I thought Alfas position was quite clear in the Fiat empire.
1) Ferrari, Super car
2) Lancia, Prestige
3) Fiat, Budget/Family
4) Alfa, Sports
My point about the 159, was that in 1997 when the 156 first appeared it was truly breathtaking, and rightly won car of the year in 1998, although detractors will probably say that doesn't mean alot. It is to date the most popular Alfa model ever, saved Alfa Romeo and turned the company around. By modern stands it's an old car, things have moved an, so in a way the 159 is better but clearly something went the buying public doesn't agree and Alfa now sells half the vehicles they did. I genuinely cannot remember the last time I saw a 159 on the road, you will see a 156 all the time. The 159 is or was a fat car, even Alfa spent a shed load of effort trying to make it lighter if I recall.
Er, you seem to be missing Maserati in this line-up Mr Caine?
Adding the trident back in, a more useful (and perhaps accurate) description of the marketing niches may be made for these brands:
1) Ferrari. Supercar, no doubt about that.
2) Maserati. Lots of money pumped in and virtually joined at the hip with Ferrari. Effectively mini- Ferraris.
3) Lancia. Soft 'Sporty' for the slipper brigade, best left to Continental markets as they're utterly revolting.
4) Alfa Romeo. Should be 'Sports' but isn't. That mantle taken over by:
5) Fiat. The once working class tin can bangers with chic now have 'Sporty' engines such as the forthcoming MA units and even the JTDs rated at 150bhp (even the Croma gets the 2.4 JTD 200bhp). Often better built, more practical, and certainly more chic for the upcoming generation than Alfa Romeo.
Notice the huge gap between the top two, then the three marques at the bottom? There lies the problem for Alfa Romeo. There is a huge gulf between Alfa and Maserati, the price range £30k-£60k that Alfa would love to encroach but Maserati won't allow.
Instead Alfa Romeo is trumped by Fiat, who build better cars at better prices and with a much stronger following in the upcoming generation, and in such a competitive market place.
The Fiat Group have relied on the mystique of the Alfa Romeo badge for too long. Once the mist of deception is finally blown away all you have for the future is a tarted up Fiat with an Alfa badge stuck on the bonnet, with the final demarcation of engine differences finally gone.
Only a complete fool will pay the £2,000 or more extra just for a pretty badge, and with nothing to back it up.