LUCA CIFERRI

Alfa calls new architecture Giorgio

Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.
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Alfa Romeo's new rear-wheel- and all-wheel-drive architecture will be code-named Giorgio, people working on the project told me. It's one of the few details revealed so far about the struggling brand's fourth revival plan since 2004.

The full strategy for the carmaker is scheduled to be made public when parent Fiat-Chrysler releases its first-quarter results in May.

It's unclear why the name Giorgio was chosen because at first glance it has no special connection to Alfa's rich history.

An effective Alfa relaunch is a crucial element in Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne's broader strategy to return Fiat's automotive division to profitability in Europe by 2016.

Alfa is one reason for Fiat's financial troubles in Europe. The chronic money loser's 2013 European sales declined an industry-worst 28 percent to 64,415 vehicles, a level Alfa has not seen since 1964.

Alfa's architecture is being developed by a small team of engineers based at sister brand Maserati's headquarters in Modena, Italy. The team is headed by Philippe Krief, who reports to Harald Wester, Fiat-Chrysler chief technical officer and CEO of Alfa and Maserati.

Alfa needs this new architecture so that it can better compete against German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz, both of which already offer the rwd and awd cars favored by many driving enthusiasts.

Alfa, however, will be unable to generate sufficient volume in its own right to achieve any worthwhile economies of scale. That means Krief's architecture must be flexible enough to be used by Chrysler and Dodge brands as well.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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