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Friday
Apr292011

Dear FIAT-CHRYSLER - Please sell Alfa Romeo to VW Group NOW!

The past few days, the internets have been swimming with stories I have found deeply disturbing.  First there are the confirmed rumors of an US Market Alfa Romeo SUV based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Then yesterday, the Dodge Viper-based Alfa TZ3 Stradale was announced.  "The Heart of a Viper and Soul of an Alfa" was the tagline in the press release.  Excuse me?  What?  Since when is it ok to drop a body onto another manufacturer's chassis and call it an Alfa? Sure it's not an ugly car, but neither is it an Alfa!

To see this steroid-addled monstrosity next to the original 4-cylinder Tubolare Zagatos is especially humiliating to Alfa Romeo, which has always prided itself on its proprietary engines as well as unique chassis dynamics.  Even the least attractive, lowest end Alfa will drive and sound like magic.  That is the core ethos of the brand. And if this Viper TZ3 is any indicator of the way the wind is blowing, I think we'll soon see the end of Alfa Romeo as a truly special car company with any pride, authenticity, or soul.It doesn't have to be this way.  Alfa has been making some stellar road cars for years now, with excellent looks, quality, and driving dynamics. But Sergio Marchionne and the FIAT management are about to sink Alfa into yet another Italo-American platform-sharing morass not seen since Chrysler's TC by Maserati.  It irks me even further to hear so many long-suffering American Alfisti get so excited about Alfa's return to our shores! Sure that is great in theory, but forcing Alfa to compete in North America's volume-driven marketplace may ultimately undermine everything about the company that made it special to begin with.  Furthermore, there is much hand-wringing among certain Alfa fans about the idea of VW Group buying the brand away from FIAT and complaints that Alfa will "no longer be Italian."  Get your head out of the sand, friends! Alfa's about to become nothing but a phony "made in Italy" fashion label on a cheap shirt, and sale to VW is actually the only way to save it from some very bad decision making at FIAT-Chrysler that could damage the brand irreparably.  If VW Group were to purchase Alfa, chances are that Walter De Silva, who was the design director during the Italian marque's most recent heyday, and currently overseeing all VW Group Design, will be one of the guiding lights managing the company.  Alfa needs to be in the hands of a true believer like De Silva. Not in the hands of a soulless businessman like Marchionne who treats a venerable brand as a commodity.  It's disgusting, and it's time that American Alfisti stop drinking the kool-aid. FIAT needs to sell Alfa to VW Group before it's too late.

Have they failed to learn the lessons of the past?

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    Musings about cars, design, history and culture - Automobiliac - Dear FIAT-CHRYSLER - Please sell Alfa Romeo to VW Group NOW!
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    Musings about cars, design, history and culture - Automobiliac - Dear FIAT-CHRYSLER - Please sell Alfa Romeo to VW Group NOW!

Reader Comments (27)

could not have said it better myself.

i hope there are some VAG execs reading this. make it happen, gentlemen!

April 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermotoringconbrio

I might also bring to mind the Alfa Arna as an example of a car bearing the Alfa badge, but today isn't really thought of as an Alfa at all. Still, platform sharing and Alfa have gone together in the past - consider the success of the 164 in relation to its predecessors, the 90 and the 6.

April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRaphael Orlove

I am of the side that believes De Silva will get his way----and Alfa Romeo will be purchased by Volkswagen. I 100000% agree with you, Bradley----it will be great for the company. I think Alfa Romeo may even return to the fold of building purposeful machines with a certain 'niche' in mind, rather than the generic direction they have been going in for years now. I think those who feel that Fiat is "good" for Alfa are quite frankly delusional----------keeping the company ITALIAN by name doesn't mean nearly as much as keeping the IDEAS, DESIGNS, and ENGINEERING flowing with a proper budget, proper talent, and proper resources. Alfa's headquarters would surely stay in Italy, however their funding will come from Germany. Best of both worlds, IMO. I'm pretty excited about the idea, and I hope it rings true...........then maybe we can also try to save Lancia from the burning hellfires of Fiat!

