Why I'm bullish on Alfa and Lancia after PSA/FCA became Stellantis
Hello, my name's Ale and I have an opinion
I remember the instant I sat in the (then) new Alfa Giulia as if the moment was set in crystal, and I remember thinking, "who's ever gonna buy this?"
The Giulia was a commercial flop waiting to happen because it was a great car but a terrible product. It didn't really know what it was in terms of market positioning, it wasn't good enough as a daily to compete with German equivalents and too expensive to compete with everyone else. The interior was too spartan and the infotainment was shockingly bad. I know car people tend to scoff at this type of criticism but that's exactly the point.
Alfa was targeting mainstream buyers with a car made for car enthusiasts. Everybody loved it, but no one bought one. Consider this: in 2019, with only one model* sold in just one country, Lancia still outsold Alfa Romeo. Globally.
What now? Well, I'm sure financial analysts would tell me I'm wrong but I still think Stellantis is PSA incorporating FCA, and not a merger. How could it be? The CEO is Carlos Tavares, who will essentially retain the same position that he held at PSA. There are 11 members of the board and 6 of them come from PSA. And the French government, unlike the Italian government, will be involved.
Now, we can call it a merger as much as we like but the fact of the matter is, when push comes to shove, the ball's gonna be on the French court. So to speak. And that's a good thing because the fact of the matter is FCA, the short-lived partnership between Fiat and Chrysler formed in 2014, hasn't done much for any of its brands (apart from Jeep). Here we are, 7 years later, with Lancia and Alfa in worse shape than they were and Maserati, Dodge and Fiat still selling nothing but washed-up versions of old cars.
PSA, on the other hand, resurrected Opel and turned DS, a long-forgotten namesake from the golden era of motoring, into a standalone marque with a credible (and expanding) line up of cars and motorsport credentials. And they've also done a good job with Peugeot and Citroën, with both brands growing in terms of market share and cars that are getting better with each generation.
The bottom line is Alfa and Lancia need rebuilding. Apart from the styling, which is just about the only thing you can retain from the olden days (because of regulations), everything else has to be new. And it has to work. Some people hate to hear words like "practical" and "infotainment" but that's what sells these days.
We should never forget that the VW Group can build the Bugatti Bolide and the Lambo Sián because they sell a bunch a boring CUVs. Toyota can afford to build the Supra and not care if it doesn't sell because they sell a million Corollas (literally) every year. It goes on.
Stellantis can use brands like Peugeot, Chrysler and Citroën to make John and Jane Doe cars that sell. They can use Fiat to make cheap city cars. DS to build odd but stylish vehicles. They can do high-end performance with Maserati. Proper off-road credentials with Jeep and RAM. Muscle cars with Dodge. And that leaves them with (financial) room to do what they want with Alfa and Lancia.
*the Ypsilon, based on the Fiat 500, which is only available in Italy