FRANKFURT -- Alfa Romeo will price its Giulia Quadrifoglio slightly higher than its nearest rival as it seeks to challenge Germany's premium brands with Ferrari-inspired performance.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio will start at 72,000 euros in Germany, a touch higher than the BMW M3 sedan, which starts at 71,800 euros. The Alfa's price rises to around 90,000 euros equipped with features such as carbon ceramic disk brakes and ultralight carbon fiber seats.
More than 5,000 people have already expressed an interest to buy a Giulia since the model was first unveiled in June, Alfa CEO Harald Wester said on the sidelines of the Frankfurt auto show on Tuesday.
Alfa is exhibiting the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the sedan's high-performance, range-topping version, in Frankfurt.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio sits on Alfa’s new rear-wheel-/all-wheel-drive Giorgio platform and has a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter turbocharged gasoline V-6 engine that makes 503hp.
The car is the fastest in its segment, according to Alfa. It reaches a top speed of 307kph (191mph) and sprints from 0–100kph (62mph) in 3.9 seconds. The M5 has a top speed of 250kph and accelerates from 0-100kph in 4.3 seconds.
Alfa expects to start selling the Giulia Quadrifoglio in Europe by the end of this year, with other versions to follow after they debut at the Geneva auto show in March.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio will reach the United States, a key market for the brand alongside Europe, during the second quarter of 2016, while all versions will arrive in Asia and North America during the second half of the same year.
Wester reiterated the company's ambitious goal to raise Alfa sales to 400,000 vehicles by 2018 from 68,000 last year. "We are in an underdog position; that's fine," Wester said at the Frankfurt show.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is counting on the Giulia to spark a big comeback Alfa. He says the sedan is “better than a German car.”
Industry watchers are skeptical about Alfa's comeback.
Industry researcher IHS Automotive forecasts that Giulia sales will peak at about 49,000 cars in 2018. IHS also forecasts that Alfa will miss its 400,000 sales goal, selling only 229,000 vehicles in 2018.
Christoph Stuermer, a Frankfurt-based analyst at PwC Autofacts, said the Giulia has "basically nothing the German premium carmakers can't offer."
Premium-car makers that sell to high-volume business fleet buyers as well as individual consumers need excellent retailers and services, along with highly flexible leasing and financing options, not just branding, Stuermer said. "Otherwise the cars end up being niche luxury cars."
Stuart Pearson, an analyst with Exane BNP Paribas, said the Giulia will probably succeed in temporarily getting some customers away from the German brands as it's something different."
The real test will come "when that effect has faded and when the quality and the technology from other cars will move on very quickly," he said.
"I think the Alfa will struggle a little," said Fabian Schmidt, sales and marketing manager at AK Autoport Cologne, which sells Alfa cars. "Alfa's design is fantastic, but people who buy an Alfa know they'll have to deal with some technical weaknesses compared to German carmakers."
Alfa's revival doesn't rely solely on the Giulia. It has promised seven additional new models by 2018. For now there are concrete delivery plans for just one -- an SUV to be introduced next year.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report