Alfa Romeo History
|Predecessor(s)||Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID)|
|Founded||24 June 1910 in Milan, Italy|
|Founder(s)||Alexandre Darracq/Ugo Stella Nicola Romeo|
|Production output||101,000 units (2012)|
Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A. sometimes colloquially referred to as simply Alfa, is an Italian manufacturer of cars. Founded as A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) on June 24, 1910, in Milan, the company has been involved in car racing since 1911, and has a reputation for building expensive sports cars. The company was owned by Italian state holding company Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986, when it became a part of the Fiat Group, and since February 2007 a part of Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.
The company that became Alfa Romeo was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. In the late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and a new company was founded named A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, English: Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company), initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Giuseppe Merosi. A.L.F.A. ventured into motor racing, with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24 HP models. In August 1915 the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo with the Torpedo 20-30 HP becoming the first car to be badged as such.
In 1928 Nicola Romeo left, with Alfa going broke after defense contracts ended, and at the end of 1932 Alfa Romeo was rescued by Benito Mussolini's government, which then had effective control. The Alfa factory struggled to return to profitability after the Second World War, and turned to mass-producing small vehicles rather than hand-building luxury models. In 1954 the company developed the classic Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine, which would remain in production until 1998. During the 1960s and 1970s Alfa Romeo produced a number of sporty cars, though the Italian government parent company, Finmeccanica, struggled to make a profit so sold the marque to the Fiat Group in 1986.
Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in many different categories of motorsport, including Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sportscar racing, touring car racing and rallies. They have competed both as a constructor and an engine supplier, via works entries (usually under the name Alfa Corse or Autodelta) and private entries. The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. The company gained a good name in motorsport, which gave a sporty image to the whole marque. Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 as an Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939.
Foundation and early years
The company that became Alfa Romeo was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. One of them, Cavaliere Ugo Stella, an aristocrat from Milan, became chairman of the SAID in 1909. The firm's initial location was in Naples, but even before the construction of the planned factory had started, Darracq decided late in 1906 that Milan would be a more suitable location and accordingly a tract of land was acquired in the Milan suburb of Portello, where a new factory of 6,700 square metres (8,000 sq yd) was erected. Late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and Stella, with the other Italian co-investors, founded a new company named A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili), initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Giuseppe Merosi, hired in 1909 for designing new cars more suitable to the Italian market. Merosi would go on to design a series of new A.L.F.A. cars, with more powerful engines (40-60 HP). A.L.F.A. ventured into motor racing, with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24 HP models. In 1914, an advanced Grand Prix car was designed and built, the GP1914, which featured a four-cylinder engine, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and twin ignition. However, the onset of the First World War halted automobile production at A.L.F.A. for three years.
In August 1915 the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. Munitions, aircraft engines and other components, compressors and generators based on the company's existing car engines were produced in a vastly enlarged factory during the war. When the war was over, Romeo invested his war profits in acquiring locomotive and railways carriage plants in Saronno (Costruzioni Meccaniche di Saronno), Rome (Officine Meccaniche di Roma) and Naples (Officine Ferroviarie Meridionali), which were added to his A.L.F.A. ownership.
Car production had not been considered at first, but resumed in 1919 since parts for the completion of 105 cars were still lying at the A.L.F.A. factory since 1915. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo with the Torpedo 20-30 HP becoming the first car to be badged as such.Their first success came in 1920 when Giuseppe Campari won at Mugello and continued with second place in the Targa Florio driven by Enzo Ferrari. Giuseppe Merosi continued as head designer, and the company continued to produce solid road cars as well as successful race cars (including the 40-60 HP and the RL Targa Florio).
In 1923 Vittorio Jano was lured away from Fiat, partly thanks to the persuasion of a young Alfa racing driver named Enzo Ferrari, to replace Merosi as chief designer at Alfa Romeo. The first Alfa Romeo under Jano was the P2 Grand Prix car, which won Alfa Romeo the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. For Alfa road cars Jano developed a series of small-to-medium-displacement 4-, 6-, and 8-cylinder inline power plants based on the P2 unit that established the classic architecture of Alfa engines, with light alloy construction, hemispherical combustion chambers, centrally located plugs, two rows of overhead valves per cylinder bank and dual overhead cams. Jano's designs proved to be both reliable and powerful.
