The Alfa Romeo brand is a tough one to pin down... or perhaps it's parent company Fiat that's elusive, or maybe just CEO Sergio Marchionne that refuses to be a fixed target. New Alfa-Abarth-Maserati CEO Harald Wester has said that Alfa's long-term sales target is 500,000 vehicles by 2014. That's a mountainous 400,000-unit increase over 2009 sales, yet the route to the peak of that mountain isn't any clearer than it was in January when Alfa wasn't coming to the U.S., except that Alfa finally has "the right conditions, the right products and the right synergies to get there," according to Wester.

A brief summary of the timeline: in January Marchionne says Fiat can't come to the States unless it makes a business case – which, at that point, hadn't been made; later that same month Harald Wester takes his consolidated CEO position; in February Marchionne says Alfas will be sold in the U.S. by 2012; and in April Fiat's five-year plan is unveiled with Alfa slotting in six new models, some based on Chrysler platforms.

The only detail we're missing is why Alfa Romeo thinks it will work this time, this well. Alfa has been underperforming in Europe in spite of the models its been releasing, and we don't know why Chrysler platforms would change that. True, Alfa is only relying on the U.S. market for that growth, but an average year-on-year increase of 80,000 cars, starting this year, is an order of the tallest kind. And that's before any talk of Alfa having to battle Lancia for market share and marketing dollars.

Audi may have big U.S. targets too, but Audi won't need to fight the perceptions of a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. market two decades ago in order to meet them. We've been expecting Alfas product assault to be good. But with these numbers, we'll expect it to be phenomenal.

[Source: Automotive News – Sub. Req'd]