Alfa Romeo expects to sell 50,000 cars a year in the USA with a six-model lineup after it re-enters the market in 2007, President Daniele Bandiera says.
That would represent a dramatic departure from anything previously achieved by Alfa Romeo in the USA. From 1952 when the company first sold cars there to its 1995 withdrawal, its peak sales year was in 1986 with 8,201 units.
Regardless, Alfa Romeo is engineering all new models to comply with US regulations, though it has not yet decided exactly how the brand will be distributed when it returns to the USA in 2007.
"We will begin approaching the 40 dealers that were faithful to Alfa Romeo until the very end of operations in North America," Bandiera said. "But we will also talk with dealers that are currently successfully selling Maserati there, and any other General Motors brand dealer interested in our products."
Bandiera rejected the widely rumored suggestion that Alfas would be exclusively distributed in the United States by a GM sales channel such as Cadillac or Saab. GM has a 20 percent share in Fiat Auto, Alfa Romeo's owner.
"We wish to appoint dealers enthusiastic to our brand, not people almost obliged to add a new franchise that maybe is not really interesting for them. We want to return in the US in cooperation with GM, but we do not want to replicate the ARDONA mistake," Bandiera said.
The reference was to Alfa Romeo Distributors of North America, or ARDONA, which was a 1989 joint venture with Chrysler Corp. ARDONA's medium-term target - never achieved because of quality and reliability problems - was annual sales of 25,000 to 30,000.
The Alfa Romeo Milano, the US version of the European 75, regularly finished near the bottom of the J.D. Power and Associates initial quality survey, ahead of only the Yugo.
The Alfa Romeo 164 was a particular problem in terms of warranty costs.