UPDATE 1-Alfa Romeo to sell new two-seater in Europe in September

Tue Mar 5, 2013 6:42am EST

By Jennifer Clark

GENEVA, March 5 (Reuters) - Italian sportscar brand Alfa Romeo will start selling its 4C two-seater model in Europe at the end of September with a launch price of 60,000 euros ($78,000), Alfa chief Harald Wester said on Tuesday at the Geneva car show.

Alfa Romeo, owned by Italian carmaker Fiat, will launch the 4C in the United States at the end of 2013 after the Los Angeles car show, Wester said, without disclosing the price.

Fiat plans to roll out the limited edition 4C at top dealerships across the U.S., marking it's long-awaited return with the first model there since 1995.

The Italian carmaker hopes to leverage the 103-year-old brand's cachet with auto enthusiasts to draw new buyers to Alfa Romeo through a revamp of its two existing compact cars and the addition of seven new models by 2016.

The price of 60,000 euros for the 4C in Europe is for a special "launch edition." The car will be sold in dealerships at a lower price.

Some commentators have speculated that the car could be priced at $60,000-$80,000 in the U.S. Premium German two-doors are all cheaper than that - the Porsche Cayman, Audi A5, BMW 329i and Mercedes Benz C350 all start in the $39,000-$44,000 range.

Alfa Romeo will produce 3,500 of the limited-edition cars, Wester said, of which 370 have already been ordered. 1,500 of the cars will be earmarked for Europe, 1,200 for North American and 800 for the rest of the world.

The 4C is the first in its price range to use the super-light carbon fibre bodies until now only found in Formula 1 racing cars and exotic cars like the new Ferrari F150 due to make its debut at the show later on Tuesday.

The 4C's light body means that the smallish 240 horsepower, 1.75 litre four-cylinder engine can deliver speeds normally associated with high-performance cars, rocketing from zero to 250 kilometers per hour in just 4.5 seconds.

"These numbers underline the supercar status of the 4C," Wester said at a mobbed Alfa Romeo stand.

The publicity surrounding the 4C's launch in the U.S. should serve to generate interest the next set of Alfa models like the Giulia sedan due out in 2014.