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Italy Actually Made Alfa Romeo Change the Milano’s Name to ‘Junior’

Alfa Romeo says it really didn’t need to change the name of its new electrified SUV, but it went ahead and did, anyway.

byNico DeMattia|
Stellantis
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Alfa Romeo is changing the name of the upcoming Milano compact SUV, following a public beef with the Italian government. Now, instead of being named after the iconic city from which the brand was born more than 100 years ago, Alfa Romeo's newest SUV will be called "Junior."

Why would the Italian government take issue with one of its country's most famous brands naming an internationally sold vehicle after one of its most famous cities? Because it could imply that the SUV is built in Italy, even though it won't be. Rather, the now-named Alfa Romeo Junior will be built in Poland, at the company's Tychy plant. Calling it "Milano" would have run afoul of Italian law, industry minister Adolfo Urso told Reuters last week.

"You cannot give indications that mislead consumers," Urso said. "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. Wait until he gets a load of what Pepperidge Farms is doing here in the United States—he'll flip his lid.

So why Junior, of all names? Despite it sounding pretty silly out of context, the name actually carries importance for Alfa Romeo. In the 1960s, Alfa needed to replace the gorgeous, Giugiaro-designed Giulia and Giulia Sprint GT and wanted to attract a younger audience, so the GT 1300 Junior was born. And even with its arguably lame name, it was a big hit for younger Alfa buyers, as the brand intended.

"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 favorites and among the public's favorites since the beginning," said Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato in a press release. And just to set the record straight, Imparato added that Alfa "decided to change the name, even though we know that we are not required to do so." Ultimately we'll never know which way a judge would've fallen, but history will show that Italy told Alfa it'd have to pick a new name, and that's exactly what Alfa did.

In any case, Imparato says the brand is honoring history here, but enthusiasts might claim otherwise. The new Junior is no longer a purist's sporty coupe, but clearly designed to cut Alfa Romeo a slice of the entry-level luxury crossover pie. And for many of those customers, who will be buying their first Alfa, the name Junior is boring and possibly even counterproductive, as it might make them feel like they're getting the smaller, lesser version of a bigger, better car.

This story's certainly been among the more amusing as far as industry news has gone so far in 2024, but it is pretty absurd at the end of the day. Even though the Junior isn't built in Italy, the world knows that Alfa Romeo is from Italy. And so much of the design and engineering for the Junior was done in there, so in a way it was made in Italy. Ticky-tack law enforcement aside, the deed is done and the name is changed. I'm never going to be able to read its name without hearing Sean Connery's voice, though.

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