GENEVA -- Sergio Marchionne has made clear that he intends for Alfa Romeo to challenge BMW and Audi in the premium car realm.
In fact, he says that's why Alfa delayed launching the Giulia midsize sedan that debuted this month at the auto show here -- to make sure it would be a true rival to competitors such as the BMW 3 series.
"The project was technically immature," said the CEO of the brand's parent, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. "We will start only when we are on par with the Germans. Otherwise it is not worth the effort."
U.S. sales of the Quadrifoglio version will begin in the third quarter, with the 2.0-liter version arriving in U.S. showrooms by year end. The Giulia Quadrifoglio will start at about $70,000 in the U.S., Alfa said.
The car will launch with two turbocharged gasoline engines: a 2.0-liter and a Ferrari-derived 505-hp twin-turbo powerplant on the high-performance Quadrifoglio version. In Europe, a 2.2-liter diesel also will be offered.
The Giulia is the first Alfa Romeo to use FCA's new rear-wheel-drive architecture, called Giorgio.
The car has a carbon fiber driveshaft and uses aluminum for the doors, fenders and the construction of both gasoline and diesel engines. Alfa claims the weight saving materials increase body rigidity and the power-to-weight ratio.
The Quadrifoglio version extends the use of carbon fiber for the hood, roof, front splitter, rear spoiler and body inserts to partially offset the increased weight of the V-6 engine.
Alfa says the Quadrifoglio will accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds, a time Alfa says is the best in its class.
Technology on the car includes what Alfa says is a new braking system that combines the stability control system and traditional servo to reduce stopping distances to "record-breaking levels."
Alfa claims the standard car will go from 62 mph to 0 in 126 feet and 104 feet in the Quadrifoglio with help from its carbon ceramic brake discs. All cars will come with radar-controlled automatic emergency braking.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio was previewed at the Alfa Romeo museum in June and it was due to launch in Europe by year end, according to dealers. But the sales launch was delayed because the car failed to pass internal front, side and rear crash tests, which resulted in extensive re-engineering, supplier sources have told Automotive News Europe.
Last month, FCA lured former Ferrari chief engineer Roberto Fedeli back from BMW Group to help fix mounting technical challenges at Alfa and sibling brand Maserati.
In Geneva, Marchionne said the Giulia's long development was crucial to ensure the car was perfect.
"The brand has historically failed to meet its technical ambitions. If we get that wrong we might as well go back home," Marchionne said. "If the Giulia doesn't give the best possible performance we've wasted our time, and a pot of money."
Luca Ciferri contributed to this report.