Alfa Romeo’s North American Journey

April 21st, 2017 by
North America
Alfa Romeo has always been considered an Italian vehicle, and many consumers may have assumed that the brand’s vehicles were exclusive to Europe. However, there were several decades when the company’s badge could be found on a number of vehicles cruising around the United States. Unfortunately, the brand didn’t do a particularly good job of touting their products, leading to the company’s North American demise. Many of the company’s shortfalls can be blamed on themselves, although we could also attribute the issues to poor timing.
However, recent developments have indicated that the company is recommitted to establishing itself as a premier luxury brand in North America. While you may be wondering what took the brand so long to break into the market, there’s no denying that there is a wealth of advantages that accompany having another major car seller in the States.
Either way, if you’ve been thinking about pursuing a luxury vehicle, it may be in your best interest to pursue one of Alfa Romeo’s offerings. Before you do that, let’s explore the brand’s tumultuous history in North America…
First North American Venture
After several years of underwhelming and lackluster sales, the company saw a bit of an uptick in interest following the Second World War, as the brand once again proved that it was one of the premier producers of racing vehicles. Maximilian Hoffman, an Austrian importer (based out of New York) who focused primarily on European vehicles, recognized Alfa Romeo’s overseas popularity. He requested an open version of the brand’s popular Giulietta (aptly named the Giulietta Spider), which was one of the company’s first coupe/two-seat offerings. The company happily obliged, and the entrepreneur was soon cruising around in a one-of-a-kind vehicle. Hoffman’s efforts proved to be instrumental, as the company started importing and selling cars in the United States starting in 1961.
However, perhaps due to the increasing prices or the decreasing popularity of European luxury cars, Alfa Romeo started taking large financial hits on their North American products. While the brand saw moderate popularity, their best sales year only saw them selling around 8,200 cars. In 1993, the company had actually recorded their first loss since the 1970s, although some experts predicted that the brand would bounce back with more than $1 billion in profits in 1994.
However, Fiat (who, by that time, had joined Alfa in a joint venture) soon noted that the company’s “continued presence in the North American market ha[d] become increasingly economically unfeasible.” In early 1995, the company finally announced that they’d stop producing vehicles for the North American market. The final vehicle sold in the States was the 164 sedans.
Second North American Venture
Sometime during the 2000s, the company released a bit of a tease on their website, noting that “[t]he long-awaited return of Alfa Romeo to the United States market should take place by 2007, with a range of new models.” In fact, by mid-2006, the rumors were actually confirmed by Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne.
The 8C Competizione coupe was the first Alfa vehicle to return to the United States, with sales beginning in late 2008. Unfortunately, the brand didn’t produce a whole lot of these models, as only around 100 of the cars ended up making it to North America. Furthermore, they were too pricey for general car-buyers, coming in at more than $250 thousand.
Unsurprisingly, Alfa Romeo was struggling financially (similar to how they had struggled many times throughout their history), so they approached Chrysler about using their manufacturing plants to help produce new vehicles. Chrysler eventually accepted their advances, and in late 2009, it was announced that the company was discontinuing several of their Dodge and Jeep models in favor of Alfa Romeo’s grouping of cars (as well as a new Fiat 500).
The brand produced a number of their luxury vehicles for the United States for about half a decade. However, the company quickly ran into a similar issue, recognizing that consumers were beginning to tune out their products due to the high price tags. As a result, Alfa Romeo decided to produce an affordable version of their two-seater 4C coupe in 2014. The following year, the brand debuted their brand-new Guilia at the Los Angeles Auto Show, providing potential buyers with even more options that wouldn’t break the bank.
Still, consumers were generally unaware that the brand had returned to the United States (which could partly be attributed to the brand’s lack of advertising). That was until the 2017 Super Bowl, when over 114 million viewers saw a trio of Alfa Romeo commercials. The company showcased their new Guilia sport sedan (with the fashionable Quadrifoglio trim), which is reportedly able to pump out an incredible 505 horsepower. Of course, the vehicle is still rather pricey, as it’s estimated to cost customers more than $70,000.
Either way, this was an important step for the company. After not producing nearly enough 8C Competiziones and not touting the release of the 4C coupe, the brand suddenly decided to invest more than $25 million in Super Bowl advertisements. This was an obvious indication that Alfa Romeo was prepared to make themselves a household name. The brand is reportedly committed to selling more than 150,000 vehicles in a single year, which is quite the lofty goal. However, the brand’s recent commitment to advertising should provide some optimism that they’ll stick around North America for the long haul.
Alfa Romeo has already made some headway over the past couple of years, as they’re selling a number of vehicles that are catered to North American consumers. In particular, the brand is offering three different vehicles: the Guilia sedan, the Stelvio SUV, and the 4C sports car.
Alfa Romeo clearly didn’t make the best choices during their first stay in North America, as their failure to tout their products ultimately led to their demise. However, recent developments should certainly make car fans optimistic. If things continue going as planned, Alfa Romeo may soon be one of the premier luxury car makers in the United States.
Posted in Alfa Romeo