Alfa Romeo Promises Delays and Fewer Models

Autocar, Gearheads and Carscoops reports today that Alfa Romeo promises “up to” nine new cars by 2021. The numbers don’t add up.

A good decade late to market. Alfa Romeo's Kamal concept. Image:digitaltrends
Still waiting. Image:digitaltrends.

As a check on this let’s look back: in February we reported that the plan was for eight cars by 2020. This is what I got out of the last report: – the promises included a mid-size SUV on sale by 2017 (one), by 2017-2020 there would be a ‘full-size’ SUV (two), then come two more UVs (for ‘utility vehicles’ (four).  And by 2021 there would be two more ‘speciality’ models in the vein of the Alfa 4C (making six) Also confirmed by Alfa was a new hatchback (seven). I can’t find reference to car number eight. 

Harald Wester, dwarfed by Maserati's now delayed Levante crossover SUV. Image via omniauto
To be badge engineered into an Alfa Romeo. Image via omniauto

Looking at the new reports, the promises begins with the weasel words: “up to nine new car launches”. “Up to” naturally includes a smaller number. Let’s try and count the cars promised now. They begin with the Stelvio (one), to be launched soon. A larger SUV is mentioned, slated to be “as early as 2018” (two). Or later than that, too. Then there is something called “one further SUV bodystyle” (three). Then a Giulia estate (is that really a new model?) for 2017 (four). A vaporous mention of a 5-series rival is made (five). Then tenuous reference to an Alfetta (6). Another Brera in coupe and spider forms (seven or eight). And the Mito might be replaced (and a maybe possibly nine). The Mito’s future is uncertain and so is the 5-series rival. I would count the Brera as one and subtract the Mito and Giulia estate. So, I get six new cars by 2021.

Author: richard herriott

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

24 thoughts on “Alfa Romeo Promises Delays and Fewer Models”

  1. I was under the impression the Giulia Estate had been canned, so I for one am glad to see this car seems close to launch. This is the car I want.

    I know it’s currently fashionable to sneer at FCA and mock the plans for Alfa, but I hope they pull it off. I was very cynical about the Giulia’s chances, but – against all odds – they seem to have produced a good and charming car.

    The SUVs will be hateful, of course. I’ve seen a few F Paces on the road now and they lack any charm whatsoever. I keep hoping we are at peak SUV and fashion will turn against them.

    1. As a one-time admirer of Alfa, this zig-zagging and repeated emmission of corporate vapour is dispriting. I don´t want them to to fail. This sort of PR gossip is not reassuring. I am glad someone is on the ball here though. Carscoops think the 5-series rival will appear. Autocar writes that the rise of SUV´s is telling against it: “Less clear is whether Alfa will launch a 5 Series rival … Bigland and other Alfa officials are said to be nervous that the rise in SUV sales and declining saloon sales – especially in larger segments – make the development costs of such a car untenable. The cost of reworking the Giulia’s Giorgio platform to fit the car are said to be substantial.”

    2. I’ve not mentioned it before but I agree with Jacomo about the F Pace. When it was produced as a concept, everyone seemed to be praising it as the acceptable face of SUVism. Seeing them on the roads they are completely undistinguished. Of course they might be great drives, which is another matter.

      As for the Giulia, reports suggest it would be one of the nicer saloons to own and an estate would be even nicer. My main gripe remains the name since, with my on/off desire to buy an original Giulia Berlina, web searches now require a lot of filtering.

    3. In case you leave your browser open at home Chris, by undistinguished, I of course meant a paragon of elegant understatement.

  2. For a 5 series rival, would they not look to the Ghibli as a donor platform? It would also provide the basis for the larger than Stelvio SUV, no? The vagaries of Alfa’s plans seem to suggest uncertainty of cashflow and investment $.

    1. The Ghibli is a 5 series rival. If they keep developing it, it might become a very good one. I can understand why this might not be the most pressing priority for Alfa Romeo.

      A good new front drive platform would seem like a good idea. They seem to be having some success with models like the 500X, which has recycled bits from a Corsa underneath it, but surely they need something better soon.

