Chrysler brand gets biggest push in Marchionne's overhaul

CEO Sergio Marchionne: Fiat and Chrysler in the last five years have achieved “the strongest bond possible. It is made up, as a team, by survivors. They carry the humility of having failed” in the past.

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DETROIT -- The Chrysler brand will gain products and Dodge will lose them while Jeep and profit-rich Ram expand under Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s North American plan for the next five years.

Though the greatest sales growth is targeted for Jeep, the biggest changes at Chrysler Group dealerships will be an expansion of the Chrysler brand lineup into a mass-market competitor to rivals Ford and Chevrolet, executives of the newly formed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said today in outlining the company’s strategy through 2018.

“The history of the auto industry is littered with alliances that have failed,” CEO Sergio Marchionne told analysts to kick off a day-long presentation. But Fiat and Chrysler in the last five years have achieved “the strongest bond possible. It is made up, as a team, by survivors. They carry the humility of having failed” in the past.

Here’s a brand-by-brand outline, as spelled out by division chiefs today at Chrysler’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.:

Chrysler

Chrysler, which currently offers just three nameplates, will gain a new compact sedan -- the 100 -- in 2016, a full-sized crossover in 2017 and a mid-sized crossover in 2018.

The Chrysler Town & Country will survive as Fiat Chrysler's only minivan when it is redesigned in 2016, a year later than previously planned. At that time, the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan will be discontinued. Fiat Chrysler will expand its electrification efforts to include a new plug-in hybrid version of the Town & Country and a plug-in full-sized crossover in 2017. Chrysler plans to grow from its 2013 level of 350,000 sales to 800,000 units in 2018.

Dodge

The Dodge brand isn’t projected to get back to its 2013 volume of 596,300 units until 2018, when it will restore its product offerings after losing the Grand Caravan as well as the Avenger mid-sized sedan.

Dodge will do a significant product intervention into the slow-selling Dart in 2016, when it will add a high-performance SRT version. The same year, it will re-engineer the Dodge Journey onto a new global platform and add a new high-performance SRT version of the Journey as well.

Dodge will expand its offerings in early 2018 with the addition of a subcompact sedan and hatchback, and will keep the Durango during the period. The Charger and Challenger will be re-engineered in 2018. Also, the SRT Viper will continue with a planned refresh in 2015.

Dodge expects to its sales volumes will shrink from 2013’s 596,300 to 546,000 in 2014 before climbing back to about 600,000 in 2018.

Jeep

Jeep will add a Grand Wagoneer three-row SUV in 2018, and will re-engineer the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee in 2017. The subcompact Jeep Renegade will be built in Europe and will arrive in U.S. showrooms in early 2015, and the brand will replace the Compass and Patriot with a single model in 2016 to mark the brand’s 75th anniversary.

Under Jeep’s plan to re-engineer its iconic Wrangler in 2017, weight will be cut, aerodynamics and powertrain efficiency will be improved, and off-road prowess will be maintained. Jeep plans to grow from 732,000 sales globally in 2014 to 1.9 million in 2018.

Ram

The Ram brand will add a new ProMaster City small commercial van, based on the Fiat Doblo, in early 2015.

Ram will overhaul its light- and heavy-duty pickup lines in 2017, a year later than expected. Ram expects to increase its North American sales volume from 463,000 last year to about 620,000 in 2018.

The automaker points to the Jeep, Ram and Chrysler brands as key drivers of NAFTA volume growth.

Fiat

Fiat will expand its U.S. product offerings from its current two vehicles to four, adding the 500X crossover next year and what is expected to be a roadster. The car, developed along with Mazda on a revised Miata platform, was originally planned for Alfa Romeo. The Fiat brand plans to double North American sales from about 50,000 cars last year to 100,000 by 2018.

Maserati

Maserati will expand its product offering to include the Levante crossover and coupe and convertible versions of the Aliferi shown at the Geneva auto show earlier this year. In addition, the GranTurismo will be reengineered by 2018. Global volumes are projected to grow from 2013’s 15,000 cars to 75,000 units in 2018.

Alfa

Alfa Romeo plans to expand globally from four vehicles to more than eight, and plans -- again -- to exponentially expand its global sales, from last year’s 75,000 units to 400,000 in 2018. Fiat plans to invest more than 5 billion euros ($6.96 billion) into Alfa during the period.

Ferrari

Ferrari will keep its current stable of two 8-cylinder sports coupes and two 12-cylinder sports coupes. The brand is not for sale, Marchionne stressed. Sales volumes will remain restricted to 7,000 units globally each year.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.


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