The Fiat-controlled Chrysler Group says it will propel itself back into profit with a massive product blitz over the next five years.
The plans were revealed over a marathon six-hour press conference in Detroit, where Chrysler bosses detailed how the company intends to relaunch and rebrand Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler, boosting global sales from this year’s low of 1.3m to 2.8m in 2014.
Chrysler says that by 2014 half of its models will be based on Fiat Group platforms and many of its engines will use Fiat Multiair variable valve technology, including Chrysler’s new Pentastar V6 powerplant.
Fiat will become the leader in small petrol and diesel engines and Chrysler the leader for large engine, hybrids and electric cars.
In four years’ time, the combined Chrysler/Fiat Group should be producing a combined total of over five million vehicles per year, a number regarded by boss Sergio Marchionne as the minimum volume required for a single car maker to prosper.
Chrysler says it has already completely re-thought its quality processes in reaction to what it admitted were unacceptable standards over the last few years. The company is also reorganising its manufacturing systems and overhauling its factories.
By 2014, Chrysler Group is predicting that its US market share will have risen to 11 per cent from the six per cent low it suffered in 2009. The company says it will make an operating profit next year and break even in 2011. The money it borrowed from the US state as a result of its bankruptcy will be paid back by 2014, according to financial projections.
Dodge plansThe Dodge brand has been given a new logo and will be repositioned as being "more youthful and more refined", with a "more visceral driving experience" and much-improved quality.
The new models will be available in one of five ‘lifestyle packages’ including ‘uptown luxury’ and ‘cool extrovert’.
2010: Completely revamped versions of the Avenger and Journey crossover with much improved interiors, handling and refinement. The brand will also get a new Charger and big new Crossover.2011: A new version of the Nitro is "under consideration".2012: Dodge gets a new Golf-size saloon based on Fiat platform. A new Viper based on Fiat group tech is under consideration.2013: A Fiat-based Avenger replacement and Punto-based hatchback.2014: An all-new big MPV.
Jeep plansHaving peaked at 609,000, Jeeps global sales crashed to just 497,000 in 2008. The company’s aim is to boost that over 800,000 by 2014. Chrysler says Jeep was hit by a doubling of competitors in the SUV segment as well as the arrival of ‘crossovers’.
In the future, most Jeep models will be more tuned to on-road use and will come in two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions, although a new platform architecture will allow the company to build cars that can be optimized for road and ‘Trail Rated’ off-road.
The Wrangler will remain the core ‘no compromise’ off-road model. A concept at the Detroit show next January will point the way for the brand’s future styling.
2010: The all-new Grand Cherokee arrives. Major overhauls for the Patriot, Compass, Wrangler (including a new interior) and a facelift for the Liberty.2011: Another Wrangler revamp for Jeep’s 70th anniversary. Production of the Commander will be "internationally relocated"; China or India are possible new sites.2013: New Fiat-based Punto-size Jeep and new Patriot, Liberty and Compass based on a Fiat platform.
Chrysler plansChrysler is now overseen seen by Frenchman Olivier Francois, who also runs Lancia. The rumours about the effective merging of the two makers around a very similar brand image turned out to be on the mark.
Francois suggested that the Chrysler 300C and Lancia Thesis are very similar propositions and says that in future both brands will get models that reflect "timeless elegance" and recapture "style and cachet". Chrysler will be "unique, upscale and consistent".
The image overhaul will run from the new logo and brochures to the brand appearing at "fashion shows rather than auto shows". The overall approach is strongly reminiscent of Rover’s (unsuccessful) 1999 relaunch with the 75 saloon.
After the press conference Chrysler bosses confirmed to reporters from Automotive News that the Chrysler badge will disappear from Europe by 2011. The new 300C and new Voyager MPV will both wear Lancia badges in Europe. The new Journey crossover and new Sebring saloon will also become Lancias in Europe.
2010: New 300C saloon and "down to the bare bones of the architecture" revamps of the Sebring saloon and Voyager MPV which promise massively improved perceived quality. The PT Cruiser will also die.2012: New Fiat-based compact saloon.2013: New Fiat-based Punto-size car. New Fiat-based Sebring and mid-size Crossover.2014: New Voyager.
Fiat in North AmericaFiat’s reputation in North America is still very poor, mainly due to the reliability problems with otherwise popular cars such as the 124 Spider. The Fiat brand pulled out in 1983. However, the company will dip its toe back in the water next year. The Fiats will be sold in ‘metro area’ dealers.
2010: US version of the Fiat 500.2011: Fiat 500 cabrio.2012: Abarth 500.
Some Fiats will travel from the US to Europe. Fiat will import a version of the Dodge Journey as a replacement for the Fiat Ulysee MPV, the Vectra-sized Croma hatch will be replaced by a version of the mid-size Dodge saloon and the Suzuki SX-4-based Fiat Sedici should be replaced by the next-generation Dodge Nitro.Chrysler and Fiat did not reveal any plans to relaunch Alfa Romeo in the US market, even though Fiat has pondered the move.
Chrysler’s RAM pick-up and truck brand is also set for an aggressive relaunch, with the aim of boosting sales from 285,000 to 415,000 by 2014. The RAM brand will also get to small commercial Fiat-based vans.