Alfa Romeo will cease production of its front-wheel drive-hatchbacks and shift to rear-wheel-drive models in early 2015, according to an overseas report.
Car magazine claims the front-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo Mito and Giulietta hatches – currently the brand's only models – will be dropped in favour of more dynamically preferential rear-wheel-drive models. The upcoming Alfa Romeo 4C sports car and next-generation MX-5-based Spider, due in 2014 and 2015 respectively, are not believed to be included under the transition as both were already intended as rear-wheel-drive models.
The plan, which will please fans of the Italian brand’s rear-wheel-drive heritage, is reportedly part of a strategy of Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne who is keen to see a closer collaboration between the Alfa Romeo and Maserati marques.
The report suggests Alfa Romeo will launch a RWD Guilia in 2015 as a rival for the BMW 3 Series, with a challenger for the 5 Series, dubbed the Alfetta, to follow in 2016. Two SUVs are also planned, with one likely to be based on the Maserati Levante. The first, expected in 2017, will battle the compact BMW X1, with the second to face the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 in 2018.
The plans may still hinge on recent comments by Marchionne, who earlier this month threatened to move production of new Alfa Romeo models out of Italy as the Turin-based company struggles with local labour laws and under-utilised factories.
The UK publication says while the shift from FWD to RWD appears profound, the company’s head has long expressed the importance of having rear-wheel-drive dynamics to take on German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
An unnamed source backed this view, revealing to the publication, “Sure, design is important, Italian flair is important, top-notch quality is important. But it is impossible to challenge Audi, BMW and Mercedes if you cannot match the Germans in terms of vehicle dynamics and driving pleasure.”
Maserati technology, including the brand’s new V6 engines, will be on the table for Alfa along with ZF’s eight-speed automatic transmission, though the plan means the long-delayed Giulia will be pushed back further from its already-revised launch date of 2014.
Car reports the new RWD strategy is part of Marchionne’s goal to triple Alfa’s sales to 300,000 units over the coming years.
The last rear-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo production model was the 8C Spider that debuted at the 2008 Geneva motor show and was limited to 500 units.