Alfa Romeo moves south

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Naples to become the HQ

For the past decade Alfa Romeo’s Sud plant on the outskirts of Naples has been an embarrassment to the company, bedevilled by strikes, absenteeism and even violence. Today the mood has changed completely, to the extent that Alfa Romeo’s finance and sales divisions have moved south as a prelude to the centre of operations being at the Pomigliano d’Arco plant instead of Milan.

The state-owned company had a change of heart about Naples four years ago and set about curing the problems at the plant which lies in the shadow of the extinct Vesuvius volcano. In return for complete modernisation of the factory the unions agreed that 1,500 workers should be permanently laid-off, so that instead of having 15,000 people producing 500 Alfasuds per day they now have 13,500 producing 700 cars per day.

Perhaps the most vital part of the deal was to utilise the Pomigliano plant better, involving the Nissan corporation and the joint venture Arna model. For a number of years the production of Alfa’s advanced alloy flat-four engine had exceeded the body production capacity. A total of 864 power units is made each day by workers who operate in groups (rather than on a long line), while the transmissions are assembled individually by men who work on their own at 36 stations. Robot-like driverless trolleys, guided by underfloor cables, bring the components to each station and, 35 minutes later, take away the complete assembly, this process going on for 16 hours a day in two shifts.

The Arna situation is a bit confusing — even, apparently, to insiders, because even though the model is in full production the marketing arrangements have still not been worked out between the Nissan and Alfa Romeo importers. Apart from the wheels and the badging the Nissan Cherry Europe and the Alfa Romeo Arna are identical, Powered by the Alfa flat-four unit and using the 33’s running gear. Alfa Romeo will sell the Arna in Italy, Nissan-Datsun the Cherry Europe in Britain, but details have not been thrashed out for all the other markets.

Alfa Romeo own 66 per cent of the Arna Operation, Nissan 33 per cent, though the Japanese value in each car is only 20 per cent. The bodies are made in the nearby Ave(lino plant then taken to Pomigliano for Painting, assembly and trimming, and it becomes clear that Alfa Romeo are committed to building up production of the 33 as a priority, letting the Ama take up spare capacity.

In the first full year 30,000 Arnas will be built, alongside 90,000 of the type 33, but in 1985 Alfa Romeo expects the plant to be running at or near its 172,000 capacity with a third of the production being the Ara. Nissan takes 20 per cent of the Arna production, 6,000 in the first year rising to 12,000 in 1985, Alfa Romeo selling half of their share on the Italian market.

Dottore Franco Perugia, Alfa Romeo’s director of publicity, leaves no doubt that the Italian company is in the driving seat on this deal, its priority being to build up the 33’s sales on home and export markets, an estate car model being due in 1984 to widen its appeal. Massive financial losses have been incurred since 1979 but are diminishing year by year, the company expecting to break even in 1984 and to show a profit in 1985. An investment of £170 million per year for the next five years is scheduled, the Pomigliano plant initially having the lion’s share of this. The plant is now fairly highly automated, having 80 robots on the production line, an automatic stacking system in the warehouse, designed by Olivetti, and an advanced anti-corrosion and paint process.

The Italian market, where Alfa Romeo sell 55 per cent of their production, is down by 8 per cent at the moment, and more seriously, the luxury car market is down by 12 per cent. This, of course, is Alfa’s own territory, and Doss. Perugia makes no secret of the fact that the Milan production line will be on short time next year, with production down to 90,000 cars.

The company will be negotiating 4,000 permanent redundancies with the unions from a workforce totalling 27,000 (“these will be labelled ‘crisis talks’, but you have to realise that this is a ritual”), but a more positive aspect is that the short-time working will enable the company to install more advanced production equipment, and to tool up for an important new model due next autumn. This is likely to be the Giulietta, while in the further future the Mena will be replaced by a completely new model late in 1986.

The Alfa Romeo 164 (already dubbed the “Alfona”) is a joint project by Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Lancia to give all three companies a flagship model for the latter half of the decade. Sneak photos show it to be a large, handsomely styled wedge-shaped car which will be powered by a variety of engines, in Alfa’s case anything from the 2-litre four-cylinder to the 2.5-litre and a new 3-litre V6, and it will remain a rear-driven model. The 164 is being developed by Alfa Romeo on behalf of the consortium, which would lighten the financial burden considerably.

Today Alfa Romeo is not as near the threshold of success as Austin-Rover, for instance, since the vital home market shows no signs of recovery. The organisation is more fragmented, too, but they don’t refer to the “Sod” plant any more, Pomigliano d’Arco being a fully integrated part of the group and the home of the diesel engine and aero divisions. It will, clearly, become increasingly important as time go by. M.L.C.