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Warning Article: Would Alfa Romeo now be Chinese if Ford had bought it?

Would Alfa Romeo now be Chinese if Ford had bought it?
March 29, 2010 - 9:48 am ET

Every now and then, brand enthusiasts and unions claim it would have been much better if Ford had bought Alfa Romeo.

Back in 1986 Ford offered to buy nearly 20 percent of Alfa with its stake rising to 100 percent if a turnaround plan for the struggling government-owned brand succeeded.

Ford's offer didn't go down too well in Italy after critics pointed out that Italian taxpayers would finance 80 percent of Alfa's turnaround, with Ford having an option -- but not an obligation -- to take over the brand.

In the end Alfa was sold to Fiat, which took full control of the brand on January 1 1987. Fiat's ownership of Alfa cannot be called a success. Alfa sold 168,000 cars in the year before Fiat bought it and just 102,000 last year.

But the venerable sports car maker is still European. Its destiny is decided in Turin. If Ford had bought Alfa, the brand probably would be now owned by a Chinese automaker.

On Sunday, Ford signed a deal to sell its Swedish Volvo unit to China's Geely after already selling off its British brands Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover as part of CEO Alan Mulally's focus on the core Ford brand.

I wonder how the Alfisti would react to the prospect of decisions on future Alfa cars being taken near Beijing. I wonder what the unions would say if they had to learn Chinese?

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