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FCA ditched small cars before it was trendy

by Patrick Rall on

General Motors announced today that the company will be “unallocating” production to three plants for 2019 including the Lordstown, Ohio plant, Detroit Hamtramck plant and the Oshawa, Ontario plant in Canada. Lordstown currently builds the Chevrolet Cruize, Hamtramck currently builds the Chevrolet Volt, the Chevrolet Impala, the Buick LaCrosse and the Cadillac CT6 and Oshawa builds the Impala as well. It is unclear what GM plans to do with production from those plants, but it appears as though the company will discontinue models and combine production into other plants in a move to make the most from the plants that remain open through 2019.

In addition to the end of production at those three plants, around 6,000 workers from those plants will be without jobs. Fortunately, it seems that some of them will be moved to other plants, but it seems possible that some factory workers are going to lose their jobs sometime during the 2019 calendar year.

In any case, it looks like General Motors could go away from many of their cars in order to focus their time and resources on stronger selling models such as trucks and SUVs. This comes after Ford announced back in April that they plan to discontinue many of their cars aside from the Mustang and two years ago, FCA made a similar statement when they killed off the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart.

When FCA announced the end of the 200 and Dart, following the earlier discontinuation of the Dodge Avenger, the company faced strict criticism for the move. While FCA made it clear that they were focusing on their strong-selling models including large cars, SUVs and trucks, the future of their small cars has remained open as the company looks for a more profitable means to offer small and midsized cars in the US market.

Unlike General Motors, FCA acted early, bringing about an end to their smaller car program before their numbers had bottomed out. As a result, the company was able to taper off production at the plants which produced cars while making plans for those plants and the workers involved going forward. For example, the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan was the home of Chrysler 200 production, but it has been transitioned to a Ram truck plant. The Dodge Dart was built at the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois, which has been building the Jeep Cherokee since 2017 and the production vacancy created by moving the Cherokee out of Toledo, Ohio, will be filled by production of other Jeep models, including the new Wrangler-based Gladiator pickup.

Unlike GM, FCA didn’t announce the end of their cars along with a big round of layoffs. FCA announced future plans for their lineup which included a move away from their poor-selling smaller cars while explaining how the plants that previously built those cars would be utilized in the future. However, FCA was still heavily criticized for going away from the most popular car segments in the US market. Those critics insisted that giving up on small and midsized cars was the beginning of the end for Fiat – a clear sign of their impending doom.

However, since shedding some of the dead weight from the lineup, FCA has been doing well, with their few remaining cars continuing to do well while the SUVs and trucks carry the load for the company. Although FCA was criticized for the move, the management team’s foresight worked to preserve jobs and provide peace of mind for their workers.

At the same time, now that Ford and GM have both announced a shift away from cars, the critics who insisted that the move meant the end of FCA have seemingly changed their views. In the outlets that base their opinions on advertising dollars, both Ford and GM are being praised for making the smart move even as GM is planning to lay off thousands of workers. That just goes to show the bias against FCA from some media outlets, but in the end, the move to kill the Chrysler and Dodge small cars shows that FCA management is on the cutting edge of industry trends and since then, the Challenger, Charger, trucks and SUVs have continued to shine.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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