Fiat could bring Alfa sex appeal to Ontario factory

Alfa RomeoChrysler LLC will build its upcoming Alfa Romeo 169 sports sedan at its Brampton, Ont. assembly plant, according to a projection by research firm IHS Global Insight Inc. It would mark the first time a high-end European luxury car will be made in Canada.

Chrysler and its commercial partner Fiat SpA will produce the yet-to-be-unveiled Alfa starting in November 2011, analysts for Global Insight said in a forecast report published on its website. The car will share the same basic underpinnings as Chrysler’s rear-wheel drive Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger models, the report said. Auto industry trade blogs have pegged its price at 40,000 euros ($62,000).

Fiat, the Italian automaker headed by Canadian Sergio Marchionne, steered Chrysler out of bankruptcy protection Wednesday, giving it a new lease on life after a US$16.8-billion loss last year. Fiat will own 20% of Chrysler initially and ramp up its stake over time, using Chrysler’s underused North American plants to build its Fiat and Alfa Romeo cars while contributing small vehicle technology to Chrysler’s own models.

Sports cars, especially more upscale European brands, “have a kind of panache” and building one would carry a certain prestige for Canada, said Doug Leighton, an automotive historian at the University of Western Ontario’s Huron College. “It may also have tax advantages for Fiat in the North American market.”

Chrysler spokesperson Mary Gauthier said Thursday the company is still reviewing production plans and no final decisions on building Fiat vehicles in Canada have been made. Mike Jackson, director of North American product forecasting for rival consultancy CSM Worldwide, said he doesn’t see Fiat building any models in Canada.

The Canadian and Ontario governments are supporting Chrysler with $3.8-billion in public aid and have received a roughly 2% share in the revamped automaker. One of the conditions of the loans is that the company maintain 20% of its production in Canada.

The Alfa 169 would likely be a low-volume model with annual production estimated at 10,000 units maximum.

Almost immediately after receiving final legal approval of its purchase of Chrysler this week, Fiat announced a management and structural shakeup at the American automaker that will see several senior Chrysler executives leave the company. Jim Press, formerly vice-chairman and president of Chrysler, was named deputy CEO to Mr. Marchionne. Global Insight said its sources indicate Mr. Press will oversee day-to-day operations at Chrysler while Mr. Marchionne divides his time between Italy and the United States.

Chrysler itself will be organized into its four distinct brand channels, each responsible for their own profit and loss statements.

“The sweeping management changes are stunning in their breadth and depth, essentially creating an entirely new management structure out of the old Chrysler,” Global Insight said in an analysis Thursday. “This is likely to be a positive thing.”

The consultancy’s report details no other new vehicles for Chrysler’s two Canadian plants. Fiat will build its award-winning 500 subcompact at Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico plant, the report said.

Chrysler dealers filed an appeal of the bankrupt company’s sale to Fiat Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, Bloomberg reported.

The developments came as Ford Motor Co. called a meeting for Friday with the Canadian Auto Workers union to discuss labour costs. Ford says its Canadian plants are now at a competitive disadvantage against Chrysler and General Motors Corp. facilities after its rivals secured new labour contracts with the union that offered concessions.

One Response

  1. Nice car..Interesting to know that it will be made in Canada and that the Canadian Government spent that much investing in Chrysler..Wasn’t aware of that..

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