BALOCCO, Italy -- Alfa Romeo's new Giulia midsize sedan is a "make or break" for model for the brand, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Chief Technology Officer Harald Wester said.
Alfa is pinning its revival hopes on the Giulia, a rival to the BMW 3 series that will go on sale in Europe next month. It is the first of eight new models planned by the brand and Alfa’s first car on its new Giorgio rear-wheel-drive architecture.
"The credibility of the program depends on this car," Wester said at a press event held to showcase the Giulia at FCA's Balocco test track in northern Italy.
He said the company invested over 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) to develop the architecture and would spend "many more billions" to develop the rest of the Alfa range.
Alfa expects to sell more than 100,000 Giulias globally in 2017, its first full year on sale, Wester said.
Alfa's ambition for the Giulia could be too optimistic. Industry forecasters IHS Automotive predict Giulia sales of 39,000 units next year with a peak of 43,500 in 2018. "It remains to be seen whether the Giulia can attract customers back to the brand at the levels it expects, in view of its past overconfidence and under deliver," IHS analyst Ian Fletcher said.
U.S. sales of the Giulia will begin in September or October, followed by China next year.
The Giulia will be sold with a 2.0-liter gasoline engine and a 2.2-liter diesel in Europe, along with a high performance Quadrifoglio version with a Ferrari-derived 510-hp twin-turbocharged V-6.
Alfa delayed the launch of the car to make sure it could properly compete against rivals from BMW, Audi and Mercedes, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said at the Geneva auto show in March. "The project was technically immature," he said. "We will start only when we are on par with the Germans, otherwise it is not worth the effort," he said.
Wester said that "nothing below perfect was allowed" when developing the car.
The Giulia starts at 35,500 euros ($39,655) in Italy.
Alfa's revival was delayed in January when Marchionne postponed the target to complete an expansion of the brand's new lineup by two years to 2020. The company also dropped a goal to boost sales more than fourfold to 400,000.
Marchionne admitted that the Giulia, which will be followed by the brand's first SUV later this year and by a third model in late 2017, didn't have an "easy" birth.
In addition to his FCA technology role, Wester was Alfa CEO until earlier this week when the company named Reid Bigland as the brand's new chief to help kickstart Alfa sales.