The latest delay in Alfa Romeo's resumption of U.S. sales — now pushed back to mid-2013 — is bad news for more than 100 of
's best dealers. They expected the sporty Italian brand's American reboot to help cover the cost of expensive new dealerships they built to sell Fiats.
controls Chrysler Group and owns Alfa Romeo.
The delay is a disappointment to the dealers, who competed to win the Fiat franchise. Neither the Fiat 500's price nor sales volume is enough to support a dealership solo. Every day that Alfa slips past the previous target of late 2012 to start U.S. sales hurts. Dealers will want Fiat to help them absorb the blow, either with financial considerations or other vehicles to sell.
Fiat has 102 stores in the U.S., with 28 scheduled to open this year. Fiat reportedly delayed the new models to save cash during the European financial crisis and to tweak them to suit American tastes.
"We're disappointed by the delay, but we'd rather they take the time to get the vehicles right," said Marc Cannon, spokesman for the
dealer group, which has seven U.S. Fiat dealerships.
Alfa had planned to begin sales of its striking 4C sports car late in 2012, followed by the Giulia sport sedan and a midsize crossover in 2013 and a Giulia wagon in 2014.
It now plans to bring the MiTo subcompact and 4C to the U.S. in 2013. A compact crossover may also arrive in 2013. The Giulia sedan and wagon Alfa expects to be the heart of its U.S. lineup have been pushed back to 2014, along with the Giulietta compact and a two-seat convertible. A large sedan may come later.
Alfa has scrapped plans to build a midsize crossover at Chrysler's Jeep assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio. It was expected to be one of the brand's top sellers.
The changes are cause for concern. Chrysler-Fiat CEO
has threatened to shut Alfa down unless it dramatically improved sales and finances.