Last week, we discussed Alfa Romeo's return to the U.S., led by the late-2013 arrival of the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C. While the car looks great, we had some questions about Fiat's sales strategy for the sleek two-seater.
Here's the problem: the 4C is essentially an intro-level supercar. (Alfa Romeo even uses the word "supercar" in its press release for the 4C.) It's not nearly as pricey as some of its potential competitors like the Audi R8, the Porsche 911, the Dodge Viper, but with just two seats, substantial performance specs, and a projected cost in the $50,000 range, it's not going to be a sales leader.
Fiat is making sure of that by creating just 2,500 units of the 4C. And of that number, only 1,000 will come to the U.S. In other words, the 4C is a halo car -- something that's meant to turn heads and draw attention but not necessarily open wallets.
Fiat has at least three options for marketing the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C:
1. As with the Fiat brand itself, Fiat could require that interested dealers build showrooms dedicated to the Alfa Romeo brand. Given the limited quantity of 4C units, however, that's not really feasible.
2. Fiat could also sell the 4C at Maserati dealerships. Although it's roughly one-third the cost of many Maserati models, the 4C appeals to a slightly similar demographic. And of course, the 4C is built at the Maserati plant in Modena, Italy.
3. The 4C could also be sold at Fiat dealerships. That seems a slightly odd move, though, since Fiat is just gaining traction here in the U.S., and putting two new brands under one roof might not be the best way to boost awareness. Also, the thought of the slick Alfa Romeo 4C parked next to the cute, cuddly Fiat 500 feels a bit jarring.
If you're wondering which of those paths Fiat will take, AutoNews explains that it's option #3. The 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C will roll into Fiat dealerships later this year -- but not all of them. Chrysler says that it will come first to Fiat dealerships that have met or exceeded both sales and customer service goals. (Also required: a dealer agreement to construct an attached service department before the next wave of Alfa Romeos arrives in 2015.)
Clearly, what Chrysler/Fiat hopes to do is boost interest in its Fiat lineup -- which, if we're honest, hasn't been setting sales records. If so, this might not be a bad plan because car aficionados love Alfa Romeo design, and having the 4C in showrooms could generate buzz (though perhaps not sales) for the 500 and upcoming Fiat models like the 500L.
On the other hand, as we mentioned above, Alfa Romeo is a new brand for many U.S. auto shoppers. And like the Fiat 500, the 4C is a small vehicle, but it comes with a not-so-small pricetag and fair-to-middling performance specs. We're somewhat concerned that the 4C's size might be a turnoff to some Americans, and its specs may not be super enough to turn the heads of the well-heeled.
Stay tuned for more news about the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C when it debuts in production form at next month's Geneva Auto Show.