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The Chrysler-and-Fiat Strategy: November 2012 and January 2013

This page is outdated and shown for historical purposes only.

The years shown below are mostly calendar years, with model years being one year later in most cases.

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Chrysler has updated its plan for the next few years, with notations for changed vehicles and pushbacks in time.

The small Jeep Renegade has been delayed until 2014, to increase its off-road capability and make it more worthy of the name "Jeep." The Doblo-based ProMaster City van is due in 2014, and Viper will be refreshed in 2015 despite a 2013 relaunch. The 2014 Lx family refresh is partly to get the eight-speed/V8 combination, already available on Grand Cherokee, and to upgrade the flagship large cars to the latest UConnect technology. New styling will also be applied to the Chrysler, based on Ralph Gilles' statements, but not the new styling that will appear on Chrysler 200 - at least not until the 2016 models.

The new Wrangler platform is due in 2016, along with plant changes to allow for greater flexibility and output. We believe a Wrangler-based pickup is a sure thing; the other new vehicle may be either a variant of the Wrangler itself, or something else based on the same chassis, e.g. a chassis cab truck, a hard-roof version, or a J8-type series of vehicles for flexible military and NGO use.

The European strategy

Land vehicle Vehicle Car Luxury vehicle Chrysler 300

On October 31, Sergio Marchionne laid out a revised strategy for Chrysler and Fiat in Europe. The prior strategy had been:

  • Fiat focuses on A and B sized cars (subcompact and mini); Chrysler takes the lead on compact (C) and larger cars, jump-started by the use of the recently created C-EVO platform and Alfa Giulietta architecture.
  • Lancia adds rebadged Chryslers; Chrysler is abandoned, as a brand, in Europe, except for the U.K.
  • Alfa Romeo is relaunched thanks to sharing with Dodge.
  • Jeep is returned to the worldwide status it enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s.

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The 2012 appears to make some key changes:

  • Fiat will, as a brand, only develop A and B sized cars. It will continue to sell some larger Chrysler cars, e.g. Viaggio and Freemont, under its own brand. Italians will build upscale marques and cars only.
  • Lancia will, aside from Ypsilon, only sell rebadged Chryslers, despite prior lack of success along these lines.
  • Fiat will try to go upscale to near-premium, across the board, in Europe.
  • Otherwise, the Five Year Plan continues. Larger Fiat, Lancia, and (some) Alfa Romeo cars will be based on or developed by Chrysler and Dodge. Jeep will be made into a bigger player worldwide. Fiat Professional and Ram will be merged together - Fiat Professional in Europe, Ram in US.

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Here are some opinions from Allpar commentators, selected, edited, and condensed, but first, some words from Sergio Marchionne, as quoted by Il Corriere, and translated loosely:

  • Microphone stand Spokesperson Public speaking Speech Event
    Before I invest more in Chrysler, I must invest here, to compete with the Germans. Only then will we proceed with the complete merger of Fiat and Chrysler - let's say 2014-2015. I cannot do it all together. ... France and Germany aid their companies, we go it alone.
  • The relaunch of Alfa in the past failed because they did not have Chrysler's architectures, platforms, basic engines, and dealers.
  • Mirafiori plant has the highest costs, so it will go to the high-range cars, along with Grugliasco - Alfa and Maserati.
  • The creation of a "Fiat 500 family" is not for Europe, but for places like the U.S., where buyers want a 500, not a Fiat. As noted earlier, the brand will become an entire family, e.g. 500L, and "other surprises."
  • The next Freemont will be a "giant Panda." [This might just refer to the styling and marketing.]

RVC is a Italian who has expertise in Fiat operations and the European automotive scene.

The Fiat brand will focus on A-B segment cars like the 500-family and the Panda (a MINI type strategy). Lancia is given for dead; though Chrysler rebadges didn't go over well, his idea is to fill dealers with more rebadged Chryslers. Production in Italy will shift from small and relatively inexpensive cars to high-end cars from Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Jeep.

Most of Fiat's money from now on will be dedicated to this new strategy and straightening out the European side of the business, rather than buying the rest of Chrysler. This might mean a Chrysler IPO (issued by the VEBA) in 2013.

The main news is that all plants in Italy will be retooled to produce premium cars, and the entire company will change its focus from the low end to the high. Fiat appears to be giving up on the pure mass market and going for the near-premium segment.

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It's an epic shift. From Chrysler's perspective, nothing much changes; but it basically turns Fiat's traditional business model upside down. A company that has built mass market products announced that its namesake brand will be cut back, and they are betting everything on brands that until now were marginal. It's saying that from now on, the five factories in Italy producing Puntos and Bravos will be retooled to build Alfas, Maseratis, and SUVs. It's going from producing 90% mass market/10% premium to 90% premium/10% mass market.

