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What is Chrysler’s Role in Future RWD Cars?

by David Zatz on

When Fiat took over Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne told analysts that Chrysler would handle engineering for mid-sized and large cars. That may no longer be the plan.

According to insiders on both sides of the ocean, Alfa Romeo’s engineers are creating the new rear wheel drive underpinnings that are, some say, to be used in large and midsized Dodge cars, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wagoneer.

There are, we have been told, some embedded “FCA US LLC” engineers on the “Giorgio” project, but not many. It is run by Ferrari leaders and most of the people there are from “FCA Italy SpA.”

One source told Allpar that Auburn Hills can’t come up with the staff to be an equal partner, much less as a leader.  The CTC is working on Ram refreshes and replacements, a new Wrangler, and adapted Italian designs — the Chrysler 100, Jeep Compass replacement, next Journey, minivans, large crossover, and such.

Meanwhile, Auburn Hills has reportedly had problems hiring more engineers, and is unable to rehire those bought out by Cerberus and Daimler. It doesn’t help that the media is now portraying FCA as teetering on the verge of failure, based on its leader’s frequent talk of mergers and Reuter’s insistence that they are trying for a leveraged buyout of General Motors.

CTC

Auburn Hills’ place in the future may depend on several factors:

  • Whether it stays profitable and increases quality
  • The end of merger talk, or a partner that will not compete with the old Chrysler’s cars (e.g. not GM or Renault-Nissan)
  • Sergio Marchionne’s replacement being someone who does not put Fiat, Italy, or Europe first

Auburn Hills will reportedly get the basic Alfa Romeo design to rework. Two past Fiat SpA designs that ended up being used by Chrysler engineers were “C-EVO,” which ended up as CUSW and was the basis of the Dart, 200, Cherokee, and future minivan; and “SCSS,” which, once transformed, was the basis of the Renegade and is to produce the Compass and 100.

New-Dodge-Ad-Web

The future may have Alfa Romeo-based Dodges, with the Chrysler 300 sharing stretched C-EVO underpinnings (from the minivans, and following the Volkswagen Phaeton/Touareg pattern). With all smaller cars already based on various Fiat platforms and architectures, that essentially leaves the company with Jeep Wrangler and non-van Rams.

Fiat has been good for Chrysler to this point, despite some disappointments, given where Daimler and Cerberus left it. The company no longer relies on low-profit rental fleet sales to keep plants open, and repaid its TARP loans in 2011. Thousands of engineers and plant workers have been hired, and parts that had been outsourced are now made by FCA in North America.

There is cause for both optimism and doubt by Chrysler fans, but it seems now that future “Mopar” cars will all have their roots in Italy.

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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