Alfa Romeo returns to US after 10-year hiatus

The Italian sports car builder will be marking its official American return, after a 10-year absence, with the official launch of the 4C coupé at the New York International Auto Show in April. And, if all goes to plan, a compact, luxury off-roader will soon be on the way, too.

As such, the 4C will represent the first step the once great automotive brand is taking to rebuild its reputation and to attract the U.S. car-buying public in particular with a host of new models.

The coupé version of the 4C is to be followed by a convertible version and in 2015 by a real-wheel drive luxury sedan to rival the BMW 3 Series called the Giulia. According to Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne, it will reassert Alfa’s reputation for not just rear-wheel drive, but for handling finesse and of course, wonderful styling.

No doubt the Giulia will develop a loyal following if it is as good as Alfa Romeo hopes it is going to be, but the car that could really put the brand back on the map, particularly in the U.S. and China, is a compact, luxury SUV designed to compete with the VW Tiguan, Audi Q3 and BMW X3. This car is expected to go into production in 2016 and, if it has the desired impact, will be followed by a larger version that would compete with the Audi Q5.

Also key to the brand’s revival will be the Made in Italy marker. All cars carrying the Alfa Romeo badge will be built in Milan and exported.

Therefore, the company’s existing plans to build a new, affordable fun-to-drive roadster — a modern-day Spider or Duceto — in the U.S. in conjunction with Mazda looks like it is still going ahead, but the new car will be branded as a Fiat or Abarth instead.

However, it all starts with the 4C, which is hoping to impress the U.S. market in the same way that it has already wowed European car fans and motoring journalists alike with its lightweight carbon fiber and aluminum build, sublime handling and good looks.