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Who will be the new “partner?”

by Bill Cawthon on

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said that he would be looking for  “potential partners that will be able to allow us to access that architecture and effectively provide us the product from their facilities that will allow us to continue to cover the market” as the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart reach the end of their lives.

Mitsibishi-Lancer-WebAs a partner, Mitsubishi comes to mind first. The Japanese automaker has a long history of collaboration with Chrysler; and FCA is the sole distributor for Mitsubishi in Mexico. The Dodge Attitude is a rebadged Mitsubishi Mirage (shades of the Colt). The Mirage is already sold in the U.S., so it would simply be a matter of some sheet metal and badges. Unfortunately, the Mirage sold here is uninspiring though inexpensive. The Lancer which is in the Dart’s price range, but isn’t competitive and Mitsu sold fewer than 18,000 Lancers in the U.S. last year.

FCA could build on the collaboration that produced the Fiat 124 and source one of Mazda’s sedans with the well-regarded SkyActiv engines.  The Mazda2 never caught on, but the same car in Scion iA form sells better, so the issue is likely the badging and not the car.

Suzuki-Ciaz-Web

Current FCA partner (mostly as a major buyer of engines) Suzuki is mainly known for their little Kei cars.  The Kizashi is generally well regarded; the larger Ciaz (shown above), is built in India and China. Buick and Volvo have shown that many customers don’t care if their car comes from China, but there might be some issues in federalizing the Ciaz.

Peugeot-301-Web

One European company would love to get a chance in the U.S: PSA (Peugeot/Citroën) has several good candidates, including the 301 pictured above. Fiat has collaborated with PSA before, so it is possible a match could be made. (PSA includes the former Chrysler Europe.)

Chrysler and/or Dodge have a large, well-established dealer network and parts distribution, which brings a good opportunity for incremental sales in the world’s second-largest vehicle market, especially for brands that have already failed here.

Fiat-Tipo-Chrysler-Web

“Potential partners” doesn’t absolutely rule out the other side of the house. Marchionne didn’t say anything about the Fiat Aegea/Tipo that’s built in the Tofas plant in Turkey.

With any of these cars, it appears that Sergio Marchionne wants all engineering and manufacturing to be done by the partner, so Auburn Hills can focus on minivans, crossovers, SUVs, large cars, and pickups.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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