Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect dollar figure for Alfa Romeo's overhaul. Fiat Chrysler plans to spend $6.9 billion on the plan. Also, Hegbloom was misspelled in an early headline on this story.
DETROIT -- Chrysler Group, rolling out sales of the Alfa Romeo 4C sports car in the U.S., has picked Reid Bigland to lead the Italian sports car brand’s return to North America.
Bigland, 47, one of the rising stars at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, had been head of the company’s fast-growing Ram brand. Robert Hegbloom, 50, director of Ram, will take over for Bigland, Chrysler said today in a statement.
Bigland’s post at Alfa is a new position, and he retains his responsibilities as head of Chrysler’s U.S. sales and CEO of Chrysler Canada.
The moves are effective immediately.
"The addition of Alfa Romeo to (Bigland's) portfolio of responsibilities is an indication of how committed we are to the establishment of this brand in the North American market, a process that has already started with the introduction of the Alfa Romeo 4C," Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in the statement.
"Much more is expected from this brand in the next few years as outlined in our five-year plan presented on May 6, 2014, and Reid's seniority and experience are ideal for the significant task that is now getting underway."
Alfa Romeo withdrew from the U.S. in 1995 when the 164 sports sedan reached the end of its production run, ending a presence in North America dating back to the 1950s.
In May, Marchionne said the company plans to invest $6.9 billion (5 billion euros) to overhaul Alfa’s lineup and position it as a competitor to BMW, Audi, Cadillac and other sporty luxury brands.
Last year, Alfa Romeo sold just 74,000 cars globally, the lowest level since the 1960s. Marchionne’s ambitious growth plan for Alfa calls for volume to reach 400,000 globally by 2018, with the United States becoming one of the largest markets.
A new midsize sports sedan is due in the U.S. by 2016, and seven other new Alfas are in the company’s five-year plan.
Hegbloom’s major challenge will be to establish the Ram brand in the commercial market and compete with General Motors and Ford. Ram is launching two vehicles, the ProMaster full-size van and the ProMaster City, a small utility van, to compete with the Ford Transit Connect.
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