The Chrysler-Fiat union continues to progress with CEO Sergio Marchionne making an unlikely union of North Americans and Europeans work. The unlikely part must be said as Chrysler was just two years removed from its bitter Daimler divorce when Fiat came courting. The DaimlerChrysler relationship was a tale of clashing cultures, one that seemed doomed from the outset.
In Chrysler, Marchionne found an opportunity too good to pass up and with the Obama administration’s backing Fiat soon found itself the owner of the Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge brands. Marchionne made quick work of the relationship by separating Ram from Dodge, rolling out 16 new or updated products for the 2011 model year, and reintroducing its Fiat line to the North American market.
Through the intervening years, Chrysler went from a money loser to a profit maker. Indeed, in 2011 Chrysler netted $183 million. In 2012, that profit mushroomed to $1.7 billion. Across the board sales increases have certainly helped, with the profitable Jeep brand and Ram 1500 lines contributing the lions share of the automakers new-found wealth.
Webcast Conference Call
Marchionne is dead set against maintaining the status quo and is working feverishly to ensure that the Chrysler-Fiat hook up thrives. As January came to a close, the executive held a webcast conference call to outline the company’s strategy for the remainder of 2013 with some hints of what else is to come.
Notably, Marchionne insists that the various Chrysler and Fiat brands will avoid competing with each other, with unique products sold by each. On the corporate level, the Chrysler and Fiat entities will continue to work together with a formal merger expected down the line. Already the company has a single leadership team in place tasked with managing both companies.
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New Models Planned
New to the market this year is a significantly refreshed Jeep Grand Cherokee, a model that offers an optional 3.0-liter diesel engine. Its Compass and Patriot lines are now outfitted with a six-speed automatic transmission and the replacement for the Jeep Liberty debuts this year as well. For Ram, its heavy-duty pickup trucks have been refreshed and a new commercial van comes to the market this year. Fiat, short on models but not on size is getting the Fiat 500L, a four-door model that should extend this brand’s reach in North America.
But, the biggest changes we will see in coming years won’t be with the Ram, Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler brands although these makes won’t be hurting for new products and updates. What we will see is a greater expansion of Fiat and the introduction of Alfa Romeo, the latter’s products reappearing this year. Both Italian brands will maintain matters for 2014, but come 2015 an onslaught of new Fiat and Alfa Romeo models will hit the market. Every new model will be Fiat-produced and will not overlap other Chrysler products.
Down the Line
All told, the Chrysler report shows as many as 12 new Fiat and Alfa Romeo vehicles on sale in North America by the end of 2015. By then, the two companies may be fully merged, with the location of its global headquarters and its official name still to be determined.
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