To all with a vested interest in the success of Alfa Romeo in the United States:
It has been said in the trades as of late that you, Mr. Marchionne, have expressed interest in jointly developing the next MX-5 Miata chassis in conjunction with Mazda. As I am sure you are already aware, this is a great opportunity to be involved with a well-developed chassis designed by enthusiasts. I also believe that this chassis is one of the all time greatest missed opportunities in automotive history. Up until now the MX-5 chassis has been squandered on a niche market roadster, and this I believe to be the fault of a lack of funds on the part of Mazda. The actuality of cooperation with Fiat-Chrysler is fortuitous for Mazda, as it allows the possibility of developing the MX-5 into a complete lineup of sporty cars that could be produced in quantities cheaply to compete with BMW’s 1 and 3 series viscerally, if not directly. This allows for the likelihood of Mazda competing with Toyota and Subaru’s unchallenged imminent entry into this wholly underrepresented market (Hyundai’s porcine and sophomoric interpretation notwithstanding.)
Moreover, as an Alfa Romeo enthusiast who happens to be familiar with the make as a historic interest as well as a livelihood, I would like to point out that Alfa Romeo, with the debut of their first mass production car, the 1951 Berlina 1900, has always had a lineup that was entirely similar mechanically: a coupe, a sedan, and a spyder. While it is easy to imagine future Alfa Romeo models as being badge-engineered Fiat and Chrysler products, it was not that long ago that Volkswagen A.G. made it known that it was interested in doing the same thing. It is not hard to predict what the Volkswagen interpretation of Alfa Romeo might have been: a front-wheel-drive concept based on pedestrian designs cobbled together from near and far divisions of the make. Clearly this is not an acceptable solution any more than a heavy Mercedes-designed and Chrysler-based sedan chassis is, and this is the opportunity to prove it. I think what this potential partnership with Mazda represents is an opportunity to pick up where the 750, 101, 105, 115, and 116 chassis left off: a lineup of small, light, and agile rear-wheel-drive cars that appeals to the educated and prosperous connoisseurs of Italian technical design. This opportunity affords the possibility of an upscale version of the Mazda chassis that can compete directly with BMW’s most popular segments as an Alfa Romeo, with a price point in Fiat-Chrysler’s favor.
While this open letter could be viewed simply as a forum for telling you what I want the next Alfa Romeo to be (and to be perfectly honest it is,) I am sure you recognize that the existing market here in the US for Alfa Romeo is predominantly former and current Alfa Romeo owners. As a person who believes that the best form of advertising is through word of mouth, there is a potential role to be played by these enthusiasts who often advise others on car purchases. I urge you to consider this when deciding the future lineup, especially if you are being afforded this unparalleled opportunity to act economically in a manner that has a precedent in the history of this storied marque.
I firmly believe there is a place in the American market for the Alfa Romeo brand, but it must be remembered that Alfa Romeo cars are legendary here. We never got most of the badge-engineered-Fiat models, so America’s memories of Alfa Romeo are those of high performance sports cars that could be driven hard at great speeds on or off the track: every model was special. As BMW has taken over that role by default, I believe the future success of Alfa Romeo will depend on, to a large extent, its ability to challenge it. Creating a light, agile, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan, spyder, and coupe is exactly what it will take for the discerning drivers among us that prefer rear wheel drive in a small sporty sedan or coupe; not everyone wants a BMW!
Thank you for your patience in reading my manifesto, and I look forward to the future!
Regards, Frank Hervey