If the Stelvio isn't a hit, Alfa Romeo might as well give up.
We have been a little hard on Fiat-Chrysler for what has seemed like endless production delays. But there's no doubt that these delays have made it extremely difficult for FCA brands to succeed. Alfa Romeo has been hurt the most by the delays, especially in the US where the brand is trying to make a comeback. Alfa Romeo only has one US model, the 4C, which is more of a niche model than a volume seller. If Alfa Romeo really wants to ensure its US-success, it needs to make sure that the Stelvio SUV is a hit.
Our criticism of Alfa Romeo has nothing to do with the actual products. We love the Giulia sedan which the Stelvio is based on. The base Stelvio will have a potent 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque. Like the Giulia, the Quadrifoglio model will have a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 with 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Both of these engines are enough to make the Stelvio one of the most badass SUVs on the market. As we said, we have no problem with the Stelvio, we just have our doubts about FCA's execution. In the US, we are still patiently waiting for the Giulia to arrive in showrooms, and even when it does, FCA then has a big job on its hands driving people into the dealerships.
As of now, if you want to buy a 4C, you will probably have to go into a Fiat dealership. Fiat itself is having a tough time getting people into showrooms and proving to US consumers that its cars are reliable. This may stem from the fact that Fiat sells cars that are too small to cater to a majority of US consumers. The 500X and 500L are a bit odd, and the 124 is also a niche model. Alfa Romeo may face the same problems that plagued Fiat when it came back to the US market, having too few models to sell. We always thought it was odd that Fiat dealerships only had one model to sell, the 500. Even though Fiat now has new models, dealerships still feel a bit lacking.
Launching a car company in the US is not easy, and American consumers love choice. Going into a dealership to pick between one or two models is simply abnormal. Luckily, Alfa Romeo has two models that it can fall back on. The Giulia should attract buyers who think that the BMW 3 Series isn't as exciting anymore, but the Stelvio is the model that will make or break Alfa's success. In the US, SUV sales are red-hot. Just look at Jaguar's recent success with the F-Pace. Even though Jaguar had never built an SUV in the past, the F-Pace has easily become the company's most popular model. The Giulia looks great, but the Stelvio is much more integral to the Alfa Romeo's success in the US.
So here's our beef with the Stelvio. The Giulia still isn't available, so what hope could we possibly have for the Stelvio to arrive on time? We were really anxious to drive the Giulia once it was available, but our excitement has died off as we still have no indication that the car will be available any time soon. We expect a similar problem with the Stelvio. If this was any other car company, we would expect to see the Stelvo in dealerships by spring 2017. However, if it's anything like the Giulia, we could be waiting for a very long time. If Alfa can't get the Stelvio into showrooms, the dealerships will have to rely on Giulia sales to save the company. It may be a good car, but we don't think this will work.
Just imagine walking into a BMW dealership and them saying "oh you wan't a 3 Series, what color do you like?" It would be odd if BMW only sold the 3 Series in the US. Having tons of other models to choose from gives other luxury carmakers a huge advantage over Alfa Romeo. If the Giulia is the only car available at the lot, you won't have much of a choice at the dealer. Afla has plans to add more models like a larger SUV and a 5 Series-fighter, but who knows when those could materialize? For now, we think that everything hinges on the Stelvio's success. We are only hard on Alfa Romeo because we want it to succeed in the US. Luckily, we have confidence that the Stelvio will be a hit, if FCA can build it in time.