Italian auto brand Alfa Romeo is bringing NFTs, which recently rose to popularity in digital art, to its new Tonale SUV, the company said Tuesday for the vehicle’s unveiling.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are unique digital assets that can’t be replaced with something else and are verified and stored using blockchain technology, which makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system.
NFTs have become common with digital artwork but can be used for everything from music to a website domain, and now cars.
Alfa Romeo – owned by Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) – says the Tonale NFT, which it claims to be an industry-first, certifies the car upon purchase then essentially records and stores data during the car’s life cycle.
“Digitalization is a key enabler of our metamorphosis. Tonale is the first car ever to keep a blockchain, non-fungible token. NFTs are based on the same distributed information logic that protects your Bitcoin,” Francesco Calcara, head of Alfa marketing and communication, said during a media briefing. “It records all data on the blockchain.”
Alfa Romeo said the NFT will record vehicle data, generating a certificate that can be used to assure the car has been properly maintained, with a positive impact on its residual value. However, the car must be serviced by a certified Alfa Romeo dealer to record the data.
The 2023 Tonale subcompact SUV is the beginning of the end for Alfa Romeo vehicles with a traditional internal combustion engine, according to Larry Dominique, head of the company’s North American operations.
The more than 110-year-old brand plans to exclusively sell EVs by 2027. Between now and then, Dominique said the company plans to launch five new or replacement vehicles, including the first all-battery electric vehicle, or BEV, for the brand for North America in 2025.
“Everything from that day forward will be pure BEV,” he told CNBC during an online interview. “By end of 2027 … I won’t be selling any more internal combustion engine vehicles at all.”
For the U.S., the Tonale will be offered with a base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 256 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque. A plug-in hybrid electric version with a 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 272 horsepower and an electric range of more than 30 miles also will be available.
The vehicle shares some design characteristics of current Alfa Romeo vehicles. It’s heavily based off a concept vehicle the company unveiled with the same name in 2019.
Alfa Romeo said orders for the Tonale open in the fourth quarter, followed by availability in the first quarter of 2023. The company did not announce pricing.
The Tonale is only the fourth product from Alfa Romeo since its return to the U.S. after a roughly 20-year hiatus in 2014. Since then, the brand has struggled to gain much momentum due to a lack of new products.
The luxury automaker has sold less than 19,000 vehicles a year since 2019, down from a peak of 23,800 cars in 2018. BMW, which Alfa Romeo was supposed to rival, sold 93,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter of last year in the U.S
Following the merger of Fiat Chrysler and French automaker PSA Groupe to create Stellantis in January 2021, Dominique said the company has been focused on stabilizing Alfa Romeo and its upcoming pivot to electrification.
When Alfa Romeo returned to the U.S., the company had grand ambitions for the brand to competitively compete against BMW and other luxury brands, but those plans quickly diminished amid executive turnover and a lack of new products and investments.
“It’s true, product drives brands and, and our products that we have are great, they’re amazing, but because they’re limited vehicles in a limited number of segments, just not enough people are looking at it,” Dominique said. “Hopefully with Tonale, we’ll address that.”