In the aftermath of FCA’s big investor presentation, we find ourselves going down a familiar road.
First, let’s get Fiat out of the way. One of the two FCA namesake brands, Fiat is being downsized to the 500 and Panda, except in Latin America, which also gets the Tipo/Neon. Sergio Marchionne has said many times that Fiat would only make profitable cars, and apparently those are the ones making a profit. Going electric and/or hybrid instead of diesel fits with general trends — and uses tech from the Pacifica, Wrangler, and Ram hybrids.
Chrysler and Dodge are mainly being restricted to North America, which in some ways is old news. It was a nice idea to raise Chrysler prices and call them Lancias, but nobody bought the cars or the rebadged Chrysler Voyager. Someday, FCA may revisit exporting Dodge or Chrysler, but the can’s been kicked down the road — just as it was with Lancia.
Jeep is continuing its Daimler-era journey into non-Jeepy vehicles; it was a stroke of genius to create the DesertHawk, specialized 2020 vehicles for sand-running, though the urban ’Hawk seems questionable. Outside of North America, Jeep’s off-road worthiness is to be reserved to the Wrangler and any Trailhawks that may appear. In short, the Wrangler is “old Jeep” — and possibly the only one — in a plan that began during Daimler.
Ram is going international, as I reported on Allpar for at least the last two years. The trend has been for Ram to join and replace Fiat Commercial.
We got two treats, the Hellcat-powered Ram TRX and an Alfa Romeo 8C with 700 horsepower from hybrid AWD. That’s exciting, but not very exciting for me, since it’ll come with a price tag to match. There’s also the “new Dodge Dakota,” which I’ve been predicting ever since the Mitsubishi L200 (Fiat Fullback/Ram 1200) became untenable for the long term. I also reported (as was confirmed) that the new pickup will be built in Mexico, replacing some or all big Ram production; the emphasis will be on sales outside the US.
Other bits and pieces include replacing the not-especially-successful Santander linkup in the US with a new finance subsidiary and adding subscription plans — both confirming to normal industry practice, at this point; everyone’s doing subscriptions. FCA and Waymo are talking about developing self-driving cars, with a loose goal of selling them by 2023.
Perhaps the extent of the electrification is the most newsworthy item, since it reverses Marchionne’s past wisdom. Maserati will do four full electrics, and Jeep will do four. This may just be the result of the need for ever-higher acceleration, which is easier with bigger and better motors. The new Alfa Romeo Alfieri, for example, will have an electric version with a 186 mph top speed and 0-62 in under two seconds. Doing that with gasoline would be horrendously difficult, especially with all wheel drive.
The trouble with Chrysler, within the US, is that the name is still associated with bailouts, not luxury or success. The brand enjoyed a true renaissance with its underdog/comeback message in the “Imported from Detroit” campaign, but that seems to have faded. The oddly-named Pacifica hasn’t been quite as successful as one could hope, and the 300 is winding down; the big question, really, is whether Chrysler will indeed get the two or three planned crossovers.
Could an Alfieri-based Viper follow? Is there a market for it? Would it ever pay back? That will be the stuff of speculation for years.
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.
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.