By Christopher A, Sawyer
I was listening to VW Group of America President and CEO Jonathan Browning’s speech to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit when I suddenly realized that any plans to revive Alfa Romeo in the U.S. will be a struggle. Barely a week before Browning’s speech came word that Sergio Marchionne was talking to Mazda about building a sports car together. This quickly turned into an announcement that the next Mazda MX5 (the Miata) would be built alongside a new Alfa Spider in Japan.
Many were stunned by the announcement, but it was typical of Marchionne. He has often stated the need for Fiat to build and sell five to six million vehicles per year if it is going to survive and prosper. Below that level, he says, costs escalate rapidly. There isn’t enough volume across which to spread engineering and development expenditures, especially when governments are piling ever more regulations and China is waiting in the wings to unleash its capacity and cost advantages.