Autoweek Asks: Could the GTV and Spider have saved Alfa in the U.S. in 1995?

Autoweek Asks: Could the GTV and Spider have saved Alfa in the U.S. in 1995?

09/30/2019

The GTV and Spider debuted just as Alfa was packing up shop in the U.S.

Alfa Romeo left the U.S. market in 1995, before returning in 2008 with a high-priced supercar sold at supercar boutiques rather than actual Alfa Romeo dealerships. And the first and the last Alfa sold in the U.S. during that hiatus could not have been more different: the 164 was a large sedan aiming at (and missing) German competitors, while the 8C Competizione was a design and engineering statement aimed at a tiny audience of supercar owners. The 12-year lull was a short one as far as European marque departures and returns go: the only other significant ones we can think of are Fiat’s departure and return, Rover’s short lull after 1980 ahead of a Sterling launch, and Lotus’ periodic stays in the States.

But could Alfa have bought itself a little more time in the U.S. in the 1990s, with the 916 Spider? That’s the model that replaced the long-serving 105 Spider, which departed after its fourth facelift in 1993, leaving the 164 sedan to fend for itself in a recession-soured market. Alfa Romeo couldn’t sustain itself with a luxury sedan and nothing else, and the remaining franchises promptly closed up shop.

The new GTV and Spider were all new, penned by Pininfarina, and they were meant to visually unify the two models with a coupe and convertible option. Launched in production form at the 1995 Geneva motor show, the GTV and Spider quickly accumulated a collection of awards for their design and handling — the duo was arguably Alfa’s biggest hit of the 1990s.

The stylish Spider was a solid hit in Europe.

And the two models had the engines to match: the 3.0-liter V6 was the top dog for most of the run, while the 2.0-liter inline-four was the sensible choice, both sending power to the front wheels.

Given the fact that Alfa Romeo’s lineup in the States was always focused on sporty sedans and roadsters, despite the fact that elsewhere Alfa sold small hatches with diesel engines, the GTV and Spider had a fair shot of keeping Alfa Romeo franchises above water until the end of the 1990s along with the 164 serving as the luxury option. Alfa Romeo also had the option of selling the smaller 155 sedan and the 145 hatch in its lineup at the time — the 155 was perhaps a better choice than the 164 from the start — but the GTV6 and the Spider were really the halo car duo for the brand until both exited production, in 2004 for the GTV and 2006 for the Spider. That’s a whole decade that could have kept Alfa Romeo franchises in the U.S. open, and their mechanics employed. Especially the mechanics.

Do you believe that the new GTV and the Spider would have been enough of a hit stateside to keep Alfa Romeo dealers in business after 1995?

Let us know in the comments below.

The GTV and Spider offered very plush interiors.

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