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The case for the Chrysler 100

by Bill Cawthon on

In January, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said, “There will be a number of things that will be put in place in the next 18 months — things that have been agreed and detailed, that will effectively withdraw the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart from the marketplace, for a long period of time, during which we will be continuing discussions with potential partners.”

Speculation ran rampant; candidates included current partnerships, such as Mazda and Mitsubishi, and longer shots like Maruti Suzuki, which could both supply small cars and provide an entrée into India, which FCA has found hard to crack.

Tipo-Tofas-Web

One obvious partnership, which already exists, is Tofaş.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Koç Holdings each own 38% of Tofaş (“Türk Otomobil Fabrikası Anonim Şirketi” or “Turkish Automobile Factory, Inc.”). Their factory produces the Fiat Ducato, Ram ProMaster City, and  small vans for Citroen, Opel, and Peugeot. The  Fiat Aegea/Tipo is also made there.

Whether it’s the Chrysler 100 or some other model, the case for bringing the Tipo to North America is more compelling now. It is a true compact, while the EPA classed the Dodge Dart as a mid-size car.

The Tipo will soon have multiple body styles, with a hatchback and wagon to be shown in three weeks at the Geneva Auto Show. Having a sedan and hatchback would let the car compete with the segment leaders.  Americanizing the Tipo would be familiar to Auburn Hills engineers, who converted the Ducato, Doblo, and 500. This plan would leverage existing assets with a relatively small investment, and leave Marchionne with just one car to source — or with none, if he spurred a stretched-wheelbase midsize version.

If FCA did this, Mr. Marchionne would technically be telling the truth, while still keeping full control and preventing a competitor from profiting by FCA’s decision.

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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