Fiat and Chrysler Now Focus on Product Integration
By Brendan Moore
What is happening with the Fiat-Chrysler “merger” these days?
A tremendous amount actually, with Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne holed up in a small office at the Auburn Hills complex, receiving frequent visitors in the form of Chrysler managers. The activity centers around taking Fiat platforms and modifying those platforms to accommodate new Chrysler vehicles, plotting Alfa Romeo’s comeback in the US and deciding that the Fiat brand name will not appear in the US, despite Fiat’s cars appearing in the country.
This is the outline so far:
Fiat and Chrysler are seriously considering putting a Jeep badge on a version of the Fiat Panda, a small little box on wheels produced in Poland (with Ford) that gets excellent fuel economy. The vehicle would be sold in Europe first and perhaps North America later.
The decision has been reached to not bring the Fiat brand name back to North America since Fiat feels there are too many negative connotations to the Fiat name for Americans. The Alfa Romeo brand will be Fiat’s proxy in North America, selling whatever Fiats are deemed to be North American candidates.
Except for one Fiat model – the excellent Fiat 500 will be sold as simply the “500” at Chrysler dealerships, starting with the 2011 model year, but with its own dealer and distribution network, a la MINI and BMW. The 500 sold in North America will be manufactured in Toluca, Mexico.
Fiat’s C-EVO small car platform will be the underpinning for three very different vehicles; the C-EVO, the Alfa Romeo Milano and the next Jeep Liberty.
The future and crucial mid-size car platform hasn’t been sourced yet, but the plan is for that platform to be rear-wheel-drive and to be shared by the next-generation Dodge Charger, the Chrysler 300 and the Alfa Romeo 169.
Alfa will get an SUV called the GTX, based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee/Dodge Durango that will sold in Europe and the US, but, will be manufactured in Michigan.
In addition to the aforementioned Alfa vehicles, Fiat intends for Alfa Romeo to be their flagship brand in the US. That means you can expect quite a few vehicles sold by Fiat/Chrysler in the future to have Alfa Romeo badges. The lineup may encompass Fiat, Chrysler, Alfa (perhaps even Lancia) vehicles sold as Alfa Romeos in the US. Fiat bosses also intend to build new Alfa Romeo models in the US that would be sold in North America and the rest of the world.
Lastly, there are rumors that Fiat is taking a long look at Chrysler’s truck platforms with an eye to selling vehicles based off those platforms in developing regions of the world. A half-ton, three-quarter ton and a one-ton truck used in the US for personal transport is considered a large commercial truck in other parts of the world.
If all (or even most) of these plans gel together, it will mark a few big shifts in the auto market.
1) Chrysler and Fiat would be producing vehicles for export from the US.
2) Alfa Romeo would make a huge comeback in the US. Alfa pulled out the North America in 1995 with its tail between its legs after failing to sell more than 8000 units a year in it’s last years in North America. Between 1990 and 1995, Alfa was involved a joint marketing effort between itself and Chrysler, but the sales numbers just kept getting worse.
3) The size of vehicles available for sale at Chrysler dealerships would shrink considerably.
Will it all come true? There are already a lot of doubters, but Marchionne has worked miracles before. If the US auto market bounces back in the next 24 months, it will make his task easier, and that seems to be happening, but who can say?
No matter what happens, we will have some Alfas to drive over the next five years, and that cannot be a bad thing.
I wish the new Fiat-Chrysler company all the best – more choice in the marketplace is always better from an enthusiast’s point of view.
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