Italian carmaker Alfa Romeo has made its China debut with a stellar lineup of models at the Shanghai auto show.
Alfa Romeodebut at the Shanghai auto show is part of the marque’s plan to resurrect the brand globally and to create products that are indicative of its strengths developed over the past 107 years, said Reid Bigland, head of Alfa Romeo and Maserati.
Established in Milan in 1910, the marque started racing in 1911. Enzo Ferrari, founder of the well-known Ferrari brand, was once a driver on the Alfa Romeo race team. Alfa Romeo won the first Formula One world championship in 1950 and won again in 1951, with the 158 and 159 Alfas, respectively.
“To win in racing is not just about a big engine under a hood and going fast. It’s about balance and weight, power/weight ratios, and 50/50 weight distribution — all of the technologies and things that are in today’s Alfa Romeos,” said Bigland. Fastest car
One fitting example is the new Giulia, with two variants, launched at the Shanghai auto show.
One of them, the Giulia Quadrifoglio, sports a 2.9-litre V6 engine that generates a maximum output of 510 horsepower and a top torque of 600 Nm.
Coupled with an eightspeed automatic gearbox, it sprints from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds and runs at a top speed of 190mph.
“When we took the Giulia to the Nurburgring, it went around the ring in 7 minutes and 32 seconds. There is no other four-door saloon in the world that has gone around the ring in a faster time.
“The objective of the vehicle is not to necessarily win races, but I think it underscores the technology and the design excellence in the Alfa Romeo. And, of course, that gorgeous Italian design and style that is unique to Alfa Romeo — a brand that was born in the fashion capital of the world, Milan.”
In addition to the saloon, Alfa Romeo is planning to launch the Stelvio SUV, also present at the show, later into the Chinese market, as SUVs are the fastest-growing segment in the world’s largest auto market.
Bigland said the brand targets those who value premium brands, and who are looking for an alternative to German premium brands.
“What I’ve often said about Alfa Romeo is that it’s not German. It is a vehicle that puts the driver at the center. From a driving dynamics and a performance perspective, we feel that we are a cut above.
“China is a market that really values premium brands, and it seems to put a real value on premium Italian brands. Alfa Romeos have always been built in Italy.” Warm welcome
Chinese customers are already showing their enthusiasm to the newest member of the growing premium segment.
About a month before the Giulia’s debut in Shanghai, Alfa Romeo started a presale of 350 Giulia Milano limited editions through online shopping site Tmall, and all of them were sold out in 33 seconds.
“It really exceeded our wildest expectations,” said Bigland. “I’m incredibly pleased with the initial reaction from the Chinese consumer toward this legendary brand and I think it’s a great first start and a great first impression in the Chinese market.”
“Outside China, everybody knows Alfa Romeo. It’s a nobrainer. But, in China, unfortunately it is not like this yet, so our job is to inform the Chinese people to make sure they know the brand as fast as we can.
“And one of the things we are very strict on doing is giving our dealers the chance to work together on all these new projects. The brand is new and we really need support and understanding for what we are doing.”
Alfa Romeo is building its sales network with Maserati, and is also developing its own dealerships. There are now a total of 30 stores across the country, and the number will grow to 73 by the end of the year. It has received orders for more than 1,000 Giulia’s.
“We now have Alfa Romeo products that can compete in the heart of the premium performance segments. We feel, although consumers will be the ultimate judge, that we can do well.”
“We are not out, in our first year, to win any sales crowns. We need to make a positive impression on Chinese consumers and win them over one at a time by delivering a great experience by driving an Alfa Romeo, and that’s the mission here in 2017.”
“We’re just starting, we still have a lot of work to do, but I’m very happy with how things are going so far,” Bigland said.
From a driving dynamics and a performance perspective, we feel that we are a cut above.” Reid Bigland, head of Alfa Romeo and Maserati