Fiat's struggling sporty brand is set to launch production of the 4C at the end of next year priced at about 45,000 euros (about $62,000) in Europe.
Alfa enthusiasts have dreamed for almost two decades of the return of an affordable rear-drive model after the Duetto Spider was discontinued in 1994.
Alfa's 8C Competizione, which was built from 2007-2008, was too expensive for most Alfa buyers. The spider version of the 8C cost up to 213,000 euros and the car's production run was limited to 1,000 units.
Alfa is set to begin production of the 4C by the end of 2012 in one of Fiat's factories in Italy, possibly at its Mirafiori plant in Turin.
The automaker plans to build 15,000 to 20,000 units of the 4C coupe over five years, two people familiar to the matter told ANE. Another 5,000 to 10,000 units of a roadster version of the 4C will be built for Abarth, the sources said.
Abarth is Fiat's sporty subbrand that markets high-performance versions of the Fiat 500 minicar and Punto Evo subcompact. The Fiat sources said that the 4C could be sold in the United States, but no decision has been made yet.
The 4C will go on sale at a crucial time for Alfa, as in the final quarter of 2012 the company also plans to introduce the Giulia mid-sized sedan to replace the slow-selling 159 and the brand's first ever SUV, a sister model to the Jeep Compass/Patriot replacement.
The 4C should attract customers to Alfa showrooms to discover – and hopefully buy – the Giulia and the SUV, two key models in Fiat S.p.A. CEO Sergio Marchionne's plan to lift Alfa sales to 500,000 units by 2014. Alfa's global sales last year increased a modest 10.2 percent to 112,000 units despite the introduction of the Giulietta compact hatchback.
Thanks to an innovative construction method, which combines carbon fiber and aluminum, the 4C will be very lightweight. Alfa is targeting an 850kg (1,784 pound) curb weight for the car.
At that weight, the 4C would have an impressive power-to-weight ratio below 3.5kg/hp despite being powered by the 1.8-liter, four-cylinder gasoline direct-injection engine offered in the Giulietta with the horsepower boosted to more than 250 hp from 235 hp.
As a comparison, the rear-engine, rear-drive Porsche Cayman coupe offers a 3.98kg/hp weight-to-power ratio even for the S performance model, where 320 hp has to move 1,275kg.
Alfa Romeo teamed up with Italy's Dallara Automobili, which is one of the world's largest producer of racecars to create the 4C.
The car's structure is inspired to the X-Bow, an extreme two-seat roadster launched in 2007 and engineered by Dallara for Austrian motorcycle maker KTM.
Dallara developed a new carbon fiber cockpit for the 4C, radically different from the unit with now doors and very high rockers made for the X-Bow.
The 4C's carbon fiber cockpit features front and rear aluminum sub-frames to house the engine and carry the suspensions, as well as dedicated portions designed to absorb deformation in crash tests. GTA is Alfa's acronym for Gran Turismo Alleggerita – Lightened Grand Touring in Italian – and was last used for the 147 GTA compact hatchback.