Alfa Romeo will sell Tonale only as plug-in hybrid in U.S.

Automobiles

BALOCCO, Italy — Alfa Romeo has dropped plans to sell its Tonale crossover in the U.S. with a 2.0-liter powerful gasoline engine, opting instead to sell only a plug-in hybrid variant of the model.

At Tonale test drive here on Nov. 14, Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato said the Tonale would only be sold in the U.S. with the same plug-in hybrid powertrain offered in Europe.

The decision is a U-turn by Imparato, who last year said the Tonale for the U.S. market would have a 256-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission coupled with four-wheel drive.

The Tonale’s 275-hp plug-in hybrid drivetrain combines a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder 177-hp gasoline engine with a 122-hp (90 kW) electric motor. The electric motor improves the crossover’s fuel economy and lowers its CO2 emissions to 26-33 grams per km.

The Tonale’s sister model, the Dodge Hornet, will get the 2.0-liter, non-hybrid engine. The Hornet will also be sold with the same plug-in drivetrain as the Tonale.

Both cars are built at the Stellantis factory in Pomigliano, Italy.

An Alfa Romeo spokesperson said the reason the brand has now decided to sell only the plug-in Tonale in the U.S. was mainly because of the need to cut CO2 emissions, especially in the so-called CARB states. These are the states that follow the strict emission rules being gradually introduced by California.

According to California’s proposed Advanced Clean Cars II Regulations, introduced in August 2022 and waiting for final approval, the share of zero-CO2 emission vehicles for each automaker (including plug-ins) will have to grow to 35 percent in 2026 and increase to 100 percent in 2035.

Alfa Romeo started taking orders for the Tonale plug-in on Nov. 17, with first deliveries in Europe expected in the first quarter of 2023. Shipping to the U.S. will start a few weeks after.

At the Balocco event, Imparato said the Tonale plug-in powertrain “is not just another powertrain; it’s an existential need.” Imparato said the plug-in Tonale, Alfa’s first such model, will reduce the brand’s average CO2 emissions by 40 percent.

It will also enable the Tonale to boost sales in western and northern European markets such as Germany, France, the Netherlands and Norway where plug-ins are popular.

Imparato declined to give sales forecasts for the Tonale. In February, he said that Tonale sales could reach up to 80,000 a year.

The Tonale is already on sale in most European countries with two gasoline mild-hybrid drivetrains and one diesel variant. According to Dataforce, 4,889 units were sold through September.

Imparato said Alfa Romeo has received 35,000 orders in Europe for the mild-hybrid variants.

Alfa Romeo avoided a fast production ramp-up to get maximum quality from the start, he added. The Pomigliano plant currently builds 4,000 Tonale per month.

Sales of the Tonale plug-in next year will be capped by limited availability of batteries.

Alfa will only receive 35,000 from batteries from Chinese battery maker CATL next year, Imparato said, adding; “We might be able to sell the whole 2023 production in a few months.”

Imparato said he is confident Alfa Romeo will close the year with an overall order portfolio of six months’ production. Shipments in 2022 will be 20 percent higher than in 2021, he said.

According to FCA Italy documents, Alfa Romeo production was just under 45,000 units in 2021.

Imparato said the Tonale would be exported to China starting next year.

He confirmed that the Tonale will be followed next year by a mid-cycle refresh of Giulia midsize sedan and Stelvio midsize SUV.

A small crossover based on the same underpinnings of the recently unveiled Jeep Avenger will follow in 2024.

Alfa Romeo’s first all-electric model will be launched in 2025.

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