BALOCCO, Italy -- Alfa Romeo CEO Harald Wester said Tuesday that Fiat's sporty brand aims to sell 40,000 of its new four-door hatchback, the Giulietta, this year as the still-sluggish market slows the take-off of what could be Alfa's make-it-or-break it model.
The Giulietta, which was presented to the journalists at Alfa's test track located near rice fields northeast of Turin, is an important launche for the struggling Alfa Brand, which Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has said will have to prove its mettle in 2010.
Marchionne has said he doesn't expect to sell the historic brand, which turns 100 this year, and expressed his confidence Alfa Romeo in Rome on Monday, where the Giulietta was presented to lawmakers.
"We believe in the Alfa brand and the Giulietta won't be the last to be produced in Italy," said Marchionne. He did not attend the press launch.
After rolling out the car through its European market this year, Alfa aims to sell about 100,000 Giuliettas a year.
The Giulietta is the replacement for the 147, and one of two significant launches for the Alfa brand in recent months, following the new MiTo equipped with Fiat's more efficient Multiair engine technology. Alfa Romeo's popular range also includes the larger 159 sedan, as well as the Spider and Brera models for niche buyers.
The Giulietta is built on Fiat's new Compact platform, the automaker's first completely new platform in five years that Fiat boasts is highly modular, allowing it to be applied to a variety of models. The Compact will be used on future Chrysler models, under the agreement with the U.S. government that gave Fiat a 20-percent controlling stake last year. But none have yet been announced.
Alfa aims to sell 120,000 cars in 2010, up from 110,000 in 2009, reflecting the consumer slowdown, and back in line with 2008 sales of 120,000.
"The Giulietta will be a significant contributor," Wester said.
The car is aimed at buyers who normally don't tend to buy sports cars by offering such features as a large trunk able to carry three big suitcases and two suspensions, one high-performance for handling and one designed for comfort.
The Giulietta will go on sale in May in Italy with a base price of €20,300 ($27,577), and roll out in the rest of continental Europe in June, followed in July by right-hand drive Britain and Ireland, Wester said.
Fiat managers believe a hatchback don't do well in the United States, giving indications the car would not be the one to relaunch the brand in North America as the company plans to do in 2012.