Fiat Chrysler unveils Alfa Romeo Giulia midsize sedan

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Arese, Italy — With the help of renowned tenor, Andrea Bocelli, and the art of Leonardo da Vinci, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV unveiled its all-new Alfa Romeo Giulia in true Italian fashion here on Wednesday.

The midsize sedan features distinctive new styling for the famed Italian brand and technologies that create "a perfect fusion of man and machine," officials said.

"It is the first model of an Alfa Romeo that is once again pure and authentic," said Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne during the unveiling at the brand's renovated museum. "It is the quintessential example of what people expect from such a prestigious brand."

Fiat Chrysler executives numerous times referred to the Giulia as the beginning of a "new age" and "renaissance" for Alfa Romeo, which celebrated its 105th anniversary Wednesday in Arese, near Milan, the city of its birth. It is the first of eight all-new vehicles from Alfa Romeo that are expected by 2018, under a previously announced 5 billion euro ($6 billion) plan for the brand.

The Giulia, a historic name for the brand, features an all-new suspension system, brakes and other performance features and parts. It will be available with a newly developed all-aluminum, six-cylinder 510-horsepower engine on the Quadrifoglio, its performance version, which was the model unveiled on Wednesday.

The car is expected to arrive in U.S. showrooms in the first quarter of 2016. Pricing, trim levels and other details were not announced.

Alfa Romeo global head Harald Wester spent much of his time on stage discussing the history of the brand and how the Alfa Romeo "skunks," a group of engineers put together specifically for the brand.

"We renewed it and modernized it," Wester said. "But we preserved its DNA and its soul without changing them at all. They were there ready to be used for our new creations."

The so-called Alfa Romeo skunk engineers are a reference to the brand's first "Skunk Works" project, a World War II jet fighter for the U.S. Air Force called the XP-80 Shooting Star. A team of handpicked individuals developed the machine in just 150 days, helping push back the German advance.

The process that led to the creation of the Giulia "was equally intense," according to Marchionne: "For such a revolutionary project, we needed the team to think outside the box, to start with a clean sheet of paper, unobstructed by existing rules and structures."

At the end of the unveiling, the skunk team came out on stage. Marchionne and Fiat Chrysler chairman John Elkann went one-by-one to personally thank the team.

Marchionne reaffirmed Fiat Chrysler's plans for eight all-new vehicles from Alfa Romeo by 2018, and a sales target of 400,000 vehicles globally during that period. He said the company believes the sales target, which many industry analysts have criticized as overly optimistic, "fully reflects the strength of a brand like Alfa Romeo."

Marchionne used Jeep as an example of another brand within the company that set ambitious goals and completed them: "Alfa, just like Jeep, has the ability and the ambition to be number one." Jeep has recorded three consecutive years of record global sales, and is on track to repeat for a fourth-straight record year.

Alfa helps fill a hole in the company's North American operations, which include mass-market brands Chrysler, Fiat, Jeep and Ram Truck, as well as uber-luxury Maserati and exotic Ferrari. Until now, there's been no major competition for the German luxury brands.

The midsize sedan follows the introductions of the low-volume 4C Coupe and 4C Spider. The Spider is expected to arrive in U.S. dealerships in August. The mid-engine 4C Coupe has been on sale in the U.S. since December. It combines aggressive Italian styling and carbon-fiber monocoque and aluminum chassis structures with a host of powertrain and technological features, when Fiat Chrysler expects to sell 400,000 Alfas globally — five times more than its 2013 sales of 74,000 vehicles.

"Giving a voice to the real Alfa Romeo was a moral imperative," Marchionne said. "I doubt maestro Bocelli could have chosen a better opera. Alfa Romeo is our 'Turandot.' It is a masterpiece that has been a long time in coming."

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