David-like Alfa faces 3 German Goliaths

New Alfa Romeo CEO Harald J. Wester proudly announced this week that the launch of the new Giulietta compact hatchback should help the Fiat-owned premium brand boost global sales by about 10 percent to more than 120,000 cars this year.

For Alfa to reach that goal it will need to grow in a European market that is expected to shrink by 10 percent to 15 percent this year.

Bucking the downward trend in its core market would be a nice accomplishment for Alfa, but let's put things in perspective. Alfa's full-year sales goal is nearly equal to the number of units BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz each sold last month.

BMW led the way with 117,696 sales followed by Audi (110,400) and Mercedes (109,300). Each of the German automakers reported a double-digit increase in year-on-year sales in March.

In terms of volumes, Alfa is a weak David when pitted against the three strengthening Goliaths.

Alfa lacks the global reach and the product lineup to get on to the same battlefield with the Germans. That doesn't mean Alfa is no longer a strong brand. With the Giulietta and the MiTo subcompact, Alfa is building toward a successful future, but it would take decades and billions in new investments for it to become a true rival to the German trio.

This it not impossible to do this, though, as Audi has proved during the past few years.

In a week, Fiat will tell us more about the next chapter in Alfa's history.

An ambitious but realistic set of goals would give thousands of Alfa fans – the so-called Alfisti – something to get excited about as they arrive in Milan from around the world next month to celebrate the brand's centennial.

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