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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

Alfa Romeo renames Milano ‘Junior’ after government backlash

Milano's production in Poland and not Italy violates a law forbidding the use of Italian sounding names being used on products not made in Italy.

Having revived the Milano name for the first time in 32 years last week for its new entry-level SUV, Alfa Romeo has been forced to rename the newcomer in response to a law prohibiting Italian sounding words from being used on products not manufactured in Italy.

It’s the law

Hours after the Milano’s unveiling, the Italian government expressed reported dismay over the use of the name referencing Alfa Romeo’s hometown of Milan, when production takes place at the Tychy plant in Poland that also produces the Milano’s e-CMP platform underpinned siblings, the Jeep Avenger and Fiat 600e.

Speaking to Reuters after the Milano’s reveal, Italy’s Industry Minister, Adolfo Urso, said Alfa Romeo parent company, Stellantis, had violated the law in question which cracks down on “Italian sounding” products not made on local soil.

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“A car called Milano cannot be produced in Poland. This is forbidden by Italian law. This law stipulates that you cannot give indications that mislead consumers,” the publication quoted Urso as saying.

“So, a car called Milano must be produced in Italy. Otherwise, it gives a misleading indication which is not allowed under Italian law”.

Price of being foreign

Stellantis CEO, Carlos Taveres, hit back at Urso’s comments soon after, telling Automotive News Europe that production of the Milano in Italy would have added €10 000 (R202 055) to the final price tag, resulting in a starting sticker of €40 000 (R808 223) instead of €30 000 (R606 167).

Alfa Romeo left with no choice but to rename Milano "Junior"
Junior will still be positioned below the Tonale as Alfa Romeo’s smallest SUV. Image: Alfa Romeo

Tavares also stated that this would have made the Milano an “uncompetitive” segment product and in contradiction of Alfa Romeo’s “value over volume” principle.

“When you start pushing for volume, you begin destroying the foundation of a premium brand,” Tavares said.

Junior returns

In a statement on Monday evening (15 April) though, Alfa Romeo said a decision had been taken to rename the Milano “Junior” in reference to the range of 1300 and 1600 GT Juniors made between 1966 and 1976.

“We are perfectly aware that this moment will remain engraved in the history of the Brand. It’s a great responsibility but at the same time it’s an exciting moment,” Alfa Romeo boss, Jean-Philippe Imparato, said.

Alfa Romeo left with no choice but to rename Milano "Junior"
No changes are likely to take place inside. Image: Alfa Romeo

“The choice of the name Alfa Romeo Junior is completely natural, as it is strongly linked to the history of the brand and has been among our favourites and among the public’s favourites since the beginning.

“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,” Imparato concluded.

Not yet for South Africa

Set to be offered with either a mild-hybrid powertrain or a full electric, the latter an Alfa Romeo first, the Junior will still go on-sale from the third quarter of the year in Europe, with South Africa availability only likely in 2025 if confirmed at all.

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