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Alfa Romeo is preparing to unveil the Giulietta, successor to the 147 compact, at the Geneva autoshow in March before bringing it to market in the spring --in time for the sports car brand's 100th anniversary.

The announcement, posted on Alfa's Web site, comes days after Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of parent Fiat SpA (F.MI), told Automotive News he was thinking about putting a product freeze on Alfa because it was still losing money.

"We need to work a lot harder on Alfa to make an intelligent decision that effectively preserves the highest possible value to Fiat," he was quoted by the industry publication as saying in a report published Dec. 1.

Another option for the brand would be to refresh its product line-up by using platforms from Chrysler Group LLC, Fiat's U.S. partner. One of those platforms could be used to replace the aging Alfa 159 sedan and wagon, for example.

The five-door Giulietta, built on a new platform, will be sold in Europe. A launch in the U.S. remains unclear.

The car was supposed to be called the Milano after the city where the brand was founded, but Alfa decided to change it at the last minute to avoid adding to the controversy surrounding the transfer of its operations to Turin where Fiat is based, according to local news reports.

The original Giulietta was built by Alfa between 1954 and 1965.

Alfa Romeo, which was taken over by Fiat in 1986, has been working hard to refurbish its image that has been tarnished by years of poor parts and service.

The launch of the MiTo last year was part of that effort. The premium three-door hatchback is Alfa Romeo's answer to BMW AG's (BMW.XE) popular Mini.

When Alfa Romeo Chief Executive Sergio Cravero last spoke at a press event in September, he said the brand could sell up to 20% more cars--between 115,000 and 120,000--this year, mostly thanks to the MiTo.

In the first 10 months of the year, Alfa Romeo sold 95,802 cars across Europe, up 9.5% from the same period last year, according to the most recent industry figures.

But its market share was a tiny 0.8%.

By comparison, rival Audi (VOW.XE) had a market share of 4.3% after selling 521,016 units over the same period, down 8.1%.

In Italy, car sales reached 52,002 from January to November, a 5.14% rise from the same period a year earlier. Even in its home market Alfa's share of total sales was smaller than that of Audi: 2.61% against 2.88%.

Company Web site: www.alfaromeopress.com

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