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#ForTheWin: Alfa Romeo Names A Car Twice

Week of 4/15-4/19, 2024

What’s The Deal: Alfa Romeo, one of the 14 automotive brands of the Stellantis Group, recently launched a new model called ‘Milano’. In an unprecedented move, the company changed the name of the car following criticism from a Minister in the Italian government who said the name violated an Italian law that restricts ‘Italian sounding’ products that falsely claim to be Italian. The car is to be built in Poland and will now be called the ‘Alfa Romeo Junior.’

What They Got Right: Naming cars is a complex and lengthy process, with numerous checks made for existing trademarks through obscenities in different languages. To have any brand name challenged and changed within a week of an announcement is highly unusual and a potential PR nightmare. For a large company like Stellantis, making such a quick pivot to a new name is impressive alone, but what stood out was how they confronted and owned the issue. On April 15th, just five days after the original announcement, Alfa Romeo issued one of the most memorably titled press releases: Milano Name is not OK? “Alfa Romeo Junior,” then! While arguably an awkward climbdown, the Alfa Romeo team recognized the controversy, took quick and decisive action, and got the awareness benefit for the new name.

What’s The Watch Out? This incident will join the naming Hall of Fame alongside New Coke and is a reminder that just when you think you have checked all the angles, something unexpected can always trip you. As with any adverse situation for a brand or individual, it is often not what happens but how you respond that will be remembered. 

For these reasons, we recognize Stellantis CCO, Bertrand Blaise, and the team at Alfa Romeo #ForTheWin

Disclaimer: Stellantis is not a Perceptual Advisors LLC client.

About the Author

Simon is Senior Managing Director/Head of Corporate Communications Practice with Perceptual Advisors.

He has over 30 years of communication and marketing experience, principally in the global automotive industry. Highlights of Simon’s career include serving in executive marketing and communication positions for Fisker Inc. in California, where he was Senior Vice President Communications, Fiat Chrysler Automotive in Michigan, where he was Chief Communications Officer, Aston Martin Lagonda in the UK, where he was Chief Marketing Officer, Tesla Motors, where he was Vice President of Communications, and Nissan Motor Company based primarily at Nissan's global HQ in Japan, where he was Corporate Vice President for Global Communications.

Simon’s first position was with Ford Motor Company in the UK. In 1998, he relocated to Ford’s global operations in Michigan followed in 2000, as VP communications for Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Land Rover North America. In 2003 Simon joined Nissan North America as VP communications and a year later was moved to Japan to assume the global leadership role. 

Born in Hampshire, England and residing in Southern California, he holds a degree in Geography from the University of London and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.