During the Second World War, Alfa Romeo’s Portello factory was heavily bombed which left the factory almost completely destroyed. Due to the peace treaty barring production of aero-engines the machine tools were destroyed. Alfa Romeo was left with parts from pre-war models which they assembled by hand until stocks ran out. The 1900 model began in the early 50’s and was an important milestone because “the basic engine design would serve the company well over the next four decades in a whole range of classic models” (Owen, D, 1999) The 1900 was a huge success for Alfa Romeo and stopped production in 1959 but did not reach their annual sales target of 12,000 per year. A total of 21,304 cars were produced. and by the end of 1954 “more 1900s had been built than all other Alfa Romeos put together” (Owen, D, 1999)
Alfa Romeo also made a selection of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV’s), trucks, busses and trolley busses. These ranged from the 1930’s up until the 1960’s when Alfa Romeo focussed on manufacturing automobiles.
Alfa’s next model, the 2 door Giulietta was introduced in late 1954 with the saloon and spider appearing in 1955. A more performance oriented version emerged in 1957 named the Giulietta TI, which would outsell all other models put together. “Of a total production of 177,690 Giuliettas, the standard Berlina accounted for 39,057 but this was dwarfed by the TI, of which 92,728 were made.” (Owen, D, 1999)
Alfa Romeo did try and enter the large car market with the 2000 and 2600 saloons, coupes and spiders in the late 1950’s. However, these cars did not do as well as Alfa had hoped, it was “too expensive a proposition for the development and production costs involved.” (Owen, D, 1999) Alfa Romeo solved this by fitting the larger engines to the smaller cars, such as the Giulia and Giulietta and offering them in higher specification.
At the Monza circuit in Italy on 27th of June 1962, Alfa Romeo’s next car made its debut. The 4 door Giulia TI, which would be produced from 1962 until 1968 later joined by the Giulia Super from 1964 to 1968. A smaller engine Giulia named the 1300 was built for tax conscious Italian buyers beginning in May 1964. However, the most important aspect of the Giulia range was that “more of them were to be made and sold than any earlier model, and more were to be exported to increasingly hungry overseas markets.” (Owen, D, 1999) The Giulia established Alfa Romeo as a volume manufacturer and in November 1962 opened their own UK subsidiary allowing cars to be sold in UK instead of imported. In total 575,390 Giulias of varying body types (not including sprints or spiders, which totalled 45,604 units) were produced.
A new Bertone designed coupe, was unveiled at Alfa Romeo’s new Arese factory in September 1963. Based on the Giulia and named the Giulia Sprint GT was the first car that Alfa would build at their Arese Works, although the mechanical components were still produced at the Portello factory. “It became the most popular model in the Giulia range, and the most popular Alfa of its time on the UK market.” (Owen, D, 1999)
In the early 1970’s the Giugario designed Alfasud was born. It utilized a flat-four engine as well as a light and compact body to achieve a weight of only 830 kg and a respectable power-to-weight ratio. “The car’s most powerful trump card, and its biggest surprise for sceptics, was the brilliance of its handling.” (Owen, D, 1999) It was very well received by the automotive publications when it began sale on the British market in 1973. Unfortunately, the car was hampered by output issues. 175,000 units were to be produced in the first year but only 78,000 would be made. Poor quality control and a body which was more susceptible to rust also added to Alfa’s concerns. Rusting issues were later addressed with various measures and the entire range was updated in 1980, culminating with a “choice of 19 different model versions at the peak of the range’s popularity in 1982.” (Owen, D, 1999) Production ended after 11 years in 1984 with over a million Alfasuds’ produced (including the Giugario bodied Sprint). However, this was well below the company’s target of 350,000 per year.