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It's as though GM announced that it would only continue making the Malibu and Silverado, and that the rest of their plants would produce Buicks and Cadillacs.

All but one Alfa Romeo model will be built in Italy (the other one being the Alfa-Mazda roadster); considering that Alfa will cover all segments from subcompact to large, and taking into account that a good part of those cars should be exported, it's a fairly sound business plan. From a marketing standpoint, it's a smart decision to build AR in Italy; they have been studying a solution to the export tariffs with the Italian government for a month, so they probably already know that it will work out.
Dan Minick has analyzed the worldwide automotive industry for many years.

There is one Lancia-Chrysler launch over the next four years compared to almost a dozen Alfa/Maseratis. My hunch is a relaunch of Chrysler, but I'm not convinced that that's what they mean. The new "plan" really doesn't say what's what - I don't see where they are getting that many models for Maserati.
Allpar analyst and news writer Bill Cawthon wrote,

Perhaps the secret could be found in looking at how well various Fiat Group models do in the broader European market. When I compared European sales by brand and model through July (the latest month for which I have all the data) with the Italian July sales of the same vehicles, I found:

Car % Sold Outside Italy Car% Sold Outside Italy
Alfa Romeo Giulietta51% Fiat Freemont41%
Alfa Romeo MiTo56% Fiat Punto41%
Fiat 50032% Fiat Qubo33%
Fiat Bravo35% Lancia Musa7%
Fiat Panda37% Lancia Ypsilon20%

Lancia is weak outside of Italy, and Marchionne needs product that isn't dependent on the Italian economy. Alfa is a better choice for sporty and upscale executive cars and Maserati can handle the ultra-premium market with some good sedans. This makes Lancia redundant and a distraction, but the Chrysler brand isn't strong and the name is associated with big American cars and minivans.
bethlumboy added this set of projections based on careful analysis:

Fiat and Fiat Professional

In 2012, Fiat introduced the B-segment Panda 4x4 for Europe and the 500L MPV, to be sold in North America alongside the 500, 500C, 500T, and 500 Abarth. Fiat Professional (FP) reintroduced the Strada pickup to the European (EU) market, and also introduced the new Panda Van. Both are produced in Fiat's Pomigliano plant; the 500L is to be built at the Fiat Automobiles Serbia (FAS) plant in Kragujevac, Serbia; and the Strada is produced at Fiat's Betim plant in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The stretched 7-passenger version of the Fiat 500L 5-passenger MPV, dubbed 500L+, will join the 500L at the Serbian plant in 2013, but will not be exported. FP will also introduce a new vehicle that same year, possibly a 500L+ Van to also be assembled by FAS.

Fiat's B-CUV (and Sedici replacement), the 500X, will begin production in Melfi in 2014, alongside the B-Jeep with which is [fairly similar but with a different suspension]. FP is to get a new vehicle that same year, which could possibly be the Fiat Strada pickup truck added to Melfi for European distribution. 2014 also sees two refreshed FP vehicles, most likely the Fiat Ducato van being built in Italy at Sevel Sud and the Fiat Doblo van being built by Tofas in Turkey.

Fiat gets four new vehicles and a refreshed vehicle in 2015. A new Panda-styled Fiat Freemont could [probably will] be imported from Chrysler's Toledo North Assembly Plant, where it could be built alongside the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Journey, among others. Fiat's Tychy, Poland, plant could begin assembling the next-generation Fiat 500/ 500C as well as the EU-only Fiat Topolino (or 500A) city car. A replacement for the Fiat Punto hatchback, possibly called the 500P, could join the 500X, B-Jeep, and Strada at Melfi. The Fiat Qubo and the FP Fiorino on which it is based may both receive major and long-overdue refreshes, as well as both possibly moving to Melfi for assembly as well, making Melfi a six-vehicle B-segment superstore. Assuming that the Sevel PSA contract requirements are fulfilled by then (unknown), this move could create production capacity at Tofas for increased Doblo production to meet North American demand while increasing production within Italy.

The 500 family could grow even larger in 2016 if the Fiat 500 Coupe Zagato, or 500Z, is added to the Tychy, Poland, plant for export; and, if the C-segment Bravo, built at Fiat's Cassino plant, gets a major refresh and is renamed Fiat 500B. The Pomigliano-built Fiat Panda and FP Panda Van could be refreshed in 2016. FP will also begin importing a new vehicle in 2016, possibly a 1-Ton (Metric) pickup built by Ram at its Saltillo, Toledo North, Windsor, or Jefferson North plant in North America.

