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Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Alfa pushes back return to U.S. to 2013

Alfa Romeo's return to the United States, which parent Fiat S.p.A. has weighed since 2000, will be delayed beyond next year, sources say.

Automotive News
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Fiat showed off the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show. It won't come to the U.S. until 2014. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

TURIN, Italy--Alfa Romeo's return to the United States, which parent Fiat S.p.A. has weighed since 2000, will be delayed beyond next year, sources say.

Fiat has said that it was aiming for U.S. Alfa sales to start in late 2012. But Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is not satisfied with the design of the cars that will lead the brand's comeback, people with knowledge of the matter told Automotive News Europe.

More time is needed--up to six months--which could push back the U.S. introduction of the Alfa Romeo Giulia midsize sedan and wagon to mid-2013, the sources say.

Sources blame the delay on manufacturing and styling issues with the cars, adding that Marchionne was unhappy with proposals he has seen from Alfa's creative team in Turin.

A Fiat spokesman declined to comment when asked about the Giulia's delay.

Another factor delaying the Giulia: Marchionne is said to be unhappy with design proposals he has seen from Chrysler's U.S.-based stylists in suburban Detroit for the Giulia's two siblings, the replacements for the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, which are due in 2013.

The timing of the three midsize models is linked because they will share a platform, power trains, and major subsystems.

Fiat owns 25 percent of Chrysler Group and is working to integrate the Italian and U.S. automakers.

It is uncertain where the Giulia models will be assembled. In a March 29 presentation to bondholders, Marchionne showed a slide indicating that the Giulia sedan and wagon, which will replace the 159 sedan and Sportwagon, would be made in the United States starting in 2013.

But a year ago, that slide, which was part of Fiat Group's presentation of its five-year strategic plan, showed the Giulia models being built in Italy and debuting in North America in 2012.

The Fiat spokesman now says the company has not decided where to make the Giulia.

Last December, Marchionne said he "wouldn't be surprised" to see an Alfa built at Chrysler's Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit.

Sterling Heights, which once was scheduled for closure at the end of 2012, makes the 200 and Avenger. Rivals of those models include the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu.

Alfa pulled out of the United States in 1995 and has been mulling a return since 2000. Chrysler Group has said many Fiat dealers also will get Alfa franchises.

The sporty brand failed to meet Marchionne's global sales target of 300,000 by 2010; its total volume was just 112,000 last year. Alfa's new target is even tougher: 500,000 sales by 2014, including 85,000 units a year in North America.

(Source: Automotive News)