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07 July 2017

Alfa Romeo Swings Big with Giulia Lease Deals

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A few months ago, we stunned pretty much every premium automaker—and the folks that shop them—by proclaiming the Alfa Romeo Giulia the winner of our Big Test of 2.0-liter compact luxury sport sedans available with a $399/month, 36-month lease.

Brackish coffee was sputtered in Bavaria, a host of Nagoya salarymen were volun-told to work even later into the night, and folks in Detroit just shook their heads at how a brand with a heritage of erratic quality overseas could win such a contest. But there was no arguing with the numbers. When added up, the Giulia lapped the Lexus, mashed the Mercedes, aced the Audi, crushed the Cadillac … you get the point.

Well, we’re going to have to recalculate those results. The Alfa Romeo Giulia now has an even more enticing lease deal, one that further skunks the German and Japanese luxury brands, putting it within reach of those who might be shopping for a mundane Honda Accord or Ford Fusion.

In an effort to propel demand for a new-to-market product in a viciously competitive segment, Alfa Romeo has slashed its monthly payment to just $299 for a quickie 24-month Giulia lease—with a modest $3,299 down payment up front. (That down payment is pretty typical number for the segment.) That gets you a two-year lease on a car with a MSRP of $39,985.

How in the name of Nicola Romeo can Alfa get away with that?

Normally, a shorter lease term is more expensive because the bulk of depreciation—which is really what you’re paying for in a lease—happens in the first year or two. It seems counterintuitive that Alfa can create a lease that flies in the face of accepted economic theory. Yet here it is, with a car we described as, “efficient, economical, quick, safe, and without question the most fun to drive.”

Some caveats:

  • When you divide the down payment by the number of months in the lease, the Alfa’s 24-month lease becomes relatively more expensive than competing luxury vehicles that divide the down payment over a 36-month period—by about $42 a month if the down payment amounts were equal. Just remember how much less your monthly payment will be, however. Also, if I were a gambling man, I’d wager that after 20 months of your lease, Ally Financial might be amenable to you extending your Giulia lease to a 36-month term without any adjustment to your monthly payment.

 

  • Like all the competing luxury leases, the Giulia’s lease is limited to 10,000 miles a year. Going over that number can result in punitive per-mile charges.

 

  • Although the Giulia is on an all-new platform with no track record of either good or bad reliability, the Alfa Romeo brand overall has a lengthy heritage in Europe of quirky problems and elusive electronic gremlins hiding in wiring harnesses. Of course, being an early adopter likely means you will receive white-glove treatment by dealerships (and Alfa Romeo North America) should something go awry. How seriously is Alfa Romeo taking this? All customer complaints are being routed directly to Pieter Hogeveen, Alfa Romeo’s North American director, for his personal attention. (BTW, he says he hasn’t been all that busy.)

 

  • You aren’t getting a loaded version of the Giulia. It’s the 2LL base package, which gets you a content list that includes 17-inch wheels, passive entry, remote start, leather seats and steering wheel, a backup camera and sensors, and the most horsepower and torque in the class. But if you want your Alfa to have stuff such as a sunroof, heated seats, blind-spot monitoring, or those glorious aluminum paddle shifters, your monthly payment will increase quickly.

 

  • Most other luxury automakers use the same sort of come-on tactics when creating these cheap lease deals—only BMW and Mercedes use a higher-MSRP version as the basis for their respective leases. Still, when you compare the content in the $299/month Giulia 2LL trim to those in the competitive $399 leases, it matches up pretty well.

 

  • Lastly, the deal likely won’t last. This might be one of those ideas that rewards early adopters, and once Alfa Romeo gets a firmer footing, the leases will more closely match the competition. Of course, for those of who delight in schadenfreude and short selling, you could gamble that Alfa sales won’t pick up and dealers will get increasingly desperate to sell last year’s inventory as the 2018 models start arriving.

 

“A 24-month lease is somewhat unusual,” says Scot Hall, executive vice president of operations for swapalease.com and wantalease.com. “Alfa is trying to gain some share, not only with the lease payment but also by cycling people through their products a bit quicker.”

Alfa Romeo isn’t the only player getting aggressive in the compact luxury sedan lease arena. Jaguar is playing an even more aggressive $249/month game for its XE 2.5t, but for 36 months and $3,995 down. But it is offering that deal on a lower-trim model with a MSRP of just $35,895. If you want the equivalent bells and whistles of the Giulia, the Jaguar lease price obviously will cost more. Infiniti’s Q50 2.0t also has a cut-rate $309/month lease deal for 39 months and a down payment of $2,499, but it’s also based on a lesser-grade MSRP of $34,855.

Lexus is the closest to the Alfa terms, with its three-year lease for the IS Turbo (previously the IS 200t) working at $299/month with $3,999 down on a $39,425 MSRP. (Note: In June, the offer was a slightly modified $319/month, with $3,299 down on a model with the same MSRP. Pay attention to those constantly shifting numbers when shopping, folks.)

Alfa’s deal almost seems too good to be true, which means they could be playing fast and loose with lease subsidies by artificially inflating incentives to move the metal. Not like it should matter to those who get a great deal, but the pain FCA’s Ally Financial feels when the leases return could be intense if the lease-end values are less than what is on the FCA books.

But Hogeveen says everything is legit, and third-party residual trackers back him up, stating the Alfa has a stronger residual value than the current luxury-brand leaders.

Hogeveen claims the Giulia has a 50 percent residual after 36 months, compared to 41 percent for the Mercedes C300 and 38 percent for the BMW 330i. That 9 to 12 percent difference is equivalent to thousands of dollars—which gives Alfa Romeo more room to play when offering lease terms.

“We are not trying to undercut the segment,” says Hogeveen, who is clearly undercutting the segment. He adds that Alfa Romeo is using “conquest cash” (a common national marketing incentive) and applying it to the lease terms to lure customers from other brands to Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo has to do this because it has no customer base to draw from, whereas many long-standing luxury brands perform lease “pull-aheads” of up to five months for existing customers—essentially eating those remaining payments—to keep customers loyal to their brands, Hogeveen says.

Plus, while other luxury brands have to spread their marketing incentive budget to cover discounted sales to corporate and rental fleets, Alfa Romeo is engaging in no such tactics, Hogeveen says.

So how does the $299 Alfa lease stack up to the top finishers in our Big Test? Digging through the fine print, here’s a comparison chart, effective as of July 6 (noting that deals might change based on how loudly the CEO screams at the VP of sales):

 

CAR                                        LEASE                    MONTHLY            DOWN                   EQUIV

                                                TERM                    PAYMENT             PAYMENT             MSRP*

 

Alfa Romeo Giulia              24 mo                    $299                       $3,299                   $39,985

 

Audi A4                                 36 mo                    $399                       $2,793                   $38,050

 

Mercedes-Benz C300         36 mo                    $399                       $4,193                   $41,725

 

Lexus IS 200t                       36 mo                    $299                       $3,999                   $39,425

 

Cadillac ATS                         39 mo                    $349                       $3,279                   $35,590

 

Jaguar XE 25t                      36 mo                    $249                       $3,995                   $35,895

 

BMW 330i                            36 mo                    $419                       $4,344                   $41,395

*including destination charges, before incentives

 

So, there you have it in plain math. The Alfa is not only the best compact sport sedan according to Motor Trend testers, but it also comes with a screaming lease deal. And for those commitment-phobes who worry about reliability, if your Italian romance indeed goes sour, you’re out of the relationship in less than two years. In the meantime, you are driving one of the quickest, most gorgeous, best-handling sedans on the planet.

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