DETROIT -- Chrysler Group could bring several Fiat-based compact vehicles to the United States sooner than expected, CEO Sergio Marchionne said on a conference call today.
The vehicles could be on the market as early as the fourth quarter of 2011, based on design work that already has been completed, Marchionne said.
“We've run extensive clinics on the first vehicles. We're 98 percent there on styling,” he said. “My expectation today is we'll be able to get this car into the market Q4 2011. We continue to work pretty aggressively on timing.”
The Fiat-based vehicles would fill a void in the market for Chrysler, which lacks a compact sedan although it does have three compacts: the Jeep Compass and Patriot crossovers and the Dodge Caliber hatchback.
Before then, Chrysler also plans to address another area of weakness in its lineup: mid-sized sedans. Marchionne said the company will deliver significantly improved versions of its Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger sedans in the fourth quarter.
“We have carried out significant surgery on the architecture of those cars and made significant improvements of the interiors,” he said.
In the third quarter, new versions of the Jeep Wrangler and Patriot will debut, featuring improved interiors.
This week, Chrysler began building the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee at its Jefferson Avenue plant in Detroit.
“We've eliminated remaining issues about quality,” Marchionne said. “We feel comfortable we've resolved all technical issues.”
The new Grand Cherokee “is the basis on which we'll try to rebuild the Jeep brand on a global scale. It is the symbol of Jeep.”
The vehicles will start reaching dealerships by the middle of June, and the marketing and advertising campaign will start about the same time, Marchionne said.