Enzo Ferrari proved to be a better team manager than driver, and when the factory team was privatised, it then became Scuderia Ferrari. When Ferrari left Alfa Romeo, he went on to build his own cars. Tazio Nuvolari often drove for Alfa, winning many races prior to the Second World War.
In 1928 Nicola Romeo left, with Alfa going broke after defense contracts ended, and at the end of 1932 Alfa Romeo was rescued by the government, which then had effective control. Alfa became an instrument of Mussolini's Italy, a national emblem. During this period Alfa Romeo built bespoke vehicles for the wealthy, with the bodies normally built by Touring of Milan or Pinin Farina. This was the era that peaked with the legendary Alfa Romeo 2900B Type 35 racers.
The Alfa factory (converted during wartime to the production of Macchi C.202 Folgore engines, this engine was the daimler-benz 600 series built under license) was bombed during the Second World War, and struggled to return to profitability after the war. The luxury vehicles were out. Smaller mass-produced vehicles began to be produced in Alfa's factories beginning with the 1954 model year, with the introduction of the Giulietta series of berline (saloons/sedans), coupes and open two-seaters. All three varieties shared what would become the classic Alfa Romeo overhead Twin Cam four-cylinder engine, initially in 1300 cc form. This engine would eventually be enlarged to 2 litres (2000 cc) and would remain in production until 1995.
Once motor sports resumed after the Second World War, Alfa Romeo proved to be the car to beat in Grand Prix events. The introduction of the new formula (Formula One) for single-seat racing cars provided an ideal setting for Alfa Romeo's tipo 158 Alfetta, adapted from a pre-war voiturette, and Giuseppe Farina won the first Formula One World Championship in 1950 in the 158. Juan Manuel Fangio secured Alfa's second consecutive championship in 1951.
In 1952, Alfa-Romeo experimented with its first front-wheel drive compact car named "Project 13-61". It had the same transverse-mounted, forward-motor layout as the modern front-wheel drive automobile. Alfa-Romeo made a second attempt toward the late 1950s based on Project 13-61. It was to be called Tipo 103 and resembled the smaller version of its popular Alfa-Romeo Giulia. However, due to the financial difficulties in post-war Italy, the Tipo 103 never saw production. Had Alfa-Romeo succeeded in producing the Tipo 103, it would have preceded the Mini as the first "modern" front-wheel drive compact car.
During the 1960s, Alfa concentrated on competition using production-based cars, including the GTA (standing for Gran Turismo Allegerita), an aluminium-bodied version of the Bertone-designed coupe with a powerful twin-plug engine. Among other victories, the GTA won the inaugural Sports Car Club of America's Trans-Am championship in 1966. In the 1970s, Alfa concentrated on prototype sports car racing with the Tipo 33, with early victories in 1971. Eventually the Tipo 33TT12 gained the World Championship for Makes for Alfa Romeo in 1975 and the Tipo 33SC12 won the World Championship for Sports Cars in 1977.
By the 1970s, Alfa was again in financial trouble and creative measures were attempted to shore up Alfa's flagging fortures, including an ultimately unsuccessful joint venture with Nissan endorsed by Ettore Massacesi of Alfa's parent company, the Italian-government owned Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) and Italian Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga. By 1986, IRI was suffering from heavy losses, and IRI president Romano Prodi put Alfa Romeo up for sale. Finmeccanica, the mechanical holdings arm of IRI and its predecessors owned Alfa Romeo since 1932. Prodi first approached fellow Italian manufacturer Fiat, who offered to start a joint venture with Alfa. Prodi was initially unsupportive of the venture, citing the strained industrial relations between Northern and Southern Italy, with Fiat being based in Turin and Alfa being based in Milano.
Fiat withdrew its plan for a joint venture when Ford Motor Company put in an offer to acquire part of Alfa Romeo and restructure the company, while increasing its stake over time. However, Fiat put in a bid to acquire the entirety of Alfa Romeo and offer job guarantees to Italian workers, an offer that Ford was unwilling to match.
It also did not hurt any of the parties involved that an acquisition by Fiat would keep Alfa Romeo in Italian hands. In 1986, the deal was concluded with Alfa Romeo being merged with traditional rival Lancia into Fiat's Alfa Lancia Industriale S.p.A.
