Fiat Chrysler Future, Part 2: The Americans
MORE: Part 1: The Italians
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has outlined a new five-year strategy in Michigan today, promising new models across its Italian and American brands.
"Today we stand before you as a global carmaker," FCA boss Sergio Marchionne told assembled media and investors.
"Today is much more than a new chapter. We are beginning to write a completely new book."
On the American side, we can expect a host of new offerings and a significant shakeup for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and the SRT performance badge.
FCA has big plans and expectations for the Chrysler brand, with new models that it projects will expand sales from 350,000 in 2013 to 800,000 units per year by 2018.
“[This would] effectively return the Chrysler brand to the volumes and share it has achieved in the past," Chrysler brand boss Al Gardner said today.
Chrysler will be positioned as FCA’s volume-selling mainstream marque, competing directly with the Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet brands.
Chrysler says the larger model will also be offered as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.
A new Town & Country (Grand Voyager in Australia) will debut in 2016, and it too will be offered with a plug-in hybrid EV version.
FCA had originally planned for a hybrid version of the 300 to appear in 2013, although that model has yet to materialise and this latest presentation suggests it has been scrubbed.
Dodge & SRT
As reported earlier this year, the next four-and-some years will see the Dodge brand move to become a sports and performance-oriented range.
Setting the brand apart from its volume-selling Chrysler stablemate, Dodge will focus on muscle cars and - keeping a foot in the world’s best-selling market - quick crossovers.
This means that the high-performance SRT badge, which was only last year split off into its own Viper-led brand, will return to the Dodge fold.
Ralph Gilles, who became chief of the SRT brand, will continue as Senior VP of product design and President of Motorsport, reporting to Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis.
“I want to thank Ralph for his dedication to the SRT brand,” FCA boss Sergio Marchionne said today.
“Under Ralph’s leadership, the SRT brand expanded its vehicle lineup to include more highly customized models and received numerous automotive awards and distinctions.”
The Viper will also return to Dodge, and 2016 will see the super-muscle car given a significant update.
The 2015 model year will see the Grand Caravan people-mover phased out - no room for that in a performance range - and the Avenger sedan will also be dropped.
In 2016, the slow-selling Dart sedan will be given a comprehensive update to boost its appeal, and a new turbocharged all-wheel-drive SRT version will debut. No word on an Australian launch.
A new Journey will appear in 2016, followed by a powered-up SRT version in 2017.
MORE: Dodge News and Reviews
The Jeep division will come in for a major restructuring over the coming years, expanding from five models built in the US to six models built in as many countries.
Jeep Boss Mike Manley said today that the brand aims to build one million cars each year in North America alone by 2018, compared to around 800,000 in 2013.
He said that by 2018, Jeep will be building 500,000 cars each year in Asia, 200,000 in Europe and 200,000 in Latin America.
"China and Brazil are forecast to represent 32 percent of the global (SUV) market, and today we're a niche player there because we are an import-only brand," Jeep boss Mike Manley said.
"Now, with the full merger of Fiat Chrysler and the investment that Fiat has already made, we are in a position to rapidly eradicate that.”
Entering as the brand’s family-hauling flagship, the Grand Wagoneer will sit above the already large Grand Cherokee range.
And, marking the brand’s 75th anniversary, a new small SUV will debut in 2016 to replace both the Patriot and Compass. The new model is expected to built on an enlarged version of the Renegade’s platform.
The new Wrangler will debut in 2017, although a mild redesign of the current model will also appear next year.
It is believed that Jeep represents FCA’s best bet for increasing profit, thank to its focus on the world’s strongest-selling market; SUVs.
Jeep is also the only truly global brand in FCA’s portfolio, available in more markets than any other of its brands.
MORE: Jeep News and Reviews
Finally, the overseas Ram brand will add a new Promaster City small commercial van, based on Fiat's Doblo, in early 2015.
The brand will also replace many of its light- and heavy-duty pickup models in 2017 - a year later than previously planned.
Overall, Ram aims to build North American sales from 463,000 in 2013 to around 620,000 by 2018.
MORE: Pickups and LCVs