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Alfa Romeo Is Betting the Tonale Will Bring New Buyers to the Brand

Consistent with the brand, the plug-in hybrid is focused on performance over efficiency

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale
  • Alfa Romeo just launched its first plug-in hybrid, the Tonale.
  • The brand is betting this compact SUV will appeal to more women and multicultural groups.
  • While it does share parts with the Dodge Hornet, head of brand Larry Dominique says this is tuned to fit the storied Alfa Romeo history.

After 113 years of Alfa Romeo history, the shamrock-sporting automaker is launching its first hybrid. The 2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale sits in the competitive compact luxury crossover segment and is positioned well to ride side by side with the larger Stelvio. It’s also the brand’s first new vehicle in five years, and high hopes are pinned to its distinctively shaped “Trilobo” grille.

Like the Stelvio, the Tonale is named after a twisty mountain pass, which hints at the little SUV's performance potential. It's primarily powered by 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood. Enhancing the gas-powered engine is a 90-kW electric motor in the rear, which is fed by a 15.5-kWh battery pack capable of an estimated 30 miles of all-electric range. The powertrain is quite potent, producing 285 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque.

In Canada and Mexico, the Tonale will be sold in gas-powered and plug-in hybrid versions, while the U.S. market will be offered plug-ins only. And sure, it’s more eco-friendly, but for Alfa Romeo that’s just a bonus. Electrification is a means to an end, Larry Dominique, head of Alfa Romeo North America, says. The automaker seems to want the Tonale to be known for its personality, not for chasing the trend toward electrification, and the Alfa Romeo team says this PHEV is about improving performance.

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2024 Alfa Romeo front

Expanding the market segment

More automakers are taking a multicultural and women-focused approach to advertisements. While the trendy marketing tactic can be interpreted as pandering to diverse communities, Alfa Romeo sees its focus as a smart business strategy to increase its customer base in a rapidly expanding competitive market. Over the last several years, NASCAR created similar messaging and other automakers are following suit.

While the compact-segment SUV sales tend to be split 50-50 male to female, Alfa Romeo skews to 70% male, as a whole. Marketing to women and multicultural communities broadens the appeal of Alfa Romeo, Dominique says.

“We’ve been asleep too long,” he says. “[In the past] we missed an opportunity, because women are much more involved in the buying purchase than we allowed ourselves to believe.”

Alfa Romeo is also leaning heavily into improvements to its quality process and customer service. These efforts have paid off: In J.D. Power’s most recent sales satisfaction survey, Alfa Romeo earned a place at the very top of the list, moving up an astonishing 12 places in the last two years. Dominique says he advised dealerships that it can make more money if it would shore up its customer service and meet a higher standard.

2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale profile

It's got the look

The Tonale is strikingly handsome and comes in a variety of colors, including a signature stunning deep green called Verde Fangio Metallic. As we noted in our first drive review, the Tonale is 6 inches shorter than the Stelvio and somehow still provides generous adult-size legroom in the back, making it a great vehicle for parents running errands or taking the family on a road trip.

Much has been made of the Tonale’s resemblance to the Dodge Hornet, and Dominique answered questions about that politely but firmly, saying: “We’re here to talk about the Alfa Romeo.” He says the Tonale was designed as an Alfa Romeo from the ground up, and it’s tuned as such. Having driven both in the last few weeks, I have no doubt that the Hornet and Tonale have distinct personalities that will appeal to different audiences.

Alfa Romeo is on track to make a dent in the compact crossover SUV segment, and following the money should lead to sales to a more varied and diverse audience across the board. Brava.

Edmunds says

Take a look at what Lamborghini and Aston Martin have achieved with their SUVs; the Urus and DBX are drawing new customers to the brands and attracting more women. It can work for Alfa Romeo, too.