Fiat SpA’s Alfa Romeo division took a step closer to its return to the U.S. after registering the brand of its 4C compact sports car, the unit’s first model targeted for sale in the country in almost 20 years.
The 4C is part of a revamp of Alfa Romeo that will include the new Giulia sedan, which will be based on the Dodge Dart platform of Fiat-controlled Chrysler Group LLC for a lineup developed and made in the U.S. starting in 2014, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The production version of the two-seat 4C may be displayed at the 2013 Geneva car show, said the person, who declined to be named as the plan is private.
Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne plans to remake Alfa into a luxury brand to compete with industry leader Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. Developing a full range of models for Alfa and focusing on North America’s car-market growth are crucial to his strategy of boosting combined revenue at Turin, Italy-based Fiat and Chrysler to more than 100 billion euros ($131 billion) by 2014.
“The return of Alfa in the U.S. is critical for the group as a global player needs to have an upscale brand in a major market as North America,” Jeff Schuster, LMC’s senior vice president of forecasting in Troy, Michigan, said in a phone interview. “This is a real sign Alfa will come back to U.S.”
Marchionne, 59, said April 4 that that the 4C will go on sale in North America by the end of 2013. The Alfa Romeo 4C trademark, covering accessories such as clothing and toys as well as the vehicle and parts, was issued by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on April 10, according to a release posted late yesterday on the U.S. Federal News Service.
The 4C, which will be built starting in May 2013 at a plant run by Fiat’s Maserati division in Modena, Italy, will begin deliveries in Europe in the second half of next year, the person said. Fiat, which plans to make 2,500 4Cs a year, showed a concept version of the car last year at the Geneva show.
Fiat’s growth strategy is centered on Alfa and Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler tightening cooperation. Fiat has a target of more than doubling Alfa sales to about 400,000 vehicles in 2014 from 150,000 in 2011 with six new models, including sedans and sport-utility vehicles, according to a September presentation.
Net income at Fiat in 2011 came entirely from Chrysler, which was helped by U.S. car-market expansion. Fiat’s volume models lost about 500 million euros in Europe last year, and led an industrywide sales decline in the region, as the sovereign-debt crisis caused consumers to hold back on purchases. Marchionne is among carmaking executives forecasting another European contraction this year.