Italy's BMW rival is hoping to put its dodgy quality reputation in the past.
Of all the things one would associate with Alfa Romeo - style, performance, passion - quality isn't one of them. The brand has a reputation for building less than reliable motorcars, with bizarre issues and myriad build problems, the company has garnered an undesirable reputation over the years.
In the last few years, models such as the Stelvio have set out to change that. Admittedly, the marque's latest products have superior build quality but are still tarnished by the lasting reputation. They're not as dependable as their German counterparts, either. But Alfa's CEO has a plan to change all of that with the all-new Tonale.
Speaking to Autocar, Jean-Philippe Imparato emphasized Alfa's commitment to quality. To ensure the Tonale leaves the factory as a rock-solid product, the carmaker has revamped the production facility, with Imparato noting the only unchanged aspect is "the shape of [the] building."
Now set to cross over from pre-production to full-scale manufacturing, the Pomigliano-based facility is comprised of 425 carefully selected workers who have gone through a collective 19,000 hours of training for the Tonale. "It's world-class everything: a premium plant for premium products," said the CEO.
While these assurances could be seen as empty promises, Imparato has previously displayed his dedication to surpassing Alfa's subpar reputation. The Tonale was reportedly delayed due to him being dissatisfied with the performance of the plug-in hybrid derivative.
Alfa's head honcho knows the Tonale needs to be as good as possible; the brand is running out of second chances. But if there's anyone who can turn the brand around, it's him - Imparato has transformed Peugeot into the success it is today. Alfa remains coy on the amount it sank into the new facility, only hinting that the revisions rolled into the "hundreds of millions." It was certainly worth it, though.
As mentioned, the production lines are brand new. Imparato has said that the workstations have been designed to make the production process easier, aiding line workers. New tools have been implemented to ensure a "precise and methodical" end result. This devotion to quality can be seen in the way windscreens are fitted to Tonale models. 12 robots and laser alignment ensure the glass is placed perfectly.
Elsewhere in the facility, vehicles rolling off the production line are subjected to a series of quality tests. Under brightly lit examination bays, fit and finish is strenuously inspected - even the noise of the door closing is put through testing. Before getting the seal of approval, Tonales must undergo additional testing (for various components and the electrics) before heading out to the factory-based test track. It doesn't stop there, though.
Even in the showroom, the Tonale still faces stringent quality tests. Initially, just 12 dealerships will implement the post-delivery quality checking system; customers who have any complaints will have their issues addressed quickly. Alfa will then inspect the afflicted vehicle within 24 hours. An early iteration of this post-sales solution has already been implemented at the Giulia/Stelvio plant and, as such, post-sales claims have dropped by a third.
We've mentioned just a few of the many processes Alfa has put in place to assure a high-quality product. Perhaps the most impressive of them all is the introduction of a master block to the factory floor. This serves as a handy reference point if errors had to filter into the production process. We hope Alfa's new quality-led approach pays off; the success of the company hinges on the Tonale. If it's a big seller, we can expect the profits to be reinvested into iconic sports cars - something Imparato has promised.