Butler Auto adding Alfa Romeo, plans new dealership facility

Butler Auto Group plans to move its Indianapolis Fiat and Maserati dealerships to a new facility on 96th Street that also will sell automaker Fiat Chrysler’s resurgent Alfa Romeo sports car.

The local dealership group this month filed a development plan with the city of Carmel, which has jurisdiction over the 1.5-acre site at 4200 E. 96th St.—next door to Butler’s new Hyundai store.

Butler Auto chief Rob Butler was not immediately available Tuesday to discuss the move, but the company is proposing to build a 21,967-square-foot dealership and associated infrastructure, including surface parking for its high-end inventory.

Butler's existing Fiat and Maserati dealerships both are located at 9445 Haver Way, just southwest of the intersection of 96th Street and Keystone Avenue. If Butler's plans are approved, Butler Maserati Alfa Romeo Fiat will occupy one of two small outlots on a 20-acre parcel anchored by the 37,000-square-foot Hyundai dealership along 96th Street.

Nine acres on the northern half of the 20-acre property remain undeveloped. Property owner 4148 96th LLC, a Butler affiliate, this fall requested a zoning change that would have allowed 235 apartments to be built on the land just north of the Hyundai dealership, but it withdrew the application last month after neighbors and planning officials raised concerns about traffic and flooding.

In June, Fiat Chrysler announced plans for 80-plus Alfa Romeo dealerships throughout the United States. Indiana got two, in Fort Wayne and Evansville.

Those sales operations haven’t generated much buzz yet, said Marty Murphy, executive vice president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana. But he said the return of the luxury brand—available stateside until the mid-1990s—is an indication that high-end buyers are feeling better about the economy.

“More people are interested in using their extra income on high-performance vehicles,” he said Tuesday during a break from the Indianapolis Auto Show. “These aren’t everyday rides.”

Automotive News says sales of the Alfa Romeo 4C, a sporty Italian two-seater that sells for $70,000 or so, aren’t expected to exceed 1,000 this year. Other models should be available by 2016, according to the trade publication.

Fiat Chrysler executives in May laid out a five-year business plan that calls for $75 billion in investments to transform Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Maserati into global brands.

Long involved in European auto racing, Alfa Romeo was available in the United States more than three decades. Its Spider model gained worldwide attention after Dustin Hoffman’s character drove one in the 1967 classic film “The Graduate.” Alfas also have been featured in James Bond movies.

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