Models produced subsequent to the 1990s combined Alfa's traditional virtues of avant-garde styling and sporting panache with the economic benefits of product rationalisation, and include a "GTA" version of the 147 hatchback, the Giugiaro-designed Brera, and a high-performance exotic called the 8C Competizione (named after one of Alfa's most successful prewar sports and racing cars, the 8C of the 1930s).
In 2005 Maserati was bought back from Ferrari and brought under Fiat's full control. The Fiat Group plans to create a sports and luxury division from Maserati and Alfa Romeo.There is a planned strategic relationship between these two; engines, platforms and possibly dealers will be shared in some market areas.
In the beginning of 2007, Fiat Auto S.p.A. was reorganized and four new automobile companies were created; Fiat Automobiles S.p.A., Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., Lancia Automobiles S.p.A. and Fiat Light Commercial Vehicles S.p.A. These companies are fully owned by Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.
Carabinieri and Italian government
In the 1960s Alfa Romeo became famous for its small cars and models specifically designed for the Italian police and Carabinieri; among them the glorious "Giulia Super" or the 2600 Sprint GT, which acquired the expressive nickname of "Inseguimento" dir. trl. "to chase or predate" . The colours of the Alfa Romeos used by the Polizia were/is green/blue with white stripes and writing, known as "Pantera" (Panther), enhancing the aggressive look of the Alfa (particularly the Giulia series), while the Carabinieri Alfas were dark blue with white roofs and red stripes, known as the "Gazzella" (Gazelle) denoting the speed and agility of these "Pattuglie" (armed response patrol units). However, the term "Pantera" became used interchangeably and the image helped create a no-nonsense, determined and respected perception by the general public of the men that drove these cars, true to their history.
Since then, Alfas remain the chosen mount of the Carabinieri (renowned arm of the Italian Armed Forces seconded only partly for civilian Policing purposes), Polizia Autostradale (Highway Police) and the conventional police service (Polizia). Successively, the following Alfa Romeo Berlinas have found favour for Italian Police and Government employment:
- Alfa Romeo Alfetta
- Alfa Romeo "Nuova" Giulietta
- Alfa Romeo 33 (Only Polizia di Stato)
- Alfa Romeo 75
- Alfa Romeo 164 (Official Vehicles)
- Alfa Romeo 155
- Alfa Romeo 156
- Alfa Romeo 166 (Official Vehicles)
- Alfa Romeo 159
Since 1960s, the Italian Prime Minister has used Alfa Romeos (and lately the new Maserati Quattroporte) as preferred government limousines. The 164, and 166 have found particular employment in the last two decades.
Alfa Romeo has been suffering from falling sales. Some analysts concluded that the automaker suffered large operating losses in the mid-2000s - estimated to be about 15 percent to 20 percent of the Alfa’s annual revenues—or about 300 million to 500 million euros a year. For the year of 2010, it sold a total of about 112,000 units which was significantly lower than Fiat CEO Marchionne's global sales target of 300,000. Alfa then wanted to achieve 170,000 sales in 2011, including 100,000 Giulietta and 60,000 MiTo, but it actually sold 130,000 units that year. Its medium-term target remains 500,000 units by 2014 including 85,000 from N. American market.
Return to the United States
Alfa Romeo was imported to the United States by Max Hoffman starting from the mid-1950s. The Giulietta Spider was born by request of Max Hoffman, he made proposal to produce an open version of the Giulietta. In 1961 Alfa Romeo started importing cars to the United States.
In 1995 Alfa Romeo ceased exporting cars to the United States, the last model to be sold being the 164. Rumours began of their return, however as the FAQ on Alfa's English website had said "The long-awaited return of Alfa Romeo to the United States market should take place by 2007, with a range of new models."
Alfa Romeo's return to United States was confirmed on 5 May 2006 by Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne. Alfa Romeo resumed sales in the United States with the 8C Competizione in October 2008. In 2008, Alfa Romeo and Chrysler were reported to be in discussions, with Alfa Romeo possibly using Chrysler manufacturing plants that have been shut down due to unneeded product.
