Both say 2015 is the start of something better, and this week Chevy and Alfa laid out ambitious plans and showcased new cars that they hope will make them more relevant this year, and in the coming years. Each brand sits at its own crossroads, and their paths forward are as different as the Chevy Cruze and the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Chevy is still a sales beast, as evidenced by its volume of 4.8 million vehicles sold around the world last year. Chevy executives are fond of saying one of their cars is sold every seven seconds, which illustrates the strength and reach of a car brand that is the fourth largest in the world. "Make no mistake about it, we are a brand for the people," said General Motors North America president Alan Batey.
But he wants consumers to want to buy a Chevy for its design and technology, not simply because it's affordable. That starts with all Chevys now featuring a distinctive a family look, with sporty cues from the Corvette or strong lines that riff on the Silverado pickup.
"We want people to fall in lust with our cars," said Mike Pevovar, executive design director for Chevy passenger cars. "That initial emotional attraction has to be right on the exterior, and that's where form comes into play."
Chevy is also loading up its cars, like the freshly unveiled 2016 Chevy Cruze, with technology to appeal to a younger crowd that prizes connectivity. The Cruze will offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with its MyLink infotainment system, and OnStar with 4G LTE and wifi. Seeking out younger buyers is also sound business practice: Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers as the largest single age group in the United States.
Younger buyers also can improve a brand's image, which is another area where Chevy would like to improve. Chevy ranks 82nd on Interbrand's Best Global Brand's list, behind 11 other automakers. Apple is No. 1. "We need our own variation of the Genius Bar," Batey said.
Meanwhile, Alfa is in different shape. It hadn't sold a car in the United States in nearly 20 years until the launch of the 4C in 2014, but it has lofty plans to take on big-time luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes. Enter the Giulia, which was revealed this week in Italy. Wrapped in slinky design and powered by a 510-horsepower, six-cylinder engine fortified with Ferrari learnings, the Giulia is an enthusiast tour de force. Millennials? Come back when your trust funds kick in.
Alfa is prepping more than just BMW and Mercedes fighters. The company has a sales goals of 400,000 units around the world in 2018, which would come as a result of a product offensive led by the Giulia. The company also recently launched the 4C and its spider variant, but has its sights set on greater expansion with new utility vehicles, compacts, and a fullsize sedan.
Despite its long absence, Alfa still has a strong reputation – mostly good – among enthusiasts, and the brand will look to capitalize on that as it tries to lure new buyers. Ultimately, that will be the measure of success for Alfa and Chevy. History and branding are most relevant for brands when consumers buy their cars.
OTHER NEWS & NOTES
Ford Focus RS cranks out 345 hp
Ford announced the Focus RS will pump out 350 PS, or 345 horsepower, from its 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. The output is for overseas markets. Ratings for the US-spec Focus RS are not official yet, a spokesman told Autoblog. It was announced at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where Gymkhana and World Rallycross driver Ken Block is driving a Focus RS prototype at the hillclimb. The engine is borrowed from the Mustang, but Ford increased power with a new twin-scroll turbocharger that provides greater airflow. Ford previously said the hot hatch would make "well in excess of 315 horsepower," which this rating easily accomplishes.
Nissan buys Tennessee Titans stadium name
Nissan announced this week that it bought the naming rights to the Tennessee Titans football stadium in Nashville, which will be renamed Nissan Stadium. It was previously called LP Field. The deal runs for 20 years. The stadium is also used by Tennessee State University for football games, and it is the site of the Music City Bowl. Nissan has a significant footprint in Tennessee, which is home to its North American headquarters, an assembly plant, and a powertrain facility.
Lotus relocates to Michigan
British sportscar-maker Lotus is relocating its US headquarters from Lawrenceville, GA, to Ann Arbor, MI. Lotus already has an engineering office at the Ann Arbor site. The move is expected to be completed by the end of July and it will position Lotus closer to key North American suppliers and the Detroit Three. It comes as Lotus prepares for the launch of the Evora 400, which will hit Lotus' expanded dealer network – it's now up to 47 – in December.