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Alfa Romeo Launches US Comeback After 20 Years

After a 20-year absence from the American market, Alfa Romeo is back and looking to draw in an entirely new generation of buyers, starting with the new Giulia sedan it introduced in Milan, Italy on Wednesday.

The sleek four-door, which will reach showrooms in the U.S. and other parts of the world early next year, takes aim at such dominant luxury competitors as the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Alfa Romeo abandoned the U.S. market in 1995, the victim of sharply declining sales which many analysts blamed on both ongoing quality problems and increased competition from European luxury brands.

Image: New Alfa Romeo "Giulia" car is seen during the launch in Milan
New Alfa Romeo "Giulia" car is seen during the launch in Milan, Italy in this June 24, 2015 handout photo. The head of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said on Wednesday the group was a long way from anything like making an offer to the shareholders of General Motors over a possible tie-up. Fabio Ferrari / LaPresse via Reuters

But Alfa is betting it can gain traction with a mix of sexy Italian styling, advanced technology and plenty of power. The Giulia Quadrifoglia features a 510-horsepower turbocharged V-6 that will be able to launch the sedan from 0 to 60 in under 3.9 seconds. Less powerful –- and more affordable –- versions will also be offered.

After the Giulia, Alfa will launch seven more models as part of its comeback, which is budgeted at 5 billion Euros, or roughly $6 billion. A compact SUV is coming next.

The goal is to boost Alfa’s global sales by a whopping 550 percent between 2014 and 2018, said Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Alfa’s parent, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The company hopes to make the U.S. market the Italian brand’s largest, with sales of 150,000 vehicles annually. All but forgotten in the U.S. and much of the world, industry analysts say it will be a big challenge to meet those goals. And they caution that Alfa’s success –- or failure -- will be a critical test of Fiat Chrysler’s broader ambitions.