The new 75?

Richard Aucock

ALFA ROMEO will show the sexy Ford Focus-rivalling Giulietta in public for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

It’s a make-or-break car. Lordy, how many times have we heard that before?

Thing is, how many times has it been proven right..?

Fiat Group boss Sergio Marchionne has already gone on record to say Alfa Romeo is currently not cutting the mustard. It’s the weakest brand in the giant Fiat Group portfolio – and, when you consider that also includes Chrysler and Lancia, it’s quite a dubious honour to hold.

Alfa Romeo is unbowed, though. It’s going to take its final chance and damn well make the most of it – with a product-led recovery that will be centred around the Giulietta.

But can Alfa do it? My mind shifts back to another ill-judged pronouncement of leadership intent to drive the PR guys up the wall. Yes, Bernd Pischetsrieder, on the eve of the Rover 75 launch at the British Motor Show back in 1998.

Forget the car, muses Keith Adams on the brilliant AROnline: Bernd ensured that, with pronouncements such as ‘short-term actions are required for the long-term future of the Rover Group,’ the chat of the launch was not of 75, but of the health of the firm building it.

So recounted motoring writer good guy Steve Cropley to Adams; ‘…we were all a bit stunned,’ he said, ‘both by the content and timing of what Bernd Pischetsrieder said. We had all been feeling pretty enthusiastic about the 75 and the unveiling had gone well… it seemed bizarre, even grotesque, that the company’s top man should choose to undermine the moment so thoroughly.

‘He deflected the media from praising the car the way they would naturally have done, deflated the workforce who must have been on a high, and introduced a degree of buyer uncertainty that could have been avoided.’ No wonder the reaction in the firm was one of gobsmacked amazement.

Shoot forward a decade and a bit, to the Giulietta, to Marchionne saying ‘Alfa has been underperforming for some time’ and ‘it’s our problem’ and we ‘have to rethink our objectives and be realistic with ourselves,’ to cue many pairs of eyes on Alfa in Geneva.

Will he complete his ‘doing a Bernd’ in Geneva? I’ll join the throngs during the Press Conference next month and find out…

Land Rover App out snow

Rover 200 makes the 95 news

How Ford would have made a Rover

[Source: Richard Aucock]

Keith Adams

1 Comment

  1. I am now on my third Alfa. Each one I have had has been better than the last and my current one, a late model 156 JTD Sport, is probably the best car that I’ve ever owned. Indeed, the current range of cars that Alfa has are probably the best line up of cars it has had in its long and illustrious history.

    However, the problem – as far as UK sales are concerned – I feel at present is the lack of dealers. It used to be the case that every FIAT dealer had a small Alfa section tacked on to it. Now this was probably not the image that Alfa wanted – if you think about it, it’s probably the same as every MINI dealership having a small BMW bit tacked on or a BL dealership back in the 70’s where one could buy everything from a Metro right through to Rover 3500. Same company but aimed at different market segments. Also, when the salesforce had to sell everything from a FIAT Panda to an Alfa 166, it meant you were buying a car aimed at a premium part of the market but not getting the sales (and, particularly. the aftersales) to match.

    FIAT (nee Alfa) therefore took the decision to prune its dealers and sell Alfa Romeos from only solus dealers. Correct thinking but it has pruned them too far. You can struggle to find one now. I mean in Scotland, until a small one opened in Glasgow recently, there was only three covering the entire country.

    So I hope that, when considering Alfa’s future, the FIAT boss takes a look at their own actions. If FIAT truly has ambitions of being a global car company it cannot afford to not compete in the BMW/Audi/Lexus/Jaguar sector. It cannot move Ferrari or Masterati down market into that segment and at the same time FIAT is too mass market to move it up and Lancia is not even selling cars in two of the major markets for those types of cars. As for Chrysler/Dodge – could they really be seen as an aspirational choice over a BMW?? So that leaves Alfa. I just hope FIAT realise that before doing anything rash.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


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