COVENTRY, England -- Alfa Romeo aims to challenge Mini as part of its expansion into some of the world's biggest segments under new owner Stellantis.
"I can absolutely fight against Mini," Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Phillipe Imparato said in a roundtable discussions with UK journalists here this week. "Premium-ness is not a question of size."
Imparato hinted that Alfa Romeo would launch an SUV below the compact-sized Tonale, which is scheduled to be launched next June.
"I'm convinced if I want to put Alfa Romeo on the safe side of P&L [profit and loss] in 10 years, I must be in the biggest segments in the world," the former Peugeot CEO said. "I need to be in the B-SUV segment [small] and C-SUV [compact]. Being in the corner does not bring any results."
Alfa is developing a small SUV named Brennero, after a mountain pass in northern Italy, Italian media reports say. The car is expected to be built at Stellantis's plant in Poland, although this has not been confirmed. Mini recently announced it was developing an electric small SUV to sit below the Countryman.
Alfa currently only sells the Giulia midsize sedan and related Stelvio midsize SUV. The lack of electrified versions that are popular with business users has restricted Alfa Romeo's sales to about 60,000 a year, Imparato said. Mini sold 292,394 vehicle globally last year.
The automaker stopped making the Giulietta compact hatchback in 2020 and axed the MiTo small car in 2019 after more than 10 years of sales.
The automaker's most famous small car was the Alfasud, which was produced from 1971 and 1989 and gained a strong following among fans despite problems with rust.
Alfa Romeo's expansion into more popular segments will immediately boost volumes, giving it a chance to improve its financial position, Imparato said.
"The C-SUV segment in Europe is around 2.5 to 3 million cars a year in Europe," he said. "The B-SUV segment is 2 million. Whatever the market share you have, it's a huge effect in terms of volume."
The delayed Tonale compact SUV will come with a plug-in hybrid at launch, Alfa has said. Production will start at Stellantis' factory in Pomigliano, southern Italy, in March 2022, followed three months later by the launch "if I consider the quality to be OK," Imparato said.
Imperato said Alfa Romeo will not push volumes as part of Stellantis, which was formed by the merger of PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobile as the start of this year.
The automaker has increased its volume of built-to-order cars to 72 percent, up from 38 percent at the beginning of 2021, Imparato said.