Stellantis tries to de-escalate Alfa Romeo Italian row

The firm will change the name of new Polish-made BEV

Stellantis tries to de-escalate Alfa Romeo Italian row
New name for new Alfa

Amsterdam-headquartered conglomerate Stellantis will change the name of the first BEV made by its Alfa Romeo brand after Italian authorities threatened legal action over its intended Milano moniker. The new all-electric car will be made in Poland, stirring up ire in Rome over misrepresentation of the Milano as Italian.

“An Italian government official declared that the use of the name ‘Milano’ — chosen by the brand for its recently unveiled new compact sports car — is banned by law,” Stellantis says. “Despite Alfa Romeo believing that the name met all legal requirements, and that there are issues much more important than the name of a new car, Alfa Romeo has decided to change it from ‘Milano’ to ‘Alfa Romeo Junior’, in the spirit of promoting mutual understanding.”

Mutual understanding between Stellantis — which owns the Italian Fiat, Lancia and Maserati marques as well as Alfa Romeo — and the Italian authorities has been in short supply of late. Stellantis wants more incentives to boost its EV production capacity in Italy, and has also warned darkly about any plans Italy might have to attract Chinese OEMs to bring EV manufacturing to the country.

Italy is clearly annoyed about the new Alfa being made in Poland. It might also feel that Stellantis is being hypocritical — its CEO Carlos Tavares talks about plans to resist a “Chinese invasion” in Europe and North America, but has also signed a cooperation deal with China’s Leapmotor.

And part of that deal might involve Leapmotor products being made at Stellantis’ Poland facilities. So annoyance in Rome at this seemingly self-serving inconsistency is perhaps understandable.

What the tensions do not yet mean is any appetite by Stellantis to offload any of its Italian brands, even though Tavares is reported as saying he has received approaches. Again, though, his assertion that he will not repeat the Volvo or MG deals, when historically European marques were sold off to Chinese OEMs, might ring slightly hollow in the light of his Leapmotor tie-up.  

At least for now, Stellantis is keen to stress that “the name change was not an issue”.

“We decided to change the name, even though we know that we are not required to do so, because we want to preserve the positive emotion that our products have always generated and avoid any type of controversy,” says Alfa Romeo CEO  Jean-Philippe Imparato.

He even suggests there is a positive to the controversy, as “attention to our new sports compact that we have received the past few days is quite exciting as we had an unprecedented number of visits to the online configurator, causing the website to crash for a couple of hours".

“We welcome the decision taken by the company to change the name of the car from Milano to Alfa Romeo Junior in light of the latest news, which could affect the enthusiasm and the enormous attention that the new car is receiving from our customers recently,” says Stefano Odorici, president of the Italian Alfa Romeo Dealers Association, suggesting there were fears of a potential Italian customer backlash.

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