What electric future for Alfa Romeo? Our interview with his boss Jean-Philippe Imparato
The Italian brand aims to be “the fastest” to move from zero electricity to zero emissions. But will it be able to be competitive in the electric market while keeping its soul? French boss Jean-Philippe Imparato promised it.
Sports heart. La meccanica delle emozioni. In an age of efficiency and electricity, Alfa Romeo’s historic slogans may seem a little outdated. The venerable Milanese brand – 112 years old this year – must be electrified at high speed to ensure its safety within the wide Stellantis group (Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel, Dodge, Jeep, etc.).
A path he intends to take very quickly. Six months ago, Alfa did not market any electrified vehicle, not even a light hybridization. In 2027, Milan will offer a 100% electric catalog.
“This is probably the fastest corner of a historic manufacturer, the judge Jean-Philippe Imparato, appointed two years ago to the head of the transalpine brand. We are the last, we will be the fastest “.
It should be said that the biscione – name of the mythical creature that devours a person in its logo – has a great need a new breath. Launched with great fanfare in the mid-2010s, the thermal Giulia and Stelvio were the flagships of the grand plan orchestrated by Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne. The captain of industry in the famous black turtleneck wants to attack BMW or Mercedes directly with expensive and complex drives – the transmission shaft is made of carbon fiber! – sold at full price.
It was a critical success business disaster. Uncertain reliability, heavy prices, declining sedan segment, stiff competition, poor international image… Today, Alfa Romeos are sold four times less in the world than in 2001.
Imparato’s first mission? Restore order to the accounts and the production processes. The increase in the manufacturing rigor of the Giulia and Stelvio has made it possible to “halve the warranty costs” assures the boss. “I want to kill this image of untrustworthiness that has done so much damage to the brand.”
Alfa is on the right track, as the brand is back above the bar of 50,000 annual registrations. He is most again in green. “But we have to stay,” said Jean-Philippe Imparato with a hint of a Hérault accent. You cannot convince a group like Stellantis to give you money to do product development if you are not making money”. We recognize here the way Carlos Tavares…
The electrification of the product plan starting with the launch of Midsize SUV – the Tonale – in a plug-in hybrid version of 280 hp. In France, it should make up “70% of the registrations” of the model, assured Jean-Philippe Imparato. Enough to reduce Alfa Romeo’s average CO2 emissions by 40%: “If I don’t do that… I’m dead!” »
Video test – Alfa Romeo Tonale Q4: what is the brand’s first plug-in hybrid worth?
The technical cousin of the Jeep Compass should be in particular attract professionals and companies of leasing, traditionally insensitive to the arguments of the brand’s passion: “With 26g CO2/100 km in the combined cycle and 69 kilometers in 100% electric mode according to the WLTP standard, we ticked the boxes to enter the calls to German for tenders. It opens up new customer channels for us, without betraying Alfa Romeo’s DNA”.
The the first electric Alfa Romeo will hit our roads in less than two years. There too, it is a question of expanding the panel of possible customers by marketing the Peugeot e-2008 format urban SUV. The engine – will it be called the MiTo? – will share its mechanics with the recent Jeep Avenger. The offer is therefore mixed, with micro-hybrid or 100% electric engine.
The return of the sedan
Next phase of the plan: the release of a first model designed on a platform dedicated to electrics. It will be based on the STLA-Large set. It will be a car over 4.50 m long and equipped with four-wheel drive. And for Jean-Phillippe Imparato, it must offer high-end high-tech services:
“We will be the first of the Stellantis group to ride the future electronic architecture STLA-brain. This means that we will have the best software technology, with 5G, artificial intelligence… More than that, you will ride in this car with the same sensations and the same behavior on the road as the current Giulia or Stelvio. The power will go from 350 to more than 800 hp “.
Charge the home designer Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos (ex-Seat) to find the right silhouette. Also, will the Giulia sedan have descendants? Jean-Philippe Imparato is clear: “Electricity is efficiency. So aero. The sedan is more aerodynamic. For me, the industry will come back to this type of vehicle. So yes, there will be a future Giulia. And for taking part in design meetings, I can tell you it will take a bite”.
Pleasure through AI?
Beyond design, it’s probably necessary to preserve the driving experience. Until now, at Alfa, it was all about the engine; from the sound of the V6 “Busso” to the approval of the current 4-cylinder Giulia or Stelvio. Arguments made obsolete by the transition to 100% electric. How to offer driving pleasure different from the competition?
“Alfa Romeo has been around for 112 years. centered on driving, believes Jean-Philippe Imparato. It should not change, but the brand should evolve with the times. The engines and chassis will still be built by the folks at Balocco, who built the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm (the extreme version of the Giulia editor’s note).
“We are working hard on what artificial intelligence or 5G is and what they can bring to the driving experience, indicates the former boss of Peugeot. We, Alfa Romeo, will not have an interface that will give you of the weather for three weeks. Our customers don’t care. On the other hand, we will use everything that the software gives us in terms of technical data, to select those that have an impact on the pilot’s driving efficiency. For example, we can indicate the ideal trajectory for the next turn on the road as well as on the track. We can inform the driver about their state of health when they get behind the wheel, to help them feel more comfortable in their driving” .
Data to give an extra soul?