Open Road

The new Alfa Romeo Giulia needs to be a BMW beater

The introduction of the Alfa Romeo Giulia as a BMW challenger is a claim that historically has meant that it will not be as good as a BMW. Mercedes, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti, Cadillac, and a few others have tried to loosen BMW's grip on the sports sedan market with little success.

It was BMW that was doing the copying when in the early sixties they looked to Alfa Romeo's sport sedans for inspiration. Alfa Romeo's pre-war racing pedigree was second to none, and series production Alfas were sporting twin cam engines, and fuel injection years before BMW. What the post-war Alfa cars did not offer was reliability and an North American dealer network that knew how to service or sell their products. Consequently in 1995 Alfa abandoned the US market.

Now it is the Alfa Giulia taking aim at the BMW 3-series. The Fiat/Chrysler group has a lot of resources (think Ferrari), and the engineering chops to beat BMW at its own game, but it will take a long time to build a reliable dealer network, not to mention the quality issues that have dogged them for decades.

Alfa will follow what has become a familiar recipe to challenge the 3-series. With 3 sets of trim available, the most affordable model, the Giulia, and further upscale, Giulia ti, both with a turbocharged 4-banger and 276 HP compares favorably with the BMW 328i and the Audi A4. The 505 HP Giulia flagship is shooting for the M4/3. Good luck with that, Alfa. A delayed introduction hints of troubles to come.

Unfortunately for Alfa both the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series have millions of dedicated fans, most of whom do not have to be reminded about their automobile's pedigree. Millennial have never had the chance to aspire for an Alfa, and the older generations that still remember them are only a very small share of the market.

Alfa has to avoid joining the automotive graveyard of models that have tried to attain BMW's status. Just to be cruel I will mention the Cadillac Cimarron. If you are too young to remember, it was the cheapest Chevy front wheel drive platform with a Cadillac badge. Panned by both GM management and the automotive press, it was a spectacular flop. I hope that the executives of the Fiat/Chrysler group remember it well. We do not need a Fiat in a stylish suit.

If Alfa is going to revive a long dormant marque, it is going to have to step up and take advantage of what perhaps BMW is losing sight of; outstanding suspension tuning, communicative steering, reliability, and a dealer network that believes in the product. And, oh yeah, a Ferrari massaged engine.

It takes more than copying a winning formula, to build a winner. The market is full of copycats, we need an Alfa that dazzles.

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