European Editor Ed McDonough recently had the exclusive opportunity to sit down and talk with Antony Sheriff, Vice President of Product Development for FIAT S.p.A. In question, was continued speculation regarding FIAT’s intentions to bring Alfa Romeo back to North America.
According to Sheriff, “There was an easy way and a difficult way to return to the US market and we have chosen to do it in the difficult, but what we think is the correct way. We have decided to wait until the next generation of Alfa Romeos are ready, in order to make sure the cars are absolutely correct for the US market. This gives us a huge advantage over what Alfa has traditionally done where we have taken existing cars and adapted them to the US market. The cars that are meant to replace the current Alfa Spider, GTV and 156 are just now on the drawing board.
We have an opportunity from a product standpoint to design a car, an Alfa, that is correct for the US market and meets the expectations of the US customer of what an Alfa Romeo should be. I think that my expectation is that the customers are going to be extremely happy with what they get at the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004 when we do return to the US market.”
When quizzed on the details, Sheriff revealed that the new Spider will come first, with a new version of the GTV later. The Spider will be followed by a replacement for the 156, most likely to be the 157. He emphasized that these are all new cars still in the design stage and do not include the 147. Sheriff also commented on the wider issues of Alfa’s return:
“Distribution is something we are just starting to approach right now. We have not made any decisions and we are just starting to work on it. We have a full three years to set up the correct distribution strategy and when we have decided we will make it public. At the moment we haven’t decided anything.”
On Alfa racing in the USA, Sheriff was a bit more guarded but was careful not to rule this out: “We are just beginning to put together a team which is going to sit down and work on exactly what will be the activities we want and on how we are going to re-enter the US market. We are aware of the tremendous amount of goodwill here for Alfa Romeo.”