Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

FRANKFURT – Alfa Romeo SpA will nearly double its sales by the end of 2010, its top executive says.

Global deliveries are expected to total about 165,000 units this year, says Antonio Baravalle, executive vice-president of the Fiat Automobiles SpA-owned brand. That represents a 5% increase over 2006.

Boosted by a pair of new vehicles that will add incremental sales growth, Baravalle says Alfa’s total volume should reach 300,000 units within three years. And that does not include the U.S.

“It could be more,” Baravalle tells Ward’s after addressing journalists here at the Frankfurt auto show.

The new cars are a compact model – a departure for Alfa – slated for introduction in second-half 2008, followed by a car Baravalle does not specify. It will debut between 2008 and 2010, he says.

Absent from the world’s largest car market since 1995, Alfa is making a splashy return to the U.S. later next year. The 450-hp 8C Competizione 2-seater will be sold through its Maserati sister-brand’s dealer network.

Alfa will build just 500 8Cs “and not a single one more,” Baravalle vows, intent on retaining the $171,000 car’s exclusive cachet. Fewer than 100 cars will be sent to the U.S. from the Modena, Italy, plant where they are being built.

This strategy might be rubbing off on the rest of Alfa’s lineup, as Baravalle boasts the Brera is ranked among Europe’s 10-best cars in value retention. The sporty hatchback is the first Alfa to earn this distinction.

The Brera also is among models under consideration for adaptation to the U.S. market. Alfa has said it will re-enter the volume market in 2009 through a network of like-branded stores.

Other contenders are the 159 and the 2-seat Spyder. But a spokesman is careful not to feed a media frenzy that has suggested European-spec Alfa models will be brought directly to the U.S.

The cars Alfa intends to sell to Americans will be “completely re-engineered” for compliance with U.S. regulations, he says.

“Our product plan re-maps Alfa boundaries, starting with the younger generation,” Baravalle says in his speech. “We aim at supplying this customer target with personality, elegance and performance – everything that customers expect from an Alfa Romeo.”

Meanwhile, Baravalle reveals Alfa has cut its dealer body to 42 from 71 as part of a restructuring initiative. Reflecting increased sales, he notes the number of cars sold per dealer has increased, along with dealer satisfaction levels.

emayne@wardsauto.com