A new Alfa Romeo Spider will also be built based on the Mazda Miata platform The underpinnings of the car—built at Mazda's Hiroshima, Japan, plant—will share the Mazda rear-wheel drive technology that it is planning for the next generation of the MX-5 model (often known as the Mazda Miata), but the automakers will style different bodies for each brand. Each car will look different from the outside, and each will also receive different engines. The automaker will reintroduce itself to Americans in the second half of 2013 with the Alfa 4C, another two-seater sports car. The Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A. and Mazda Motor Corporation agreement about Spider/MX-5 should be finalized later in 2012, and production of the Spider could begin in 2015.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 4, 2009, that Chrysler would announce that it is dropping several models of Dodge and Jeep while phasing in Alfa Romeo and Fiat 500 models
The Alfa Romeo 4C was announced to be the first mass-produced car to re-enter the US market in 2013. In 2012 this re-entry was again delayed, this time to early 2014.
Design and technology
Alfa Romeo has introduced many technological innovations over the years, and the company has often been among the first users of new technologies. Alfa Romeo's trademark double overhead cam engine was used for the first time in the 1914 Grand Prix car, the first road car with such an engine the 6C 1500 Sport appeared in the 1928.
Alfa Romeo tested one of the very first electric injection systems (Caproni-Fuscaldo) in the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 with "Ala spessa" body in 1940 Mille Miglia. The engine had six electrically operated injectors which were fed by a semi-high pressure circulating fuel pump system.
Mechanical Variable Valve Timing was introduced in the Alfa Romeo Spider sold in U.S. markets in 1980. Electronic Variable Valve Timing was introduced in the (Alfetta)
The 105 series Giulia was a quite advanced car using such technologies as: All-wheel disc brakes,plastic radiator header tank it had also the lowest Drag Coefficient (Cd) in its classThe same trend continued with the Alfetta 2000 and GTV, which had such things as 50:50 weight distribution standard fit alloy wheels and transaxle.
Newer innovations include complete CAD design process used in Alfa Romeo 164,robotised/paddle control transmission Selespeed used in 156, the 156 was also world's first passenger car to use Common rail diesel engine.The Multiair -an electro-hydraulic variable valve actuation technology used in MiTo was introduced in 2009.
Over the life of the marque, many famous automotive design houses in Italy have accepted commissions to produce concepts and production vehicle shapes for Alfa Romeo. A selection of these include the following
- Giorgetto Giugiaro / Italdesign
- Centro Stile Alfa Romeo
The last mentioned, the Centro Stile, has rapidly gained international credibility with its work. The 8C Competizione super-coupé, and the MiTo hatchback are the result of their work.
Construction techniques used by Alfa Romeo have become imitated by other car makers, and in this way Alfa Romeo body design has often been very influential. The following is a list of innovations, and where appropriate, examples of imitation by other car manufacturers:
- 1950s : Monocoque body design in the Giulia : While not an imitation per se, this construction technique became extremely widespread, and remains so to the present day.
- 1960s : Aerodynamics : The 116-series Giulia boasted a very low Cd. Toyota in particular sought to produce a similarly shaped series of vehicles at this time.
- 1970s : Fairing of bumpers : In order to meet American crash standards, Alfa formulated design styling techniques to incorporate bumpers into the overall bodywork design of vehicles so as to not ruin their lines. The culmination of this design technique was 1980s Alfa Romeo 75. The process was widely copied, particularly in Germany and Japan.
- 1980s : The Alfa 164 : The design process and influence of this car is almost completely out of all proportion to previous Alfas. The 164 introduced complete CAD/CAM in the manufacturing cycle, with very little directly made by hand in the vehicle. In addition, the 164's styling influence continues into the present day line of modern Alfas. Most manufacturers incorporated design ideas first expressed in the 164 into their own designs, including greater reliance on on-board computers.
- 1990s : The pseudo-coupé : The Alfa 156 and 147, while four-door vehicles, represented themselves as two-doors with prominent front door handles, and less visible rear door-handle flaps. Honda has used this design style in the latest Civic hatchback, and a somewhat similar idea is also seen in the most recent Mazda RX-8 four-seat coupé.
- 2000s : The Brera and 159 : These vehicles design, by Giorgetto Giugiaro, have proven influential as regards sedan and coupé styling, demonstrating that concept vehicles are often immediately translatable into road car form, providing that initial design takes place using CAD systems.
Alfa Romeo models have also served as the inspiration and basis of some very interesting and often beautiful concept cars. Here follows a short list of concept cars, and their impacts on car design:
- 1950s - The B.A.T. cars
The Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica prototype cars were designed by Bertone as an exercise in determining whether streamlining and wind-tunnel driven designs would result in high performance on a standard chassis, and whether the resulting vehicles would be palatable to public. Alfa 1900 Sprint were the basis of the B.A.T. 5, 7 and 9. The later B.A.T. 11 was based on the 8C Competizione.
