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FCA still committed to Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge

Bruce Waymo: Despite projects to the contrary, the Chrysler brand will live on for the foreseeable future as its self-driving-equipped Pacifica people movers are used in conjunction with Google’s Waymo to develop new tech.

Jeep, Alfa, Ram, Maserati the focus until 2022, but FCA dedicated to whole portfolio

4 Jun 2018

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) namesake brands will live on, but only in select markets as the car-making conglomerate concentrates its efforts with offerings from the Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ram marques that have a global appeal.
While the four aforementioned brands each had some dedicated time during FCA’s detailing of its roadmap to 2022, Fiat, Chrysler and Dodge were conspicuously left absent from the schedule, leading to speculation that they would face the axe.
FCA chief operating officer Sergio Marchionne explained however, that the presentation held over the weekend was to focus on brands with a worldwide influence.
“I noticed that some people started tweeting nonsense in the last couple of days about the fact that the agenda didn’t have Chrysler or Fiat identified as being a topic of the presentation,” he said.
“We made a very clear decision that we would be talking to you about the global brands … they are made up certainly first and foremost of Jeep and secondly by Alfa and Maserati – these are the global brands.”
As for Fiat, Mr Marchionne confirmed that the Italian brand would become more focused in Europe where it currently offers the iconic 500 micro car, quirky Panda, 500X small SUV, Punto light hatch, Tipo small car, 500L tallboy and 124 Spider convertible.
“The space for Fiat in Europe is going to get redefined and it needs to play in a more exclusive area of the market because I think, and I made this comment in other occasions, it is very, very difficult for the mass market – given the level of regulation in Europe – for that mass market to be really profitable, and I think what we’ve tried to do in our plan is to identify those areas where I think Fiat can play best,” he said.
“The issue about electrification of city cars, the reliance of the 500 brand first and foremost – which is a brand within a brand – are a clear indication of areas where I think Fiat can play.”
Part of the strategy will be a new-generation 500e due around 2020, which is currently only offered in the United States with an 83kW/199Nm electric motor and a 24kWh battery for around 130km of emissions-free driving range.
A bigger-booted all-electric wagon body style will also spin off the new 500e platform that resurrects the Giardiniera nameplate from the 1960s, while a new Panda will share its underpinnings with the next 500.
Hybrid powertrains will also make their way to the 500X and 500L, although specifics are currently unrevealed.
This leaves the future of the remaining Fiat products up in the air as Mr Marchionne looks to increase profitability across FCA’s portfolio, while saying he could see the brand working in only two markets globally.
“If you exclude those two markets (Europe and Latin America), I think to speak about significant volumes whether that be in NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) or APAC (Asia Pacific) for the Fiat brand, I think would be a waste of time, I think there won’t be (profit) regardless of what those numbers end of being,” he said.
“And whatever those numbers are, they aren’t going to be big enough to change the forecast. So what we tried to do here is to tell you what is relevant and reconcile to our forecast by focussing on our four global brands.”
As for the US-based marques, Mr Marchionne said Chrysler will continue as a people-mover and autonomous vehicle-focused brand in conjunction with Google’s Waymo, but will be concentrated in its home market. 
“Chrysler is a different story, I think Chrysler is going to continue to be relevant to the United States, I think the investment we made in the minivan and our commitment to be a people carrier brand in the US by relying on electrification continues undistributed,” he said.
“Don’t expect Chrysler, in my view, to become a global brand – that is highly unlikely.”
Last week FCA confirmed an additional 62,000 units of its Pacifica hybrid minivan to be delivered that will help refine self-driving technology, while a new model expected to be an SUV or another people-mover from Chrysler was also confirmed at the presentation.
However, the future of the 300 luxury large sedan, which is currently offered in Australia, appears grim.
Meanwhile, Dodge will centre its efforts on sportscar and performance vehicles, according to Mr Marchionne.
“Dodge needs to continue the particular space as a performance brand, and we need to continue to build on that core skill,” he said.
“Those two brands (Dodge and Chrysler) are not in question, but they’re local NFTA brands and need to be developed for local market conditions. Our view is that 70 per cent of the US market is already non-sedan, so to try and build traditional sedans is not helpful.
“Brands like Dodge can play a role there because of their performance heritage.”
However, one such performance model from Dodge that will not make production is a revived Viper, as Mr Marchionne confirmed such a vehicle was “not in the plan” and “didn’t make money, and wouldn’t work with a ‘cute’ Euro-style engine”.
However, the predicted change in the new-car market towards self-driving service vehicles, or “white-boxes”, is another reason why FCA concentrated on its more profitable global brands, according to Mr Marchionne.
“The reason why we have focused on Jeep, and the reason why we have focused on Ram and Alfa and Maserati, is because they represent brands which, regardless of which shift we see in the marketplace, will continue to be relevant,” he said.
“Our plan, this plan, is based on ensuring that the brands we have focussed on, whether it be Ram, Jeep, Alfa, Maserati, are the ones that are most protectable against that type of ‘white-box’ environment.”

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