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Fiat Chrysler set for a local name change

Getting traction: The new Jeep Cherokee will be one of the major debutantes for Fiat Chrysler Group in Australia this year.

New models and a new name on the agenda for Fiat Chrysler in Australia this year

7 Mar 2014


FIAT Chrysler Group is not only set to get some game-changing new models this year but also a new name in Australia.

Along with cars such as the all-new Jeep Cherokee, Alfa Romeo 4C sports car and facelifted Giulietta, the company that distributes Jeep, Fiat, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo and Dodge vehicles in Australia is likely to be renamed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, bringing it into line with its newly formed global parent.

Australian president and CEO Veronica Johns told GoAuto she was awaiting word from corporate head office on the change, which she said could be expected within the year.

She said the change would only affect the trading name, and would have no impact on dealers or other business partners.

Ms Johns said the Australian company had continued with its proprietary name Chrysler Australia Pty Ltd since taking on the additional responsibility of Fiat and Alfa Romeo vehicles, but trading as Fiat Chrysler Group.

“We will probably continue on with that, unless directed by the corporation to change it,” she said.

The global corporation entered a new era on January 1 this year with a restructure and new name that finally brought both Fiat and Chrysler groups under the one entity in a move that global CEO Sergio Marchionne described as “flattening the earth”.

Ms Johns said that in Australia, many dealers already had all of the group's brands under one multi-franchise operation, and so the effect would be largely felt at global level.

Among the new-generation cars coming down the pipe from the new company that was forged in the wake of the global financial crisis is the all-new Renegade that is truly a blend of Chrysler-Jeep and Fiat design and engineering inputs.

The car, to arrive in Australia in the second half of next year, was designed and engineered in Detroit using many Fiat technologies and components, and will be built in Fiat's Melfi plant in Italy.

Before then, the new Jeep Cherokee will arrive about June this year, further boosting Jeep sales that are galloping along at triple-digit annual growth rates.

Ms Johns was reluctant to forecast 2014 sales figures for the various brands under her control, saying there were too many variables such as supply to consider.

She said supply was tight on vehicles such as the entry-level Alfa Giulietta and Fiat 500 Pop, and she was not sure how supply would go on upcoming new models such as the much anticipated Alfa 4C sports car that is due in coupe form in the third quarter and topless Spider format late in the year.

Ms Johns said it was unusual in the car industry for prospective buyers to patiently wait for delivery of a $15,000 car such as the entry 500, but they would, because of its styling appeal.

“We would much prefer to deliver them straight from the showroom,” she said.

Ms Johns said part of the phenomenal growth of the Alfa brand in Australia could be attributed to more affordable entry models such as the $24,,550 1.4-litre Giulietta that had suddenly put the Alfa badge within reach of many people who had not previously been able to afford one.

The Giulietta is about to get a facelift, along with a more powerful 177kW Quadrifolgio Verde flagship model that was unveiled at this week's Geneva motor show.

Ms Johns said that despite speculation that replacement for the Jeep Compass/Patriot twins would be due with a year, ahead of the new, smaller Renegade, the new model would probably not arrive in Australia until late 2015 or even early 2016.

She said the Fiat 500X – built on the same “small wide 4x4” platform as the Jeep Renegade – would also probably not arrive in Australia until the end of 2015.

“We are much further down the track with Renegade,” she said.

The 500X is expected to be a softer, more style-driven AWD crossover vehicle than the Renegade, which will include a hard-core trail-rated variant, the Trailhawk.

The 500X is expected to break cover at this year's Paris motor show in September before going into production for Europe in 2015. The 500X will be built alongside the Renegade at Fiat's Melfi plant, sharing some powertrain components but no common exterior panels or interior features.

Ms Johns ruled out the 500L small MPV, saying that was not being considered for this market.

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