Dear Italian Car Manufacturers,
I admit I might be slightly biased. The first car I ever "drove" was a 1987 Porsche 944, the first car I ever really loved was my 2006 VW Jetta, and the airplanes my dad was always impressed with were always very Deutsche-centric. You could forgive me then for not realizing why it's such a tragedy that Italian cars have all but disappeared from American roads in the past couple of decades.
This realization hit me when I was sitting behind a heavily-modified Fiat Abarth. The twin titanium exhaust connected to that little four banger provided a burbling soundtrack to my missives about the disappearance of Italian cars in the U.S. market. What happened? I wondered as the Fiat in front of me let out a growl and shot off into traffic. What could make us forsake a country that provided such good looking and wonderful sounding cars?
In the present day, just telling someone that you have an Italian car is enough for them to conjure up visions of V-12s and garish red paint jobs, but it wasn't that long ago that Italian car manufacturers were providing Americans with stylish alternatives to the econoboxes and highway barges that were so populous in the states. Thankfully, there's more on offer from the Italians in recent years with Fiat and Alfa Romeo returning to the U.S., and that's a good thing for someone as biased as me.
There seems to be a certain design element that defines each country and its auto manufacturers. American manufacturers make large, comfortable cars built to a budget, German manufacturers make heavy, technologically advanced cars with exacting precision, and Italian manufacturers make stylish, sporty cars using little else but their libido and a model of an oversized bicep. Of course, I am generalizing here, but there is some truth to these generalizations. Comparisons of how the Germans and the Italians approach the design process and how they will reach their goals show that Germans tend to rely on technology and power while the Italians rely on lightness and raw power. (This is the topic of upcoming article, so I'll expand on this later.)
What this means is that Americans have been drooling over Euro luxury, but it has only been one type of luxury…a very German type of luxury. With Italian manufacturers re-inserting themselves into the fray, the U.S. is going to have to get used to a new type of luxury. This should be nothing but a boon for the American petrolhead. Competition breeds excellence and the U.S. market is an excellent playing field. It's also just nice to see Italian cars on the road for the difference they provide from the monotony of Camrys, Accords, 3-series, and Cruzes.
Will I ever buy a Fiat 500? Probably not, but it's nice to know that there's an alternative to the Scion iQ that succeeds where the Scion fails. Will I ever be able to afford an Alfa 4C? Probably not, but it's nice to see and hear it on the road rather than the indescribably boring Porsche Boxster which just seems to be gaining weight like a retired professional bowler. Will I ever buy a new Lancia? Hell no. There are some exceptions to the rule.
All in all, it's just nice to hear and see something that really stands out in a crowded market, so, to all the Italian car manufacturers (except for you Lancia), I want to say thanks for giving it another shot. We Americans really needed it.