Lancia / Chrysler
After the launch of the midsize Lancia Flavia convertible (built by Chrysler in their Sterling Heights plant), nothing is planned until 2015 when the Lancia Ypsilon will most likely be refreshed and possibly moved to the Pomigliano Panda plant. A new vehicle, possibly a Dodge Grand Caravan-based Lancia Voyager minivan (built at Chrysler's plant in Windsor, Ontario, Canada), will be imported starting in 2015. That's it. Nothing else for Lancia Chrysler in the plan. Why not?

Three theories:

  1. Fiat is putting Lancia on ice until they can afford to properly re-launch the brand.
  2. Plans are still up in the air, and only semi-firm plans were put on the table.
  3. The plans were intentionally left off. When you are trying to sell your plan to invest in Italian plants to your shareholders, you don't want to show them a full row of those gray "import" icons.

Automotive News Europe reported that a C-segment Chrysler 100 hatchback could be produced at Cassino primarily for export to North America. It could be sold in Europe (other than in the U.K.) as the Lancia Delta. However, this vehicle does not seem to appear on the Product Plan. [Rumor claims it is no longer in the plans.]

Alfa Romeo.
The Alfa Romeo brand is only getting warmed up in 2013 when it refreshes its B-segment MiTo (Mirafiori, Italy) and C-segment Giulietta (Cassino, Italy) hatchbacks, along with beginning production of its 4-cylinder RWD mid-engined premium sports coupe, the Alfa Romeo 4C, to be built at the Maserati plant in Modena, Italy. Once the Alfa Romeo product onslaught gets started, it just keeps going... and going... and going...

Things start to heat up in 2014 with the likely release of the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan and the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sportwagon, both to be built at Cassino. The Giulia is possibly the only mid-size sedan that Fiat will sell in Europe (it will be paired with the Chrysler 200 in North America).

2015 might bring the launch of the full-size RWD Alfa Romeo 169 sedan and Alfa Romeo 169 Sportwagon, both to be built at Mirafiori. An Alfa Romeo C-CUV, possibly called "Kamal," will most likely begin production at Cassino in 2015 as well, (in conjunction with the release if the closely related Jeep Compass in North America) and the Alfa Romeo Spider (or Duetto), co-developed with Mazda alongside the next-generation MX-5 Miata, will be imported from Japan. Finally, in 2016, both the MiTo and the Giulietta will probably be replaced.

Other than the MiTo, all Alfa Romeo vehicles will be exported.

Fiat will import all Jeep vehicles from North America, with the exception of the small B-Jeep.

In 2013, Fiat will import the new Jeep Cherokee from Toledo North, the refreshed Compass from Belvidere, and the refreshed Grand Cherokee from Jefferson North. The B-Jeep will bow in 2014 alongside the Fiat 500X CUV, both to be built at Fiat's Melfi plant. This vehicle will be distributed primarily in Europe but will attempt some North American sales as well.

Fiat will import (to Europe) two new Jeeps in 2015, most likely the full-size Grand Wagoneer from Jefferson North and the new compact Compass from Belvidere. The redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2017 Jeep Wrangler will most likely arrive in Europe in 2016.

The last of the old Maseratis, the GranTurismo and GranCabrio, were refreshed in 2012.

The full-size and fuller-size Maserati sedans, Ghibli and Quattroporte, will be made starting in 2013 at the former Bertone plant in Grugliasco. This plant will be paired with the Mirafiori plant to produce Alfa Romeos and Maseratis. Mirafiori allegedly will also produce the Maserati Levante starting in 2014. The vehicles produced in Mirafiori will supposedly be able to be produced in Grugliasco, and vice versa, allowing Fiat to shift production of these vehicles as needed to match market demand.

The Maserati GranTurismo and GranCabrio could be replaced in 2015, and the V8 mid-engined Maserati GranSport (similar in structure to the Alfa Romeo 4C) could be added in 2016. All three vehicles will probably be built at Maserati's Modena plant.

All Maseratis will be exported.
RedJK summarized - we re-ordered by price class, with trucks at the end:

A = Mini, B = Subcompact,
C = Compact, D = Mid-sized,
E = Large

Fiat - to develop A and B cars; Dodge to develop C, D, E

Chrysler/Lancia - near-luxury B, C, D and E

Alfa Romeo - sporty, further upscale B, C, D and E

Maserati - sport-luxury D and E

Fiat Professional/Ram - commercial vans, commercial/mass market trucks

Jeep - SUVs and off-road trucks, all sizes
Also see Fiat CarsChrysler-Fiat Alliance upcoming Chrysler vehiclesFive Year Plan

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