RE: Make Alfa Romeo Great Again: PH Footnote

RE: Make Alfa Romeo Great Again: PH Footnote

Thursday 21st February

Make Alfa Romeo Great Again: PH Footnote

The Giulia and Stelvio are a success, but as Alfa's investment in F1 shows, there's much more to come...



Since the turn of the millennium, motorsport had slipped so far down the priority list at Alfa Romeo that by 2018 it had become near enough a non-entity in competition circles. Prior to this month, the Italian firm lacked an entry into any major motorsport series, leaving it to privateers and historic competitors to fly its flag on circuit. This was quite the contrast to previous eras, of course, when the Alfa Romeo factory was intrinsically aligned with racing all the way up to F1. It was in an Alfa Romeo that Juan Manuel Fangio won the first Formula 1 World Championship in 1950. And who can forget Alfa's iconic 155 touring cars?

But now, after a decade or so of lacklustre models offering little more than pretty designs, the brand's turnaround is in full motion. Catalysed by the launch of the Giulia and Stelvio - and the success of their Quadrifoglio derivations - Alfa is re-entering motorsport's main stage with Sauber, its F1 technical partner for 2019. In what is essentially an upgrade of the pairing's 2018 relationship, the renamed Alfa Romeo Racing will see the Italian car maker provide its Swiss partner with cash and business support, while Sauber will operate the F1 programme and - as revealed by PH - get stuck in with some road car projects. The new deal also suggests that Alfa parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is returning the marque to its roots with a "revival" (FCA's word, not ours). The path from here will attempt to mimic times when Alfa was truly great and, naturally, F1 is intended to be the jewel in the crown of that project.


This all comes just in the nick of time. Look at Alfa's UK site and you'll spot plenty of promotion for the Giulia and Stelvio, but the rest of the line-up is, to put it kindly, lacking. Even its halo sports car, the 4C, as pretty as it is, is soon to be culled following years of sluggish sales, while the ancient Mito hatch is finally dead and there won't be a replacement for the larger Giulietta. Before Alfa's future models begin to arrive in 2022, starting with the officially confirmed two-door GTV and a 700hp 8C successor, the only signals that it's a proper enthusiast company again are, well, a couple of Quadrifoglios and an F1 team that bears its name.

That's not exactly a bad starting point, though, is it? And before the season's kicked-off the F1 programme might already be having a positive impact, at least internally. FCA Europe design boss, Klaus Busse, told PH during Alfa's first day of pre-season testing that he thinks F1 is inspiring with its "emotion and passion." He said: "Alfa Romeo is about driving - I would love to say the most important thing about Alfa Romeo is how it looks, but in reality I would say it's how it drives that ranks first. The guys we have in the studio are all F1 fanatics and love motorsport, so that's where we're getting our creative battery and emotions for the future cars."


Inevitably, the doubters will label the F1 entry as a marketing campaign that might inspire some Sauber special editions with a few bits of carbon and badges. And yes, it's a possibility. But that's certainly not how the Sauber team views it. Far from a Ferrari junior team (the Maranello squad supplies the squad's powertrains and has very clearly had an influence on aero pieces on the C38 racer), Sauber sees this as its first opportunity since the BMW days to have a proper crack in F1. Plus, don't for one second think Kimi Raikkonen has moved back to the team that first gave him his F1 break in order to coast around at the back. There's a long-term strategy in place and, if the confidence within the Hinwil-based team is anything to go by, it includes pushing the Alfa brand towards the front of the grid.

"We are ambitious and Alfa Romeo is ambitious, so it is important for us to be competitive," is how team principle Frédéric Vasseur responded to our question of whether Sauber was targeting race wins. "This is a new responsibility for us, we are not just racing for the company but also a car manufacturer. It's a huge responsibility. We have a long-term strategy to keep pushing, which we will apply step-by-step."


The buzz around Sauber's returning former protégé at testing suggests there'll be plenty to back Alfa and Sauber's racing ambitions. In fact, the spotlight was cast on Alfa for much of the first day of testing, not just because it had just revealed the car's livery but also because there was genuine pace demonstrated on track - more than 100 laps on the first day of testing also being a pretty good way to kick things off. Turn that into good race performances and it's not too hard to imagine more people being tempted into Alfa dealerships with cars painted in the same shade as Kimi's.

Even if that doesn't happen immediately, millions of eyes will at least be glancing the Alfa badge in the months and years leading up to its upcoming model blitz. Following the GTV and 8C, there'll be two more SUVs seated on either side of the Stelvio to pad out the range. Could we soon be writing about Alfa's sales resurgence, or its special Sauber-fettled models taking the fight to more established rivals, at the same time as it gives the top teams a headache in F1? The potential is there, so let's hope Alfa can deliver. As enthusiasts we should all be rooting for it.


