of which, it would appear that despite FCA’s stewardship, both Jeep and Ram are going gang-busters. The tiddly Renegade (not actually that small in the metal) has been a hit and the Wrangler plant is at maximum capacity. Ram pick-ups are selling at record or near record levels. Clearly the return of cheap gas is throttling the market for smaller cars, and Marchionne is betting that this situation will not change for the foreseeable. I do not think we need to guess how this will pan out in the long term.

    1. Thinking on, it is also nice of Sergio to point out to potential Dart and 200 buyers that, going forward, they may be investing in what could later become an abandoned cul-de-sac.

  4. FCA is the most underestimated company in the world. All of the criticism overlooks 2 important facts: (1) The Alfa platform will also serve for all future rear wheel drive Chrysler/Dodge products. Against general misinformation, the Alfa project/platform is not a ‘toy of Marchionne’ but a very serious cornerstone of FCA’s future.(2) Maybe production of 200C and Dart will stop, but Fiat wil continue to develop and sell compact cars all around the world (and actually make money doing so). In case of rising oil prices, these products can come to the US with little effort.

    New products from FCA this year: Chrysler Pacifica, Jeep Compass, Alfa Giulia, Maserati Levante, New 500 Abarth, Fiat 124 Spider (inculding Abarth), Fiat Tipo sedan and hatchback and stationwagon, Fiat Toro, Fiat Fullback, Fiat Mobi, Fiat Panda facelift, Alfa Mito facelift, Alfa Giulietta facelift. If we are lucky we will also see the production Alfa SUV and Fiat Punto successor by the end of the year (prototypes are on the road as we speek).

    Just to remind you, FCA made money last year without all of these new products.

    1. Our reader from Torino: There appears to be a slight mismatch between what you appear to be saying and what we have been repeating on and off for several years now. As one of Sergio’s sternest critics I should point out that its not so much what Marchionne has been doing, more the manner in which it is being executed. For the most part half-baked, expedient reworkings of existing hardware – most of which would appear to benefit from a good 18-months further development and the benefit of a decent carrozzeira.

      There’s very little I can see that shows a belief that FCA will be in existence in five years time. I’m not blind to the challenge Marchionne faces – it’s colossal. But this undercooked nature of all FCA’s output – especially in the upper reaches I consider a huge risk to the long-term viability of the business, especially when viewed against the resources, competence and rigour of its rivals

  5. FCA is the most underestimated company in the world. The ‘critical press’ is blindly overlooking two important facts: (1) The Alfa project is not a ‘toy’ project, the new platform will be the basis for nxt generation rear wheel drive Chrysler/Dodge products. (2) Yes it is true that the 200C and Dart will not get a direct successor, but this does not mean Fiat stops developing, producing and selling compact cars around the world! In case of emergency, these products can be sent to the USA with minor investments (after all, both the Dart and 200C are Fiat/Alfa products with an american design).

    New FCA product launches this year: Chrysler Pacifica, Jeep Compass, Maserati Levante, Fiat Toro, Fiat Fullback, Fiat Tipo hatchback and stationwagon, Fiat Mobi, Fiat 124 Spider (incl Abarth), Fiat 500 Abarth, Fiat Panda Facelift, Alfa Giulia, Alfa Mito Facelift, Alfa Giuletta Facelift. If we are lucky we will also see the Alfa SUV and Fiat Punto successor by the end of the year (prototypes are on the road as we speak).

    The reality is that even without these new products, FCA made money (also in Europe) last year.

  6. Crickey! I need to keep up:

    Fiat Toro. Mid-size FWD/4WD pick-up including crew cab on Small Wide LWB platform. Mainly for Brazil. Uses the E.torQ which is a evolution of the original SOHC 16V BMW MINI engine, made in Campo Largo, Curitiba.
    Fiat Fullback: Re-badged Mitsubishi L200.
    Fiat Tipo: Turkish built C-segment. Small Wide LWB platform.
    Fiat Mobi: Brazilian sub-B car on heavily modified Economy platform.

    The others are self-evident.

    I’ll be interested to see how the Panda facelift looks. The Parazitas domestic hack is a run-out previous series Panda, and I had no regrets about my choice when the rather mannerist new model arrived. Fiat have a tradition of taming down their bolder designs come facelft time – see Ritmo, Multipla, and every Punto.

  7. Your Reader From Torino. I suspect that, although we may disagree with you, most people here would hope you’re right and we are wrong. In my eyes, Fiat are probably the most admirable large car company ever. By which I mean that they have a back catalogue of many outstanding cars designed intelligently for mass motoring, several of them groundbreaking. As for their other European brands, their back catalogues speak for themselves.

    But I guess that the consensus here is that FCA management don’t respect their brands as much as we do and, even, that they don’t understand them as much as we do. What they likely do (or should) understand better than us is the economics of the industry and, for the sake of the people who work for FCA, I hope the decisions work and wish their company a long and prosperous life. But, speaking selfishly, if the company’s survival means making products like the Mito and rebodying Mazdas, however much profit they make I’ll continue to be disappointed.

