Wester Confirms Alfa Romeo’s Rear-Wheel-Drive, All-Italian Strategy

Automobile Magazine will have continuing coverage of the Fiat Chrysler announcements today.

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan – Alfa Romeos, from compact to full-size to utility vehicles, will all be rear-wheel drive, brand chief Harald Wester confirmed Tuesday when Fiat Chrysler revealed its five-year plan. He offered fewer details about future products than his counterparts at Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and Fiat, however.

Alfa “never completed the win on Sunday, sell on Monday model,” Wester said. He lamented Alfa’s lack of profits even during its competition heyday. After Fiat purchased Alfa Romeo in 1977, platform sharing (meaning front-wheel drive) diluted Alfa even as it offered such pleasing designs as the 156 and the 147.

The new strategy of building Alfa Romeos in Italy on Alfa-developed rear-wheel-drive platforms is designed to make it Fiat Chrysler’s second global brand, after Jeep. Alfa will concentrate on “five key attributes that matter,” Wester said. They are:

  • Advanced, innovative engines
  • Perfect 50/50 weight distribution
  • Unique technical solutions
  • Class-exclusive power-to-weight ratios
  • Distinctly Italian, groundbreaking design

To catch up with the German automakers, Alfa Romeo has established a skunk works with two senior heads from Ferrari leading day-to-day operations, 200-plus engineers (growing to 600 by the end of ’15), and “no interference from the FCA ‘machine’ except where talent is required,” Wester said in his presentation.

The skunk works’ objectives include best-in-class RWD/AWD architecture with unique four- and six-cylinder gas and diesel powertrains. Production begins in the second half of 2015, with eight products to be launched by the end of 2018. All will be built in Italy.

Beyond that, Wester gave no more details about the new models that will essentially reinvent Alfa Romeo by 2018.

That is, if he and his skunk works can pull it off. The Alfa Romeo project has been the most ambitious and the most troubled, and has changed almost constantly over the past five years. Georg Kacher outlined this latest plan here.

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