Alfa Romeo is setting its sights on the Mazda MX-5 with a two-seater sports car to replace the now-defunct Brera Spider.
The focus is on less weight and more compact dimensions, so the car will be a true successor to the 1960s Alfa Spider that appeared in the movie The Graduate, with Duston Hoffman and Ann Bancroft.
The newcomer will form an important part of Alfa's strategy when it returns to the important US market in 2013 after more than 15 years.
The first model to arrive there will be the 4C, revealed in concept form at this year's Geneva motor show, followed by the Giulia, a rear-drive saloon based on the Chrysler 300C that will replace the 159.
Power for the roadster will come from a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine - most likely a detuned version of the Giulietta Cloverleaf's 1.7-litre, delivering around 100kW. Meantime, Alfa is also reported to be working on a new chassis with weight-saving technology, so the car should tip the scales at less than 1000kg, or around 100kg less than the current MX-5.
Alfa Romeo has developed a new turbocharged 1.8-litre engine boasting 224kW which is expected to provide power for the new two-seater 4C sports car.
The Porsche Cayman-rivalling 4C was revealed in concept form at the Geneva and Frankfurt motor shows this year, and uses lightweight materials for a kerb weight of just 850kg.
The new engine will be built at Alfa Romeo's Pratola Serra plant in Italy, with production beginning in 2013. Alfa has announced that the 4C will begin production that year, too.
It's also likely that the 1.8-litre turbo will power the Alfa SUV due for 2014, and a 159-replacing model available in sedan and wagon variants for the same year.
The new engine will be clean enough to meet the strict new Euro 6 air-pollution regulations in Europe.
It will join the 1.4-litre 125kW MultiAir and the 1.7-litre 173kW TBi, small-capacity/high-output engines already used in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Designed for both transverse and longitudinal applications, the new direct-injection four-cylinder engine will also meet the US (Tier 2 Bin 5) emissions laws.
Made entirely of aluminium, the engine will incorporate the most advanced technology; including a 200-bar direct-injection system, dual variable timing and a high-efficiency turbocharger.
"This is an extremely important step for Alfa Romeo, as we continue to reposition our brand and prepare it for global distribution. The US remains our primary objective," said Harald J. Wester, Fiat's chief technology officer and head of the Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands.
"The dedication of group-wide resources to develop specific powertrain solutions for the specific needs of Alfa Romeo is a reflection of the renewed thrust we are placing on the development of this brand.
"This is a first step in a series of initiatives to be implemented in the near future, which will reconnect Alfa Romeo to its historical roots as a premium Italian sports car brand."