I've tired of people asking me, "Hey man, did you hear Alfa's coming back to the States in two years?" The hell they are.

Even though it seems more likely than it ever will be, I won't actually grab a steering wheel with an Alfa Romeo badge in the center and stare out the window at American traffic. This is unfortunately depending on many ducks marching together in a row-and they might be badged as Chryslers and Dodges and Jeeps. Chryslers and Dodges and Jeeps, oh my!

All the Chrysler Group brings to the table is a really embittered dealer and distribution network, some average minivans, fattened pickup trucks, and a Jeep brand with zero clear strategy. Everything else is a Fiat Group automobile and both Alfa Romeo and Lancia remain practically stillborn. Some recipe for success.

And all the dorks looking through rose-colored glasses who snap back that the 8C Competizione is a clear sign that this is the real deal, it's all I can do to keep from bitch-slapping them with Fiat Group profit reports.

The 8C Competizione and Spider are not truly Alfas. They are beautiful sports cars on old Maserati chassis assembled between the Fiat plant at Mirafiori and the same line as the Granturismo in Modena. And, by the way, cost huge money yet add nothing to the bottom line.

Setting polemics aside, however, I have just driven the 2011 Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the 2010 Alfa Romeo 8C Spider whose raison d'être I maybe just ridiculed a little too much, and the Pininfarina Alfa Romeo 2ettottanta showcar that stopped all hearts at the 2010 Geneva show.

The 8C Spider is by far the best Alfa Romeo-badged street car, dynamically, technologically, and image-y, ever built. (Many will even agree that it is also the best looking.)

The new Giulietta is the best driving "civilian" Alfa Romeo ever built, and by that I mean a car that can take on the world and sell in many thousands of units-if only the back office's traditional dysfunction can be solved first.

The purely show Pininfarina 2ettottanta brings blood- red tears of excruciating lust to my eyes. If this gem doesn't get built, then this new push to make Alfa Romeo a global premium player will crash hard into the wall. Again. The apprehensive part of all this tear-stained lechery is that everyone begged Alfa to build the Italdesign Giugiaro Brera the moment we saw it at the 2002 Geneva show. And build it they did, badly. Both the Brera and current Spider from Alfa are nice lookers that drive like pigs on stilettos.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Alfa Romeo turned 100 years old in June and things have rarely looked worse for the brand we all still seem to love, even though it has delivered very little in the last two decades worthy of the name.

But the 2011 Giulietta honestly grabs my attention. The architecture, called "Compact," is a new construction using only a few old bits from existing parts bins. My drive time in and around Fiat's proving grounds at Balocco was fairly dynamic stuff with lots of forced lateral-g action on road and track, and it seems the Alfa boffins have squeaked out a good 'un on a very tight budget. The Giulietta comes the closest yet to being a new Alfa that can stand on its own and realistically dream of taking on the Germans. But it had better resist the temptation to cost like a German or it's game over.

Alfa must sell as many cars as each of the German three-Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz-to be taken seriously worldwide. Last year, while all the big German premium houses were tickling one million or more as usual, Alfa Romeo sold a grand total of 102,000 cars. In a bold effort to thrill, Alfa has declared that the Giulietta should sell 100,000 units per annum all by itself. They'll probably be lucky to hit 60k and it won't be the car's fault.

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