“Arna. And you’re an alfista once”, the story of Alfa Romeo’s biggest flop

“Arna. And you’re an alfista once”, the story of Alfa Romeo’s biggest flop


In the coffin of the memories of those who love four wheels knocks hard and painfully, like a rotten tooth, a page of history that, in fact, would have resembled a golden opportunity to be caught on the fly, but which, in retrospect, turned out to be a flop sound. In the head of every fan Alfa Romeo it sounds with its annoying noise the advertising slogan as dangerous as it penetrates: “Arna. And you are once Alfista”. This was announced on Italian television by a businessman called Biscione who intends to promote his small car as the best way to enter the luxury world of Arese cars. A real promise, because for just 9,980,000 lire, in 1984, you could take the new Alfa Romeo model home with a turnkey. Where is the original sin that still floats aroundArna, so that a survey conducted a few years ago ranked it among the worst cars in history? The truth of being only half of Alpha and having a tour of a community as loving and steadfast as that of alphists.

Alfa-Nissan joint venture

In 1980 a historic agreement was signed with great fanfare in Tokyo: on one side was the Italian Alfa Romeo and on the other was the Japanese Nissan. It is the birth of one cooperation between the two essential aspects of driving, with Alfa Romeo taking on the role of the great European four-wheel drive tradition, focusing on the passion and emotion to be delivered behind the wheel, while Nissan is responsible for providing reliability, technology and sophistication to each other. This fact itself has an epochal significance, because the collaboration between two automotive giants in the early 1980s is a very unusual event, not to mention unprecedented. Therefore, merging the company changes of these companies looks like a road paved with gold, because the plate cries for the fund of Alfa Romeo which is still owned by IRI, while Nissan finds in the Arese company an excellent choice of penetration lock. the market of the Old Continent, in which the vehicles of the Rising Sun have not yet taken root. The first stage of the development plan is going through the foundation of a new factory Pratola Serra, in the province of Avellino, in which the example of the child of the Italian-Japanese union will have to live. The car will be called Arna, short for Alfa Romeo Nissan Automobili.

The road up to Arna

The market paves the way, in fact the attention of the average driver is directed towards small cars such as Volkswagen Golf or Fiat Rhythm. Alfa Romeo, in that segment, offers the Alfasud but it is a model that already has many springs on its shoulders and does not have the financial resources to focus on the development of its successor, which – above all – is new from scratch. The Arna is the best opportunity on the horizon, because Nissan offers the bodywork, rear axle, interior, dashboard and seats of its Cherry, while Alfa Romeo should implant a 1.2-cylinder 4-cylinder engine under the bonnet with 63 hp , the transmission and its magical front end. What seems like a simple solution on paper turns out to be complicated. The bodies coming from Japan are strong and stable, they do not have the atavistic rust problems that plague Alfasud, however, importing made in Alfa mechanics is a difficult operation: modification of the chassis and invasive intervention in the body work is required. All this leads to delays and increased costs that were not previously calculated. The first opportunity to show the Arna to the public was in 1983, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, twelve months behind schedule. The welcome is warm to say the least, to say the least. Fans of the Italian brand, famous for cars with an attractive and attractive design, are shocked by Arna’s rough line, square and academic, which also has a spartan and open interior like that of an “iron curtain” car. . What happened to the Biscione style? Compared to one Nissan Cherry, Arna differs only in the grille and frieze of the Milanese brand and the coat of arms placed on the tailgate. Very little.

Arna
Arna in Ti edition

Failure to declare

The expectations of Alfa Romeo’s top management, as well as those of Nissan, are optimistic to say the least: to sell 60,000 units in the first year alone. It is very sad that Arna will stop its registration, from 1984 to 1987, with a total of only 53,000 units. An epochal failure, which really cut off the legs of the partnership between Alfa and Nissan, but which above all damaged the image of the Italian company which for a long time suffered from the bad story of Arna. And yet, deep down, the car had its merits. Turning the key you can be impressed by the boxer engine, with its unmistakable roar, then – strictly speaking – Arna had all the good qualities of the Biscione pure blood: good cornering, excellent road holding and sudden acceleration. Its main problem was that of beauty outside the taste of Italians and Europeans, yet they do not care about the appeal of the Japanese. Respect in Alfasud, Arna can count on reliability and above all on the handling of corrosion-resistant sheet metal. Today, the tribe of alphists he forgave her and, indeed, rediscovered her. Finally he too has found peace with his place in Biscione’s great book.

Arna