On the Horizon: A Front-Wheel Drive Chrysler 300?

What could this mean for the Dodge Charger and Challenger?

2015 Chrysler 300

The next-generation Chrysler 300 may switch to a FWD platform.

The days for the current Chrysler 300 are numbered.

Introduced in 2005, the second-generation 300 bowed in 2011, offering dimensions only slightly longer and wider than the first-generation model. Now in its sixth model year, the current Chrysler 300 is showing its age — plans for its replacement are underway.

What may follow could stun enthusiasts, especially if parent Fiat Chrysler elects to place the large sedan on the same front-wheel drive platform underpinning the all-new Chrysler Pacifica minivan. If FCA utilizes Pacifica architecture to support the third-generation 300, it’ll offer optional all-wheel drive, just as it does today.

News of the 300’s possible successor was shared by FCA Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne with reporters at the company’s manufacturing plant in Windsor, Ontario, on Friday reports Reuters. Marchionne was on hand to thank workers for launching the Chrysler Pacifica, representing a $2.6 billion investment in its minivan line.

That investment may never be recouped unless other models are derived from the platform. One of the models thought possible was a Dodge SUV variant — either to replace the current Durango or to supplement it.

2016 Dodge Dart

A replacement for the current Dodge Dart is still open.

Front-Wheel Drive Architecture

Moving to front-wheel drive architecture aligns with the approach Chrysler’s competitors have long taken, including the Ford Taurus, Chevrolet’s Impala, and the Toyota Avalon. Of the three, only the Taurus offers available all-wheel drive — the possible Chrysler approach is also one Audi takes, but the latter’s market is the luxury segment.

Mention “Chrysler 300” and two other models come to mind: Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger. The current Dodge sedan and coupe share nearly everything with the Chrysler, including the platform and most major components. One difference is found in the Hellcat lines as these are unique to Dodge and have effectively placed a lucrative halo over each one.

Marchionne’s pronouncements typically provide reporters with enough fodder to keep FCA in the news, while omitting some information about related products, brands, and production facilities.

Chrysler and Dodge Separation?

Although long tied at the hip, there is nothing written in the FCA playbook that the Chrysler 300 and its Dodge cohorts must continue on the same path. Indeed, Chrysler is now a mainstream brand, while Dodge represents its performance brand.

Thus, the next-generation Dodge Charger and Challenger might continue as is or adopt an Alfa-based rear-wheel drive platform as reported by Automotive News last August. The new platform should yield a third Dodge model, Barracuda (‘Cuda), a sport coupe convertible.

Rumors that FCA might eventually kill off Dodge seem like just that — although the Dart in its current form is doomed (as is the slightly large Chrysler 200), other models such as Viper, Charger, Challenger, ‘Cuda, Durango, and the eventual replacement for the Journey should keep this brand relevant.

2015 Chrysler 200

Chrysler 200 production is winding down.

Other FCA Products and News

The 300’s future isn’t the only FCA news of late.

The next-generation Jeep Wrangler may get a twin-turbocharged, four-cylinder engine making 300 horsepower, supplementing the standard 3.6-liter, V-6. Further, production of the all-new Ram 1500 pickup truck will begin by Jan. 2018.

Production of the Dodge Dart will cease by year’s end as the Belvidere, Illinois plant where it is produced is converted to build the Jeep Grand Cherokee, now built in Toledo, Ohio. Ohio production will focus primarily on the next Wrangler as well as a Jeep-based pickup truck. Also, just as the company’s Sterling Heights, Mich., plant loses the Chrysler 200 by early next year, it will be retooled to supplement future Ram 1500 capacity.

As for the Dart and 200, Marchionne is still holding out hope that a partnership with another manufacturer to build replacement models will happen. Those models would be based entirely on a competitor’s technology. For example, Volkswagen Jetta and Passat models might be tapped and rebadged as the Dart and 200 respectively, although there has been no mention VW is even considering such a relationship.

See Also — Chrysler, Google Project: Start of Something Big?

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