- 1960s and 1970s - Descendants of the Tipo 33
The Tipo 33 racing car, with its high-revving 2000 cc V8 engine became the basis for a number of different concept cars during 1960s and 1970s, two of which ultimately resulted in production vehicles. Most made their appearances at the Auto Salon Genève. Here is a brief list:
- Gandini/Bertone Carabo (1968) - Marcello Gandini expressed ideas that would come to fruition in the Lamborghini Countach.
- Tipo 33.2 (1969)- Designed by Pininfarina, this car ultimately resulted in the 33 Stradale road car
- Gandini/Bertone Montreal Concept (1967) - making its appearance at the 1967 Montreal Expo, this Giulia-based concept resulted in the production Alfa Romeo Montreal road car with a variant of the Tipo 33 V8 engine.
- Bertone/Giugiaro Navajo (1976)- A fully fibreglassed vehicle, and in some ways the epitome of Giugiaro's 'Origami' style of flat planes.
- 1980s-today - Modern ideas
In general, concept cars for Alfa Romeo have generally become production vehicles, after some modification to make them suitable for manufacture, and to provide driver and passenger safety. The Zagato SZ, GTV and Spider (descended from the Proteo), Brera and 159 are all good examples of Alfa Romeo's stylistic commitment in this direction.
- The future
Alfa Romeo concept cars have mostly emphasized performance in combination with historical tradition. The Nuvola Concept, and the independently designed Diva Concept cars have demonstrated that this ethos is the centre of Alfa conceptualisation. The Centro Stile website also gives designers very good direction in terms of the combination of line and form Alfa prefers to see in the design process of its cars' bodywork.
Alfa's badge incorporates emblems from fifth century Italy. It was designed in 1910 by an Italian draughtsman Romano Cattaneo who used two heraldic devices traditionally associated with Milan: on the right is the Biscione, the emblem of the House of Visconti, rulers of Milan in the 14th century; on the left is a red cross on a white field, the emblem of Milan, which Cattaneo had seen on the door of the Castello Sforzesco. In 1918, after the company was purchased by Nicola Romeo, the badge was redesigned with the help of Giuseppe Merosi. A dark blue metallic ring was added, containing the inscription "ALFA — ROMEO" and "MILANO" separated by two Savoy dynasty knots to honour the Kingdom of Italy. After the victory of the P2 in the inaugural Automobile World Championship in 1925, Alfa added a laurel wreath around the badge. In 1946, after the abolition of the monarchy, the Savoy knots were replaced with two curvy lines. The name "MILANO", the hyphen, and the lines were eliminated when Alfa Romeo opened its factory at Pomigliano d'Arco, Naples in the early 1970s. The serpent and man appear to be Jonah and the serpent. These images are often found in Liturgical art as far back as the third century.
Alfa Romeo has been involved with motor racing since 1911, when they entered two 24 HP models on Targa Florio competition. In the 1920s and 30s Alfa Romeo scored wins at many of the most famous and prestigious races and motoring events such as Targa Florio, Mille Miglia and Le Mans. Great success continued with Formula One, Prototypes, Touring and Fast Touring. Private drivers also entered some rally competitions, with fine results. Alfa Romeo has competed both as a constructor and an engine supplier, via works entries Alfa Corse, Autodelta and private entries. Alfa Romeo's factory racing team was outsourced to Enzo Ferrari's Scuderia Ferrari between 1933 and 1938. The most legendary Alfa Romeo driver is Tazio Nuvolari, who took one of the most legendary victories of all time by winning the 1935 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring.
The Quadrifoglio emblem (also called the 'Cloverleaf') is the symbol of Alfa Romeo racing cars since 1923. Following WWII, it has also been used to designate the higher trim models of the range (comparable to BMW M Performance or Volkswagen GTI models). The Quadrifoglio is usually placed on the side panels of the car, above or behind the front wheels. The symbol consists of a green or gold cloverleaf with four leaves, contained with a white triangle.
