Chrysler brand to double lineup, become Fiat Chrysler's 'mainstream North American' marque

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DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles today said it plans to double the size of the Chrysler brand’s lineup by the end of 2018 and eliminate two Dodge nameplates to settle a long-running “internal turf war” between the brands.

The Chrysler marque is being positioned as the company’s “mainstream North American brand” to take on mass-market offerings from Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai and others, said Al Gardner, the brand’s CEO. The marque, which offers just three nameplates, will gain a compact sedan, the 100, in 2016, a full-sized crossover in 2017 and a mid-sized crossover in 2018.

Gardner unveiled the plan during a presentation here this morning.

The Chrysler Town & Country will become Fiat Chrysler’s only minivan when it is redesigned in 2016, a year later than previously planned. Gardner said the Dodge Grand Caravan will be discontinued at the same time. A plug-in hybrid version of the Town & Country also is planned for 2016.

Erasing sedan overlap

Meanwhile, the recently redesigned Chrysler 200 will be Fiat Chrysler’s only mainstream mid-sized sedan, as the Dodge Avenger goes away after the current model year. Erasing the overlap between Dodge and Chrysler that has confused customers and even dealership employees was a priority as the company developed its five-year plan, Gardner said.

“What we do, we do well,” Gardner said. “But frankly there is so much more that the Chrysler brand could be. Clear brand identity and differentiation of those two brands is not something we’ve accomplished until now.”

Gardner said the Chrysler brand is targeting global sales of 800,000 in 2018, more than double the 350,000 it sold last year. A large portion of that growth assumes it captures customers who would have bought the Grand Caravan and Avenger, according to a chart distributed with his presentation.

Such growth would return the brand to roughly the peak volume it reached in 2005. But this time, the brand has a clearer vision of its place in the company’s portfolio, Gardner said.

Back to peak volume

“Chrysler brand is not luxury,” he said. “It’s not premium -- even though you should expect to get premium content and craftsmanship in every product.”

The unnamed full-sized crossover planned for 2017 will be offered as a plug-in hybrid. The 200 is scheduled to be freshened in 2017, and a redesign for the 300 sedan, which was freshened this year, is planned for 2018.

Gardner said the new nameplates being planned mean the Chrysler brand will go from competing in three segments totaling sales of 3.5 million this year to six segments totaling sales of 11.1 million in 2018.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com. -- Follow Nick on Twitter


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