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Marchionne wants Alfa to stand alone. Image by Alfa Romeo.

Marchionne wants Alfa to stand alone
CEO plans to revive brand in a similar manner to Maseratiís rebirth.
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Fiat-Chrysler's CEO Sergio Marchionne has a grand plan to return the once-noble Alfa Romeo brand to its former elite standing - by making it a standalone company within the Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group.

The tactic is one he's employed with some success before, as he span Maserati away from Ferrari to make it more viable. The net result of that is that last year, Maserati was Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.'s second most profitable subsidiary on operating margins, behind only Ferrari itself.

Marchionne's idea is that Alfa would become a separate legal entity within FCA, with all its profit and losses publicly declared. The charismatic Italian has been with Fiat since 2004 and not once in any of those years has Alfa Romeo made money, but returning it to profit is a cornerstone of ensuring the wider FCA group's European automotive concern gets back into the black. However, he's had three previous attempts at formulating a scheme to revive Alfa and despite his best efforts, last year the brand sold just 74,000 units globally - a slump of 56 per cent to a level last seen in the late 1960s.

Still, this new proposal would hopefully see the revival driven by a series of new models, including SUVs and large luxury saloons, with the idea being to move Alfa upmarket enough to seriously challenge the German marques. Part of that process will see the top-line vehicles powered by rumoured V6 petrol engines developed by Ferrari. But it wouldn't just be sales of these new, improved Alfas that would help - building these machines would also fill up the slack in capacity in Fiat's Italian factories, something that lost FCA around Ä520 million last year (about £429 million).

Further details on the plan suggest Alfa's HQ could move from Turin to Modena, where Maserati and Ferrari are based, and that cars will be sold through Jeep's 1,700 dealers in order to make Alfa properly global; last year, nine in every ten Alfas sold across the world were bought by Europeans.

It all sounds very promising, but of course this sort of seismic re-ordering of FCA requires cash, and with money tight it's going to be hard to speculate to accumulate. FCA's net industrial debt will also have increased following the purchase of Chrysler, and on May 6 it is expected Marchionne will announce Alfa's status, the FCA group's latest total debt figure and how on Earth he plans to fund this scheme.

Anything else?

It has long been known that a certain Austrian by the name of Mr Ferdinand PiŽch is an admirer of Alfa Romeo and it could be easily argued that this latest move, if it goes ahead, is an obvious first step on the road to Fiat selling it off to the Volkswagen Group. But Marchionne, himself a single-minded fellow, has always said he does not intend to flog Alfa off, least of all to Volkswagen. It would certainly be interesting to watch these two strong-minded individuals battling it out over one of the motoring world's most coveted marques.

Matt Robinson - 29 Apr 2014

2014 Alfa Romeo line-up. Image by Alfa Romeo.2014 Alfa Romeo line-up. Image by Alfa Romeo.2014 Alfa Romeo line-up. Image by Alfa Romeo.2014 Alfa Romeo line-up. Image by Alfa Romeo.2014 Alfa Romeo line-up. Image by Alfa Romeo.

2014 Alfa Romeo line-up. Image by Alfa Romeo.2014 Alfa Romeo line-up. Image by Alfa Romeo.2014 Alfa Romeo line-up. Image by Alfa Romeo.2014 Alfa Romeo line-up. Image by Alfa Romeo.2014 Alfa Romeo line-up. Image by Alfa Romeo.    - Alfa Romeo road tests
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