AUTOSHOW-Volkswagen's Piech says could quadruple Alfa sales

Mon Feb 28, 2011 6:15pm EST

* Volkswagen has time for Fiat to sell--VW Chairman Piech

* VW group sales up 16 pct in Jan-Feb to 1.2 mln vehicles (Adds background)

GENEVA/FRANKFURT Feb 28 (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) Chairman Ferdinand Piech said Europe's largest carmaker could nearly quadruple the annual sales of Alfa Romeo, if current owner Fiat SpA (FIA.MI) sold the underperforming brand.

Within five years, the German company could bring sales of the Italian premium brand to nearly 400,000 cars, Piech said late on Monday at the premiere of VW models at the Geneva auto show this week.

So far though, Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne has refused to sell a brand he hopes to bring back to its former glory in the days before Fiat bought Alfa in 1986.

"Volkswagen has time," Piech said in Geneva.

Alfa Romeo may have celebrated its centennial anniversary last year with a 10 percent increase in volumes, but it still only managed to sell about 112,000 cars.

The maker of the MiTo and Giuletta has for years tried to boost its sales up to 300,000 only to fail dismally.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Fiat CEO Marchionne said Alfa was a "money loser" in the seven years since he has been at the company, adding: "I'm not sure if it ever really made any money."

Piech also said clearly he did not plan for VW to raise its near 30 percent stake in German truck maker MAN SE (MANG.DE) and that VW would not tamper with the independence of either MAN or Scania AB (SCVb.ST).

The Swedish truckmaker is already consolidated in VW's books.

Separately, VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said group vehicle sales rose 16 percent in the first two months of this year to about 1.2 million units.

Carbon fibre specialist SGL Carbon (SGCG.DE), which has partnered with BMW (BMWG.DE) to produce the lightweight material on an industrial scale for automobile use, said Volkswagen took an 8.2 percent voting stake in the company. (Reporting by Jan Schwartz and Christiaan Hetzner; editing by Andre Grenon)

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