Reports have surfaced of Alfa Romeo readying a two-door version of their Giulia saloon later this year. As aficionados of the coupé, we should be delighted, so why is Driven to Write more troubled than pleased?
While not entirely immune from hyperbole’s more strident notes, Autocar can normally be relied upon to swerve outright speculation. However, last week, Richard Bremner – a respected journalist who these days seems reduced to penning listicles for their online edition – reported (citing ‘sources’), that FCA are at work on a Giulia-based coupé, said to employ the Sprint nameplate. “The Giulia coupé could appear towards the end of this year and go on sale in 2019”, his Autocar piece suggested.
While sharing some external panelwork with the Guilia berlina, mostly ahead of the bulkhead, the coupé will according to Bremner, employ “a new rear roofline, different rear quarter panels and longer doors to ease access to the rear seats”. In addition, it is believed to share engines and mechanical componentry with its saloon counterpart, with two range-topping engines, boosted by an F1-type energy recovery system, co-developed by Ferrari and FCA-owned supplier, Magneti-Marelli.
In 2.0 litre turbo form, this is said to develop 345 bhp, with 641 bhp being mooted for the boosted 2.9 litre V6 from the Quodrifoglio. Less ludicrously excessive power options were also promised. However, it’s going to take a little more than some Bigland horsepower numbers to impress us here at DTW, but others will perhaps prove more susceptible.
Some humility is nevertheless in order. At the time of its debut, DTW was pretty sniffy about the whole Giulia business, with questions being raised as to whether it would see production at all. Questions too about the logic of announcing the Quodrifolio prior to the remainder of the range, but this appears to have paid off – in PR terms anyway.
The darling of the mainstream motor press, the QF has provided a more durable burnt-rubber halo for the Scudetto than the entire production run of slightly undercooked mid-engined 4Cs.
Instead an presenting an unedifying lurch towards the aftermarket, the hottest (if not coolest) Giulia has become a posterchild for the fast and furious crowd. Fine and dandy, but is that likely to bring home the prosciutto? What of harsher commercial realities?
Well, here the picture is mixed, as you’d probably expect, if not entirely the unmitigated disaster we once predicted. In the US market, where a good deal of FCA’s hopes and so far unrealised dreams abide, the Biscione had its best ever year in 2017, shipping a mite over 12,000 cars, almost 9,000 of those with Giulia inscribed upon their rumps.
Of these, a sizeable proportion are said to have been the quadruple-shot version, a car which comes at some heft pricewise (around $80K), but according to some sources is more or less pegging its similarly emboldened Bavarian and Baden-Württemburg rivals volume-wise.
Back in Europe, the model mix looks about as divergent as the sales figures. Last year Alfa Romeo sold 86,805 cars across the region, made up of Giulia, Stelvio, Giulietta and MiTo, with a sprinkling of residual 4Cs as garnish.
The Giulia managed 24,679 deliveries in 2017, not brilliant, not bad. The Stelvio wasn’t on sale the full year and probably hasn’t found its feet, with slightly over 17,000 delivered. The Giulietta is beginning to fade with sales of 32,700, while the MiTo seems on its last legs, down to a little over 11,000 cars. Yet even with Reid’s big axe poised, the combined front-drive throwbacks still outsold their newer rear-drive ‘Giorgio’ based stablemates. Make of that what you will.
One would have to go back to 2001 since Alfa managed more than 200,000 sales across Europe, so for them to have been selling in excess of 400,000 Worldwide by now appears fanciful in the extreme, even had China not gone off the boil. (Frankly it was in 2014 too, and Sergio probably knew it.)
But what does any of this actually mean? Little apart from underlining the fact that Alfa Romeo continues to underperform and that further gains are likely to remain desperately slow and painfully hard-won. Recently-appointed Alfa boss, Tim Kuniskis must know this too, so a decision to pursue a low-volume specialist model in a stagnating sector (while probably his predecessor’s) seems, to put it mildly, counter-intuitive.
Yes, a high performance coupé might further burnish Alfa’s high-performance (and high pricing) credentials, a reputation which isn’t doing them much harm in this image-led environment. But what Alfa needs as much as image is cars to sell in volume, not only to bolster its balance sheet, but to keep under-utilised Italian factories like Cassino ticking over.
The Giulia has been on sale for over two years now and while it hasn’t given the sector the jolt it required, nor come close to auto-analysts’ annual sales projections, it has proven a steady performer, certainly more so than some of its better-funded rivals, (yes I’m talking about you, XE) and has confounded many of FCA’s sterner critics. But can that really be enough?
While one can see the logic of adding another Giorgio-based model to the lineup for reasons of platform amortisation as much as anything, is an image laden, low-volume coupé, no matter how fast, furious or fantastical the answer? And if not, what is?
Alfa Romeo’s reanimation may not be giving Messrs Kruger, Zetsche or Stadler the screaming heebie-geebies, but I’d be reasonably confident it’s keeping Puccini’s Nessun Dorma alongside the Beasties’ on rotation in Tim Kuniskis’ late night Spotify playlist.
Data source: Carsalesbase.com