Alfa delays U.S. return again as European debt crisis deepens
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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the planned arrival date of the Giulietta compact hatchback. It was set to arrive in 2014 and the launch timetable has not changed.
FRANKFURT -- Alfa Romeo has delayed the U.S. introduction of several key models by at least another year and has cancelled plans to build a mid-sized SUV at Chrysler Group's factory in Toledo, Ohio.
Alfa Romeo CEO Harald Wester, in a presentation to financial analysts here today in connection with the Frankfurt auto show, said Alfa Romeo was scaling back its global expansion plans.
Wester's announcement marks the latest in a series of delays of the U.S. return of Alfa Romeo, the sporty brand of Fiat S.p.A. His remarks came one day after Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne offered a gloomy assessment of Europe's debt crisis, saying the European common currency could come off the rails if political leaders don't resolve the lingering crisis soon.
Marchionne said the debt crisis has forced Fiat and Chrysler to examine the timing of new-vehicle introductions.
"We are reviewing volumes and the timing of new products to see when it is really necessary to launch them," Marchionne said.
In its global plan, unveiled in April 2010, Alfa Romeo planned to return to the United States in late 2012. Under the revised schedule, the first car won't come to the United States until mid-2013, when the 4C, a low-volume coupe arrives, followed by a compact SUV and a compact five-door hatchback. The SUV, which shares a platform with the next generation Jeep Compass, was to have launched in 2012.
Other delays and cancellations include:
The Giulia mid-size sedan and wagon, originally due in late 2012, now arriving in 2014
The new Spider roadster, originally due in 2013, now arriving in 2014
A mid-sized SUV, to have been built in Toledo alongside the Jeep Liberty and originally due in 2014, has been cancelled. It will be replaced by a large, rear drive sedan derived from the Maserati Quattroporte and due to arrive after 2014.
The Giulietta compact hatchback is still due to arrive in 2014.
The Alfa Romeo brand is to be sold by a network of 130 Fiat dealerships, more than 100 of which are now open. The rest are to open by the end of this year.
Dealers must wait
Fiat dealers have pinned high hopes for Alfa, which would give them a range of larger, sporty vehicles to augment the Fiat 500 small car, the only model they currently are selling.
Those dealers now will have to get by with their Fiat models a while longer. In the past 18 months Marchionne has rejected three rounds of styling proposals for the Giulia sedan and wagon, pushing its launch back.
At the end of July, Alfa had already postponed the two Giulia models until 2013.
In the revised plan, the five-door MiTo subcompact is the only Alfa model to keep the original timing for a 2013 launch.
The new delays led Alfa to trim its global 2014 target of 500,000 unit sales to just 400,000 units.
Alfa had been planning its return to the United States since it signed a strategic alliance with General Motors in March 2000. So the brand's return had been delayed for a decade -- so far. Alfa left the United States in 1995.
According to Wester's presentation, Alfa plans on selling about 155,000 units worldwide this year, compared with 115,000 it sold in both 2009 and 2010.
You can reach Luca Ciferri at firstname.lastname@example.org.