GENEVA -- Alfa Romeo's new CEO said the Italian sports car brand wants to return to the United States, but he declined to set a date.
"North America is a must for a brand like Alfa Romeo, but the date of our return now is just hypothetical," said Karl-Heinz Kalbfell at the Geneva auto show.
The former BMW and Rolls-Royce executive joined Alfa Romeo Jan. 1. Last month, Kalbfell also was named CEO of Maserati, replacing Martin Leach.
While North America is tempting, it is not a high priority for Kalbfell. First he wants to create a management team, strengthen the dealership network in Europe and expand in Asia.
Kalbfell will bring in three or four seasoned outsiders to reshape Alfa Romeo. The first will arrive May 1, taking over sales in all of Europe except Italy. The second will oversee sales outside Europe.
Kalbfell said he was disappointed with the dealership network he found when he took over Alfa Romeo. "With the current dealer network we have, we could sell just 12,000 Brera coupes a year," he said. "With a proper dealer network, to sell twice that number would be achievable."
Alfa Romeo sold fewer than 6,000 units of its flagship 166 last year, a number Kalbfell called intolerable. He added that Alfa Romeo would remain a player in the upper-premium segment with a 166 replacement he dubbed the 169.
He declined to say whether that car would be based on a stretched version of the Premium platform used for the 159 and the Brera, or whether it would use the Maserati Quattroporte platform.
With regard to Asia, Kalbfell said he wants Alfa Romeo to expand in Japan and enter China. He said: "The 166 is homologated for China, but it is not sold there, and I didn't find anyone here able to explain to me why."
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