Alfa Romeo Tonale on awareness tour

NEW YORK — Alfa Romeo is taking its new Tonale crossover on the road.

The Italian brand, which is looking for an awareness boost to juice stagnant sales, wants consumers to have a hands-on experience with its first electrified entry ahead of the Tonale’s U.S. release in early 2023. The model will have plug-in hybrid and conventional gasoline variants.

One of its first stops was the Big Apple, where the Tonale made its North American debut at the New York International Auto Show this month.

The vehicle even got the star treatment during an April 14 “Live with Kelly and Ryan” segment at the talk show’s New York studio. Hosts Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest checked out the Tonale as a Kelley Blue Book editor gave them a rundown of its features.

The plan is to “start with some grassroots kind of stuff,” Larry Dominique, Alfa Romeo’s senior vice president of North America, told Automotive News. “We’re going to go into individual markets.”

Alfa Romeo’s most critical markets are New York, New Jersey, Southern California and south Florida, so it’s no surprise the Tonale will be making appearances in those locations. The brand accounts for 4 percent of luxury sales in those regions, Dominique said, more than double its 1.8 percent national market share.

Now that the New York crowd has had a chance to see the Tonale, it’s heading to Florida to leverage the Formula 1 Miami race that’s expected to draw big crowds next month.

The brand will have a Tonale display at Las Olas Oceanside Park in Fort Lauderdale, where 250,000 spectators can get a look at it. Dealers and media in the Miami region will be given walkarounds.

The vehicle might then head to the F1 race in Montreal in June. Around that same time, Los Angeles media will get time with the crossover with a walkaround. Also on the schedule are appearances at Monterey Car Week in August, the Detroit auto show in September, and F1 races in Mexico City and Austin, Texas, in October.

Like the Tonale, Dominique also is on the move.

He was in New York to meet with dealers at the auto show, and in June he’ll speak at the Alfa Romeo Owners Club National Convention in Coronado, Calif.

As the brand gets a larger lineup of vehicles, Dominique said the public can look forward to ride-and-drives as well as private events at dealerships.

Dominique said Alfa Romeo is looking to appeal to more women with the Tonale. The brand skews 70 percent male today.

“Historically, the brand has always been about macho, about performance,” Dominique said. “And now it’s about lifestyle. We like to think as we move the brand forward, we’re trying to focus a little more on this balanced lifestyle.”

But Dominique feels the brand has a demographic edge when it comes to age. Its average buyer is a 44-year-old young professional with a hefty household income.

The plan is to hone in on these buyers as Alfa Romeo pushes into electrification. The brand is looking to go all electric by 2027.

“As we start moving towards a truly electrified future with BEVs coming right after [Tonale], we want to make sure that we’re marketing [to] and targeting those people,” Dominique said. “Millennials are going to be spending the most of any demographic within a couple years.”

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