The Downfall of Alfa Romeo
The imminent destruction of the one of the greatest car brands of all time
Alfa Romeo has always been the pinnacle of petrolhead heaven. The cars they have been making for 110 years now are beautiful, with heavenly engines and glorious sounds, despite the Italian trademarked slightly less than reliable electrical systems. They were especially popular from the 1910s through to the 1950s, when they started to develop a racing pedigree almost like no other, winning F1 races left right and centre, and even giving way to what we now know as Ferrari
But, as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
Now that the big new boys at Stellantis has gone about ruining Dodge's SRT division and putting the Lancia Delta badges on a Peugeot 308 in a few year's time, it was only natural that they had to ruin something else; they've gone for my beloved Alfa Romeo. They've decided to give Alfa 10 years to prove their worth to the company, or they will be killed off for good. And with the recent failure of the Giulia and the Stelvio announced here on DriveTribe, I think I can see what the future will hold... and it's not good. This is going to upset a lot of people - and it's definitely sad to me, don't get me wrong - but I predict that Alfa Romeo will be leaving us post-electric takeover.
I think the reason this great company will be leaving us is mostly due to the circumstances around the failure of the Giulia and the Stelvio. And it's mostly due to one main cause: reputation. Think first to the BMW M3 - it's German, so it's reliable and built to be practically bulletproof. It's been known as the perfect performance saloon since the first edition from the 1980s, and so when a new one comes out, even if it has a grille larger than the Sun, people will flock to buy them in the millions.
Now take a look at this 1950s Alfa Romeo Giulia - the 750/101 generation, to be precise. It's not very fast, it's horribly unreliable, and the wheels look like they came from a bicycle. So why did it work? Because it was utterly gorgeous. People have long remembered and cherished this car entirely because of the beautiful design on the inside and the outside. It doesn't try to be fast, it doesn't try to achieve the fastest lap time around the Nürburgring, it doesn't even try to be the car that people would want.
I'm not saying what Alfa Romeo needs to make a car that's just beautiful and nothing else. The car market has far moved on from what it was in the 50s, but I do believe that looks should be Alfa focuses on with their new models. What they should NOT do is what they currently are doing, with their new concept car - the Tonale. For some reason, they've decided to hash together the face of the 159 and the Brera and the body of the old Stelvio.
And it's just hideous. They've moved it's face too high up, and made the eyes far too slim, making it look like the front of the car has been squashed. And then other than that its the exact same car they made a few years ago. But they've still completely missed the point, even regardless. Because it really doesn't matter how cheaply they've priced it or how much more power it has, people won't want to buy the dirty unreliable Italian SUV when they can look off to the Germans and buy yourself a BMW X5 M, which won't break down pretty much ever.
So what can we do to save them?
Well, I will admit I'm no businessman, far from it, but the way I see it is that Alfa can use the same stigma that caused the Giulia and the Stelvio to fail to their own advantage. Remember the Alfa 4C? It was widely praised by critics and reviewers alike on it's handling and speed despite it's relatively small 1.8L four-cylinder. It was light - due to it's carbon fibre body tub which nearly destroyed the Alfa Romeo brand with the costs.
And yet it was a complete success.
And I think that's something Alfa can work with. Realistically, they're never going to make it far in the sport coupe or sport SUV market, because those markets are always going to be dominated by the German companies who have a greater strangle hold of the markets and have been operating there for years. So the normalised thing to do would be for Alfa to operate in a market that they are professionals in. And where is that? The sports car market.
Think about it - Alfa has been notorious for building and designing sports cars since around about that time the Giulia from earlier was made - things like the Spider, the GTV6, and now the 4C. Then you look at the Germans - the Mercedes SLK is now dead, the new BMW Z4 doesn't seem to be selling very well - at least from what I've been seeing, and the Porsche Cayman has lost its glorious flat-six and has rather lost its soul in recent times.
Thanks to a fantastic article by Joe Boater, I've been able to design this render based on a Ferrari 430, using the face of the Tonale. I will admit it's not perfect - the headlights stretch way too far down the wheel arch on the right and if you look at it in a certain way you can still kind of see the remnants of the Tonale's body I badly cropped it off of. However, not only am I still insanely proud of this thing, but it shows what Alfa should be making if they want to survive.
Let's give this car a full profile - let's call it the Alfa Romeo 12C, named after the very pretty 1936 racecar. Shove the twin-turbo V6 engine from the Giulia Quadrofoglioglio into the middle,, give it some double-wishbone suspension to make it handle well, maybe use the interior of this one-off 4C concept that an Italian coachbuilder came up with, and there you go. A classic name, an alright looking body, a powerful engine and a stylish interior.
And that's what Alfa Romeo needs.
If or when Alfa Romeo passes, it will most definitely be sad. The company has produced so many great models over the years, and the fact that Stellantis is forcing them to prove their worth whilst also controlling exactly what they do is in some ways messed up. They're trying so hard to make Alfa a rival to companies like BMW and Mercedes, but thanks to the Alfa reputation they refuse to acknowledge, that will never happen.