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Future models - Alfa Romeo - Spider - 2-dr convertible

Alfa: The next generation

Point of difference: Alfa's next generation cars will stand clearly apart from each other.

An all-new Spider leads Alfa Romeo's American assault

Alfa Romeo logo5 Sep 2001

ALFA ROMEO is developing an off-roader and a couple of high-performance, Porsche-rivalling sports cars to help pave its return to the potentially lucrative US market in 2004.

The Italian car-maker has set itself an ambitious goal of doubling its worldwide sales volumes by 2005 and a return to the US is the cornerstone of achieving this target.

An all-new Spider, due in 2004, will hold the key to Alfa's initial American offensive. The new-generation GTV will follow in 2005.

Unlike the existing Spider and GTV, the next generation cars will stand clearly apart from each other - even though they will both be built on a GM-sourced Epsilon platform.

The new Spider will remain strictly a two-seater but the next generation GTV will offer proper seating for four - like its Alfetta GTV ancestor.

They will have a strong Australian connection as their motivation will come from HFV6 powerplants sourced from Holden's imminent new engine factory at Fishermens Bend.

Alfa Romeo sources suggest a range of upgrades - including an innovative variable-compression head - will enable up to 330kW to be squeezed out of the V6 without resorting to forced induction.

The Italian car-maker is also gearing up to take a crack at BMW's X5 with an all-new SUV that will offer "true off-road ability".

Due in 2005, it will also be powered by a Holden-sourced 3.5-litre V6 that generates from 150kW to 200kW. Expect it to be priced from $60,000 in today's money.

The Alfas will be sold in the US through dealerships similar in concept to Ford's PAG showrooms - which sell the Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Aston Martin and Lincoln brands.

The new arrangement will see GM's two prestige brands - Saab and Alfa Romeo - being sold alongside each other. GM owns Saab Auto-mobile outright and has a 20 per cent share in Alfa Romeo's Fiat parent.

There is no word yet on whether a similar set-up will eventuate here, but it seems unlikely given that Saab is sold through a factory subsidiary while Alfa Romeo is distributed by Ateco Automotive, an independent importer.

Ateco has distributed the Italian marque here since 1998, when it was reintroduced after a six-year absence.

The initial local line-up comprised the Spider and GTV, with the 156 and 166 being added in 1999. The range was further boosted last week by the launch of the 147 hatchback.

The 147 is offered in three and five-door configurations and priced from $38,500, enabling Alfa to target a new set of buyers.

Product pipeline

2002
156 GTA - Hot sedan promises supercar performance courtesy of 187kW V6. Will cost close to $100,000.

2003
147 GTA - Same drivetrain as 156 GTA so it should be even quicker. Priced from around $60,000.

2004
Spider - New generation roadster tipped to rival or eclipse Porsche Boxster's performance.
157 - Replacement for 156 sedan may be slightly larger than existing car.

2005
167 - Will the new flagship sedan be better received than 166?
SUV - Alfa is aiming at BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne with its proposed off-roader.

Sales projections

ALFA Romeo Australia aims to sell 3300 cars here next year, which could catapult the brand past Audi and Saab in the pecking order.

The marque has notched up around 4500 sales over the past three years, which - according to Ateco Automotive governing director Neville Crichton - is "quite good considering we started from nothing".

"We've now reached the end of the launch phase, with the full range here in Australia," he said.

"Our aspiration is to compete against Audi, but we've still got a long way to go locally."

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