Fiat and Chrysler Now Focus on Product Integration

By Brendan Moore

06.25.2009

fiat-group-logo-smallWhat 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 Chryslerchrysler-logo-small 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.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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15 Comments

  1. I like this. Chrysler has moostli crap and they need some new car desparetly.

  2. So if I understand this correctly, the brand lineup in North America will be Dodge as the volume brand, Chrysler as the midlevel brand, Alfa as the premium brand, and Jeep as the niche SUV brand. The lineup will consist of various Chrysler-designed and Fiat-designed vehicles, with some being exported. So will we see Dodge/Chrysler/Alfa Romeo dealers, or will Alfa be split to its own network?

    The Fiat 500 will be sold here as the Chrysler 500, but at it’s own dealer network instead of current Chrysler dealers? So a customer walks into a Chrysler dealer to see the 500, but finds out the dealer does not have an agreement to sell the 500 and has to go to another dealer? What kind of sense does that make?

    Finally, slapping a Jeep badge on a Fiat Panda is the worst idea since the Compass.

  3. “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.”

    Hyundai proved you can resurrect a damaged brand –if you just TRY hard. Besides, AFAIC, the “Chrysler” and “Dodge” names have just as much cachet (which is to say “none”) as FIAT. As for the little 500, wouldn’t Ford’s lawyers say “Not so fast, bub!” even if they moved from that name to the Taurus?

    I distantly worry that a shared platform would dilute the Alfa-ness of the new Alfas. And Alfa should lose the idea of a SUV. (Even though it apparently works for Porsche.)

    My advice to the new Chrysler Group: Lose the Sebring and bring on the gorgeous 200C, electric or not. And, please, spend more than a nickel on future cabins. It’s a cliche, but Fisher-Price uses better plastics than Dodge did with the Caliber’s interior.

  4. Luke: I think you might be jumping the gun on your brand heirarchy.Dodge might noteven sell cars, right? And, BMW has the same problem with Mini customers because a lot of BMW dealers do not have Mini.

  5. I’m thinking that Ford has some lawyers just salivating at the mere thought of a “Chrysler 500”. Having used the “500” moniker off and on for around 40 years, I think Ford would have a good shot at winning that one too.

  6. As for the name Ford writen “Five Hundred” instead of “500” maybe Fiat could bypass the problem by writing “Cinquencento” which mean 500 in Italian. Dodge also used once the 500 moniker in the past as Coronet 500 and Charger 500 but they didn’t keep the rights.

  7. Dumas has a good point. That may be the legal loophole Fiat drives the “500” through.

    If I remember correctly, the Dodge Coronet 500 and the Ford Fairlane 500 existed at the ame time. And didn’t GM have some Idianapolis 500 Corvettes? Maybe the trademark won’t allow numbers to be trademarked, only a unique combination of word(s) and a number.

  8. Panda Jeep is a bad idea, but I would love to see an affordable RWD Alfa.

  9. Numbers (and simple number leter combinations) can’t be trademarked; see Colt Defence LLC v. Bushmaster where Colt tried to clim they had a trade mark on “M4”. Still with the history of:

    Galaxy 500
    Fairlane 500
    Custom 500
    Ford Five Hundred

    Ford is no dubt looking at this somewhat closely.

  10. Kellin: You’re right, Dodge might just be left to sell SUVs, pickups, and minivans, with Chrysler selling the cars. Or maybe only Jeep will sell SUVs, and Dodge will just sell the Ram and Grand Caravan.

    BMW does have a similar problem, but it’s not as confusing because the Mini is not badged as a BMW. Some uninformed buyers may not even know BMW builds Minis. But if you have a Chrysler-badged 500 that isn’t sold at some Chrysler dealers…that’s just crazy, why bother with the Chrysler badge at all?

  11. Guys, it’s going to be just 500, not Chrysler 500. Just like Mini is not BMW Mini, it’s just Mini.

  12. Jeez…Fiat pulled out of the US market in 1983, I think that is enough time for most people who were alive and old enough to drive a Fiat that they no longer produce the 131 based Brava and the Strada. Plus EVERYONE knows that Fiat took over Chrysler so it is kind of silly for people to accept a Fiat owned Chrysler but then shy away from the Fiat brand. Finally…Fiat Panda=good idea…Jeep Panda=not so much

  13. Max Power is right, Fiat is being too cautious regarding their own brand.

    I think they’re making a mistake not going with main brand.

  14. The thought of Fiat/Chrysler trying to market the Chrysler range of US commercial vehicles (Ram, et al.) into the Rest of the World is laughable when you consider their size (huge) compared to their load ratings (tiny) compared to their natural opposition in the Real World – VW’s Transporter/Crafter, M-B’s Vito/Sprinter, Renault’s Kangoo/Master, Ford’s Transit plus all the Japanese offerings and, las but not least, Fiat’s own brand Iveco with the sensational Daily range….oh and their low tech Jeep and Land Rover competitor, Massif.

  15. Seano:

    They would use the platforms, not the U.S.-made vehicles. The only reason the trucks have such low weight ratings is because they are also designed for Americans to drive them as cars. The platform could easily be engineered to carry more load.

    One more thing – Dodge sells the Dodge Sprinter, an identical twin to the M-B Sprinter.

    Dodge sells quite a few of them, and I’m certain they would’nt mind adding another shift at the factory.

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