Another delay in Alfa Romeo's scheduled return to the United States has surprised and disappointed Fiat dealers counting on the sporty Italian cars to bolster their new franchise.
Alfa Romeo CEO Harald Wester said last week that three of the brand's U.S.-bound models will be delayed and a fourth will be canceled.
Fiat's 130 U.S. dealers never were explicitly promised Alfa models as part of the Fiat franchise. But Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told them in August 2010 they were likely to get the brand.
Alfa Romeo would provide sporty premium vehicles to augment the dealers' only current offerings: coupe and 500C convertible versions of the Fiat 500.
"Right now I'm pretty disappointed because I have a pretty big investment in Fiat," said Carl Galeana, owner of Fiat of Lakeside in suburban Detroit and a member of the Fiat Advisory Committee, the dealer council. "I built my store predicated on the fact there would be more than Fiat."
The CEO of a large dealership group that owns a Fiat store said: "This delay is not positive for dealers who have invested and committed to the Fiat franchise." The executive asked not to be named.
Galeana said Fiat officials had not said anything to dealers about the latest holdup.
Alfa Romeo is the second stage of Fiat Group's strategy to relaunch its Italian auto brands in the United States. Fiat began selling 500s in March, and Alfa vehicles were to have arrived in late 2012.
Most Fiat dealers also have Chrysler dealerships, but Fiat required the dealers to apply for a separate franchise agreement. They were allowed to build temporary facilities in their existing Chrysler stores but were required to erect separate, permanent facilities by the end of 2012, when Alfa was originally scheduled to arrive.
Fiat has 102 stores open in the United States, and 28 more are scheduled to open before year end.
Many dealers say they were counting on Alfa to broaden their range of offerings to include cars that would compete with European luxury makes.