The Italian Job: FCA's plans for Fiat/Alfa/Maserati/Ferrari
The 5-year plan unveiled by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) not only provides a roadmap for the Chrysler Group, but also presents an ambitious agenda for the group's Italian brands that promises to expand volume with a significant share of that growth earmarked for the U.S. In addition to broader product offerings from Fiat and Maserati, FCA is looking to gear up Alfa Romeo production with a slew of new models destined for America, and even Ferrari, which has limited output to just 7,000 units per year, is likely to grow in volume and be more aggressive in renewing its product lineup.
The current Fiat lineup, which includes the 500 subcompact and the compact 500L people mover, will expand with a more rugged off-road inspired variant of the L called the 500X, which will bow next year as a 2016 model. Coming within a year is a new "specialty vehicle" that Fiat officials declined to name. Speculation centers on a 2-seat roadster sharing the same platform as the all-new MX-5 Miata and will either be marketed as a Fiat or an Abarth. Originally, Mazda was to build a variant for Alfa Romeo with an Italian-sourced engine, but since then, FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne has declared that all Alfas will be built in Italy, opening the door for the joint venture product to be sold by Fiat.
There has been much talk and little to show for Alfa Romeo's return to the U.S. market, let alone building up the brand to rival the likes of BMW and Audi worldwide. Evidently FCA will put money where its mouth is by investing $7 billion in Alfa and promising no less than eight new models over the next four years, an increase in annual volume from less than 75,000 now to 400,000 and a fundamental shift from front- to rear- and all-wheel drive models.
The 4C sports car along with the front-drive Mito subcompact and Giulietta compact, will be joined next year by a new mid-size rear-drive sedan rumored to be called the Giulia, perhaps sharing its mechanicals with the Maserati Ghibli. Between 2016 and 2018, Alfa will add a pair of compact sedans to replace the Giulietta, one of which will be a Quadrifoglio performance version as well as a Quadrifoglio version of the Giulia. Also anticipated are a full-size rear-drive sedan (likely sharing a platform with the Maserati Quattroporte), a pair of crossover SUVs, the second being a high performance version of the base model, and finally another specialty car, this time a front-engine rear-drive two-seater less expensive than the 4C, but sourced in Italy. Speculatively, this Spider could be a variant of the Japanese built Fiat/MX-5 Miata sibling. In addition to the 4C, the U.S. will see the mid- and full-size sedans, the crossovers and the specialty 2-seater.
Equally ambitious is Maserati's plan to lift its sales from about 15,000 to 50,000 units globally by adding an SUV and recasting its sports car lineup. The recently introduced Quattroporte and Ghibli will remain unchanged and will be joined next year by the Levante, a luxury SUV also built in Italy. The stunning Alfieri two-seat concept unveiled in Geneva will go into production as a V6-powered coupe in 2016 followed a year later by a convertible version. The current Gran Turismo coupe and convertible will be dropped after this year and only the coupe version of the next generation will return in 2018.
Ferrari will also become more aggressive under the plan, perhaps boosting production above the self-imposed 7,000-unit-per-year limit closer to its annual capacity of 10,000. In addition, it will be embarking on a program to introduce one new vehicle per year for the next four years, essentially the beginning of a total makeover of the current line starting with the California T, which was just introduced in Geneva, followed by the FF shooting brake, the 458 mid-engine 2-seater and the F12 Berlinetta. Each of those vehicles will be refreshed on a 4-year cycle as an "M" model.
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