The Alfa Romeo Giulia, the car that heralds the long-awaited return of the storied Italian sports car brand in the U.S., made its North American debut today at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The Giulia exudes Italian styling and is billed as delivering performance to rival premium brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

To do that, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles equipped the Giulia with a V6 engine developed by Ferrari that delivers 510 horsepower and a menacing growl that sends a message that the car isn’t your average sedan.

The Giulia also is designed with a 50/50 weight distribution across the two axles that the automaker says is key to delivering optimal performance. The Giulia also will be built with the ample use of ultralight materials, such as carbon fiber, aluminium, aluminium composite and plastic, to obtain an optimal weight-to-power ratio.

A high-performance Quadrifoglio version of the Giulia is expected to go on sale first in the U.S. next year.

While the Giulia is making its North American debut today, it was shown first in Milan, Italy, in June as part of the 105th anniversary of the brand and the reopening of the Alfa Romeo historical museum.

Harald Wester, CEO of the Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands, said in June that the company knows it must work hard to regain respect after years of mediocrity. The brand, which has a rich heritage in the early 1900s for racing victories, made poor strategic decisions in the 1960s and 1980s when it went after an increase in sales with mainstream cars.

Wester said the the new Alfa Romeos will be designed to regain “respect for the brand, respect for its substance, and shape and its history.”

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has said the company will spend $5.4 billion to develop eight new models, including the Giulia, by 2018.

FCA began selling another car — the Alfa Romeo 4C — in the U.S. late last year. However, the 4C small sports car is a niche vehicle that was never intended to be sold in high volumes. Through October, the automaker had sold 562 in the U.S.

Marchionne is pinning his hopes on the higher-volume Giulia which is in the heart of the premium luxury market and is integral to the relaunch of the brand to usher in a new era of luxury design and performance for Italian made cars. He has set a goal of 400,000 global sales annually by 2018.

However, Marchionne said last month that China’s slowing economy and changing regulations mean the country cannot be counted on for as many sales as previously envisioned. The slack must be picked up by sales in Europe and the U.S. where Marchionne set a target of 150,000 annual Alfa Romeo sales by 2018.

Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or bsnavely@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely.