According to an article in Germany's Automobilwoche, the Volkswagen Group wants to bring another child into its already-crowded family of brands: Alfa Romeo. Citing an unnamed senior VW manager, the report says that Wolfsburg would jump at the chance to sign adoption papers if the brand were to become available.
The problem, of course, is that Alfa Romeo isn't on the market at the moment, and there's no indication from the company or its parent, Fiat, that that's likely to happen anytime soon. Michael Brendel, an official spokesperson for Volkswagen, says that VW has no comment on the rumor, and Alfa Romeo isn't returning calls.
But if we've learned anything from covering the auto industry, it's that 99 times out of 100, rumors are grounded in some degree of truth. Our guess is that the anonymous VW manager cited in Automobilwoche wouldn't have said what he did if there hadn't been tentative discussions about the purchase. That, in turn, probably means that there's been a phone call or two between VW and Fiat to test the waters. We'd wager a couple of bucks that the topic has been discussed by both companies -- but that doesn't mean it's feasible.
Another reason to think there's some truth to this rumor: purchasing Alfa Romeo could move VW one step closer toward its oft-stated goal of becoming the world's largest automaker. True, there's some overlap between the Alfa Romeo demographic and that of other VW brands -- Audi comes to mind -- but there are plenty of differences in styling and emotional appeal to distinguish Alfa from the rest of the pack.
For U.S. buyers -- especially those with fond memories of Alfa Romeo -- the potential deal raises a number of questions about the brand's imminent return. Would Alfa come back as planned? Would it be sold through VW dealerships or new shops? And perhaps most importantly, would Germany's meticulous engineers address some of Alfa's previous reliability shortcomings?
We're not taking bets on this one just yet, but we'll keep an eye it.