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The curious history of Juliet

by Bill Cawthon on

Juliet is the English translation of the Italian name “Giulietta,” which is also the name of Alfa Romeo’s second-smallest car.

Built at FCA’s Cassino plant, the Giulietta is a hatchback roughly the size of a Volkswagen Golf. The latest version was first introduced in 2010, built on a short-wheelbase, narrow version of the platform later used for the Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Dart.

It’s Europe’s best-selling Alfa Romeo, averaging about 40% of 2017’s total Alfa Romeo sales. Unfortunately for its fans here, FCA said as recently as February that it had no intention of bringing  Giulietta to North American shores.

That was their story — but FCA Italy filed an application to register the Giulietta trademark in the United States recently. Their application was accepted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) on October 7, 2017.

In Europe, it’s sold in a base model, an upscale Sport line, and a Volkswagen GTI-challenging Veloce version that has a top speed of 149 mph.  If it does come to the United States, hopefully it will be overhauled first, to address issues (such as interior space and materials quality) which have drawn complaints from the European motoring press.

The Giulietta trademark has an interesting history in America. Fiat Group first registered the name for automotive use in September 2008, about four months before Chrysler received its first government loan in the final days of the Bush administration.

By that time the damage done by Cerberus Capital Management (and Daimler) had left Chrysler unable to survive on its own. In  January 2009, Fiat offered to take a 35% stake in Chrysler, providing leadership and its existing designs, at a time when fuel prices were high and small cars were seen as a requirement for survival. (The rest of the story has been covered in detail on Allpar.com.)

Even before Daimler cut Chrysler loose in 2007, Sergio Marchionne intended to bring Fiat Group back to the U.S. — and Alfa Romeo was part of the plan. It may have been Fiat’s plan even before Marchionne took over the company, back in 2004.

Fiat had re-registered the Alfa Romeo name in 2003, after letting it expire in 1995, when they left the country.

The new registration shouldn’t be a problem: there are no conflicting trademarks for automotive use. But an FCA application for other uses of the Giulietta trademark was successfully challenged.

In July 2012, Fiat Group Automobiles SpA originally applied to register the Giulietta name for use on promotional items such as flash drives, smartphone accessories, apparel and helmets. After passing the initial review, the trademark application was published for opposition in June 2013 — and Giulietta International, based in Milan, Italy, opposed it. Giulietta already had a trademark for use on apparel and handbags, dating back to 2011.  It took nearly three years, but Fiat Group apparel and handbags from its application and the USPTO cleared the way to proceed.

Now the only thing keeping the Giulietta name from being registered, at least for swag, is for FCA to actually use it. But without the car, promotional items seem a bit pointless.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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