Some dealers said this development opens the doors for more investment in Alfa Romeo, which is expected to get two more crossovers in its lineup in the coming years, including a compact model based on the Tonale concept that's slated to begin production this year.
Alfa Romeo's resilient U.S. dealerships eked out a year-over-year sales gain in 2020 despite the pandemic, but there were questions around how the brand would fit in the Stellantis portfolio.
The brand had capable leadership in the U.S. but felt like an orphan, said Bob Nouri, who co-owns Russell Westbrook Alfa Romeo in Van Nuys, Calif., with the NBA star. The store is the top-selling Alfa dealership in the U.S.
It will be up to Dominique to dispel those feelings and put forth a vision for the brand.
He held a call with retailers soon after his appointment and personally called Nouri to introduce himself.
Putting such a seasoned veteran in charge shows a commitment to the brand, said Nouri, who foresees major improvement "in all facets of Alfa" in the next five years.
Dominique "personally told me that he is dedicated, and they're going to do whatever it is within their power to make sure the brand makes it," Nouri told Automotive News. "I believe he brings a wealth of experience and new ideas to the table for us, which we're very excited about that as well."
Nouri added: "What I was impressed [with] about him was that he was open to listening to my input and he welcomed sending him emails if I have any other points. So that's always a breath of fresh air that people would actually want to hear what their dealers, who are on the front line, [have] to say."
Scott Ritter, part owner of Planet Alfa Romeo in Miami, is cautiously optimistic about the leadership switch.
He said Bob Broderdorf, Alfa's former director of North America, did a "phenomenal job" and was instrumental in supporting the brand's South Florida dealers when they established a Tier 2 advertising group in 2019. That advertising model, which led to growth in the important luxury market, has since been duplicated in other places around the country.
Alfa posted a record fourth quarter in the U.S. as sales jumped 23 percent, resulting in a 1.6 percent year-over-year increase for the full year. Sales of the Stelvio crossover rose 8.9 percent on the year, while the Giulia sedan fell 5.8 percent.
Still, Alfa's sales last year were 22 percent short of the brand's U.S. peak in 2018.
Ritter said Dominique reassured dealers during the recent call with them.
"He brings a pretty robust resume, so he's very familiar with the industry," Ritter said. "It sounds like the commitment is to continue to grow the brand significantly. There was no indication that they're going to back off or ease off. They want to continue with the momentum that's been created thus far."
Greg Travaline, owner of South Miami Alfa Romeo-Fiat, knew changes would be on the way after the merger, and he hopes the new regime can build on recent momentum.
Travaline wants Stellantis to focus on giving Alfa more product, starting with the launch of the Tonale-inspired crossover that he expects to arrive in early 2022.
Without Peugeot in the picture, Travaline believes Stellantis can route some extra dollars to Alfa. Bringing in a "high-profile" leader, he said, shows that Stellantis is serious about making Alfa work in North America.
He said Stellantis probably realizes North America is the brand's best opportunity zone for growth.
Travaline said he was confident Stellantis would see Alfa Romeo's value after the merger, though there's always uncertainty during such a big change. He believes the brand is in its best position since its U.S. return.
"I didn't think they were going to gut Alfa," Travaline said. "Based on the success that we've had in the months before COVID, and even through COVID, I think they realized Alfa could be a very profitable brand for them."