It’s not often that a car manufacturer sows such divisiveness as: Alfa Romeo while still being one of the most successful brands in motorsport history. Because those familiar with Alpha usually have a visceral experience – whether it is positive or not. On the one hand, Alfa has the ability to build extremely competitive cars for track racing, but on the other, Alfa carries the stigma of building poor production vehicles.
However, that was not always the case for Alfa. For the first 60 years of its existence, Alfa lived by the nickname “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” that was popular in the automotive industry at the time. As one of Italy’s oldest and most respected car makers, Alfa’s downfall didn’t begin until the 1970s. After signing a deal with Soviet Russia to use Russian-made steel, the build quality plummeted. Not only was the B-grade steel difficult to work with, but it would rust a few years after it left the factory.
So how did Alfa’s best-selling car still contribute to its demise? Well, for that answer you have to ask the Alfasud, and the No. 27 as the YouTuber tries to decipher how Alfa managed to drive the company into the ground after all. Even after building one of the most successful hatchbacks of the 1970s.
Italian production, Russian steel – what can go wrong?
The 85 hp ‘Alfasud’, which arrived in 1972, became the best-selling Alfa of all time, with more than a million units. However, problems were set in motion before the first ever car was built. Managed by the Italian government at the time, Alfa received £2 billion taxpayers’ money to fund the project, with one major caveat: Alfa had to manufacture the car in southern Italy.
Southern Italy, largely undeveloped at the time, struggled to maintain the same economic growth as its northern counterparts. In an effort to get the economy going again, the Italian government has allocated the money to Alfa. Because he already owned a small factory in the municipality of Pomigliano, the stipulation turned out to be irrelevant, or so Alfa thought.
Poor build quality, great driving experience
The Alfasud, or “Alfa South” as it is loosely translated, has achieved countless milestones for Alfa as a car manufacturer and the industry as a whole. That makes the story of their demise all the weirder. One of the first production cars with four-wheel disc brakes, the Alfasud is still acclaimed for its ultra-responsive handling to this day.
Despite being the best-selling Alfa of all time, the Alfasud looked bleak from the start. As a result of the relocation of production to the southern region of the country, the workers were largely unskilled in car making. As quality began to suffer, rumors of transporting cars in the rain, stocking inferior Russian metal outside, and numerous workers’ strikes eventually stunted the car’s growth and slowed sales for an entire year.
The Alfasud, which remained in production until 1989, is still considered a fantastic car on paper. It was roomy, had just enough power and was an all-star in the corners. However, the Alfasud – and Alfa Romeo as a whole – couldn’t shake the stigma of poor build quality, and the Italian government sold the company to Fiat in 1986, where its unfortunate legacy continues today.
A look back at the history of the Alfa Romeo Alfasud