The Fiat Group has set a goal of achieving profitability for Alfa Romeo, and to do that, says Alfa CEO Luca de Meo, the marque will need to increase its sales volume. With a goal of 300,000 vehicles per year by 2010, there are several steps being taken to help ensure it is met. Around the same time, Alfa has plans to introduce of a new SUV to further bolster its sales upon its return to the U.S., which is in the early stages of taking place.
The Italian carmaker first hinted at the possibility of an SUV when it revealed the Kamal Concept back at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show, however development didn’t really start in earnest until it was confirmed Alfa would return to North America. Choosing to build an SUV, even in America, after seeing the bottom fall out of the market may seem an odd choice, but de Meo thinks it's necessary.
"It is true that sales of these cars have plummeted in the U.S., [but] these tall cars are the most appropriate for that market. Even if only because in traffic in a saloon, you feel surrounded by monsters," de Meo said, according to Elmundo. There is also a perception at the company that it must at least offer an SUV to be taken seriously in the U.S., even by buyers not personally interested in the tall and fuel-thirsty vehicles.
There are also plans to introduce engine stop-start technology next year and eventually hybrid systems borrowed from parent company Fiat. These technologies could help improve efficiency to the point that the SUV wouldn't pay a heavy penalty for its size, though the Kamal-derived vehicle won't be a full-size SUV.
This rendering shows that Alfa’s new SUV will likely be styled along the lines of the original Kamal Concept and it’s thought the car could be released in both three and five-door variants. The underpinnings for both vehicles is expected to be based on a revised version of the platform used for the 159 sedan, which means a range of four and six-cylinder engines will likely make the cut. A flagship model will run Alfa’s familiar 3.2L 24V V6 but with several unique elements to achieve a 250hp (186kW) output. Other models will include a smaller 2.2L petrol version as well as a highly efficient five-cylinder turbodiesel with 295lb-ft (400Nm) on tap.
Alfa’s new SUV will have a lot of competition when it arrives at the end of the decade. Both Mercedes-Benz and Audi have already revealed their respective GLK and Q5 compact SUVs and Volkswagen and BMW also have their own Tiguan and X3 models to contend with.