Author
Discussion

RuntyMuz

Original Poster:

16 posts

100 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
Love it!

Italian passion at it's simultaneous best and worst

Some would suggest all the F1 money would be better spent on actual product development, so we the customer could have something awesome in 2019 not 2021 (allowing for delays) but... Who cares, look at Kimi Go!

My Giulia QV is genuinely, astoundingly brilliant, right up to the point when electronics need a 'reset' and we are in love for another 6 months.

RedXYC

13 posts

98 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
Wishful thinking - Alfa like Haas will be nothing more than a Ferrari B team. Pretty hard to get excited by it.

generationx

2,107 posts

44 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
I didn't know that AR had confirmed a coupe Giulia? That's maybe the only thing that could tempt me out of my utterly brilliant Quadrifoglio. I heard a whisper there would be a kind of QV "Evo" with hybrid assistance, 4WD and 600bhp - anyone else hear this?

Rest assured I will be cheering for Kimi all season - at the same time the most, and least, charismatic driver on the current grid!

Maldini35

1,949 posts

127 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
RedXYC said:
Wishful thinking - Alfa like Haas will be nothing more than a Ferrari B team. Pretty hard to get excited by it.
Sad to say I agree.

Bit like Aston sticking a logo on the Redbull then claiming success for the race wins all over their social media.

Alex Langheck

816 posts

68 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
In an ideal world there would Ferrari in F1, Alfa in Sportscars/ Touring cars and Fiat-Abarth in rallying all as proper factory teams and not a 'badge engineering' project.
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Macboy

394 posts

144 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
They can have a world beating product and a winning F1 team but it will be a pointless investment unless they can sort out the woeful dealer network here and I suspect elsewhere around the world. My local dealer are timewarped - it's like a trip back to a Leyland showroom in the 80's. Now, many may decry the product quality of the "invincible" Germans but my experience of buying, servicing and having problems resolved on BMWs, VWs, Audis and MINIs has been, for the most part, excellent. My experience visiting showroom to look at Alfas in the past month has been appalling.

big_rob_sydney

2,236 posts

133 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
I do wonder how much FCA gets back from the F1 program, when they already have Ferrari and Haas. Sure, having a few more engineers exposed to it might be good for upskilling, but arent these engineers essentially still Sauber people?

It seems to me like this is just a branding exercise. Slap AR on a Sauber and hey presto? Call me cynical.

DaveTheRave87

1,211 posts

28 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
Article said:
It was in an Alfa Romeo that Juan Manuel Fangio won the first Formula 1 World Championship in 1950
Giuseppe Farina won it in a Alfa.

I'll award you half points.

Alfahol Addict

1,202 posts

104 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
Alex Langheck said:
In an ideal world there would Ferrari in F1, Alfa in Sportscars/ Touring cars and Fiat-Abarth in rallying all as proper factory teams and not a 'badge engineering' project.
Abarth :-)


Alfa :-)

adamcot

74 posts

97 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
Maldini35 said:
Sad to say I agree.

Bit like Aston sticking a logo on the Redbull then claiming success for the race wins all over their social media.
I think you'd be surprised how much involvement Aston Martin have at Red Bull, and vice versa.

If Alfa plan a similar tie up with Sauber, it can only be a good thing.

Re. the comments on badge engineering. Isn't F1 just that anyway? Mercedes and Renault develop cars in the UK, separated from their parent companies. The only link Mercedes has to the factory in Brackley is finance and board level management. No more than that. I don't see why that's different to how the Alfa Romeo team is today?

Greg the Fish

321 posts

5 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
DaveTheRave87 said:
Giuseppe Farina won it in a Alfa.

I'll award you half points.
Fangio won it the following year in an Alfa

Ares

8,000 posts

59 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
Macboy said:
They can have a world beating product and a winning F1 team but it will be a pointless investment unless they can sort out the woeful dealer network here and I suspect elsewhere around the world. My local dealer are timewarped - it's like a trip back to a Leyland showroom in the 80's. Now, many may decry the product quality of the "invincible" Germans but my experience of buying, servicing and having problems resolved on BMWs, VWs, Audis and MINIs has been, for the most part, excellent. My experience visiting showroom to look at Alfas in the past month has been appalling.
That is very very true......I know from first hand, however it is a UK only phenomenon. Europe and the US are significantly better, and significantly bigger markets for Alfa.

