Automotive News reporter Larry Vellequette discovered an agenda for tomorrow’s Fiat Chrysler Automobiles presentation that leaves out Fiat and Chrysler.
The list of presentations shows Jeep and Ram on the American side, along with Alfa Romeo and Maserati on the Italian side — but Chrysler and Fiat will probably be locked into a regional holding pattern.
Lancia is limited to one car, in Italy, but the situation for Fiat, Chrysler, and Dodge won’t be quite so dire, in all likelihood. Fiat will keep a small range of cars sold in Europe and parts of South America, but will likely withdraw from the US, Canada, China, and other marginal-for-Fiat markets.
Chrysler is likely to see its 100th anniversary, albeit without many cars. Even before this bombshell, Chrysler was limited to the 300C and Pacifica, and rumor put the 300C into the “maybe, maybe not” column after 2021. Two more crossovers, one Pacifica-based and one essentially a restyled Jeep Grand Commander (based on the Cherokee and sold in China), have been debated endlessly. It may be that Chrysler will get them in the US, while the Jeep Grand Commander will be sold everywhere else — and the larger crossover may either be axed or sold as the Chrysler, but only in the US, and as the Dodge in Canada.
Dodge is currently a regional player regardless, with small sales of its most expensive vehicles in other markets. FCA could drop those few sales and try to replace them with Alfa Romeos, or simply let matters stand. There may not be much to present for Dodge, if it’s essentially sticking with the Durango, Challenger, and Charger, with Journey customers being pushed to the US-version-of-the-Grand-Commander.
I find it hard to believe that this is the end for Fiat or Chrysler. Most likely, FCA is acknowledging the “reality on the ground.” Chrysler is not selling well anywhere but the US, even including Canada, and has no real brand value in most places. The same goes for Fiat in most of the world, including the US and Canada. However, FCA’s leaders have kept Lancia alive, along with Alfa Romeo and Maserati, biding time until they can do something with the brands. Perhaps Chrysler’s time will come in ten or twenty years. Perhaps it will simply die, just as (lest we forget) Maxwell did under Chrysler. At least Fiat and Chrysler will live on in the company name.
An FCA rep told Jalopnik that the Chrysler brand is not going away, but nobody really said it was. It’s just not expanding into other regions, and is falling back to places where it’s profitable.
This is, in the end, all about profitability and investment. Sergio Marchionne said long ago that only premium brands would survive in the next era of automobiles — that means Jeep, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati. Ram can also go global because there is a place for it, and it seems to work better globally than Fiat Commercial did (and now we know another reason why Ram was created out of Dodge.) Is there a global place for Dodge, Chrysler, or Fiat? Sales and profit figures say “no,” and unlike Nissan, FCA is not willing to incentivize its way to popularity.
There are other notes in the presentation, including Google’s Waymo division agreeing to buy “up to” 62,000 Pacifica hybrids, carbon dioxide reduction plans that are likely to involve smaller engines and hybrids, and the impact of these plans by region. Finally, FCA is expected to renounce its previous advice that car companies should never have in-house lenders, and start one up to replace Santander — in the US, at least.
There is no sign of any upcoming presentation at FCA’s site, but you should be able to find it once it starts.
The author of Dodge Viper, Jeep’s Go-Anywhere Vehicles, and The Rise and Reinvention of Chrysler Minivans, David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s; he also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.info and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org. His latest book, for kids, is Meet the Jeep.
David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. You can reach him by using our contact form (preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304.