Fiat Chrysler to invest $7 billion to grow Alfa Romeo

Wester said the brand's reinvention is being led by a “skunk works” team of more than 200 engineers. Here was his list of objectives for the team.

UPDATED: 5/6/14 11:38 am ET - adds detail, 4C gallery

DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to invest 5 billion euros ($7 billion) on Alfa Romeo, adding eight nameplates by 2018 with a goal of more than quintupling the brand’s global sales.

The ambitious plans unveiled by Alfa Romeo CEO Harald Wester did not specify when and how the brand will make its long-anticipated return to North America. Wester said only that the distribution network would grow to support the lineup so that 80 percent of the brand’s customers worldwide would be within 30 miles of a dealership.

The plans call for adding a mid-sized car in 2015, followed by seven nameplates in the three years after that. From 2016 through 2018, the brand will gain two compact cars, a second mid-sized car, a large car, two utility vehicles and a “specialty” vehicle in the vein of the current 4C.

Alfa Romeo has previously said it plans to begin shipping the 2015 4C, which it displayed at last month's New York auto show, to the United States later this year.

The $7 billion investment includes r&d, manufacturing and product development, Wester said.

Alfa Romeo will be “entering new territories and segments we’ve never been in,” Wester said. He said the brand’s reinvention is being led by a “skunk works” team of more than 200 engineers led by two senior heads from Ferrari and without any “interference” from the rest of the corporation.

“We needed to reset all and simply go back to the Alfa Romeo that people admired,” Wester said.

Wester cited examples of when, he said, Alfa Romeo lost its way, both before and after Fiat gained control of it in 1987, including rebadged versions of the Nissan Pulsar and Fiat Croma.

“Alfa Romeo had completely lost its DNA back in those days, and it morphed into whoever it partnered with,” he said. “With the exception of style, the DNA of Alfa Romeo had not been respected."

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