Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX coming

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Thread: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX coming

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    Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX coming

    Reborn Chrysler gets a European makeover
    Vehicles, organization face changes

    June 24, 2009

    BY GREG GARDNER
    FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

    Working from a modest office in a wing of Chrysler's Auburn Hills Technical Center -- rather than the 15-floor executive tower next door -- Chrysler Group LLC's new chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, is quickly bringing clarity and direction to the automaker that exited bankruptcy just two weeks ago.

    According to interviews with employees and documents obtained by the Free Press, Marchionne, also the CEO of Italy's Fiat, has compressed eight layers of management into five.

    He's shared a detailed vision to use Fiat models as the basis for future vehicles branded as Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep.

    And he's positioning the upscale Alfa Romeo brand to come to North America to compete against established sellers of luxury European cars. Some of those Alfa models are to be built here, too, and possibly exported to Europe.

    Aside from the tiny Fiat 500, which will be assembled in Toluca, Mexico, and introduced in mid-2011, new models with a European flavor will be branded as Alfa Romeos.

    "The Fiat name doesn't play in the U.S. and Fiat knows it," said Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics, a veteran automotive analyst.

    It's especially critical that Chrysler make fast product decisions now because the company's 41-day trip through bankruptcy delayed launches of key 2011 models.

    Said Marchionne: "The new company will focus on speed without short-cutting."

    Simplifying management

    Titles and pecking orders are simpler. There are senior or executive vice presidents, rather than vice presidents, followed by directors and senior managers. Every other salaried employee is simply considered a Level 5.

    Among the key players are Scott Kunselman, senior vice president for engineering, and the four presidents and CEOs for each brand: Peter Fong for Chrysler, Michael Manley for Jeep, Michael Accavitti for Dodge and Pietro Gorlier for Mopar, Chrysler's replacement parts division. Each will be responsible for profitability and development of each vehicle sold under the brand.

    It's a structure identical to Fiat's organization in Europe.

    Alfa Romeo returns

    Led by Sergio Craver in Turin, Italy, Alfa Romeo will be the brand under which Fiat returns to the U.S. market.

    Aging baby boomers remember Alfa Romeo for the iconic roadster in which Dustin Hoffman cruised the Pacific Coast Highway in "The Graduate."

    Between 1990 and 1995, Chrysler and Alfa launched a lackluster U.S. marketing partnership that never resulted in more than 7,000 or 8,000 sales a year. But Alfa Romeo is on a bit of a roll in Europe. Sales in Europe rose 11% for the first five months, while car sales overall fell nearly 13%.

    "In Europe the Alfa does go up against those other luxury brands fairly successfully," said John Wolkonowicz, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight. "Will it work in the U.S? It's not going to be a cakewalk."

    Marchionne understands that turning around an automaker depends on boosting revenue as much or more than cutting costs.

    Fiat's 500 minicar will be produced in Toluca, Mexico, and sold through Chrysler dealerships as a 500, much as BMW maintained its Mini as a separate brand.

    The real profit margins will come in larger segments, however.

    An Alfa version -- called the GTX -- of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango will be produced at the Jefferson Avenue assembly plant. There is a strong likelihood Fiat will export some of those SUVs to Europe.

    The midsize challenge

    "The biggest 'if' in this whole plan is how to develop the midsize sedan," said Wolkonowicz. The need for a more competitive midsize car -- probably Chrysler's weakest segment -- has dogged the company for at least two years.

    For the midsize car, Chrysler engineers looked hard at using the same structure for future generations of Jeep Liberty, Dodge Caliber and Alfa Romeo Milano, but decided it was too small, said people familiar with the process.

    MORE AT Detroit Free Press
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    GMI Staff Member Premium Member nadepalma's Avatar
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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    Quote Originally Posted by Detroit Free Press View Post
    "The Fiat name doesn't play in the U.S. and Fiat knows it," said Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics, a veteran automotive analyst.
    I agree.

    While I think its great to get Alfa Romeo cars back in the US, Fiat is planning on positioning the brand upmarket to compete against the luxury car makers. That's fine, but it doesn't make it an affordable, mass-market brand like VW, Fiat, or Renault would be on their home continent.

    And utlimately, there are consumers out there who would want an affordable European vehicle for mainstream customers.

    I've been saying forever that if Fiat was to try and make it back in this country with a more mass-market Italian brand, they should utilize Lancia for this purpose.

    Lancia doesn't have the stigma or the bad reputation that Fiat branded cars have in North America. They had a nice little following here in the US back when and were always seen as being a bit upscale from the average Fiat.

    I think that Lancia could serve in that role rather nicely for Fiat-Chrysler alliance. It would compliment Chrysler Groups own products while delivering something "more affordable" to consumers who want something European. And with the Lancia shield adorning the front and rear fascias, it would be much better recieved than a Fiat badge.

    Plus, this doesn't have to cost Fiat extra money. Most consumers in the US don't even know that Lancia has a limited range in Europe. Fiat could just as easily take Lancia's existing model lineup and add "Lancia-ized" Fiat products to their US model range.

    So for example, if they wanted a version of the Grande Punto or the Linea here for the US market (Lancia doesn't currently offer comparable models right now in Europe) they could simply take those products, give them a revised front end-appearance to bring them in line with other Lancia branded products, and sell them in North America.

    Immediately they could sell a "Lancia Linea" or "Lancia Punto" or "Lancia Panda" or "Lancia Croma" type products to flush out the lineup with a small investment to the parent company.

