It seems like only yesterday that Fiat got American Alfisti all worked up by declaring that its Alfa Romeo brand would return to the United States.
But alas, March 13 will mark the 10th anniversary of that announcement.
And it still hasn't happened, although we may be getting closer. This month, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said: "I'm a lot more confident now that Alfa Romeo will reconstitute a product offering that is acceptable globally, and more in particular in the United States and Canada."
Still, the story of Alfa's American comeback gives new meaning to the phrase "on again, off again."
Alfa left the United States in 1995 with a reputation for poor quality. But in March 2000, then-Fiat Group CEO Paolo Cantarella said a new Alfa Spider would be sold here in 2003 as part of Fiat's alliance with General Motors.
In 2002, the Alfa plan was put back a year because of delays in developing the Spider. Then in 2003, new Fiat Group CEO Giuseppe Morchio canceled Alfa's U.S. plans outright, what with Fiat Auto near bankruptcy at the time.
Marchionne was revitalizing Fiat by 2005 and was sounding confident about Alfa's U.S. comeback. He said Alfa would return in 2008 with the 159 sedan, the Brera coupe and the Spider. But the return was later pushed back to late 2009 to allow for construction of a plant in the United States or Mexico.
There was also a change in the product plan: U.S. sales would now begin with the 149 replacement (eventually called Giulietta). The 159, Brera and current Spider no longer were slated for U.S. shores.
In November 2008, the return was delayed yet again -- until 2011 because of the weak U.S. market, uncertainty about local manufacturing and distribution, and because Fiat was trying to buy Chrysler.
But by last July, it was again a sure thing. Fiat confirmed that Alfa would return in the second half of 2011 with the Giulietta. Only the situation changed again in November when Marchionne put the idea under review.
But this month, he said: "There is a strong likelihood that the brand will be back here within the next 24 months," thus in mid-2012.
Sounds great, although you might forgive the local Alfa enthusiasts from doing somersaults just yet.