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Future models - Dodge

About-face on Dodge demise in Australia

Maybe, baby: The Charger sedan is one potential candidate should a Dodge Australia model expansion get the green light.

Dodge has a future Down Under, and expansion beyond the Journey is on the table

Dodge logo5 Apr 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

RUMOURS of the demise of US brand Dodge in Australia appear to have been greatly exaggerated, with local parent company Fiat Chrysler confirming it has a future here.

But the company has stopped short of saying which - if any – new models are in pipeline for the local market beyond its current single model, the Journey people-mover.

However, it is believed that several right-hand-drive business cases are being examined in the US, with models such as the Ram ute, Durango large SUV and Charger rear-drive sedan all in with a shot at coming to Australia next year.

This means Dodge could be the next Fiat Chrysler Group brand in-line for expansion, with the company already confirming plans to grow the Fiat model range beyond the 500 city car to include the Punto small hatchback, Panda five-door hatchback and Freemont people-mover by year’s end.

As we have reported, Fiat Chrysler has spoken previously of its plans to withdraw the Dodge marque from most international markets and place more focus on its strong North American home territory.

Comments from senior management in April last year along those lines occurred around the same time as Dodge Caliber and Nitro stocks in Australia dried up, leaving the Journey as the last Dodge standing.

With Fiat Chrysler set to launch the Fiat Freemont – essentially a rebadged Journey, questions over the viability of the Dodge version were raised. As reported, the company will side-step this problem by positioning the Journey as a more premium offering.

Sales of the Journey are still relatively strong, with 169 units delivered in March, and 419 sales for the first quarter (up 168 per cent).

According to Fiat Chrysler director of corporate affairs Karla Leach, the company originally intended for Dodge to become a ‘premium’ American brand, but not necessarily an exclusively American one.

The apparent about-face means the future of the badge is “definitely confirmed” for Australia, and while there is no confirmation of a subsequent model expansions, several business cases are “alive and well”.

Fiat Chrysler senior manager of product planning Zac Loo, meanwhile, told GoAuto this week that the company was “open to all possibilities in future”.

Media reports emerging from the Detroit motor show earlier this year revealed that Fiat Chrysler Group Australia managing director Clyde Campbell has commissioned right-hand-drive viability studies on both the Durango and Ram.

The full-size, three-row (but petrol-only) Durango is believed to be a candidate based on its substantial cabin capacity, and the fact that it could undercut other upper-large SUVs such as the Toyota LandCruiser and Nissan Patrol by tens of thousand of dollars.

The Ram, meanwhile, could become the first large American ute sold here since Ford Australia discontinued the F-Series last decade. It is known there is still a potential market for such vehicles in the heavy hauling business and potentially the mining industry.

High end versions of the Ram, called the 3500, use a 6.7-litre Cummins diesel engine producing 260kW and 1150Nm of torque.

Company executives have also told Australian media that the Charger rear-drive sedan is a strong candidate locally, with a RHD version a chance to be sold alongside the Chrysler 300 from 2014.

There is no firm word on a potential return for the hardcore Viper - now badged as SRT rather than Dodge - however the company has previously expressed enthusiasm for the car.

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