New car presentations are usually events organized to please the media and investors. There are nice speeches, lights and very precise presentations that explain the attributes of the new product. Some of them take place during the motor shows, but in other cases the companies prefer to use selected locations to even impress more the journalists. However, Alfa Romeo decided to change this approach with its new SUV, the Stelvio.
I had the opportunity to be invited to a very nice and easy event organized by Alfa Romeo’s marketing, engineering and PR areas for EMEA region. The revolutionary reveal took place at FCA’s proving ground in Balocco, near Milan, and welcomed around 150 social media “influencers” of the brand. In contrast to the tradition, the mass media did not have the chance to drive the car first than anybody, but it was common people in loved with the brand like me.
The “First Stelvio Drivers” were important enough to grab the attention of Sergio Marchionne, who surprisingly arrived at the last moment. He attended the presentation along with Alfredo Altavilla, EMEA’s boss. The top management is really committed to this new car, which means the life or death of Alfa Romeo as a brand within FCA group. If the Stelvio doesn’t work, then Alfa won’t have any more possibilities of success. Based on what I saw on Saturday, there are solid reasons to believe that this new premium midsize SUV will find its place in the market.
After a funny reveal hosted by two friends – Maria Conti, PR, and Mario Alvisi, Alfa’s product manager, we were invited to have a test drive of three of the best current Alfas. The 4C, which I had already drove back in 2013 at the media drive in Balocco. The fantastic Giulia Quadrifoglio with manual transmission. And of course, the new Stelvio, which I must say was astonishing.
The Stelvio is a midsize premium SUV that is intended to rival the Porsche Macan, Audi Q5, Mercedes GLC, BMW X3/X4 and Volvo XC60, among others. It is the SUV version of the Giulia as it uses not only its platform but also its design language, interior and engines. The car looks great with an aggressive headlights, and a simple but elegant side and rear views. The interior features high quality materials with interesting driving solutions.
The handling is almost perfect, and the version I drove (2.0 Turbo Q4 with 280 hp) responded very well in terms of power, acceleration and in the curves. The conclusion by the majority of the “first drivers” is that the Stelvio looks like a SUV but its easy, stable and sporty handling is closer to that of a regular sedan than to a SUV. This of course will be a key element for the success of the new Alfa, as many of the complaints of the current SUV drivers is that their cars are sometimes uncomfortable or unstable in the curves.
Alfa Romeo has everything to succeed in the booming SUV market. The Stelvio is perhaps one of the best products available in the market this year, and FCA must work hard in order to position it in the right way. No mistakes are allowed, and personally I think the brand should not focus on the Quadrifoglio version as it did with the Giulia, but on the regular ones. The Quadrifoglio may be a shocking car, but Alfa Romeo risks to be known as a niche-brand instead of a real choice in the premium segment.
Many thanks to Maria and Mario for the invitation.
Hi Juan, lucky you to attend such an event. Based on your ride in the Stelvio, has the handling prowess come at a cost to the ride, where it’s the stiffness in the springs that stops the side to side wallowing but then pass on every road imperfection into the cabin?
Also, you mention the interior is the same as the Giulia. Have there been any upgrades to some of the buttons, knobs etc to overcome the criticisms of the English and German motoring press?
Were there any English influencers there? The reason I ask is because when I read the majority of the English motoring magazines, it’s pathetic how they put the soft feel of buttons and the infotainment clarity/ as the number one issue in a driver’s car. The fact that the Giulia is rated superior in handling, steering and motor to its German premium rivals is a secondary consideration (they are so pathetic).
In contrast, the American publications note that whilst the Giulia’s interior quality is not far behind the German cars, it’s the dynamics of the vehicle that make it a winner as a driver’s car, clearly placing the dynamics as the primary criteria. The Spanish speaking American videos have also been very, very positive about the Giulia.
In Australia the car isn’t being released until later this week. I would like to think that when it comes time to comparisons, our automotive media will place more weight on the vehicle dynamics than on how soft the cabin materials feel or the number of pixels in the infotainment system.
I’ve also watched at least 3 Spanish video reviews of Giulia and they have also been very balanced. They acknowledge the interior quality is very good although not quite at the Audi level, but they also consider the car to be very, very good dynamically. They do find the diesel engine noisy and tractor like at idle though. Interestingly, a couple of the Spanish videos do refer to the Giulia’s door openings being quite small making entry/exit a bit more difficult – similar to what Jeremy Clarkson had indicated. I do find this quite ironic, given that we of Spanish heritage tend to be of shorter stature than Anglo Saxons and northern Europeans, and yet this is not mentioned by their automotive reviewers. As Americans would say, ‘go figure’.
Interesting idea by FCA marketing board, but how many of those young fans can afford a suv like the Stelvio?
It is not about volumes. It is about awareness.
So, what do you think about dropping AR Giulia SW?
SW are only important in Europe (not all countries). If the Giulia sells well in the US, then it won’t be necessary to have a SW version.
Still don`t agree with the idea that overlook Europe is a good strategy, when we know Alfa is not well (or at all) established in China, India, Russia, Brazil, Africa, or even US. Is it a wise marketing decision to overlook almost 50% of the european market (SW) when they have already made 4/5 of the investment – in Giulia Sedan? Can Alfa overlook the italian market of SW? just in Italy Alfa could sell almost as many Giulia SW as all the Sedan sales in Europe. Alfa says to the market – you must buy this – usually it`s the opposite.
Hello Felip, As we all know Marchionne is pushing FCA for a merger, but What does he means by a merger ? Does he means that FCA is for sale to GM or other car company ?
FCA would get more profit from badging both the Guilia band Stelvio as Maseratis.
AR should move towards being a sort of Entry level Ferrari, smaller and slightly cheaper cars aimed at those who want driver cars, but at a reasonable price.
Maserati should be the premium brand to compete with the Germans and Jaguar, while a relaunched Lancia could become more of a Bentley competitor, with the idea of Pace with Grace.
I love Italian cars but Lancia being a Bentley competitor is a bit too positive . If they could possibly erase 50-60 years of their recent history it might happen .