  3. Just yesterday a grey F-Pace was parking near my car. I must agree, this car is an anonymous but huge piece of steel without showing any roots of british or at least european design. The first Jag, odo not want to own – not my cup of tea.
    But last month Jaguar sold as many F-Paces as Citroen did from its C6 in a whole year….

    1. To be pedantic, it’s a huge piece of aluminium. I am delighted the F-Pace is selling well, and I am sure its merits are greater than the relative ones of the C6. As the American public has just proved, the masses do not necessarily make rational choices, so a large volume of sales do not necessarily maketh a car great, which the point you make.

    2. If Tripp Hardcrotch’s concern over the Alfetta’s business case is to believed, it’s looking as though we’re fast approaching an SUV tipping point.

    3. Yes – what’s good and what the public wants are not always the same. The C6 has a lot of charm and also aspects unappealing to Joe Average. The F-Pace is a simpler proposition. I’ll take the C6 any day.

  4. I am entirely lost now. Am I correct in inferring that Alfa thinks a new Alfetta and a 5-series rival are supposed to be two different models?

    1. @Daniel,

      I’ve just read the long Autocar report and Alfetta is indeed the working name for the proposed 5 series rival. But the new boss is worried about margins in that sector.

      Alfa is rushing for SUVs because they are more profitable. Car buyers will pay over the odds for them. But this can’t last. Alfa runs the risk of launching their SUVs into a crowded sector just as margins start to crumble. That is an existential problem for them.

  5. Thank you for the effort, Jacomo. And I completely agree. A 5-series competitor would be economic suicide (see current XF). Being that late to the SUV party might well mean that Alfa arrives when its over.

  6. Entering a new car segment as a late party member is not a real problem when you are offering the right product – or at least when you have the right badge on the bonnet. The BMW Active Tourer is the best selling BMW in Germany – i would have never predicted this when i saw this car for the first time. And I am convinced VW will dominate the market of small SUVs soon…

    Rumours are saying the new Giulietta will offer rear wheel drive, coming from the Giulia platform. I think, offering this exclusive attribute won´t be a wrong thing. Sometimes it is better to start your own party 🙂

  7. Lateness wouldn’t be an issue for Alfa if they didn’t simultaneously have to re-establish themselves to those with memories of below-par offerings – especially in the US – and to introduce itself to the wider world for whom the name means nothing. Even with the ‘right’ product, this is a formidable task.

    However, doing it with offerings which slavishly cleave to the established opposition is in my view folly. When products are so closely benchmarked, why aim be someone’s second or third choice? Surely the likes of Alfa Romeo would be better off really going for it with strong, visually arresting offerings rather than these tentative reworkings of established class favourites? As it stands, they offer little to convince wavering buyers/leasee’s to migrate from their default choices, so why would they? Early F-Pace sales aside, it doesn’t appear to be working that brilliantly for Jaguar either – who if anything have retreated even further into play-it-safe mode.

    Incidentally, in my view, SUV’s are anything but a fad. I see them as fast becoming the new normal. Manufacturers will find ways to make them more efficient and lighter, but will be reluctant to switch back to more expensive to engineer body styles, especially if the market is happy to accept less and pay more. And increasing numbers of people (who in the past would never have countenanced one), are switching.

    The worse things get politically, and the more fearful people feel, the more they’ll want to armour themselves. SUV’s feed into that mindset. They’re not going anywhere.

    1. The SUV boom has been fuelled by the rise in diesel. This might now be at an end. Diesels are going to get more and more expensive, at the very least, and if legislators get serious then the days of a two tonne SUV being a cost-effective choice for city dwellers will be at an end.

      Interestingly, the current Golf and Focus are both lower than their predecessors (is this to differentiate them from their SUV cousins?) but cars like the Mini are much, much taller. The Renault Twingo / Smart twins are notably tall. More upright bodystyles are clearly popular, and of course they are contagious – ‘normal’ cars now feel conspicuously low in traffic, making some drivers feel vulnerable.

  8. I think it is worth bearing in mind that Alfa’s turnaround has been “just around the corner” for literally my entire lifetime, and I am as old as the Volvo 780. The only difference this time is that Marchionne has punted the future of the group on it.

    You’ve gotta hand it to the guy I suppose – history suggests you’d need to have balls of steel to pull a move like that and expect it to work.

