News - Jeep
Full throttle for Jeep but brakes on Alfa
FCA banks on Jeep for growth while cooling its jets on Alfa Romeo model rush
28 Jan 2016
FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) plans to almost double Jeep sales in the next three years while at the same time reining in the hectic new-model release schedule for Alfa Romeo.
It also is set to kill off some Chrysler and Dodge small and medium cars, potentially replacing them with products from another manufacturer.
Describing Jeep as the bedrock of FCA’s new five-year business plan announced overnight, the company revealed a Jeep sales target of two million vehicles by 2018 – up from last year’s record 1.2 million Jeeps.
FCA is banking on the world’s thirst for SUVs to gain pace in an environment of low fuel prices as it expands production of the iconic off-roaders around the world.
The Jeep plan not only includes a born-again Wagoneer and all-new ute but also a new-generation lightweight Wrangler, eventually with alternative powertrains including diesel, mild hybrid and full hybrid.
The new Wrangler is due in about 2017, but the new powertrains will be introduced at intervals between 2018 and about 2023.
To cope with the planned rush for Jeeps, FCA is planning to shuffle its American factories, scrapping some struggling passenger models such as the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart to make room.
FCA has already announced a six-week closure of the Michigan plant that builds the Chrysler 200 due to a whopping 148-day backlog of stock.
According to FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne, the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart will be “allowed to run their course” – a euphemism for letting them die after this generation.
Some of these doomed Chrysler products look set to be replaced with vehicles drawn from another manufacturer, with FCA saying it plans to “solidify partnering opportunities to maintain market presence in compact and mid-sized sedan segments”.
The company currently has a deal with Mazda to share the Japanese company’s MX-5 as the new Fiat 124 Spider.
FCA reiterated that Alfa Romeo would remain a core global brand, but that it plans to reduce investment in Alfa research and development, manufacturing and new products between now and 2018.
Blaming Chinese uncertainties and the need to properly execute a global distribution network, FCA said it would “re-pace the launch cadence” of Alfa, completing its new line-up by 2020 instead of the original 2018.
It also plans to focus its Alfa marketing efforts mainly on the European and North American markets due to on-going import restrictions on western-built vehicles in China.
The Alfa plan still includes seven all-new rear-wheel-drive models to follow on from the new Giulia mid-sized sedan, including a mid-sized SUV within the next 12 months, followed by a full-sized sports sedan, two more SUVs, two “speciality” cars and a hatchback.
Along with Jeep, FCA’s Ram pick-up operation is set for expansion, with a new-generation Ram 1500 due before 2022. Later, that will get next-generation powertrains, including a mild hybrid beyond 2022.
The Ram is expected to get lightweight construction using new high-strength steels, although American pundits still expect the truck to sit on a tough ladder chassis.
Ram 1500 production is also expected to move into a former Chrysler plant to increase pick-up capacity for expected sales growth.
At least a few of those vehicles might be headed to Australia, where American Special Vehicles (ASV) – a joint-venture of Ateco Automotive and Walkinshaw Automotive Group – is likely to have its hand up for the right-hand drive conversion business for Australia and other RHD markets.
ASV has just started selling the current Ram 2500 and 3500 pick-ups across Australia in RHD form, and no doubt would be keen to maintain that conversion business into the next generation.
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