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What about the FWD cars?

by David Zatz on

Dodge and Chrysler will soon have no front wheel drive sedans, for the first time since the Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni burst onto the scene in the 1970s.

What does that mean for them?

Sergio Marchionne has referred to FWD sedan sales as being a “rounding error,” but fleet buyers want a full range from one company, and missing inexpensive sedans is like missing commercial vans — enough to push one to GM, Nissan, or Ford. The cheapest Dodge or Chrysler sedan starts at around $27,000 once the 200 leaves. They are also important for repeat buyers, keeping loyal customers within the company, and for attracting new buyers.

What about the former Neon, Dart, Avenger, and 200 buyers? Are they supposed to move on to the Jeep Compass, Cherokee, and Renegade? Or will they simply check out Chevrolet and find a full line there, even down to a stick-shift manual compact car?

Sergio Marchionne claims to be trying to find contract manufacturers (and presumably developers) for the CUSW architecture that underpins the Dart and 200, but so far, there have been no takers, even as the market starts to falter.

Here, then, are our theories — keeping in mind that there is a large supply of 200s still out there.


  1. A new midsize car is coming. It’s likely a limited-production rear wheel drive Dodge, made in Italy, sharing a great deal with the Giulia and filling in for the day in 2020-2021 when new Chargers and Challengers are sold. Possible names include Barracuda, if they keep it performance-focused and low-volume, and Avenger.
  2. The Chrysler 100 may be coming. The Small architecture works well for Fiat, in SUV (Renegade) and sedan (Tipo) form, and the Chrysler 100 is always on the “coming models” charts. It’s long overdue, possibly delayed due to lack of funds or people, or because its future plant (Toluca) won’t be ready until the 500 and Journey leave. That could be two years from now!
  3. The Chrysler 200 may still return. Not necessarily the old one, but an extended version of the Chrysler 100.  It seems nobody will offer to update and build the 200 for Chrysler, so they will have to make their own – eventually.
  4. We may see a Mexican Dodge Neon, possibly as a Chrysler. This is a tough sell, since the Mexican Neon, otherwise known as the Fiat Tipo, would be sold with the 1.4 liter turbo and was designed chiefly to be inexpensive. While it’s garnered praise, it doesn’t have Dodge muscle or Chrysler class. Still, it would probably sell quite well — and the investment would be relatively small.
  5. Dodge is going to rear wheel drive. It’s not hard to see a day in the future when Dodge is all rear wheel drive. The hard part seems to be what to do about the front drivers. Chrysler doesn’t seem like the right brand, Fiat certainly isn’t, Plymouth is gone, and Lancia sends the wrong message. In reality, the company is likely stuck with Chrysler, unless they really abuse Jeep.  Can Olivier Francois return with a bang to make it happen?

Front wheel drive sedans may not be sexy to everyone, but they get the job done. Their form factor usually helps with gas mileage and cornering, the front drive is popular in the north and more space-efficient, and they are still the bread-and-butter cars needed for any full line manufacturer. FCA may not make any front-drive cars for Americans, other than the 500, after next month; but they must be planning for it, if they can make engineering, marketing, accounting, and manufacturing all come together just right.

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