“I never want to hear from people again that ‘Alfa Romeos are Italian cars’, as if their nationality indicates low build quality. Therefore, only the cars that reach the standards we have set ourselves will reach the customer ”. Words spoken by Jean-Philippe Learnednumber one of Alfa Romeo, during a press visit to the assembly lines in Pomigliano (Naples), where almost everything is ready for the production of the new Tonal – which will arrive in the dealerships in June – is fully operational.
The debut of the last born in the Biscione’s house involved a total renewal of the assembly lines of Giambattista Vico, the Campania plant where the Tonale will be built, but also her half-sister Dodge Hornet, made for the USA: a plant that represents Alfa’s past, present and future. In its forty-year history, 9 Alfa models were born in Pomigliano, which employs 4,300 people – the last was 147 – for a total of 3.8 million vehicles (plus 1.7 million Fiat Pandas, manufactured in another wing of the complex). As many as 160 construction stations for the Alfa C-Suv, all at the highest level of automation.
“I cannot state the figures we have spent to modernize the industrial lines, because I do not want to give this information to the competition,” says Imparato: “But I can assure you that Pomigliano is now at the top of world automotive production in terms of technology”. The line will be able to produce up to 23 Tonale per hour. So how many will be produced according to Alfa’s estimates? “I am not interested in achieving stellar production volumes, but I demand the highest build quality, which for us at Alfa has become an obsession”, Imparato insists. More prosaically, between 40 and 70 thousand units per year: it will depend on the market demand.
One thing is certain, however: “Our priority is profitability, not production volumes. For the latter, Stellantis can count on other brands ”, explains Imparato. For the same reason, the commercial strategy will be that of “built to order”, that is, of cars produced on the basis of customer orders: “80% of the cars we produce will be. I don’t want to make cars and then have them dusty in the squares “waiting for someone to take them. Alfa’s short-term business goal is to reach or exceed quota 100 thousand units produced: in 2021 the calculation was 56 thousand cars, of which 20 thousand ended up in America.
Target that seems close at hand with the arrival of Tonale and, in 2024, of a new B-Suv which, in addition to the hybrid engine, will have a 100% electric version (and will be built abroad). From 2025 every new Alfa presented will be battery powered. While in 2027 it will be the turn of an electric flagship, also in this case with large sport utility body – therefore larger than the Stelvio – and with high performance. A car that would further open the doors of the USA and China to the Biscione.
So will Alfa Romeo become an SUV Brand, a bit like Jeep? “No because I don’t give up Giulia “says Imparato, “the next will be 100% electric, as will all the Alphas sold starting from 2027, because this is the technology that best matches premium cars”.
Although this does not rule out the possible arrival of emotional sports models with electrified heat engine, to be produced in a few units. “Because the hybrid engine is not dead, but the future is certainly electric”. On the other hand, a hypothetical C-segment car that could replace the Juliet. “For that segment there is the Tonale, which will be a global product, while the Giulietta was only a product for the European market. And we want to be global, ”says Imparato.
To be fair, however, the “regionality” of the compact hatchback cars does not prevent competitors such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes from offering them to their customers. The final remarks of Imparato were clear: “The first objective for Alfa was to return to profit and we did it, now the second is the development of the offer. If we work like this, at the end of 2024 Alfa Romeo will be a solid and safe brand. We want to be the global premium brand of Stellantis“.
Stellantis strategy for our country
Stellantis plans for Italy are being defined: the auto giant has formalized that the plant in Melfi, in Basilicata, it will be used for the production of branded flagships DS, Lancia and Opel, arriving from 2024.
More specifically, the vehicles will be structured on the new platform “Stla medium”, native electric and designed for large cars, from 4.3 to 5 meters long, equipped with batteries from 87 to 104 kWh of capacity and with a range of up to 700 kilometers. The same should have the form of medium SUVs, as in the case of the Lancia Aurelia and DS7 Crossback ventures, or large ones, such as the DS 9 Crossback and the Opel and Vauxhall brand sisters. Models that, together, should be worth around 90,000 units a year, a quarter of Melfi’s production capacity: it is therefore likely that the rest will be saturated by more compact vehicles, driven by electrified thermal engines.
Currently, the Lucanian factory is used for the assembly of best sellers such as Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade and Compass, whose heirs will be built in other plants of the multinational: the new Renegade (and probably the Compass), expected in 2025, will end in Spain, in Zaragoza, together with the Lancia Ypsilon. It remains to be seen what the fate of the 500X will be.
The basic logic is based on two cornerstones: first, to build cars in the same production center that share the same technical platform and, therefore, also the same mechanics and technologies. Second, to assemble the highest-end cars where labor costs the most – and vice versa – in order to make ends meet. An idea also dear to the late Sergio Marchionne.
As written above, the Fiat Panda will abandon the pole of Pomigliano to end up in Serbia or the Czech Republic in 2026. The Campania plant, on the other hand, will focus on the assembly of the new Alfa Romeo Tonale and (most) probably the “cousin” Dodge Hornet, dedicated to the American market. TO Cassino, in Lazio, the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Stelvio and the new Maserati Grecale will remain. While a Mirafiori (Turin), in addition to the electric Fiat 500, the battery-powered heirs of Maserati Quattroporte and Levante will be assembled.
From the technical base of the latter, a Large SUV with Alfa brand, expected for 2027. Always Turinthen, the Stellantis global engineering center dedicated to electrification will be located: the ultimate target is “the implementation of an efficient production process, capable of integrating different platforms, models and propulsion systems, from endothermic to electric” .
In the end, Termoli: the Molise plant, thanks to the collaboration with Mercedes-Benz and TotalEnergies / Saft, will be dedicated to the production of batteries for electric vehicles. Multinationals will join forces in Automotive Cells Company (ACC, founded by Stellantis and TotalEnergies / Saft in August 2020), a European player in batteries for electric vehicles that will increase its industrial capacity to at least 120 gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2030, expanding the development and production of cells and new generation high performance battery modules.