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Dodge muscle cars on backburner for Australia
FCA Australia’s new chief wants to fix the basics before embarking on ‘hero cars’
4 Mar 2020
By JOHN MELLOR
FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia has put aspirations for hero cars like the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger on the backburner for the time being as its works to recover trust with Australian car buyers who were left in a vacuum after the collapse of its massive sales surge in the early part of the past decade.
Recently appointed FCA Australia president and CEO Kevin Flynn told GoAuto in an exclusive interview there was “loads of opportunity” for those cars in Australia.
“When I look at our portfolio there is opportunity for us to look at other products to bring here. The key thing for me is to make sure that what we are doing now (with what we have now) is right and that we are building on a good solid foundation,” he said.
“So if we are going to add any more, if we are going to add something else, let’s make sure the business is solid and then adding to that is a good idea.”
Mr Flynn said the Ford initiative with Mustang “was brilliant” and the decision to do it in right-hand drive and bringing it across the world “has been a great image booster”.
He said the Dodge Charger and Challenger were not yet available in right-hand drive ex-factory but he “totally understood the logic” of having them in the FCA Australia portfolio as image-boosting models.
“But to be honest with you, we already have some fantastic products here that we have not done justice to; things like (Jeep) Grand Cherokee Trackhawk,” he said.
“So we already have a portfolio that if we manage correctly and we inspire confidence and trust then actually we will have a very strong foundation on which to build and then we can look at other things.
“Desiring other products? Yes, great, but we owe it to ourselves, to our customers and owners and to our dealers to do a great job in the fundamentals first and then aspire to other things.”
Asked if he would aspire to FCA Australia taking on the Ram truck RHD conversion program, which is run through the independent Ateco Group and remanufactured by Walkinshaw Automotive/Holden Special Vehicles, Mr Flynn said: “At the end of the day that falls into the same area. Ateco has a contract direct with the US for some years (yet). We help them as much as we can and we have a good relationship with them and we see it as part of the family.
“A lot of their retailing is coupled to us. So it is going really well and I don’t see it as an issue for us. I see it as a complement (to what we do) and we will monitor it as we move forward,” he said.
“Frankly, we don’t deserve to look beyond our current remit until we are confident and satisfied with the job that we are doing and our customers are elated with their choice of the Jeep brand.
“Once that is happening I will look at other things.”
Referring to the brand proliferation under FCA Australia’s remit – currently Fiat (including Abarth), Fiat Professional, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Chrysler (with just the 300 large car) and Dodge (in recess) – Mr Flynn said: “I think you will see some logic coming to that. We have an Italian side of the business and a North American side of the business.”
He said that FCA would not be dropping any of its brands.
“We are definitely committed to our portfolio,” he said.
“For instance, we have a very, very strong business supporting the caravan industry in Australia with the (Fiat) chassis and I am really intent on understanding that business in a better way and how we can better support them.
“I have already recruited technical expertise for that specific market and we are probably also underplaying our role in Fiat Professional light commercials.
“So there are a number of things that we can do better,” he said.
“So, Jeep first, Alfa next, Fiat Professional next. Some of them will run hand-in-hand and we are going to have some dedication in our organisation to make sure we are giving each of them due focus and due accountability within our team.”
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