Fiat Chrysler plans seven new Alfa models by 2018 - magazine
* Plans to include convertible, sedans and crossover SUVs
* Fiat Chrysler plans to grow Alfa sales fivefold, magazine says
* Company declines to comment; new plan will be unveiled in May
FRANKFURT/MILAN, March 21 (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will unveil seven new Alfa Romeo models and push to increase sales of the sports car brand fivefold, Germany's Auto Bild magazine reported on Friday.
The relaunch of the 104-year-old Alfa Romeo brand, along with luxury Maseratis, is a key part of the group's plans to return to profit in Europe by 2016. Both Alfas and Maseratis will be produced in Italy, FCA has said.
The company aims for Alfa sales of at least 500,000 vehicles a year compared with around 100,000 sold last year, the magazine said in an unsourced report. It did not mention a timeframe.
FCA declined to comment. It is due to unveil a new industrial plan, outlining investments and new models the group will pursue over the next three years, on May 6.
Auto Bild said the company plans to release a convertible Spider by 2016, followed by the sedan and wagon versions of the Giulia and Alfetta models in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
The Giulia sedan will compete with BMW's 3-series, while the Alfetta sedan would rival the German automaker's 5-series.
The pipeline also includes two crossover sport utility vehicles, a compact version and a larger one, which will come to the market in 2017 and 2018, respectively, the magazine said.
The MiTo and Giulietta hatchbacks currently in production will not get replacements as previously anticipated, it added.
Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne is betting on the sporty Alfa brand because he believes it can deliver the global profile that his mass-market Fiat brand cannot and far greater sales volumes than top-end Maseratis, but the strategy has so far been met with scepticism.
Fiat acquired the Alfa brand in 1986, but has since failed to reinvigorate it despite repeated attempts.
Ambitious plans to boost sales to half a million by 2014 have been gradually scaled back, partly because the auto market in Europe was hit by a six-year long slump in sales, leaving behind a weak reputation for quality and just three models.
The recently launched Alfa Romeo 4C coupe was well received, however. (Reporting by Ed Taylor and Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Anthony Barker)