Like the Great Pumpkin, Alfa Romeo's often promised return to the United States has failed to materialize over the past decade, even with parent Fiat owning a controlling stake in Chrysler. Today, Alfa gave its fans something tangible to hope for by revealing the 4C, a mid-engine, all-carbon fiber sports car — and vowing it would bring the brand back to America, likely by the end of the year.
In Europe, Alfa's future as part of a struggling Fiat has been widely debated, sparking a feud between Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne and Volkswagen executives who've offered to take the brand off his hands. But Marchionne has said Alfa Romeo and Jeep would be the two pillars of Fiat's strategy worldwide, and Chrysler execs see Alfa quickly outselling Fiat in the United States, which sold nearly 44,000 cars in 2012.
Alfa released only a smattering of detail about the 4C, including a couple of computer renderings, before its reveal at the Geneva Motor Show in a few weeks, but the layout should make all sports car fans take note. Powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine expected to make 237 hp, the 4C should be a tossable delight thanks to its lightweight, carbon-fiber chassis. Alfa watchers expect a roadster and more powerful variations to follow quickly from the launch. Pricing won't come for some time, but with a limited production run, the 4C will likely run more than a Corvette, but less than the SRT Viper.
After the 4C arrives, Fiat has said it will give Alfa four more models in the United States for the 2015 model year, and another in 2016 — a surge that means Alfa will have more varieties of vehicles to sell than Chrysler, and a large wager that Americans will flock to a brand that was last popular when Dustin Hoffman drove around Mrs. Robinson.