Editor's note: A previous version of this story had incorrect dimensions for Alfa Romeo's planned SUV.
Skeptics think Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's aim to triple Alfa Romeo's global sales to more than 300,000 units by 2016 is too ambitious. But Alfa's European boss, Louis-Carl Vignon, is convinced Alfa has enough fresh products to meet -- and possibly exceed -- Marchionne's target.
Currently, Alfa gets most of its volume from two aging models, the MiTo subcompact and the Giulietta compact, in a slumping European market. With fresh product and by expanding into new markets including the United States, the brand can dramatically improve sales, Vignon believes. "With our current segment coverage and our geographical footprint, we compete in about 5 percent of the global market," he said. By 2016 Vignon wants Alfa to compete in 32 percent of the global market.
Last year, Europe accounted for about 90 percent of Alfa's 101,000 global sales. To reduce its reliance on on the region, Alfa this year will return to the U.S. market it quit in 1995. "Alfa's brand awareness in the U.S. is still at a relevant level despite an absence of nearly 20 years," Vignon said.
Alfa says Europe and the United States will be its two largest markets by 2016 with Europe, Africa, Russia and the Middle East accounting for about 180,000 of its planned 300,000 sales.
The 4C small sports car will lead Alfa's U.S. comeback. At the Geneva auto show, Alfa showed a so-called Opening Edition of the 4C coupe equipped with carbon fiber inserts in the headlamps and in the rear spoiler. Alfa will make 1,000 units of the variant and sell them at prices starting at 60,000 euros in Europe.
In June, Alfa will open the order books for the standard 4C, which will start at about 55,000 euros. Alfa plans to build about 700 4Cs this year, with deliveries in continental Europe due to start in September. Right-hand-drive variants will arrive at dealers in October. The automaker did not reveal the car's starting price for the United States, where the 4C will debut after the Los Angeles auto show in November.
By the end of 2014, a 4C targa with a small removable carbon fiber roof will join the 4C range. Alfa plans to make 26,000 units of the 4C coupe and targa during its seven-year life cycle.
The 4C is a low volume image-booster so the brand's hopes of tripling sales hinge on the mid-sized Giulia sedan and wagon and a large-premium sedan based on the Maserati Ghibli's underpinnings. This rear-drive Alfa flagship will compete with the Audi A6 and BMW 5 series. Alfa plans annual sales of 30,000 units for the sedan, which will start at about 55,000 euros. Sales begin in 2015 in Europe, China and the United States.
That same year Alfa will launch the Giulia, which it expects to account for a third of its total volume. "A mid-sized sedan is fundamental in North America, where this type of vehicle covers 20 percent of total sales and is also crucial in Asia-Pacific, where represents almost 9 percent of demand," Vignon said.