Alfa Romeo Has Got A Problem… It’s Alfa Romeo
It seems the problem with Alfa Romeo is Alfa Romeo, people just aren’t into the brand. For the first six months of 2019 the Italian auto brand recorded a 42 percent slump in sales compared to 2018. The Fiat Chrysler premium brand was outsold by Tesla in the same period. Alfa’s sister brand (Lancia) even outsold Alfa, 43,693 compared to 29,059 units. Alfa Romeo is seen as Italy’s answer to BMW and Audi, in other words, it is a premium mass manufacturer that should scale close to 900k vehicle units sold every year.
But it has never achieved close to that level, last year it sold 120,000 vehicles globally. China and the U.S.A accounted for the bulk of sales in 2018, but that party is over in 2019. Sales in the U.S.A are down and China demand has flatlined. This year demand in Italy, France and Spain has fallen by 56%, 66% and 70% respectively.
Under the late Sergio Marchionne, the CEO predicted in 2014 that Alfa Romeo would hit an annual production target of 400,000 vehicle units in 2018. With new model launches, R&D, production tooling and preparation, that kind of scale takes at least a decade to achieve.
Though motoring journalists love Alfa Romeo and go out of their way to promote the brand, real buyers are not as easily persuaded. Alfa Romeo has a reputation for being unreliable, perceived or unperceived. Alfa Romeo’s shift into the electric car vertical is ponderous.
The Tonale will be the brand’s first entry into the Plug-in Hybrid sector when it arrives in showrooms in 2020. It’s a Jeep Renegade with an Alfa badge. Meanwhile, the Guilia mid-size saloon has seen a sales slump as the rise of the SUV continues. So, does that mean Alfa Romeo will cease to be?
Alfa Romeo’s problem is that it offers a small model range when compared to perceived rivals, Audi or BMW. That’s one reason why it will never hit 400k units sold per year. But the main issue is Alfa’s on-going reputation for unreliability. Buyers just aren’t willing to risk their money with an Alfa.