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Yes, we think Chrysler will expand again, and here’s how…

by David Zatz on

With news that the Chrysler 300 is not long for this world, there has been a lot of discussion on the brand’s future. Missing from some of that talk has been former CEO Sergio Marchionne’s tendency to make rapid, perhaps even rash, decisions to respond to the market — and that one of those was moving Chrysler to all crossovers, all the time.

Above, we see “exhibit A,” the Jeep Grand Commander. It’s based on the Cherokee, but it’s not just a lengthened Cherokee, or so we’re told; a great deal changed along the way to make it ride and handle as it should. This seven-passenger crossover can’t sell in the US as a Jeep, because it doesn’t meet the off-road requirements — not even the looser Renegade rules — but it can, with a different face, become a Chrysler.

This “new” crossover would be built in the United States, where, indeed, it seems to have been tested for a while in Cherokee sheet metal.  It could be made alongside the Cherokee in Belvidere, Illinois; or next to the Pacifica, which has CUSW roots, in Windsor.  There has been some talk about it being made in Toluca, replacing the Journey, as well. The company certainly has options, including moving large cars to Toluca and building something else at Brampton, to give the Brampton plant a more thorough renovation.

As for powertrain, we can see two versions of the new “Hurricane” 2-liter four-cylinder turbo engine, one with “eTorque” and one without it (both versions exist, one for the 2019 Cherokee and one for the 2019 Wrangler).  A V6 is possible, but there are no guarantees; leaving out V6 capability would probably allow the company to cut the weight, but might lose some customers.

The Portal is also coming around 2020/2021, according to Automotive News and other sources; that would be two crossovers, or, arguably, a crossover and a “normal-sized” (that is, historically normally sized) minivan. The final piece of the puzzle could be the long-awaited crossover version of the Pacifica, which would be based on the minivan the same way that, um, the original Pacifica was based on the Town & Country.

If these plans come to fruition, it appears that Chrysler will have a solid future in the United States — assuming there are customers for these new vehicles. If they flop, you can expect Chrysler to go into lukewarm storage for a while, as Lancia and Alfa Romeo did, waiting for the right time and product for its return. How Chrysler will sell mainstream crossovers without watering down Dodge and Jeep, in that case, is a mystery that FCA must hope they will never need to solve.

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