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Chrysler, Alfa, and Maserati: hiding the ties

by David Zatz on

Some time ago, Sergio Marchionne, head of Fiat Chrysler, said that the only way to reboot Alfa Romeo would be by amortizing engineering costs with Dodge.

That’s gone down the memory hole, now. It had to. The Alfisti will have fitsies if they overtly share with Chrysler. The D-RWD platform is now Giorgio, an Italian name for something developed largely in Auburn Hills. All publicity is going to the Italian “skunkworks” development efforts. It’s as though the Dodge link never existed.

Then there’s Maserati. Analysts believed that Fiat purchased the basic Chrysler LX setup from DaimlerChrysler, and based the Quattroporte, rather loosely, on it. There are key differences, most importantly in the front suspension, but there’s also a lot in common.  It’s more so with the Ghibli, which is roughly 300C-sized. It’s not like they’re rebadged Chryslers, because they aren’t, but they started with Chrysler — just as Chrysler’s 200 and Dart started with an Alfa Romeo though the final product is very different.

Sharing the large car setups makes sense, especially with the high level of differentiation they have. It saves money and time and allows for somewhat smaller inventories. But image is everything in autos, and the high-level brands can’t be tainted by the low-level ones.

So don’t expect to see many publicized links between Alfa Romeo and Maserati on one hand, and Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep  on the other. It might happen and it might not; but even Ghibli is being downplayed.

The Pentastar V6 has nothing to do with the Ghibli engine, an official told me, though other insiders had a different story. (They aren’t the same, but the Chrysler was the basis for the Ferrari-Maserati V6). You can’t have American stuff polluting the Great Italian Classics, and so actual commonality will be played down or even denied.

This, of course, wreaks havoc with our attempts to figure out details on the upcoming WK3 and large cars. Will the next Grand Cherokee be based on the Levante which was based on the 300C, (which borrowed some ideas from the old Mercedes E-Class)? We’re not likely to find out, nor will we learn if a new WK3 itself forms the basis for large cars which may be shared with Alfa or Maserati.

If this makes you miss the days (from the end of the Maxwell-based Plymouths to 1959) when Chrysler differentiated its cars almost entirely by size, trim, and features, or the extended K-car era, consider at least that FCA can spend more on Chrysler and Dodge cars and components, knowing they can spread it onto luxury cars, as long as nobody talks about it. Ssssh. Maserati is completely unique, developed solely in Italy, and so is Alfa Romeo. Really.

Perhaps the company should apply the same policy to Jeep…

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304

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