The return of Alfa Romeo


By Drew Singer

VAUGHAN, ONT. – After years of waiting and a quietly bumped launch date, Alfa Romeo is officially on sale in Canada once again.

Maranello Alfa Romeo, the newest dealership for the Remo Ferri Group of Automobiles, threw a grand opening party to officially unveil the brand and its first entrant, the $75,995 Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition on Nov. 27 in Vaughan, Ont. just north of Toronto.

Although the 4C was first unveiled on Canadian soil on June 5 at the Crescent Street Grand Prix festival during the Grand Prix du Canada weekend in Montreal, Que., the November event marked the grand opening of Maranello Alfa Romeo.

The unveiling also marked Alfa Romeo’s official return to Canada, a market it vacated 20-years ago in the wake of tumbling sales.

On the night of the grand opening, all eyes were fixed on the five nearly identical shapes hidden under red wraps. After brief speeches by Remo Ferri, president and owner of the Ferri Group, and Joe Orlando, senior manager Chrysler Canada eastern business centre, the wraps were lifted and Alfa Romeo was officially back.

Ferri said just 40 of the 500 Launch Edition models earmarked for North America would make it to Canada. Chrysler Canada executives would not confirm the number of 4Cs headed for Canada, Launch Edition or otherwise.

The dealer also told the crowd the he felt especially connected with the Italian brand because it helped kickstart his career in 1978. The very first dealership in the dealer network, Ferri said he pined to reestablish the brand here since the day the last new Alfa Romeo arrived at his dealership.

It hasn’t been completely smooth for the returning marquee, though, as the original launch Canada launch was bumped from the summer months to late fall.

Chrysler Canada executives said the vehicle was delayed in order to “make it perfect” the first time around.

Rumours circulated that the automaker was looking to avoid the mistakes made during the launch of the Jeep Cherokee last year. After the SUV was released, Chrysler blamed “powertrain calibration” for the delayed sales date. Buzz online and in print suggested the Jeep’s engine had difficulties with the nine-speed transmission.

Details were never really confirmed, but Marchionne vowed “never to repeat” those mistakes.

Dealership and Product  

Originally opened in 2012 as a stand-alone Fiat store, Maranello Fiat began cosmetic upgrades in September to split the showroom down the middle to accommodate Alfa.

Although no physical reconstruction was necessary, the three-month job involved refinishing the interior and adding all new Alfa Romeo signage inside and out.

The dealership features an 18,000-squarefoot showroom accommodating eight vehicles, a café, a six-car service drive-thru and underground parking.

Designed and appointed under strict direction from Chrysler Canada, each Alfa Romeo franchise currently provides a similar showroom aesthetic: white on white floors walls; black and red trim; accent pieces and plenty of evocative Alfa Romeo historical photography dotting the walls.

With a proven race pedigree, it is no surprise Chrysler Canada is looking to evoke some of the romance and heritage ingrained in its 105-year-old brand. Even the name of its new product, 4C, is meant as an homage to the 6C and 8C names Alfa used to denote its powerful road and race cars the 1930s and 1940s.

Although its still very early days, the formula seems to be working for Maranello Alfa Romeo. Robert Vacca, director of marketing for the Remo Ferri Group, said the dealership received several orders for the regular 4C during the party.

“I don’t know the number, unfortunately, but I know there were a couple of people that actually sat down and ordered the car,” Vacca said.

He said the dealership is looking to secure as many Launch Edition vehicles as possible. Order books are wide-open for the regular 4C and Maranello Alfa Romeo expects the vehicle to arrive in early 2015.

As for future product, Remo Ferri said the brand has plans to release a sedan, a spyder and an SUV in the coming years. The sedan is pegged to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2015 and should sell in much higher volumes compared to the 4C sport coupe, he said.

And the price of the sedan?

“That’s a question I don’t know how to answer. But we think it will be in the price range of a BMW 3-Series and 5-Series,” Ferri added.
The Network
Chrysler Canada revealed the initial Canadian network would consist of four points: two in Quebec: one near Toronto and another in Vancouver. Each of the four points shares a roof with the Fiat brand with showroom space evenly divided between the two brands.

Daniel Labre, national communications manager Chrysler Canada, said in future all Alfa Romeo franchises that find homes under a Chrysler Canada rooftop will be paired with the Fiat brand.

He said he could not comment on how FCA might align Alfa Romeo with its high-end FCA siblings like Maserati and Ferrari.  

It should be noted that a fifth Alfa Romeo franchise already in the works is planning on splitting Maserati and Alfa Romeo. Opening again under the Remo Ferri Group of Automobile’s banner, the Oakville, Ont. dealership is slated to start moving metal in early 2015.

In order to maximize brand awareness, Ferri said he plans to open the new dealership following the conclusion of the Canadian International Auto Show, which will wrap up on Feb. 22. A firm date for the grand opening has not yet been set.

“I expect Oakville will surprise all of us because I think it is a market that is ready for something new, and Alfa will fit right in,” he said.

Ferri promised the new store would be the most exclusive Alfa Romeo dealer in the five-point network. He plans to move a combined 300 Maserati’s and Alfa Romeo’s in the first year.

In a press statement, FCA said it anticipates that the Alfa Romeo dealer network ultimately will exceed 300 franchises in North America. Chrysler Canada executives declined to specify how many of those would be in Canada.