    1. The mid 90s seemed to be a good time for Alfa: the 156, 146 and GTV / Spider were all desirable cars spun off the same platform. The 166 was less of a success, but still – I thought they were getting somewhere. Fiat then did an equity deal with GM and jointly developed a new platform for the 159, but that was such a disaster that GM dropped it before launch.

      Since then, they have seemed to drift.

    2. My immediate family runs both a 156 and a 147 and I personally think that with hindsight they were Alfa’s last, best chance to make itself a serious player in the segment. Unfortunately, they were undermined by a few things, including AR’s generally disinterested and arrogant dealer network, a failure to offer timely and competitive follow-ups, and some fairly fundamental engineering boo-boos, like the Selespeed gearbox and the initial failure to specify an appropriate oil viscosity for the Twin Spark, which led to quite a few top-end failures before the recommendation was changed. Problem for the Giulia is that while it might be engineered properly (wait and see), it just doesn’t have the sort of drop-dead styling the late 1990s output did to persuade punters into the showrooms.

  9. In this order: Stelvio (1), Giulia SW (2), large SUV (3), Giulietta SUV (4), Giulietta (5). These products are certainties. Number (6),(7),(8) and (9) are for 2020-2022 and can be: Giulia Coupé, Spider, a large sedan, a new Mito, 4C successor, Giulietta sedan, Giulietta SW. These will depend on economic conditions.

    So far the Giulia has lived up to the promise, selling well and winning multiple design and technical awards. Against all odds even the USA press seems to review to Giulia very well.

    I am convinced we lost Saab and Rover thanks to this kind of ill-informed negative ‘opinionating’. Lets not make the same mistake with Alfa. The investment is clear, the result so far is outstanding (read the reviews). To wite an article like this, to me, is like climate change denial. Yes, the winter is cold you idiot!

    1. I think we lost Saab and Rover because they could not sell enough cars. Rover´s product pipeline dried up after the 75 and they were reduced to remodelling their cars as MGs. Saab, oddly enough, had a raft of new cars and after a rough patch of rebadding Subarus and Chevrolets, had three models new or ready to go: the 9-5, the 9-3 replacement and the 9-4x. Context matters too because Alfa have been having an impending revival since around 1994 when Car magazine ran a cover with the words “Alfas to die for”. Even in 1985 Car was declaring in the 75 a return to form. At some point after about 1975 Alfa Romeo began to become a “problem car company” who were expected to return to form. 1985 didn´t do it. 1994 didn´t do it and so we wonder if 2016/2017 will do it.

    2. One of the primary reasons a company goes out of business is that it fails to satisfy its customers. In both Rover and Saab’s case, their products had been refocused to cleave to sector norms and in doing so departed from those qualities which attracted customers to them in the first place. This was especially so in Saab’s case, but Rover in 2005 was so far removed from the innovative company of the 1960’s as to be unrecognisable. Neither were making bad cars at their demise – (although some Rover models were very outdated), but both had not only lost their way, they had also lost their customer base. It’s a lesson FCA should remember, especially given how many customers Alfa have lost since 2011.

      “So far the Giulia has lived up to the promise, selling well and winning multiple design and technical awards. Against all odds even the USA press seems to review to Giulia very well,” says our reader from Torino. From a sales perspective, its still too early to tell whether the Giulia will be a success and while reviews have been broadly positive, they have to translate to metal shifted. But this aside, there does appear to be a misapprehension that the author is prejudiced against FCA and its revival of Alfa Romeo. On the contrary, what you see is the frustration of the well meaning spilling over amidst delays, ever-changing projections and what appears to be a lack of clarity.

      So these five model programmes are certainties. Surely a more accurate assessment would be they may happen, assuming the Giulia (and Stelvio) prove a commercial success, because should they fail, they will most likely go the way of Rover and Saab.

    3. Your Reader From Torino. Our masthead boast is not without reason. Whereas Top Gear undoubtedly will affect what cars fail and succeed, and often unfairly so, most opinions on motoring websites are preaching to the opinionated. They may agree or disagree, but will make up their own minds. Saab and Rover were both lost by their useless management, who didn’t know how to play on their virtues and reputations. Hopefully Alfa will succeed but, as we’ve said before, a bit less blustering and a bit more hard product is needed.

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