April 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersyed

This car has been made by Zagato for special collectors. It's not going to be mass produced. Like most coachbuilt cars it had to be based on something. In the same way the new Stratos is based off a Ferrari 430, this car will be based off the Viper ACR. Not my first choice, but also not something to be so distraught about.

And I happen to think it looks amazing.

April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMario Carneiro Neto

Most coachbuilt cars are based on something. True. But they are still badged as what they are. To further disagree with you, the TZ3 Corsa that this car is based on was an Alfa-engined one-off, and looked better to boot. Why didn't they just build a road version based on that car instead of using a Dodge Viper? What constitutes an Alfa then? A grill and a badge?
I don't like that the new Stratos is based on an F430 either, and I don't like that the 8C is based on a Maserati platform. But using a Viper is just a whole other level of wrong. I wonder if they even bothered to change the logos on the cam covers...

April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Price

Also, for the record, the Alfa SUV is a way bigger concern of mine than this limited run car.

April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Price

Agreed on the SUV.

I think the biggest problem is that the manufactured only give these coachbuilders marginal support. They basically say "Yeah, fine, you can shove our brand on your car, if you must". If you ask me, Alfa should be commissioning these guys to build cars from the ground up. But it seems that faith in the coachbuilder has been lost. The car looks gorgeous, to me, I just wish the wheels weren't shiny. I've always been a fan of Zagato, even their quirkiest designs, for their ability to polarize opinion.

I'm not so happy it's put on top of a Viper, but even if Alfa is owned by VW, we're not going to see them suddenly go ultra independent and autonomous. The cross breeding exists everywhere. Remember the R8 (which I hate) is based off a Gallardo (which is a great car, but getting old). There are numerous things that can go wrong. And how much do you want to bet they would ressurect the "Italdesign" name, which they pretty much killed, on a bunch of Alfa's made on a Golf platform? If VW buys Alfa, the biggest probability is that they will kill or sell off Seat and probably neuter Alfa Romeo. Either way, Alfisti lose.

One more thing: I realize you weren't much of a fan of the 4C, but there's a car Alfa has engineered, a car they will develop an engine for, and a car they designed in house. It's a beauty, and it'll probably drive just like an Alfa should. There is reason to believe that FIAT isn't that bad after all.

The auto business is a ruthless one, and the times of absolutely unique mass merchandised cars were gone as soon as mass globalization set in. Money talks. If you ask me, if we get an 8C or a 4C for every impotent Brera or rumored SUV, I'm fine with that.

April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMario Carneiro Neto

Oh, and one more thing: It is much sadder, to me, what FIAT has done with Lancia than what they are doing with Alfa Romeo. I happen to think the new Delta is a wonderfully designed car, especially after seeing it in the flesh Europe in January. Seein that car with a Chrysler badge and Grille, and the inevitable champagne metallic color, with a shitty engine in US shores will just make me want to throw up.

Remember the Fulvia concept of a few years back? How come that gets the can while STUPID cars like the Thesis and Ypsilon remain in production? There's a lot wrong with the auto world. We just need to be happy for the few instances of brilliance these people let us experience... Asking for much more is asking to be disappointed.

Unless you're filthy rich.

April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMario Carneiro Neto

Well put, Mario. You make many valid points. Agreed on Lancia 100% It's just a crime.
The 4C is, in my opinion, rather an ugly car, but I will concede its great to see a fully Alfa-developed sports car platform being released in the States! I just wish it was a better design!

April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Price

I feel like they'll work out the kinks on the 4C, starting with that HORRIBLE matte paint. I don't know who the hell decided matte finishes were cool on anything other than Stealth Bombers, but they are the bane of my existence...

April 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMario Carneiro Neto

Mario, you do realize that the Lamborghini Aventador is development that was done 100% in hose by Lamborhini right? everything from the engine through the design, including chassis, suspension, powertrain, etc. the successor to the Gallardo is also being developed fully independent of Audi. Audi is solely in charge of Lamborghini at the moment, and have showed repeatedly that they are keeping Lamborghini autonomous when it comes to future development. The Gallardo was an anomaly-----and was made to basically save the company and move them into higher profit margins, and it worked. I have no reason to believe that Alfa Romeo will be discouraged to develop their own engines and designs----if anything there would be a solid likelihood that one would start to see Alfa Romeo engines shown up inside of other VW group products rather than Alfas getting Audi engines.

