Alfa Romeo Australia Screw Up 4C Launch

It always felt too good to be true….

Alfa Romeo released details on Australian version of the new 4C mid-engined performance coupe. It’s fair to say that people who were waiting to take delivery of their 4C will be somewhat disappointed.

The first let-down is the price.

AlfaRomeo4C3Aussies should be all over the fact that the Alfa Romeo 4C will sell for $54,000 in the USA. That’s $65,000 of our Australian dollars.

Due to a) Australia’s luxury car tax, and b) the fact that we’re used to paying a premium for cars here, getting close to $65,000 was always a pipe dream.

And so it goes, with a price of A$89,000 announced today.

BOOOOOOOOO!!

It’s not that big a surprise. I was hoping Alfa Romeo Australia would bring the car in around $75,000 or maybe $80,000 at the most. Given the hype around the car, I’m not surprised they’ve tried to squeeze an extra $10K out of it, especially given our falling dollar. Still, it’s a LOT of money for a two-seater and the price is going to be a factor for some.

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You’d probably think an overinflated hit to the hip pocket that was the worst news that Alfa Romeo could have delivered today.

It wasn’t.

From Wheels Magazine:

ALFA Romeo’s gorgeous, lightweight 4C has finally hit our shores, but Aussie buyers are in for a shock – their cars will be 130kg heavier than 4Cs sold in Europe.

Alfa Romeo 4CTrawling through the 4C’s Aussie spec sheet reveals a dry weight of 1025kg, a number well up on the 895kg Alfa has been championing in Europe. The official kerb weight for Australian-spec 4Cs, which includes fluids, is 1118kg.

The whole modus operandi for the 4C is light weight. If you’ve ever driven a car that has this singular focus then you’ll know how important it is to the characteristics of the car. Alfa Romeo are promising that it’ll still sprint from 0 to 100km/h in 5.4 seconds but that’s missing the point. It’s not just about flat-out acceleration. It’s about the whole package: acceleration and most importantly, handling. Weight kills. 130kg is a near 15% weight penalty and that’s a BIG penalty, regardless of how you spin it.

If you’re an Aussie and you’ve been pining for this car since its concept debut in 2010, how flat would you be that we’re not getting the super-slim 895kg version? My guess is VERY.

So why is this happening? The answer is almost as poor as the problem itself.

An Alfa Romeo Australia PR lady stated that Australian 4C’s will get a build spec based around the 4C’s made for the American market. Safety regulations in the United States require a stiffer build that results in 130kgs of extra weight. Fair enough, if you’re in America. I’m not sure that washes as an excuse for bringing a heavier version to Australia, though.

Australia’s New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is harmonised with EuroNCAP, which means that the European version should be fine for sale in the Australian market. ANCAP doesn’t test every car sold here. It depends on volume and the 4C will be a small volume seller, so the decision to test the car will most likely reside with Alfa Romeo. The US version may (or may not) gain an extra star in Australian crash testing if Alfa Romeo stumps up to get it tested here. If they don’t, the European star rating should apply.

This decision, then, is one that Fiat and Alfa Romeo have made. It may well prove to be a disaster for local interest in the car. The 4C will sell to a fair share of well-heeled idiots who just want the latest sexy new car. It could sell well amongst enthusiasts, too, but I have a feeling that an avoidable 130kg weight penalty is one that few enthusiasts will be willing to cop.

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Don’t get me wrong, the launch of the 4C is still an exciting occasion. The initial allocation for Australia is just 120 cars – 75 Launch Editions costing an extra $20K and 45 regular versions. All 120 cars have deposits paid.

I just wonder how today’s news will play with those buyers and what effect it might have on the excitement about the car in the next few years.

Alfa Romeo 4C Launch Edition

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7 Comments

  1. You can’t really blame them for the price when all allotted cars have been pre-sold. The price may drop a bit once supply increases and initial demand has been met.

    One question: you are comparing the Australian price to the US price. Wouldn’t it make more sense to compare to (for instance) the UK price? In that case, you are paying AUD $6,000 more than Brits are, which isn’t a huge difference given that their launch and support costs are spread-out over a much larger number of cars. Not sure how VAT factors-in.

    I wonder what the actual differences are between US and EU-spec cars. Has anyone seen a back-to-back test?

    1. It would make slightly more sense, being a fellow RHD market. But the premium we pay for all sorts of cars is a bit of an open industry secret down here. Same with music on iTunes, other downloadable software (there was a time – not so long ago – when it was cheaper to fly to LA, buy Adobe’s studio package and fly home!) and plenty of other things.

      Australia’s an expensive place. No particular reason. It just is.

      A back to back test would be interesting.

      1. We often have the same pricing problem in Canada, although we are less of a captive market since most of the population lives within 100 miles of the US border.

        Here’s a link to the chassis differences between the EU and US models: fiat500usa.com/2014/06/alfa-4c-us-and-euro-chassis-differences.html

        The EU model is also available without AC (in theory), has fewer airbags, and has those lighter LED headlights which you dislike.

  2. I’m afraid at the end of the day, cars like this will (most likely) be gobbled up by the rich wives of banking execs rather than by enthusiasts, or willing to bet a large percentage of the sales will go to the “Look at me in this car” crowd. So it sucks for the petrol heads but not for Alfa’s accountants.

  3. Alfa is dead.

    This is a car with Fiat engine, manufactured at Maserati. It also happens to be ugly (my taste) compared to the 156, the 8C, even the less exiting Giulietta. Too many unmotivated shapes.