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Porsche power could revive Alfasud

2011-03-15 12:40

FOR SAFE KEEPING?: Alfa’s stunning 8C 2300, one of the many priceless cars VW may soon take ownership of.

Alfa Romeo is in trouble.

The famous Italian brand is not making its sales targets and Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne’s spurning of VW’s offer to buy the ailing Turin automaker could come back to haunt him.

With Fiat’s ambitious American market expansion plans and corporate takeover of Chrysler occupying most of Marchionne’s attention, does the sweater wearing CEO really have the time to babysit Alfa?

VW’s chairman, the mercurial Ferdinand Piëch, thinks not. The legendary Porsche family scion said that German control could increase Alfa sales fourfold, adding momentum to VW’s plans of becoming the world’s largest car maker by 2018.

The current state of play is that Fiat looks vulnerable, Alfa Romeo's future is in doubt and VW has all the time in the world to wait for the Italians to panic and accept an offer from Wolfsburg.


If VW were to gain control of Alfa soon the fundamental issue would be replacing Fiat’s engine technology with VW parts. To this end Porsche’s new flat-four engine, being developed for the sports car brand’s new entry-level roadster, is being earmarked as a possible solution.

The option of transferring flat-four Porsche power to the Alfa Romeo brand could provide VW with a tangible historic link to previous boxer engine models such as the Alfasud and 33.

BOXING COMEBACK: Alfa Romeo’s legendary Alfasud nameplate could be revived with Porsche power as part of a VW takeover…

If the new Zuffenhausen-developed flat-four is rolled out to Alfa models it would make a lot of industrial engineering sense, enabling economies of scale to justify Porsche’s investment.

Although Fiat remains defiant the simple fact of the matter is that VW has cash to burn and Alfa is falling way short of its market targets. If VW does manage to acquire Alfa Romeo in the near future, capacity issues will be the German company’s first concern.

VW’s aim is to produce 400 000 Alfa Romeos a year within five years; quite a bump-up in production as the Turin factory only made 112 000 cars in 2010. Ironically, there is spare capacity available at VW’s struggling Latin subsidiary Seat – in the form of its idling Martorell facility.

Unconfirmed reports also place Piëch and VW CEO Martin Winterkorn in Italy recently, meeting local government officials in the Lombardi region, where Alfa’s mothballed Arese plant is located - a facility that could prove crucial to unlocking greater production capacity.

Fiat’s denials would appear to be a face-saving exercise, at best, as VW usually gets what it wants.

The only issues stalling a takeover at present are rumoured to be the status of Alfa’s world-famous classic car collection, use of its Balocco test track (which Fiat is keen to retain) and the future of the company's Pomigliano production facility in Naples.

If one considers the positive manner in which VW improved Lamborghini after acquiring the Italian supercar brand via Audi, having a few German surnames at the bottom of Alfa Romeo’s official correspondence could be a very good thing for the Italian brand indeed.


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