April 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersyed

oh and the 4C....it doesn't really exist yknow....it's just a badly made mockup of a car that has not even begun to be engineered or designe internally. the car is laughable at best.....but I do find it entertaining how they've stated it will enter the US market by 2013....as what? a decorative piece for somebody's garden?

April 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersyed

I think its a lost cause no matter who owns Alfa. The SUV will get built if VW takes over or not. Lets look at what Porsche has done, an SUV and a 4 door. The SUV is based on a VW platform. Rebadging will take place under VW control. We will get VW/AUDI rebadged Alfa's. That not what we got when the Alfetta GTV6 was being made. I knew it was to good to last. Since 1987 Alfa has not been the same other than for a few wonderful limited production cars(Alfa 8C, ES30 Zagato, 156GTA ect.). The 3.2 V6 is a GM Holden affair with Alfa/FIAT heads. All the other motors come from FIAT parts. The Alfa's still have an Italian flavor, but more FIAT than Alfa. If VW takes over the cars will take on a more Germanic flavor. If FIAT keeps them they will also pick up a more German flavor since MERC had a hand in most of the Chrysler designed platforms you hate so much. The only way Alfa could be like the maker we came to like is if they were taken over by the state again and allowed to loose millions yearly, just like the old days. They would have to put car lovers back in charge.

Can't wait to see the Euro touring car races. Rebadged Seat/VW's racing a rebadged Audi/VW's and rebadged Alfa/Audi/VW's along with the real VW's. They can alternate every year wich make will win the series for marketing reasons. This is what the world is coming to.

Tom Tanner/Ferrari Expo 2012-Chicago March 2012

April 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterF1 Tommy

The present non V6 Alfa motors are not all from FIAT parts, I wrote that incorrectly.

Tom Tanner/Ferrari Expo 2012-Chicago March 2012

April 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterF1 Tommy

I find it funny people talking about the treatment of Lamborghini by the VW group when talking about Alfa Romeo. It is a COMPLETELY different story. Lamborghini is a ultra niche market auto maker, that caters to a very specific (even when widening) audience. Audi leaves Lamborghini alone because Lamborghini makes (now profitable) toys for rich people. Alfa Romeo is a MUCH different company than Lamborghini, specifically because of the mass market appeal and potential that it generates under VW leadership. You can be absolutely positively sure that VW would NOT treat Alfa like Lambroghini. Once again, I bring Seat up, and - why not - look at Skoda too. The cars end up being based upon VW platforms with money saving absolutely top of mind. Yes, Alfa will probably develop their own engines and all of that, but it wouldn't be even remotely close to what liberty Lamborghini is allowed under the ownership of Audi. Finally, I ask you, what difference would it make for the new 8C-type Alfa to be based upon an R8/Gallardo rather than a Maserati? None.

Let me repeat this: Lamborghini and Alfa Romeo aren't apples and oranges, they are apples and helicopters. That's how different they are, and that's how differently VW will treat each one.

It's not that "no one wins", it's only that the unrealistically fanatical alfisti out there lose. I love Alfa Romeo as much as the next guy, but unless what Tom said above happens - Alfa being taken over by the dysfunctional Italian government - Alfa's days as an independent auto maker are over, and have been for quite a while. At least under FIAT they still have some degree of autonomy. More so, I believe, than under VW. and by the way, the point made of Alfa engines appearing in Audi's/VW's? Why are we so quick to dismiss the notion that Alfa designed chassis and engines won't be the basis of Chryslers, when that is a MUCH more likely outcome?

April 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMario Carneiro Neto

Your assessment of how VW would run Alfa is wrong. it's funny how people assume so much about how VW works, but actually know very little about how they distribute the other companies. Seat and Skoda? Please. Those two companies were acquired simply to be low price carriers of VAG products.....comparing that situation to Alfa just shows a lack of understanding. Obviously you did not understand my point about Lamborghini-----my point is that Audi understands the tradition and character behind Lambo and maintains it. Aside from De Silve, VW and Audi have plenty of ex- Alfa execs working within them at the moment----including a former Head of Alfa Romeo.....unlike any other company around at the moment, including Fiat-----I think they understand what Alfa is supposed to be. The R8 is a wonderful car and would have made a MUCH better 8C than the Maserati based one could ever be........Alfa making chassis and engines for Chrysler? Sorry but the chances of that happening are equal to the chances of Lancia producing a new Fulvia. Fiat suck....and if you think Alfa has hope under them----you aren't seeing the truth.

