Alfa Romeo launches US comeback after 20 years

Paul A. Eisenstein
The new Alfa Romeo car called 'Giulia', constructed by Fiat Chrysler, is presented to the press in the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, on June 24, 2015.
Giuseppe Cacace | AFP | Getty Images

After a 20-year absence from the American market, Alfa Romeo is back and looking to draw in an entirely new generation of buyers, starting with the new Giulia sedan it introduced in Milan, Italy on Wednesday.

The sleek four-door, which will reach showrooms in the U.S. and other parts of the world early next year, takes aim at such dominant luxury competitors as the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. (Tweet This)

Alfa Romeo abandoned the U.S. market in 1995, the victim of sharply declining sales which many analysts blamed on both ongoing quality problems and increased competition from European luxury brands.

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But Alfa is betting it can gain traction with a mix of sexy Italian styling, advanced technology and plenty of power. The Giulia Quadrifoglia features a 510-horsepower turbocharged V-6 that will be able to launch the sedan from 0 to 60 in under 3.9 seconds. Less powerful—and more affordable—versions will also be offered.

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After the Giulia, Alfa will launch seven more models as part of its comeback, which is budgeted at 5 billion Euros, or roughly $6 billion. A compact SUV is coming next.

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The goal is to boost Alfa's global sales by a whopping 550 percent between 2014 and 2018, said Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Alfa's parent, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The company hopes to make the U.S. market the Italian brand's largest, with sales of 150,000 vehicles annually. All but forgotten in the U.S. and much of the world, industry analysts say it will be a big challenge to meet those goals. And they caution that Alfa's success—or failure—will be a critical test of Fiat Chrysler's broader ambitions.