    It would be cheap, effective, and shield consumers from the Fiat brand that isn't highly regarded.

    I think it could work...

    Could anyone photoshop what a Lancia Linea would look like?
    Last edited by nadepalma; 06-26-2009 at 04:31 PM.
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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    I think it would have been cool to have Fiat back.

    Just think of the strange, off-kilter marketing they could use.

    HOw about "Fiat Fiat!" Let there be Fiat!!

    nm

    As for Alfa..... that will throw a monkey wrench into the established US luxury market..... if they're really good cars, I can definitely see the coastal markets readily adopting Alfa over the likes of Saab, Volvo, Cadillac, Lincoln, Acura, and Infiniti.
    Last edited by mgescuro; 06-26-2009 at 04:33 PM.

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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    F ix

    I t

    A gain

    T ony

    .
    "The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. "

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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    sooooooo... rebadging a SUV-like crossover will save Chrysler?

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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    I'm glad Alfa is coming back but I want more than just one Fiat. I would like to see the Bravo and Grande Punto to come state side with Fiat badges as well.

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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    Quote Originally Posted by maherj2 View Post
    sooooooo... rebadging a SUV-like crossover will save Chrysler?
    probably not but a new mid size car and alfa romeos success in the U.S Market could help swing things in the right direction. I bet things such as new model development will probably start up in early to mid July and things will really get off and rolling in 2010 and 2011 those will be two crucial years for Chrysler and we'll all see whether chrysler can make things right
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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    Quote Originally Posted by commodore88 View Post
    I'm glad Alfa is coming back but I want more than just one Fiat. I would like to see the Bravo and Grande Punto to come state side with Fiat badges as well.
    agreed the 500 is a decent small car but most consumers want cars with practicality like the bravo and the Punto and as such have no need for a small car
    Last edited by GMfan1111; 06-26-2009 at 06:29 PM.
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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    I was really hoping that GM would've acquired Alfa back in the GM-Fiat days. (Because that is what GM really wanted... Alfa; not Fiat)

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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    I will be curious as to what these various models will look like.
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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    All I want is a MiTo. Please. PLEASE!
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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    Quote Originally Posted by FUTURE_OF_GM View Post
    I was really hoping that GM would've acquired Alfa back in the GM-Fiat days. (Because that is what GM really wanted... Alfa; not Fiat)
    But really, what would GM have done with Alfa? It could barely manage it's own brands at the time the acquisition was supposed to go through. I guarantee that GM would have been in the same bankruptcy position today and would have sold off it's Fiat unit with Opel. I think it was for the best that GM didn't have another mouth to feed.

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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    Quote Originally Posted by GMFAN85 View Post
    But really, what would GM have done with Alfa? It could barely manage it's own brands at the time the acquisition was supposed to go through. I guarantee that GM would have been in the same bankruptcy position today and would have sold off it's Fiat unit with Opel. I think it was for the best that GM didn't have another mouth to feed.
    You're probably right.

    I just think Alfa would've served as a better entry brand to Cadillac than Saab (theoretically) did.

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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    1. So, Fiat's tactic to save Chrysler was by supplying small, fuel-efficient vehicles. So they start out by cloning Chrysler's largest SUV...

    2. I thought the idea previously tossed around, to rebody the Liberty, was bad. Now I am just speechless (not rly, is going to be long post)

    3. With Jeep and the rumored comeback of the Chrysler Aspen, why would Fiatsler need yet another entry in the luxury SUV segment?

    4. An SUV does not fit Alfa's brand positioning AT ALL. Why even bother launching it, when its positioning would immediately be equalled with Acuras, Lexoids etc. Why would anybody bother with an Italian brand with questionable reliability (as if Alfa ever had a better reputation in that regard than Fiat).

    5. Not to mention the current "bulbasaur" styling direction of Alfa would make the SUV a startling monstrosity.

    6. I do not think with all the positive publicity during the takeover, Fiat has to worry about the image of their core brand. Furthermore, I would take advantage of the positive momentum ASAP and launch the 500 as an imported car still this year, while adding new Fiat models in 2010 (and announcing them this fall)

    7. Lancia would be a good brand for filling in the holes in Fiatsler's lineup with premium MPVs, SUVs and crossovers (so, if any brand is fit for a rehashed Jeep, I'd give it to Lancia first, if not Fiat, depending on the "luxury level").

    8. Having said which, with eight brands and a broad portfolio of models, I don't think Fiat's problem is with holes to be filled. It is more about:
    a. Propping up sales of underperforming models
    b. In the longer run, replacing entire crap platforms with something more competitive
    c. First and foremost, ensuring all bases are covered by spreading the new global Fiatsler lineup accross all markets

    9. With regard to that, IMHO, job number one for Fiatsler would be launching the Linea and perhaps some subcompact-sized models other than the 500 in the US, an area of the market where Chrysler is severely lacking.

    10. Nick, the Linea-based Lancia could look like this, I posted it sometime ago (click on my sig):


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    Re: Alfa Romeo brand to spearhead Fiat US efforts; Grand Cherokee based-Alfa GTX comi

    Quote Originally Posted by Bravada View Post
    4. An SUV does not fit Alfa's brand positioning AT ALL. Why even bother launching it, when its positioning would immediately be equalled with Acuras, Lexoids etc. Why would anybody bother with an Italian brand with questionable reliability (as if Alfa ever had a better reputation in that regard than Fiat).
    I thought the same thing about the Cayenne and I was wrong, so who knows?

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