History of the symbol
The Quadrifoglio has been used on Alfa Romeo cars since the death of Ugo Sivocci in 1923. As a friend of Enzo Ferrari, Sivocci was hired by Alfa Romeo in 1920 to drive for Alfa in the three-man works team: (Alfa Corse) with Antonio Ascari and Enzo Ferrari. Sivocci was regarded as a driver with an enormous amount of experience, but often hampered by bad luck and considered the eternal second-placer. To banish his bad luck, when the Targa Florio came around, the driver painted a white square with a green four-leaf clover (the Quadrifoglio) in the centre of the grille of his car. Sivocci had immediate success, crossing the finish line first. The Quadrifoglio subsequently became the symbol of the racing Alfa Romeos with the victory at the Targa Florio. Almost as if to prove the magical effects of this symbol, Sivocci was killed while testing Merosi`s new P1 at Monza, a few months after winning the Targa Florio. The Salerno driver's P1, which went off the track on a bend, did not have the Quadrifoglio. Since this period in 1923, the bodies of Alfa Romeo racing cars have been adorned with the Quadrifoglio as a lucky charm. The white square was replaced with a triangle in memory of Uvo Sivocci.
Until the 1980s, Alfa Romeos, except for the Alfasud, were rear-wheel-drive.
According to the current Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, in order to reap economies of scale, all new Alfa Romeo models will be made from the same basic platform (i.e., frame). Even Maserati will share components with some Alfas.
Cloverleaf, or Quadrifoglio, badges denote high-end in comfort and engine size variants of Alfa Romeo cars, but previously denoted Alfa Romeo racing cars in the pre-Second-World-War era. Some modern Alfas wear a cloverleaf badge which is typically a green four leaf clover on a white background (Quadrifoglio Verde), but variants of blue on white have been recently observed as well.
The Alfettas of the early 1980s had models available sold as the "Silver Leaf" and "Gold Leaf" (Quadrifoglio Oro). These models were the top of the range. Badging was the Alfa Cloverleaf in either gold or silver to denote the specification level. The Gold Leaf model was also sold as the "159i" in some markets, the name in homage to the original 159.
The trim levels (option packages) offered today on the various nameplates (model lines) include the lusso ("luxury"), turismo ("touring"), and the GTA (gran tourismo alleggerita) ("light-weight grand tourer"). The GTA package is offered in the 147 and 156 and includes a V-6 engine. In the past, Alfa Romeo offered a Sprint trim level.
During the 1990s, Alfa Romeo moved car production to other districts in Italy. The Pomigliano d’Arco plant produced the 155, followed by the 145 and the 146, while the Arese plant manufactured the 164 and new Spider and GTV. The 156 was launched in 1997, and became quite successful for Alfa Romeo; in 1998 it was voted “Car of the Year”. The same year a new flagship, the 166 (assembled in Rivalta, near Turin) was launched. At the beginning of the third millennium, the 147 was released, which won the prestigious title of “Car of the Year 2001”. In 2003 the Arese factory was closed.
The Arese factory today hosts almost nothing and is nearly abandoned. What remains are some offices and the great Alfa Romeo Historical Museum, a must-see for Alfa Romeo fans.
In the 60s, the main Alfa Romeo seat was moved from inside Milan to a very large and nearby area extending over the municipalities of Arese, Lainate and Garbagnate Milanese. However, since then the Alfa seat is known to be in Arese, since the offices and the main entrance of the area are there.
In the late 1960s, a number of European automobile manufacturers established facilities in South Africa to assemble right hand drive vehicles. Fiat and other Italian manufacturers established factories along with these other manufacturers, Alfa-Romeos were assembled in Brits, outside of Pretoria in the Transvaal Province of South Africa. With the imposition of sanctions by western powers in the 1970s and 1980s, South Africa became self-sufficient, and in car production came to rely more and more on the products from local factories. This led to a remarkable set of circumstances where between 1972 and 1989, South Africa had the greatest number of Alfa Romeos on the road outside of Italy. Even stranger, Alfa Romeos Brits plant was used from March 1983until 1985 to build Daihatsu Charades for local consumption, but also for export to Italy in order to skirt Italian limits on Japanese imports.
In late 1985, with the impending Fiat takeover and an international boycott of the South African Apartheid government, Alfa Romeo withdrew from the market and closed the plant. After the plants closing, literally tons of valuable parts were bulldozed into the ground to escape paying import duties.