The Fiat Group chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, has confirmed he has delayed Alfa Romeo's critical new D-segment Giulia by at least six months because its exterior design failed his "gut instinct" test.
Speaking candidly in Balocco, Italy, last week, Marchionne said he was worried a poor design would "butcher" Alfa Romeo's US comeback, now due in early 2013.
"The pencil went wrong and I don't think it's an Alfa," Marchionne admitted after the new car failed to pass through an executive "check gate".
"The Giulia is so critical. If we butcher that one, we are done in North America," Marchionne insisted.
A product of the Fiat Centro Stile design team in Torino, which is headed by Pininfarina's former chief designer, Lorenzo Ramaciotti, the Giulia wasn't distinctive enough for Marchionne's liking.
"I don't think it's an Alfa," he confessed. "The 8C is clearly an Alfa and the MiTo is clearly an Alfa. The car I have on my hands right now, I could take off the badge and it could be a boring German machine.
"My gut tells me to take a new sheet of paper and start again. The pencil just went wrong."
While the 4C, which debuted at this year's Geneva Motor show, will still lead off Alfa's US charge, its introduction has been delayed until 2013 to minimise the time the small sports car had to wait until the cavalry arrived in the form of the Giulia, the updated Giulietta and the upcoming C-segment SUV.
The delay will also weaken Alfa's range in its European heartland, too, because it will have no midsized sedan or wagon until the Giulia arrives. It also delays the arrival of the Dodge and Chrysler versions of the same architecture.
"This happens all the time and we are at the beginning stage," Marchionne said.
"If we take the badge off and can't tell that's an Alfa, that's a concern."
While he has issues with its styling, Marchionne insisted he was confident with the chassis, driveline and industrialisation of the car.
"The architecture is sound, the transmissions and everything else is fine; I just don't like the design."
With the delay in the Giulia's delivery, the next all-new Alfa Romeo will be the C-segment SUV, due in late 2012 to early 2013, leaving Alfa to sell just the MiTo, the Giulietta and the 159 until then.
While Europe's best-selling premium brand, Audi, sold 125,700 cars and SUVs in March, Alfa sold less than that for the full 2010 year.