"2016 is crunch time for Italian car brands"

Some of Fiat Chrysler's bold targets come to fruition this year, but will they work? Graham Hope looks ahead

A new year always brings a sense of optimism and, of course, curiosity over how the next 12 months will pan out. That’s especially true in the car world; who could have known, for example, what 2015 had in store for the beleaguered VW Group

There’s a lot to be excited about in 2016, but it’s another of the big European car-building empires that I’ll be watching with particular interest, as it’s no exaggeration to say that it really is time for the Italian brands in the Fiat Chrysler axis to deliver. Boss Sergio Marchionne has set bold targets for Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, and 2016 is the year when some of the plans will come to fruition.

"Ford's fightback starts in the best way - with fast, affordable, fun"

At the top end of the company, Maserati will unveil the model that is ultimately tasked with doubling global sales to 70,000, the Levante SUV (which was of course previewed by a concept car in 2011, above). 

During a recent chat, Maserati’s European general manager Giulio Pastore told me why the car is so critical. “There is no future for a company that makes only sports cars,” he said. “Success is important, but we are confident. It’s a true sports SUV that looks like a Maserati and sounds like a Maserati.” He also stressed that it will be the brand’s only SUV; a smaller model would occupy territory soon to be entered by Alfa.

"We don't have enough roads for 60m people and 45m cars"

Of course, it, too, has a big 2016, as we will get the chance to see if the Giulia can kick-start Alfa’s latest rebirth by delivering a drive to match the undoubted appeal of its looks. Let’s hope it can, as in my view at least, the continued goodwill shown to this serially underperforming brand is wearing a little thin.

And finally, there’s Fiat, whose 124 Spider has to prove a credible halo car and whose Tipo faces a stiff challenge to convince budget buyers. Can it really build anything without a 500 badge that has genuine appeal? 2016 will reveal all, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how it all unfolds.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Recommended

Ferrari Classiche: restoring Maranello's classics
Ferrari Classiche
Ferrari

Ferrari Classiche: restoring Maranello's classics

We head to Italy to see how Ferrari Classiche is keeping the brand's classics in concours condition
23 Jul 2021
'Ferrari has to evolve or it will cease to exist'
Opinion Ferrari
Ferrari

'Ferrari has to evolve or it will cease to exist'

Ferrari's new hybrid 296 GTB shows the brand is taking positive steps towards sustainability, says John McIlroy
2 Jul 2021
New 2021 Ferrari 296 GTB launched with 819bhp V6 hybrid powertrain
Ferrari 296 GTB - front
Ferrari

New 2021 Ferrari 296 GTB launched with 819bhp V6 hybrid powertrain

The 205mph Ferrari 296 GTB supercar is powered by an all-new 2.9-litre plug-in hybrid engine
24 Jun 2021
Best 60s cars: the 30 greatest cars of the 1960s
Best cars of the 60s - header
Best cars & vans

Best 60s cars: the 30 greatest cars of the 1960s

The swinging sixties brought a vast array of unforgettable cars that would establish the path of the industry for decades to come. We pick our top 30 …
21 Jun 2021

Most Popular

New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV breaks cover
Volkswagen Taigo R-Line - front
Volkswagen Taigo

New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV breaks cover

The new VW Taigo is a sportier, more aggressive looking version of the brand’s T-Cross and is aimed at lifestyle buyers
29 Jul 2021
New Bowler Defender Challenge review
Bowler Defender Challenge - front
Land Rover Defender

New Bowler Defender Challenge review

The new Defender Challenge is the first Bowler under JLR ownership, and it’s a cracker
28 Jul 2021
New 2021 Kia EV6 boasts up to 328 miles of range
Kia EV6 - front
Kia EV6

New 2021 Kia EV6 boasts up to 328 miles of range

Kia reveals more specs for its bespoke electric car, with the EV6 offering long range and an 18-minute 80 per cent rapid recharge time
21 Jul 2021