Alfa Romeo 4C

In a strong signal of support, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles moved to reinforce Alfa with a new head of North American operations, Reid Bigland.

Alfa Romeo was in the news this week, and for once, it didn't involve another rumor the brand was going to be sold off to the highest bidder.

Quite the opposite. In a strong signal of support, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles moved to reinforce Alfa with a new head of North American operations, Reid Bigland, who had been in charge of the Ram division. Harald Wester remains global CEO of Alfa and Maserati.

It's a significant move, as Bigland has been considered a rising star within the Fiat-Chrysler conglomerate, and pulling him away from the important Ram business was not a decision made lightly. At first blush, it even seems questionable, as Alfa has only one car, the 4C, that's about to go on sale in America.

But that will change – or at least FCA says it will – in short order.

Bigland is charged with shepherding the next Alfa, a midsize sedan based on a rear-wheel-drive architecture, through a smooth launch that's planned for late 2015. That will be followed by seven – that's seven – new products from 2016 to through 2018. Plans revealed during a product presentation this spring call for: two compacts, another midsize sedan, a fullsize sedan, two utility vehicles/crossovers and another sports car. Alfa also says Quadrifoglio or "Cloverleaf"-badged performance variants will be produced. The engine portfolio is said to include fuel-efficient four-cylinder mills, mid-range six-cylinders with outputs around 320 or more horsepower and high powered six-cylinders with more than 500 hp. Diesels will also be offered.

Fiat-Chrysler has set a heady goal of selling 400k Alfas in 2018, up from about 74,000 cars last year.

In total, FCA will spend more than $6.6 billion to pump new life into its beleaguered Italian icon. Even if only some of these product launches come to pass, Alfa will have a varied portfolio in the United States, though time will tell if the vehicles are competitive. Fiat Chrysler has set a heady goal of selling 400,000 Alfas in 2018, up from about 74,000 cars last year.

Alfa has a new head man in North America, and he's armed with an ambitious plan. It now makes sense why FCA boss Sergio Marchionne has been adamant he won't sell Alfa.

"We are committed to Alfa. We are committed to the premium brands," he said on a conference call in July to discuss Fiat earnings.

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