The first fully electric Alfa Romeo is due in 2025 and while the brand will expand to five models, the first offering will be a battery-electric version of an existing nameplate. That means it is either the Alfa Romeo Giulia or the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, and not one of the new nameplates that are also on the way. Which of the two models will come first has not been locked down, says Larry Dominique, senior vice president for the Alfa Romeo Brand in North America. But both nameplates are key to the future of the premium brand. “We never want to throw away equity.”
Keeping the Stelvio is a slam dunk in an SUV-crazy world. Cars may be on the outs, but Alfa has no intention of leaving the sedan market. “There will be a next Giulia,” Dominique assures MotorTrend in an interview. “We will still build a flagship sedan and Giulia will be electrified.” In fact, Alfa Romeo will be the first of the 14 brands within Stellantis to go full EV in North America. The brand will grow from two nameplates today, to a portfolio of five global all-electric vehicles in 2028, at which point Alfa will no longer sell vehicles with an internal combustion engine.
2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale is First Foray Into Electrification
Easing down that path, the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale SUV will be the first electrified—if not fully electric, vehicle. In North America, the Tonale small crossover will be offered with a turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 gasoline engine, or as a plug-in hybrid when it goes into production in the fourth quarter for sale in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2023. Pricing has not yet been announced.
In keeping with the desire to reinvent sportiness in the electric age, the Tonale PHEV is the higher trim and the performance model with 272 horsepower (versus 256 hp with the conventional powertrain) and better weight balance. “It is the start of introducing the future of what Alfa is going to be, meaning electrified, new technologies, over-the-air updates, all that integrated technology,” Dominique says. “We’re not here to be an iPad surrounded by a car.”
The North American chief expects 70 percent of Tonale buyers will go for the higher-trim plug-in hybrid; with only 30 percent of customers choosing the non-hybrid. It is part of the larger metamorphosis of Alfa as a brand of performance vehicles that happen to be EVs. Future vehicles are Alfa first, then EV, Dominique says. The beauty of it is that EVs, with their instant torque and lower center of gravity, actually make the new products more Alfa-like.
New Life For Alfa Romeo?
Under Stellantis, the automaker created in January 2021 by merging Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with PSA Group, Alfa has a core model strategy, a plan, a budget, a global CEO, and a North American champion. The brand has become profitable, allowing it to invest in new models.
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares chose Jean-Philippe Imparato as Alfa Romeo CEO. Imparato went from running the highest-volume and most profitable brand at PSA (Peugeot) to becoming the global leader of one of the smallest brands at Stellantis. Imparato is overseeing development of the new portfolio while also visiting both plants monthly to ensure the quality of the existing lineup. Dominique was brought in about 15 months ago to nurture the brand in North America. It means there is a dedicated Alfa team that did not exist before, one that does not share duties with another brand, and which has a clear focus.
In North America, Dominique’s priority is to raise awareness and deliver the highest level of customer satisfaction, something he is working with dealers on. “We want to make sure we offer a premium experience,” he says. To that end, the brand is working with its 134 dealers in the U.S. who have had to deal with limited models and sales from a brand that has struggled to gain a stronghold and seen many direction changes with a revolving door of leaders.
Who Buys an Alfa Romeo?
Alfa Romeo has been a performance brand for 112 years. “The people who buy us know us and absolutely love us,” Dominique says. But the number of people who know and love the brand on this side of the ocean is small: Alfa sells less than 19,000 cars a year in U.S.
“Our biggest challenge that we have to overcome is awareness,” Dominique says. “We’re a brand that’s relatively small. We’ve been focused on a certain kind of customer. We’re trying to broaden that reach. We’re going to be targeting young professionals, Millennials.” The average buyer is a 44-year-old male, but the brand is attracting the attention of more Millennials and the hope is the Tonale will shift the mix from 70 percent male to a more neutral ratio between men and women.
North America No.2 Key Market for Alfa
The best markets for Alfa are Europe, followed by North America, and then China. The brand is also sold in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, and there are opportunities in South America. The brand has historically been European, but even there the portfolio has suffered with the discontinuation of the Alfa Romeo 4C sports car and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta small hatchback. Tonale will bring the count back to three and there is a new, high-volume, small vehicle for Europe only coming next year that has an internal combustion engine. It was already in the works as part of a previous product plan.
Alfa will also add buzz models on a regular cadence to keep the current lineup fresh and maintain excitement in the interim. Alfa is adding new Estrema limited editions of the Giulia and Stelvia for the 2023 model year, based on the Veloce trim; and look for more Lusso and Competizione models in the future.
But the future plan is for all regions to get the same five global EVs under the Stellantis Dare Forward 2030 Plan that covers all 14 brands. Within Stellantis, Maserati is the global luxury brand, Alfa is the global premium brand, while DS and Lancia are regional premium brands for specific markets. The plan targets a 4X increase in revenue and 5X increase in profit. Going from two models to five should naturally increase volume.
North America has input into the brand’s five global products, with daily discussions on details, such as how many degrees the front door opens, Dominique says. Providing two more degrees for ingress and egress helps American buyers and doesn’t hurt sales in Europe. The idea is to find the best balance globally without losing the Italian sportiness. Tavares wants each of the 14 brands to be distinct and deliver. Each has been given 10 years to prove themselves, but they have to earn it every day, Dominique says.