Beware of Alfa's intoxicating appeal

Spend two minutes at the Alfa Romeo stand at the Geneva auto show and you will quickly understand why Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech have spent the last five months verbally sparring over who could best lead the underperforming Italian automaker.

Alfa's cars are intoxicating. Their undeniable appeal was proved by the constant crowd at Alfa's small display area at the show.

Most people came to see the 4C concept that debuted here but ended up lingering so they could get a closer look at models such as the MiTo and Giulietta.

Despite its undisputed gift for design, Alfa also has a knack for losing money. Marchionne recently told Forbes that he is unsure whether Alfa has ever made money it its 100-year history.

This problem does not intimidate Marchionne -- or Piech. Both are convinced that Alfa is a can't-lose brand.

If they are wrong they will join the long list of executives who lost their heads -- and then their shirts -- because of Alfa.

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