FCA projects 10% growth in U.S. retail sales for '15, extending streak

The Fiat 500X is expected to arrive late this spring and help extend FCA's sales streak.

SAN FRANCISCO -- FCA US dealers were told to anticipate as much as 10 percent growth in their retail sales in 2015 as incremental deliveries from new vehicles such as the Jeep Renegade, Ram ProMaster City and Fiat 500X help extend the automaker’s 57-month sales streak.

All three European-made vehicles fill what was otherwise white space in the automaker’s U.S. lineup. The ProMaster City and Renegade should be arriving on dealer lots within the next six weeks, while the Fiat 500X is expected to arrive late this spring.

Executives spoke at a 75-minute FCA make meeting here Friday that drew a large crowd of several hundred dealers during the 2015 NADA convention. Attendees said they were told to anticipate U.S. retail sales of 1.81 million units, up from about 1.6 million in 2014.

The automaker finished 2014 with total U.S. sales up 16 percent at 2,090,639.  Fleet deliveries remained below 20 percent of all sales for most of 2014, although a final fleet share won’t be disclosed until the automaker reports fourth-quarter and 2014 earnings on Feb. 3.

The ProMaster City is a small van that comes in either a cargo or five-passenger wagon configuration, and will compete directly with vehicles such as the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200.

The Renegade is a subcompact SUV manufactured in Italy in the same plant that also will build the Fiat 500X subcompact crossover.

Fiat Chrysler executives also suggested that the recently refreshed lineup of L-body cars -- the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans as well as the Dodge Challenger -- should help those vehicles’ sales as well.

“The dealers are pretty happy with the way things are going,” said Harry Larson, of Larson Motors in Nebraska City, Neb. Larson holds Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram, Ford and Chevrolet franchises in his rural dealership, and sells about 1,000 new units a year. Larson said executives laid out their future product plans. “It looks to me like [FCA] wants to strike while the iron is hot.”

Other attendees said dealers posed few questions, mostly concerning allocation of hot products like the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and the new 707-hp 2015 Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcats.

They also asked about the automaker’s Volume Growth Program, Fiat Chrysler’s controversial stair-step incentive program.

“Overall, it’s a good time to be a Chrysler dealer,” said Franklin McLarty, CEO of RML Automotive in Little Rock, Ark. “Things are going pretty good.”

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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