Fiat Chrysler's new Alfa Romeo puts deal-hungry CEO to the test
* Revamped Alfa range at centre of FCA's turnaround plan
* Analysts say firm faces battle to take on German rivals
* Alfa relaunch could help FCA attract merger partner
By Agnieszka Flak
MILAN, June 23 (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will launch the first of a new range of Alfa Romeo cars on Wednesday, the lynchpin of its turnaround plan and potentially an opportunity to attract a cash-rich merger partner.
Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne is betting on the 105-year-old Alfa brand to help FCA take on German rivals BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz in the fast-growing and high-margin market for premium cars.
The new mid-sized sedan will have a six-cylinder engine derived from FCA's top-end Ferrari brand and will draw on Alfa's racing heritage to help it stand out against "boring German rivals," supplier sources told Reuters.
But Marchionne faces an uphill battle to convince drivers that Alfa has shed a reputation for poor quality and service, and to persuade investors he has the formula -- and money -- to succeed where previous relaunches have failed.
The new Alfa and seven models expected to follow, including a sport-utility vehicle (SUV), will have to challenge well-established brands which are leaders in innovation and have the backing of financially strong parent companies. Continuación...