One look at the whinging on here already consigning it as a useless exercise, no more than badge engineering ya-da-ya-da-ya-da, and it's easy to see why Alfa don't give the UK preferential treatment - every other market is optimistic and excited by the brand's resurgence, the Brits just pray for it's downfall and abject failure.

nmd87

383 posts

129 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
I am an Alfa fan but they do seem to be struggling. Anecdotally, there are not many Giulas on the road at all, and the Stelvio hasn't really taken off either. That may be because there is no longer an Alfa dealer here. The Giulietta is ready for replacement and the Mito is going to be discontinued.

They will always be a niche brand as long as they have so few dealers, poor dealers where they do exist, and a limited product range. What's the point in promoting the brand through F1 if there's not many products for people to actually go out and buy?

It's a shame.

Ares

8,000 posts

59 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
nmd87 said:
I am an Alfa fan but they do seem to be struggling. Anecdotally, there are not many Giulas on the road at all, and the Stelvio hasn't really taken off either. That may be because there is no longer an Alfa dealer here. The Giulietta is ready for replacement and the Mito is going to be discontinued.

They will always be a niche brand as long as they have so few dealers, poor dealers where they do exist, and a limited product range. What's the point in promoting the brand through F1 if there's not many products for people to actually go out and buy?

It's a shame.
Because, as above, the UK is but a tiny factor in their strategy (and the reach of F1)

Haltamer

751 posts

19 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
I'd concur with what I've seen above. The Giulia is a good offering; No comment on the Stelvio (Alfa SUV, Hiss irked) - Other than that, the rest of their line up is rather tired. The Mito has been doing the rounds in it's current guise since 2016 - Looking at wikipedia, it seems production has stopped now - Perhaps for the best!

The Giulietta, too is getting on - Only available with a 120HP 1.4, none of the engine options exactly scream alfa. With the success of hot hatches being continued, especially Fiesta / Abarth size, It seems like the Mito would be ripe for replacement.

The Green Triangle

86 posts

25 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
Have to agree. Why they don't use the funds to develop their road cars I don't understand. F1 was too expensive for jaguar and bmw., So I can't see how Alfa will be able to afford it. Shame, but unless they can win races it's seems futile to me.

Here's hoping they can...

Ares

8,000 posts

59 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
The Green Triangle said:
Have to agree. Why they don't use the funds to develop their road cars I don't understand. F1 was too expensive for jaguar and bmw., So I can't see how Alfa will be able to afford it. Shame, but unless they can win races it's seems futile to me.

Here's hoping they can...
Because FCA.

Investment in the last few years has been huge. Mito is gone, Giulietta won't be replaced, brand shifting upwards, sporting brand of the group, F1 makes sense.

Robert-nszl1

344 posts

27 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
I think I'm just going to bury my cynicism and hope a fabulous historic motor racing name doesn't end up completely buried in the back markers. Where does this leave Maserati I wonder?

Robert-nszl1

344 posts

27 months

Thursday 21st February
quotequote all
Regarding dealers in the UK, Fiat should build a glass multifloor showroom alongside all the others on the M4 with a little tower full of multi coloured 500s, and a floor for top end Alfas and Maseratis. As a Londoner, they have dire showroom behind Selfridges...and er, that's about it. Oh no, you can go to Croydon. The UK is a huge market for performance cars, and Alfa is clearly looking to compete in this space. Alongside F1 brand building (and let's also not forget how big F1 is in the UK) they need people to have faith in the people they buy the cars from.

Ares

8,000 posts

59 months

Friday 22nd February
quotequote all
Robert-nszl1 said:
Regarding dealers in the UK, Fiat should build a glass multifloor showroom alongside all the others on the M4 with a little tower full of multi coloured 500s, and a floor for top end Alfas and Maseratis. As a Londoner, they have dire showroom behind Selfridges...and er, that's about it. Oh no, you can go to Croydon. The UK is a huge market for performance cars, and Alfa is clearly looking to compete in this space. Alongside F1 brand building (and let's also not forget how big F1 is in the UK) they need people to have faith in the people they buy the cars from.
This is all part of the branding - the dealer network is woeful, but it takes time to rejuvenate, and whether we chose to accept it or not, the UK is a tiny part of the market for FCA. Chicken/Egg.

No way will they build a multifloor glass palace with only 2 models to push, doing it along with Maserati may be a solution, but it would be unprecedented. Give it a couple of years, a couple more spicy models and some traction in F1, then they'll have global momentum and as long as too many brits don't write them off from a position of utter ignorance, maybe the UK will get a part of that.