Alfa Romeo sees its future in limited edition car

Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione
PARIS (Reuters) -- Alfa Romeo is losing money, and its own executives admit its poor image for parts and service has caused it to lag behind the world's leading sports car makers.

So what does it do?

It rolls out a limited-edition sports car.

Much to the excitement of fast-wheel lovers, Alfa Romeo unveiled the Alfa 8C Competizione at the Paris Auto Show this week.

Named and designed in homage to the racers of yesteryear, the curvaceous two-seater has a 4.7-liter engine with 400 horsepower.

Only 500 will be made, each with a price tag of 135,000 euros ($171,000) before tax.

The head of Alfa Romeo says the car "is not just an exercise in style", but part of a wider strategy to help the carmaker reclaim its reputation among the world's best premium brands.

"What we needed was a flagship for the brand," said Antonio Baravalle in an interview. He sees the 8C as the shape of things to come at Alfa Romeo.

In line with an industry trend, Alfa Romeo built it using parts from other premium brands within the Fiat Group to cut down on costs. The gear box came from Maserati and the seats from Ferrari.

"This car is the combination of the best technology available at Fiat," Baravalle said. "We should expect to do it more and more with all the brands (in the Fiat Group)."

Fiat is already employing a similar strategy with the Ypsilon, a premium city car built on the platform of the mass market Punto.

Orders for the 8C, presented as a concept car at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2003, have already started coming in.

The first consignment will be done in Frankfurt in 2007.

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