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Friday, April 23, 2010

Chrysler and U.S. market to play key role in Alfa relaunch

Chrysler Group will play a key role in plans to revive Fiat S.p.A.'s ailing Alfa brand. The U.S. automaker will build two new Alfa crossover models for sale in North America and Europe.

Fiat S.p.A. CEO Sergio Marchionne made a strong commitment to the money-losing sporty brand, which will be 100 years old in June, during a presentation of Fiat's five-year strategy Wednesday.

Marchionne announced the launch of seven new Alfa models between 2010 and 2014 and said Fiat is determined to transform the brand into a "full-line premium carmaker."

Marchionne also said North America will account for 85,000 unit sales in 2014 out of 500,000 that Alfa aims to sell in that year.

The Chrysler-built vehicles for Alfa will be:

• A compact SUV based on the Compact architecture that underpins the Giulietta hatchback in Europe. Production will begin in 2012

• A large SUV, similar in size to the next Jeep Liberty, which is sold as the Cherokee in Europe. Production will start in 2014.

The crossover models will be built in two of the three U.S. plants that Chrysler Group plans to retool for new Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models based on Fiat-Chrysler's Compact Wide architecture.

Alfa will also sell a mid-sized sedan and station wagon when in the U.S. starting in late 2012. These two vehicles will have the name Giulia and in Europe will replace the 159 range. They will be built in Italy.

Alfa will also sell in the U.S. a five-door version of its MiTo minicar, which is currently sold in Europe as a three-door. The five-door MiTo will be sold in Europe and North America starting in 2013.

Alfa will launch the Giulietta in North America after the car gets a face-lift in 2014. The Giulietta launches in May in Europe.

Alfa will continue to build the Mito and Giulietta in Italy.

Chrysler to build Alfa spider

Marchionne also said Chrysler will provide the platform for a new Alfa spider model, planned for 2013, but said the production location has not been decided.

Fiat's plan for Alfa to sell 500,000 cars in 2014 is five times more than Alfa sold last year.

Starved of fresh product as Fiat delayed key new models, Alfa sales have declined steeply as its lineup became older. This year's volume expected to be 120,000 units, compared with a peak of 207,000 in 2001. Alfa has lost between 200 million and 400 million euros ($288 million to $566 million) a year in the past 10 years, according to company sources.

Alfa quit the North American market in 1995 after the quality of the brand's cars was condemned in studies and its sales plummeted.

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