(Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler could bring the Alfa Romeo brand back to Formula One as a competitor to Ferrari, chief executive Sergio Marchionne said on Monday.
“It’s incredible how the Alfa marque remains in people’s hearts,” Marchionne, who is also Ferrari president, told reporters in an end-of-season news conference at the Italian team’s Maranello headquarters.
“For that very reason we are thinking about bringing it back, as our competitor, to racing, to Formula One. It’s important for Alfa to return.”
Ferrari’s red cars have carried Alfa Romeo branding already this season.
There were also discussions with Red Bull, that never came to fruition, about possibly using Ferrari engines with Alfa Romeo branding next year. Red Bull ultimately decided to continue with an engine provided by Renault.
Ferrari are due to supply three non-works teams — Swiss-based Sauber, American newcomers Haas and Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso — with their power unit next season, although the latter outfit will use a 2015 version.
Ferrari’s late founder Enzo Ferrari started out racing and managing a team for Alfa Romeo before setting up on his own in the late 1930s.
The first two Formula One world championships in 1950 and 1951 were won by Italian Giuseppe ‘Nino’ Farina and Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio in Alfa Romeo cars.
The company supplied engines in the 1960s and 1970s and returned as a constructor in 1979 before again withdrawing at the end of 1985.
Fiat Chrysler has a 48 billion euro ($52.85 billion) five-year investment plan centred on turning Alfa Romeo, Jeep and Maserati into global brands.
Italian car giant Fiat bought Alfa, whose iconic red Spider 1600 model was driven by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 cult film “The Graduate”, in 1986.
Several attempts at reviving the brand have stalled, however, and only about 72,000 Alfas were sold in 2014. Marchionne has said he aims to lift that to 400,000 by 2018.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) sold 10 percent of Ferrari in an initial public offering in October.
($1 = 0.9083 euros)
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris