Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne liet in een interview met Automotive News Europe weten dat een samenwerking van Maserati en Alfa zou kunnen leiden tot een nieuwe crossover (de langverwachte Alfa Kamal / Kubang?). Ook sprak hij over een kleine sportwagen van Alfa Romeo, het is echter onduidelijk of hij een tweezits of een 2+2 Coupe bedoelde…
Q. Reports suggest you have lost confidence in Alfa Romeo. What are Alfa’s problems – and possible solutions?
A. The Alfa issue is complicated and simple at the same time. Alfa is a great, world-renowned brand, but it is selling fewer cars than planned. To address the problem, we recently announced a change of leadership. Karl Heinz Kalbfell will concentrate on Maserati and on the future strategic development of the industrial and commercial alliance between Alfa Romeo and Maserati – the “polo sportivo” (sporting cars division) of Fiat group. Antonio Baravalle, who has done a great job at Lancia, will take over the day-to-day running of Alfa with his great commercial and marketing skills.
Q. For many years, neither the Fiat group nor Fiat Auto CEOs believed Lancia had a strong future. But you have approved three additional new models for Lancia. What has driven you to bet on an almost domestic brand in an increasingly global industry?
A. Lancia is a unique brand, truly Italian, stylish, a bit arrogant. It has a great past – it will be 100 years old next year – and no heavy legacy to deal with. Consequently, it is a perfect base for a new growth period. I agree that in terms of sales, Lancia is currently too Italian, but, step by step, this will change. We aggressively attacked the French market this year and in 2006 we will approach Germany and Spain. In term of investments, it is a sustainable bet because Lancia’s investments are incremental to the new models we are developing for the Fiat brand.
Q. Maserati had been the most over-promised and under-delivered champion within the Fiat group. Every 5 years, the 10,000 units a year target is postponed for another 5 years. The latest target is now 2010. How will Maserati get there?
A. First, by strengthening its current product range. The Maserati Quattroporte is an excellent car, but it needs to be produced, for example, with a true automatic gearbox for the US market. The Quattroporte platform also will be the basis of a new, top of the range coupe. At the same time, Maserati is too small to have its own platforms so it needs synergies with other brands. I think the industrial cooperation with Alfa Romeo on the premium platform is the proper answer.
Q. What can you tell us about the possible use of a shortened Premium platform for the Alfa 149?
A. It’s an option we’re considering. On the one hand, the Premium platform is much costlier than that of the “156” [which the 147 used], so it would be much harder to use it for a profitable hatchback. On the other hand, if Alfa really wants to compete in the “quality” part of the C segment, it needs a platform such as the Premium.
Q. Why doesnt the 147 sell as well as expected?
A. The “147” suffers because the 1-Series BMW is thought to be its main rival, forgetting competitors such as the Golf. We forgot the Gof and what it was doing on the market. I think we need to respond in an effective way to the pressure from Volkswagen. We have learnt our lesson and I think we must be much more attentive and humble about expectations for Alfa. We have to fight where we must fight. It’ll be less of a problem, I think, for the new products (159 and Brera), which can by rights compete in the luxury segment…