No Sleep Till Arese

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?

Image credit: Autocar

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.

Image credit: Evo Magazine

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.)

Image credit: automobilemag

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

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

9 thoughts on “No Sleep Till Arese”

  1. The Giulia’s worldwide numbers are about half of A4/Three/C Class numbers for Germany alone.
    Market research shows that Alfa brand strength is on a par with Porsche or Jaguar but utilisation of its potential is more like Lada or SsanYong.
    That Alfa is good for much higher numbers was proven with the 156, the last Alfa that really sold.
    Question is why isn’t Alfa able to fully leverage its market potential?

    Alfa didn’t get the change to a different more holistic product definition with the shift to corporate lease contracts where not just the car but the ownership experience is what customers pay for. They made the terminal mistake to entrust customer service to their established network of uninterested dealers and lacklustre workshops. They effectively killed the 156 in the market with their dealers, something that isn’t forgotten in lease companies as well as fleet managers’ circles. Following the 156 with one of their typical product management aberrations in form of an Alfa 159 that was specifically targeted at people who wouldn’t buy an Alfa in the first place didn’t particularly help, either.

    Therefore the Nuova Giulia has the non-enviable task of resurrecting the dead. The Giulia isn’t a bad car and that it doesn’t have the overkill of electronic nonsense of its German competitors makes it quite attractive. But then it’s sold at eye watering prices and there’s still the dealer network that makes you feel physically sick once you get into contact with one of them.
    Our local Alfa dealer is the official importer and therefore should be a good example.
    If you want to look at your favourite Italian sports saloon in their showroom you first have to walk past all kinds of American tinware only to discover that the place where the Giulia was supposed to be is empty because they had to use their only example as a demonstrator. This demonstrator isn’t available for inspection because it is parked outside, waiting for a customer and his scheduled test drive. Sorry, Sir, the only thing we have is a product brochure and a price list. And that’s before memories come back of scheduled standard service appointments that take three days because they couldn’t be bothered to have necessary parts available, ordered courtesy cars that don’t materialise and all other kinds of service hiccups.

  2. I’m a big fan of the Giulia. Its looks are a matter of taste, so I’ll leave those to one side, but the fundamentals are great: a stiff, light, RWD platform, exactly as big as it needs to be and no bigger.

    The QF gets all the attention but the more humble 2.0 petrol is a bit of a star.

    To my mind, it is the right product but it came too late. Jaguar, Cadillac and Alfa Romeo all launched new RWD ‘compact’ sedans in short order, just as the market moved decisively away from them towards SUVs.

    1. In the right colour and spec – see the dark blue example above – the Giulia is a handsome car and while I was guilty of being a little snide about its looks initially (and while it’s no 159), it is unquestionably the best looking of the current drear bunch of upmarket D-sector saloons by some margin.

      In mainland Europe, it has carved out a small niche for itself, it would seem. Similar perhaps to where the 159 was towards the latter stages of its lifespan. It’s not going to give Volvo much cause for concern, but one imagines prospective Volvo owners would not cross-shop an Alfa anyway. Broken record I know, but it’s Jaguar who really are in Alfa’s sights, and looking at the sales figures, Alfa Romeo appear to be making a stronger case to customers.

      In the UK however, its a different story. I live in a fairly affluent part of NW London (when I’m not in Ireland); the sort of place you’d imagine the Giulia would do well, and yet it remains the rarest of sights around here. One would almost be led to suspect FCA’s UK distributor doesn’t want to sell any…

    2. Quite probably more Kia Stingers will find customers than the Alfa Romeo. Kia´s car is the elephant in the telephone box here. Jacomo´s comments made me think that the time for the Giulia and XE was probably 2005 when there was more space in the market and memories of Alfa fans were less dim than now.

    3. The Stinger is a very impressive looking product, but its price is perhaps a little sharp for a brand more associated with cheap and cheerful cars than prestigious status symbols. Snobbery some might say, but nobody said life was fair. Having said that, had Alfa Romeo (or indeed Jaguar) launched something as apparently accomplished and good looking, orderly queues would be forming at dealers from Burbank to Brescia.

    4. “the sort of place you’d imagine the Giulia would do well, and yet it remains the rarest of sights around here. One would almost be led to suspect FCA’s UK distributor doesn’t want to sell any…”
      If FCA wanted to sell Giulias they’d have some available to look at in showrooms.
      It they wanted to sell Giulias they’d show them prominently and they’d not put them in the same corner as all kinds of American SUVs.
      If they wanted to sell Giulias they’d have demonstrators available and it would not take five weeks to book a test drive.
      If they wanted to sell Giulias they’d have a usable configurator in the internet.
      If they wanted to sell Giulias they’d have sales people that care more about potential customers and less about their espresso machines and they’d make them know their product and be able to answer customer questions.
      If they wanted to sell Giulias they’d offer attractive corporate lease contracts including full service offers
      If they wanted to sell Giulias they’d finally bring their workshop service up to standard
      All this would cost enormous sums of money that FCA simply doesn’t have.

  3. Eoin: Kia enjoys a better reputation for quality and reliability than Jaguar or Alfa Romeo. I think it might win quite a good number of customers plus Kia will be back with a Mk2 which will be even better. They will push this product for the decade required. Unlike others, alas. There won’t be an XE mk2 or a car called Giulia in 2025.

    1. Unquestionably, and it is to Kia’s credit. Also beyond question is that the Stinger (terrible name though) is a fine piece of work. Both JLR and FCA ought to look to their laurels.

      You know you have a serious problem when a publication like ‘Jaguar World’ prints an article comparing the XE to the Giulia which openly criticises the Jaguar’s styling, both external and most explicitly, internal, stating that a facelift cannot come too soon. Entirely true of course, but even more damning from a publication explicitly so Jaguar-focused.

      I would be inclined to speculate that if the XE is renewed, it will be a rather different machine to the one currently on sale – and needs to be.

      Stop press: I spotted a Giulia in my locale this morning. A dark blue QV and in that subdued shade, I must say, it’s a terrific looking motor car.

  4. The Coupe image (I assume its a render) certainly looks very handsome. The four door, particularly in the right colours, is a far better looking car that the German competition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.