Inicio BYD Alfa Romeo renames ‘Italian sounding’ Milano after Italy threatens lawsuit

Alfa Romeo renames ‘Italian sounding’ Milano after Italy threatens lawsuit

Alfa Romeo renames 'Italian sounding' Milano after Italy threatens lawsuit

Italian carmaker Alfa Romeo has been forced into an involuntary rebrand of one of its new EVs after facing legal threats from the Italian government over using an “Italian-sounding name” for its Poland-built model.

The 113-year-old automaker launched its mini-SUV, the Milano, last week, describing it as “Italian at first sight.”  

But the Stellantis-owned group was soon caught in the crosshairs of the Italian government over its apparently hollow claims of patriotism. The Milano was the first Alfa Romeo car to be built entirely outside Italy, coming from the carmaker’s Tychy production plant in Poland.

‘Milano name is not okay? Junior then!’

“A car called Milano cannot be produced in Poland. This is forbidden by Italian law,” Italy’s industry minister Adolfo Urso said last week, per Reuters.

Urso was referring to 2003 legislation that sought to stamp out the use of the Italian flag, boot, and other distinctive Italian phrases for products not made in Italy. In 2012, the EU heard that this caused €60 billion ($63.9 billion) in alleged fraud each year.

“This law stipulates that you cannot give indications that mislead consumers. So a car called Milano must be produced in Italy. Otherwise, it gives a misleading indication which is not allowed under Italian law,” Urso said.

The carmaker said it had consulted with the public before it landed on the name Milano, which is a hat-tip to the city of Milan where the group was founded in 1910.

Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato said the attention the group received following the announcement and the ensuing political uproar even caused the company’s website to crash for a couple of hours.

Now, the £36,000 ($38,300) EV will be labeled the Alfa Romeo Junior in an attempt to placate an angsty Italian government that has gotten itself into its fair share of cultural battles during its 17 months in power.

In a press release entitled: “Milano name is not okay? Junior then!” Alfa Romeo said last week was one of the most important weeks for the future of the carmaker.

“Despite Alfa Romeo believing that the name meets 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 Junior in the spirit of promoting mutual understanding,” the group wrote.

Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato said in a press conference that the move was made to “ease relations with the Italian government,” Reuters reported.

Relations between the Italian government and Alfa Romeo’s parent Stellantis, which also makes Fiat and Peugeot, have been frosty for months.

In February, BYD said it had been asked by the government to set up manufacturing facilities in the country as part of attempts to produce a second car producer beyond Stellantis. 

The unusual overtures to BYD were in response to Stellantis’s plans to move production overseas as it had done with the Milano car.

Meloni government bites back

Italy’s government, led by the right-wing Brothers of Italy party and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, has gotten into plenty of cultural scrapes since taking power in October 2022.

These actions, revolving around a conviction to protect both Italian culture and industry, have seen it make enemies everywhere from carmakers to fake meat suppliers. 

Indeed, in November the Italian government banned the production of lab-grown meat in addition to the use of meat-based names to promote vegetarian products, including “tofu steak.”

Those found in breach of the rules could face fines exceeding $160,000.