May 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSyed

You all make very good points about this car, but I can't help agreeing with Mario Carnero Neto, your fourth commenter. It's a great looking car and probably could not have been made to customer spec in such a small quantity any other way. Perhaps it will bring new attention to the brand and help to keep it alive. The auto industry is what it is today; be thankful for small favors. Would you prefer that the new Lancia Stratos and this "Alfa" not have been built at all?

May 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelmut Fenders

yes i would prefer they not be built. things should stay authentic, and marques should have integrity. I suppose if people do not care about integrity, they will succumb to this cheap act of rebadging and rebodying----but unless Zagato is rebodying an Alfa to do this---it is contrary to the features of the marque.

May 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersyed

Syed, Have you heard the expression, "The perfect is often the enemy of the good" ?

May 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelmut Fenders

Yes Helmut, but the mediocre is the enemy of the sacred.

May 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Price

I should point out that I know VW would also employ platform sharing. It's just that there are good and bad platform sharing! Using a Maserati to make the 8C or using the Ferrari F430 to make the Stratos is good. Using a Jeep Grand Cherokee to make an Alfa SUV is BAD, just like when GM used their SUV platform to make the SAAB SUV that no one wanted. I think VW would smartly apply platform sharing for chassis but keep the Alfa magic in the engine department. And like Syed said, it might even be the case that Alfa's platform might be exported to other VW brands rather than vice versa. As a realist I know that platform sharing is an integral part of the modern automaking. But if done incorrectly, it can torpedo a brand's authenticity and exclusivity. And putting clothing on a Dodge Viper and calling it an Alfa -no matter how fine the clothing is- is just a bad idea.

May 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBradley Price

Your views have been noted;
I'm clearly out-voted.

May 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelmut Fenders

Fiats, Alfas, Lancias, Lamborghinis, Maserati,s and Ferraris all need their own unique characteristics to survive in the marketplace. This requires vision and engineering for each brand. Platforms can be shared but the resulting models need to be properly differentiated in every respect (not just badging or a few body panels). Fiat and VW have similar strategies for resolving this problem (product differentiation). Clearly both companies are struggling with this aspect of the business. VW has done a good job with VW and Audi, an OK job with Lamborghini (the cars are not too bad but the sales results are poor) probably a poor job with Seat and Skoda ( I am in the US, so I have very little exposure to these brands). In the case of Fiat...well Lancia is simply dead and Alfa is not far behind. Maserati is suffering from lack of new product and Ferrari is independent and unique and thriving. I guess the exception proves the point! Customers are smarter than manufacturers give them credit. Witness GM! BMW has done an excellent Job with Mini and Rolls-Royce. There is an example of excellence...I personally don't care much for any of their products anymore....but out you cannot deny the commercial success of Mini or the current (milk-toast, if you ask me!) BMW line up. VW has far more resources than Fiat to resolve the product differentiation problem. I love Italian cars but we need vision not convenient platform/body/engine sharing Mr Marchionne! Perhaps Fiat should consider selling off a few brands so that they can focus on a core vision.

May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Alexander

Well Put, David!

May 4, 2011 | Registered CommenterBradley Price

It's a strategy problem for Fiat. I explain. Fiat doesn't have enought cash to develop two medium brands Afla and Lancia. The latter is quite popular in Italy, that's why fiat cannot close a brand that sells poorly outside Italy. Selling Alfa to VW would be dangerous for Fiat because WV has not only the cash but also a key designer and Alfa would be then a strong competitor to Alfa even if the money made through the selling is reinvested.
So in term of strategy, Fiat can't raise enough cash to develop both brands but it can't also give a competitor a weapon that would turn against him.on european markets.

May 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIsque

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