During the 1980’s, Alfa Romeo would undergo a huge transition. “A collaborative venture between Alfa Romeo and the giant Japanese producer Nissan, and involved building a version of the Nissan Cherry, fitted with some Alfasud and 33 components, and badged as the Alfa Romeo Arna.” (Owen, D, 1999) It was a complete failure. Annual production was slated for 60,000 units but even after three years, this number had not been reached. However, Alfa Romeo did do better with the 33 series. “Built on a new production line, with a higher proportion of robot assembly technology, and proper attention being paid from the beginning to rustproofing and quality control.” (Owen, D, 1999) Unfortunately for Alfa, this was not reflected in the sales numbers of the 33 series.
After a long history fraught with challenges, Alfa Romeo was absorbed by the Fiat group in November of 1986, no longer able to fund itself without government backing. “Suggestions were made that the 33 range would be dropped, Pomigliano d’Arco would be closed, and future Alfas would be made on Fiat chassis, with Fiat engines and transmissions.” (Owen, D, 1999) A large joint venture between Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Fiat and Saab begun, aiming to share the costs of developing a new front wheel drive chassis which was then to be fitted with individual components from each manufacturer and sold as their own. It was badged the Alfa Romeo 164 and received positive reviews from the motoring press. “With the help of other Fiat Group models, both Alfa plants were at last working at full capacity, and in 1990 the company produced a profit, before the Italian market plunged into recession.” (Owen, D, 1999)
The Alfa Romeo 155 was the first new car to appear after Fiat’s takeover. Based on the Fiat Tipo’s chassis and running gear. It utilised older Alfa engines updated with Fiat technology, hoping to still capture the Alfa Romeo magic. “Unfortunately, despite the improvement in the company’s finances, most customers were not convinced. The 155 looked promising on paper, but the reactions of those who tried early models were scathing.” (Owen, D, 1999) Future revisions did address some of the critic’s woes and more models were added to the line up. The 145 and 146 hatchbacks were added in 1994 and would remain in production until the year 2000. A strikingly designed two door coupe named the GTV debuted in 1995 along the convertible Spider version. All subsequent versions were based on the Fiat Tipo floor plan. However, it was a highly developed version of the Tipo platform that was to debut on the new Alfa Romeo 156, a platform that was reworked enough to be considered new. The Walter de’Silva designed front engine 156 would win Alfa Romeo their first Car of the Year award in 1998. 40 of the 56 judges gave top points to the Alfa Romeo. “The perfect balance to restore the Alfa image. On top of an enjoyable engine line and much improved quality, this median saloon had new and very fine suspension layout so to offer an impeccable road holding.” (1) The 156 would gain “35 more awards throughout its life span, including the Engine of the Year award in 2000.” (2)
The Alfa Romeo 147 was the replacement hatchback for the 145 and 146 models. It was introduced in 2000 at the Turin Motor Show and would go on to win the Car of the Year award in 2001. Winner by a single point, the 147 impressed for its looks, a mix of retro and boldness with clear Alfa genes in its lines. Roadholding reminded its chassis derives from the 156.” (3) It would be produced until 2010, making a total of 580,000 units when it was replaced by the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Currently, Alfa Romeo’s model range consists of two vehicles, the two door hatch, named the MiTo and the four door hatch called the Giulietta. The other volume selling Alfa Romeos, the Spider, Brera and 147 were stopped in 2010. The compact executive salon, the 159, ceased production in 2011 which left Alfa with a very small share of the competitive European hatch market. It is also worthy to note the production of the 8C Competizione and Spider produced from 2007-2009 and 2008-2010 respectively. However, there was a limited production run of only 500 units per body type and can hardly be considered to have an impact on sales numbers.
Unfortunately for Alfa, they saw an approximate 30 percent decrease in sales between 2011 and 2012 from 130,535 cars to 101,000 cars respectively.
Here is a video detailing some of Alfa Romeo’s History
All photos are press photos from http://www.newspress.co.uk
Owen, D, 1999, Alfa Romeo: Always with a Passion, Somerset, Haynes Publishing
Frostick, M, 1974, Alfa Romeo ~ Milano, London, Dalton Watson LTD