SUVs the focus for new Alfa boss

Five new models in fi ve-year plan

GLENN BUTLER

ALFA Romeo has replaced its CEO as it gears up for a product explosion set to include a pair of SUVs, a large luxury sedan, a highperformance coupe and a rear-drive small hatch, all by 2020.

The Italian marque’s newly appointed chief comes directly from the region Fiat-Chrysler hopes will be Alfa Romeo’s most lucrative – America.

Reid Bigland, former head of FCA’s US sales division and its Canadian division, takes over from Harald Wester, who will stay on as chief technical officer.

The timing isn’t great for the struggling carmaker, which launched its long-awaited Giulia in Europe last month.

Alfa Romeo is a key part of FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne’s strategy to double the group’s profits by 2018.

This plan was delayed further in January when FCA postponed Alfa’s range revamp schedule by two years, and reduced an investment commitment made in 2014.

The Giulia, Alfa Romeo’s rival for the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, is the first fruit of a ¤5 billion ($A7.7bn) investment.

The Giulia also debuts a flexible architecture, codenamed Giorgio, expected to underpin all new Alfa Romeos, including two new SUVs integral to Alfa Romeo’s North American relaunch plans.

The chief technical officer for Alfa Romeo and Maserati, Roberto Fedeli, says Alfa will think big with a mid-sizer called Stelvio (illustrated below), later adding a larger model to compete with the Mercedes GLE, BMW X5 and Audi Q7.

“If you want to be this kind of premium brand, you need to build D-segment cars and E-segment cars with the SUV, because [with] SUV potentially can have very big numbers,” Fedeli told Wheels.

Fedeli said the platform had been package-protected for hybrid and electric applications.

“We know where the batteries can be installed, we know where the electric motors can be installed,” he said, “but there are currently no hybrid plans”.

PUSH OR PULL?

Alfa Romeo is considering bucking the small-luxury trend to front-drive architectures for the next Giulietta due in 2021.

Alfa technical boss Roberto Fedeli admitted there are “some discussions” about utilising a rear-drive set-up, something that would compromise interior space and fuel consumption.

“In the German area there is nobody that is going on with rear-wheel drive with these kind of cars. The [Giulia] platform can do it, but we have to decide.”