A longstanding assumption of Italian cars, especially Alfa Romeos, is that they are unreliable. Currently, Alfa Romeo has two models for sale in the United States, the Giulia and the Stelvio. The 4C, its mid-engined sports car, is no longer in production. Despite offering sedans, SUVs, and sports cars, overall sales for the brand are low. In 2019, Alfa Romeo managed to sell just 18,294 cars. According to several road tests by Consumer Reports, reliability could be the cause behind it.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is stylish, fun to drive, and difficult to own
The Giulia was Alfa Romeo’s first sedan after the brand returned to the U.S. market. On the surface, the Giulia is easily one of the best-looking sedans in its segment. During their road test, Consumer Reports stated that the Giulia felt agile and light on its feet. The turbocharged engine generates 280 hp making it very potent, even amongst competitors. The ride quality also seems excellent, being more than comfortable for daily driving without being too stiff. Consumer Reports concluded that owner satisfaction should be reasonably high, but there was one fatal flaw.
Amongst all of the aspects tested, the Giulia scored very poorly in the predicted reliability section, falling severely behind competitors. While significant components such as the engine and transmission scored favorably, it was the interior and electronic systems that caused concerns. While these faults would hurt the sales of any manufacturer, they are especially detrimental to Alfa Romeo as it is still trying to establish its brand in the U.S.
SUVs are almost always a sales success, except the Stelvio
The Lexus NX is the reigning champ in the compact luxury SUV segment. Lexus managed to sell 58,715 NX models in 2019. In contrast, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio sold just 9,444 in 2019. Like its sedan sibling, Consumer Reports’ road test confirmed that it is engaging to drive, comfortable and powerful. Like its sedan sibling, the Stelvio begins to fall short in the reliability segment of the report, with a below-average rating.
The problem areas present in the Giulia are current in the Stelvio, with the main issue being the electronics. While having a reliable engine is a major plus, the faulty electronics make that score almost irrelevant. If the significant electronics of the vehicle are not operating, they may not allow the engine to start properly. In terms of a daily driver, these potential hurdles are off-putting to potential buyers.
The SUV and sedan segments are crowded and very competitive
It’s not uncommon to find manufacturers with large sales figures to be at the top of the reliability charts. While cars may be an emotional purchase for many buyers, their everyday practicality reigns supreme. In terms of both the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio, they entered very competitive markets. While their styling is almost always a cut above the rest, potential reliability issues are a deal-breaker for nearly all buyers.
Dwindling sales figures as a result of low reliability mean that what little buyers are willing to give the Italian manufacturer a change may not be repeat buyers. To ensure the brand’s survival in the United States, Alfa Romeo will have to invest heavily in making sure its vehicles are trustworthy or risk having to leave the U.S. market yet again.