Alfa Romeo To Stop Selling Cars In U.S.

After years of losses, Italian sports car maker Alfa Romeo said last week it will stop selling cars in the United States and Canada at the end of this year.

The maker of flashy and expensive sports cars said it had suffered significant losses and could not justify the large investment needed to meet tough new U.S. safety and emissions standards.

Alfa Romeo, a subsidiary of Italian automaker Fiat, sold just 523 cars in the U.S. last year and offered only two models - the 164 midsize sports sedan and the Spider two-seat roadster.

The Spider, introduced in 1966, was discontinued in the 1994 model year. The company developed an all-new Spider model for Europe, but did not plan to sell it in the United States.

Alfa Romeo's 86 U.S. and eight Canadian dealers will have their franchises terminated at year-end, but they will be given the opportunity to continue to provide parts and service for the approximately 35,000 Alfa Romeo cars now on the road in North America.

Alfa Romeo's departure follows that of its parent, Fiat, in 1983. Several others also have given up in recent years, including French automakers Renault and Peugeot.


Automakers are hustling to deliver the latest option minivan buyers want: a rear door on the driver's side.

Surveys by AutoPacific, a marketing firm, found that 70 percent of minivan owners say they would pay $250 to $300 for a passenger door on the driver's side.

Minivan buyers want more carlike comforts and convenience, including the extra door. Automakers' response:

-- Odyssey, Honda's first offering in the minivan market, has two car-like doors on the driver's side. The minivan came out last month.

-- Chrysler's remodeled '96 minivans, due this spring, tout an optional sliding door behind the driver's door. No price yet, but it is expected to cost $500 or less. Chrysler figures two-thirds of buyers will choose the option.

-- General Motors' remodeled '97 minivans - the Pontiac Trans Sport, Oldsmobile Silhouette and Chevrolet Lumina minivan - will get a sliding passenger door on the driver's side.

Ford Motor must play catch up. Ford's Windstar minivan, introduced last March, has still only one door on the driver's side. Adding another door is no simple task. It requires costly re-engineering to ensure the vehicle body remains rigid and meets crash standards.

To contain costs, Ford is working with Lear Seating to widen the driver's-side door and make the driver's seat slide forward to allow easier access.