At 2,757 meters (9,000 feet) above sea level, the Stelvio pass is the highest paved road in the Italian Alps. To reach the summit a driver has to make 48 hairpin turns. Alfa Romeo, which chose the name Stelvio for its first SUV, has taken nearly as many twists in its seemingly never-ending journey in search of success.
For the struggling Fiat Chrysler Automobiles subsidiary to reach its ambitious sales target and turn its first profit in almost two decades in 2018, it will need the Stelvio to be a star performer.
Alfa troubles are well-documented. It is in the midst of its fourth revival bid since FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne joined the company in June 2004. The 5 billion euro turnaround plan presented in 2014 targeted 400,000 units in 2018 and predicted Alfa's volume would rise to 500,000 soon thereafter without providing a time frame. That plan was revised in January 2016, at which time Marchionne said the sales goal would be pushed to 2020. Even with a two-year delay, reaching a volume of 400,000 vehicles is considered ambitious for a brand that sold just 73,000 units worldwide last year.
Marchionne said the delay was because of "uncertainties in China" and the "need to guarantee proper global distribution network execution." Product investment at Alfa would be “reduced through 2018" and the brand's planned eight-car product lineup "will be completed by mid-2020," the CEO added. Massimo Vecchio, a Milan-based analyst at Mediobanca, estimates that FCA has so far invested about half of the 5 billion euros earmarked for Alfa. So far, just two of the eight models have been launched: the Stelvio and its platform sibling, the Giulia midsize sedan, which has not kept pace with expectations.