Marchionne favors Town & Country minivan
TURIN, Italy -- CEO Sergio Marchionne wants the Chrysler Town & Country to survive as the Chrysler Group's traditional minivan with sliding doors, but he says a final decision is still in the works.
He is leaning toward redesigning the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan into a crossover with standard hinged doors. A decision awaits more data from customer clinics.
"We need to find out in the marketplace what works," Marchionne told Automotive News last week. "We are having customer clinics right now."
In May, Automotive News, citing a Marchionne interview in Automobile magazine, reported that the Grand Caravan would survive as the group's lone traditional minivan.
Marchionne said that if the redesigned vehicles that Chrysler and Dodge now envision are well-received in the clinics, they could be in production within 21 months because their new platform is done. The vehicles are scheduled for the 2015 model year.
Meanwhile, Marchionne confirmed that Chrysler's Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit will not produce the Levante, Maserati's first SUV. The Levante is an extensively reworked version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The vehicles have different exteriors, interiors and engines.
Fiat, which owns Maserati, planned to build it along with its Jeep sibling in the Detroit plant.
Moving production of the Levante to Italy offers Marchionne two advantages. He needs more capacity at Jefferson North for the 2014 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, a large, seven-seat SUV.
The planned production of at least 20,000 Levantes a year would subtract crucial capacity from the Grand Wagoneer.
At the same time, Marchionne's new business plan to return Fiat European operations to breakeven by 2015-16 calls for more production in Fiat's five underused Italian plants.
Fiat's European operations are expected to post trading losses of about 700 million euros, or about $908 million, this year. Fiat calls trading profit or losses operating profit before results from investments and unusual items.
Meanwhile, Chrysler Group reported net income of $381 million in the third quarter, up 80 percent from the same quarter of 2011.
You can reach Luca Ciferri at email@example.com.