Chrysler, Dodge, and Fiat Aren’t Dead Yet: Here’s What’s Going On
Conspicuously absent from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ five-year plan presentation today at its proving grounds in Balocco, Italy, was any future talk about three brands: Fiat, Chrysler, and Dodge. No, they’re not dead, but according to CEO Sergio Marchionne, they lack global relevance. Marchionne emphasized that the four brands about which we heard detailed future plans-Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Maserati, and Ram-represent the majority of the company’s global revenue and thus will be where FCA will focus its investments going forward.
What’s going to happen to the company’s two namesake brands and the hugely historic Dodge brand in the United States, then? Marchionne did shed some light on how he sees Fiat, Chrysler, and Dodge developing over the next five years, so we’ve summarized what we learned about their status in the United States and what’s to come until 2022.
Chrysler: The Minivan Brand
North America is just about the only place where Chrysler vehicles are still sold, and even in the States, only two Chrysler vehicles exist: the 300 sedan and the Pacifica minivan. Marchionne described Chrysler as a “people-carrier brand” going forward and mentioned the Pacifica’s role in FCA’s autonomous-driving efforts, since self-driving Pacifica hybrids are a key part of the automaker’s partnership with Google’s Waymo division.
The 300’s future is less certain, and Marchionne seemed to suggest it could be supplanted by some sort of crossover. “Seventy percent of the market is already non-sedan, so to try to build a position in sedans is not helpful,” he said. A three-row Chrysler crossover built on the same platform as the Pacifica had been discussed in the past, but it’s unclear if that will come to fruition.
Dodge: All Performance All the Time
The last five-year plan, laid out in 2014, emphasized Dodge’s status as a “performance brand,” and it has launched enough Hellcat and SRT variants of its lineup in the ensuing years to back up that claim. Marchionne said he thinks Dodge should stay this course.
When asked about replacements for the Charger and Challenger, he took the air out of previous rumors that the next-gen sedan and coupe would use the rear-drive architecture from the Alfa Romeo Giulia. Instead, he suggested that the current cars’ LX platform-which dates back to the mid-2000s-could be reworked to remain competitive. “By the time we finish this architecture, you will not recognize it in terms of its origins,” Marchionne said. “The Alfa platform reflects more European performance; [the LX platform reflects] the American heritage of Dodge.” Never mind that the LX platform was originally created during the DaimlerChrysler tie-up with Mercedes-Benz.
While the aging Durango SUV has gotten a shot in the arm thanks to its new SRT version, the Journey crossover and Grand Caravan minivan would appear to be staring mortality in the face. Neither fits into the brand’s performance missive, and both are well past their sell-by date, the Journey having arrived for 2009 and the Grand Caravan for 2008. They do still sell in decent numbers, but a good chunk of that volume is low-profit fleet sales. Successors were not mentioned.
As for a new Viper, despite our boisterous boosterism, Marchionne said, “It’s not in the plan,” noting that the model never sold well or made much money.
- Ram Is Launching a Mid-Size Pickup in the U.S.
- Maserati Blue: A New EV Sub-Brand That’s Openly Targeting Tesla
- Jeep Planning “Sand Performance” Deserthawk Models
Fiat: Not Ready to Give Up on America
There’s no sugarcoating the fact that Fiat has not performed well in the U.S., and Marchionne admitted this. “To speak about significant volumes for the Fiat brand would be a waste of time,” he said. Instead, he hinted that Fiat could reposition itself with more of an emphasis on eco-friendliness, since city cars like the 500 are a hard sell to Americans. To that end, the company confirmed that there will be a next-generation all-electric 500e, which seems poised to come to the States. The Fiat 124 Spider also will stick around, as FCA remains in its agreement with Mazda, which builds that Miata-based droptop in Japan. The 500X crossover has become Fiat’s best seller in the U.S. market, so we don’t think it will be axed anytime soon, but the ugly-duckling 500L could be sent packing.
You Might Also Like