The Alfa Giulia, the long-delayed replacement for the 159 (above), may not be sold in Australia when it’s eventually released.
The Italian brand’s rival for the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class had been due to go on sale in 2014 but has been pushed back by the boss of parent company Fiat for various reasons.
Sergio Marchionne knows the mid-sized Alfa Giulia is crucial to the brand’s intentions to revive the brand’s status as a genuine alternative to German luxury brands.
The Fiat boss apparently requested a redesign of the mid-size sedan which has yet to have a confirmed name, while strong industry speculation suggests a whole range of Alfas including the Giulia and Giulietta and Mito hatchbacks could switch to a new rear-wheel-drive platform being developed by Fiat Chrysler engineers.
The platform would also underpin the likes of the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and Challenger muscle cars, though Automotive News reports it has yet to be approved.
FiatChrysler Australia, however, isn’t officially acknowledging the new Alfa mid-sizer at this stage but says it has doubts about bringing such a model to this market.
“We don’t have Giulia in our plans,” FiatChrysler Australia boss Veronica Johns told CarAdvice at the launch of the new Fiat Panda.
“Mid size is a really difficult segment… There’s fleet in that segment, and large cars are tough enough. Mid size isn’t on any easier with all the players in there. So it’s something that’s not a real opportunity.
“Every year we’ll relook at things.. where the market’s at, where the product line up is. If everything’s perfect, if you can make every simple thing work, then you could sell, but if you can’t make some things work and potentially it’s going to be a slower [seller], are you better to concentrate on the things that you do well.”
The 159, and its predecessor the 156 (below), sold respectably in Australia, with the 159 Alfa’s best-selling model locally in 2007.
Alfa Romeo sales have struggled in recent years, however, with a dearth of product. Global sales of 132,000 in 2011 slipped to about 100,000 in 2012.
The struggles had prompted Volkswagen to express public interest in the brand – strongly rebuffed by Marchionne, who believes Alfa can realistically target 300,000 annual sales.
Locally, Alfa Romeo sales are on course in 2013 to surpass 2000 units for the first time since 2003.
It’s driven by just two models, though - the MiTo and Giulietta hatchbacks that have been given sharp pricing since FiatChrysler Australia grabbed the Alfa and Fiat brands off independent importer Ateco in May 2012.
The brand is set for an image lift from the new Alfa Romeo 4C compact sports car due in early 2014, though beyond that the only confirmed Alfa model is the Spider due in 2015 and that will be a restyled, re-engined version of the next-generation Mazda MX-5.
Plans for Alfa-badged SUVs had also been in the pipeline but are also indefinitely delayed, while there have been rumours of an Alfa Romeo 6C coupe based off the platform of the Maserati Ghibli.