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The new Alfa Romeo is a beauty, but it needs more than good looks

Daily Ticker

Alfa Romeo will soon officially return to the U.S. market after a 19-year absence. Car enthusiasts can see the luxury brand's 4C sports car up close at the New York International Auto Show, which runs through April 27. The Italian automaker became famous with American drivers when Dustin Hoffman drove the sporty Spider in the baby-boomer coming-of-age film "The Graduate" in 1967.

The 237-horsepower, turbo-charged 4C coupe will have tough competition, including racers such as the Audi TT, Porsche Cayman, BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK.

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The 4C will hit Fiat dealerships across the country starting in late June or early July. The "Launch Edition" will be limited to 500 models with a sticker price in the $70,000 range. The standard 4C model that comes later will be priced near $54,000. Only 800 to 900 units will be available for sale in the U.S., according to Justin Hyde, managing editor at Yahoo Autos.

"Fiat needs a luxury car," Hyde says in the video above. "This is just the beginning of a new product push for Alfa Romeo in the U.S. and globally."

How can Alfa Romeo distinguish itself in the crowded sports car market?

The brand's Italian heritage "has to be its main selling point," argues Hyde. Fiat, which owns Alfa, needs to "create a sense of spirit around its Italianness." Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says Alfa Romeos will continue to be built in Italy.

The 4C has the curves, luster and sex appeal that American drivers cherish in a sports car. But it will need more staying power than the last set of vehicles Alfa Romeo sent to U.S. shores. This is an endurance contest, not a drag race, for Alfa.

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