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Right-hand-drive: not quite dead yet

by Chris Vander Doelen on

A report out of Australia suggests FCA may not have axed production of right-hand-drive Chrysler and Dodge models after all, contrary to statements made by the company’s South African division two weeks ago.

In South Africa, the right-hand-drive Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger are dead, as are the minivans presumably, never to be sold there again because production of those export models is ending in Brampton and Windsor, Ontario.

But in Australia, the right-hand-drive 300 will continue to be sold, according to FIAT Chrysler Automobiles Australia, as quoted by website goauto.com.au.

Neither country’s FCA officials will comment on what the other is saying, of course. “What I can tell you is that Australia will continue to sell RHD Chrysler 300 as an ongoing product in our line-up,” said FCA Australia PR and communications manager Alessia Terranova.

Contrast that with what FCA South Africa CEO Robin van Rensburg was quoted as saying on Oct. 6: “This unfortunate situation has arisen from our principals in the USA no longer building Chrysler or Dodge vehicles in right-hand drive configuration.”

Well, is this RHD parrot really dead? Not dead? Just resting?

 

The truth matters to those who see the decision as a signpost of the future corporate FCA might have planned for both brands. If they are giving up on the RHD export markets, some observers argue, it means they don’t plan to reinvest in the vehicles.

It could equally be reasoned that for sales of only 200 units in Australia in 2017 (down from a peak of 2,508 in 2013), it is hardly worth it to FCA financially to maintain RHD tooling and supply chains, train supervisors and assemblers in their application, and ship the finished product 16,664 km from Brampton to Adelaide (that’s 10,339 miles, in American). Oh, and market the stuff for another culture.

Could it be spokespeople in both countries are right? Chrysler and Dodge may indeed be planning to end production of RHD in the near future, making the South African comments completely truthful. But Auburn Hills might have decided to assemble a few hundred more 2018 units over the coming months to ensure Australian dealers still have their supply for a year or two.

Maybe somebody has just kicked the can down the road on a manufacturing decision, promising Australia will get what it wants in the short term and telling South Africa to make any announcement it thinks best for the market, long-term.

There’s another possibility: FCA Australia is still betting it can pick up some lucrative police car business with the Chrysler 300 now that GM (Holden) and Ford have closed  their Australian manufacturing operations, taking the full-size Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon off the market.

This old story here lays out FCA Australia’s police car gamble two years ago – and it could still be in play.

 

Chris Vander Doelen was Opinion Editor and columnist of The Windsor Star until December, 2016; He was the Star's automotive reporter and columnist for seven years, and had also covered the political and gambling beats. With his wife, Veronique Mandal, he wrote the book Chasing Lightning (1999). Chris won a National Newspaper Award in 1997 and more than a dozen provincial news awards. There is a Chrysler 300 in his driveway.

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