  8. If I remember well, Fiat was bankrupt in 2003 and Chrysler 2008. For Fiat we are now 13 years later and for Chrysler we are 8 years later. Not only are both companies now merged, they are also making money and the debt has been reduced significantly.

    The negative framing of FCA is evident in all of your replies. In what way can the Mito be an example of bad management if this management rightfully and thankfully decided this car will not get a successor? The manager who is behind the Mito is working for VW now…

    And in what way can you frame negatively that the Spider is based on the MX5? The MX5 is probably one of the best cars in the world. And yes, they did listen to the one comment people have about the MX5: add a more powerful engine. Bad management?

    That FCA makes money know is a result of a focus on the best models for each brand: Fiat 500 (a premium Fiat!), the expansion of Jeep, the Chysler minivan, the Dodge muscle cars, real rwd Alfa’s and a Maserati that can fight with an all too ubiquitous Bentley.

    That does not mean that Marchionne is without errors. But he learns from them! The several projects were rushed to market last years, with bad effects to quality (the 9 speed transmission in the US, the Maserati Ghibli and Quattroporte). This time, if things are not right, products development is given more time (Maserati SUV & Alfa Giulia platform).

    1. I think the most worrying thing for FCA is the medium future. They need sales and economies of scale.

      There appears to be no new front drive platform in development, which means the 500 and Punto platforms must soldier on indefinitely. Is this feasible? The larger cars look in better shape but a huge amount is being staked on the new Alfa rear drive platform – but we don’t know how good that is yet, or seen any product apart from the Giulia 4 door.

      They are desperate for a merger but no one seems to want to do a deal.

    2. “Our reader” gives excellent food for thought and reflection. I think there is a degree to which people are taking out their frustration at FCA’s – and its constituent brands’ – predicament on its figurehead. There is something in human nature that needs to find someone to blame. Snr. Marchionne clearly holds a difficult hand of cards, one that increasingly seems – from a distance – to be a losing one. Without knowing all the facts and context in which decisions are being made, it is probably unfair to be so critical. For me, the one feature of FCA management which seems most difficult to reconcile is the persistent over-promise and under-delivery of plans against timescales, linked to regular pausing of product development life-cycles.

    3. Your Reader. It’s not negative in that I’m not suggesting that the Spider is a bad car. Just that it is seems so wrong that Fiat could not develop it themselves. I understand that Marchionne must live in the real world, rather than the idealistic one that I inhabit, and also that he can’t reverse the bad decisions of his predecessors (accepted that the Mito is now pretty old, but you did mention its imminent facelift). So I’m speaking as an enthusiast, not an accountant and, as such, the Spider may do well, and is probably a good car but, in some way, it’s only superficially Fiat, and that is a great pity.

    4. It’s certainly fair of SV to point out that it’s easy to criticise Marchionne from our armchairs (or in my case a rather uncomfortable office chair). The defense for doing that could be that he deserves flak for making all these pronouncements, then appearing to change course. But I guess it could equally be argued that he is a wise pragmatist, changing course in a volatile industry when he needs to, and not sticking proudly and dogmatically to a plan when it is no longer relevant. So I’ll shut up and revisit this in a year or so when I can more clearly judge if FCA Europe actually have some product that I would actually want.

    5. If a company deserves some attention, it is VW. There is the emission situation that is costing a lot of money (certainly on the stock markets) and is compeltely mismanaged from a public relations point of view. There is a lack of compact SUV’s. There are the continuing problems with Seat. There is a complete faillure to accomplish anything in the USA. There is a crisis in China that is going to hit hard. There is a costly production organisation in Germany with unions that are opposing change. There is a declining luxury market in Russia and China that will hit Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley at least as hard as Maserati.

    6. Of all those it’s the US market that niggles most. VW really has a hard time getting the product mix and pricing right plus they seem to enjoy a bad reputation for quality too. Globally VW is probably still far ahead of FCA in most other areas.

    7. My guess would be that Signore Marchionne would sell a kidney to have the kind of problems Herr Müller has to master.

      Like everybody here, I’d love each and every FCA brand to thrive and prosper, but there’s no denying the mistakes that have been made in terms of product planning and communications. It’s terribly hard to take Marchionne and his minions serious in many respects, except, of course, financial dealings. He’s probably on par with Holger Härter in that area, only that he hasn’t lost as big a bet (yet).

  9. Jacomo: the situation with the front drive cars is a bit like Chrysler and the K-car in the 80s. Everything was spun off them and they carried on for years.

    1. Yes indeed! They are certainly getting value for money out of the oily bits underneath a 500, and the GM/Fiat platform underneath the Punto and everything else. But there will come a time when the 500, say, suddenly appears very old, and only savage discounting will shift stock. Likewise, Alfa appears to have no front drive future at all, which means essentially a relaunch for the brand at a higher price point.

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