How do you say Chrysler in Italian?

Chrysler LogoEarlier this year, Fiat Group purchased 20% of Chrysler Group, leaving 55% to the UAW (United Auto Workers) and the rest to the US and Canadian Governments.  To American drivers who remember when Fiats and Alfa Romeos were last sold in the United States, this can conjure up bad memories of rotting floorboards, rusty fenders, and finicky engines.  I think the new Chrysler/Fiat merger means good things to those of us stateside, and I’ll tell you why.

Since the last Fiat or Alfa Romeo was sold in the United States, their cars have been improved, and are fairly well received in Europe.  Now that Fiat has controlling stake in Chrysler, they automatically have a dealership network, parts suppliers and manufacturing plants in North America.  This means easy integration into America, and with Chrysler’s current lack of upcoming products, an opportune time to replace existing designs and platforms with Fiat and Alfa Romeo’s existing hardware.  Currently, the only vehicles set to show up in calendar year 2010 are the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the redesigned 2011 Chrysler 300C.

2010 Chrysler 300 Touring ClockWith that in mind, Fiat plans to incorporate its own cars into Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealerships, starting with the Alfa Romeo MiTo, and possibly the Fiat 500 later on.  In addition to bringing fresh styling to the Chrysler vehicles, the traditionally smaller cars produced by Fiat and Alfa Romeo will raise Chrysler’s average fuel economy, making it more likely that the newly-formed group won’t get in trouble for meeting new, stringent CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, set to take effect in 2012.

In addition to the influsion of cars and technology, Fiat also brings cash flow to the table, able to help out a struggling Chrysler and keep them afloat long enough for the new products to hit showroom floors.

Another interesting facet to this story is the Dodge Ram truck line.  Recently, television ads have told us all about the new Ram trucks, and the new 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty line.  Chrysler confirmed recently that they are actually splitting the Ram truck line off, as its own brand.  This makes it easier to meet the aforementioned CAFE requirements, and allows the Ram brand to branch off into big-rig territory.  This is still a rumor which may or may not come true, but in my mind is likely.

It’s a troubling time to be Chrysler, but with a little luck, and some fresh new products, they have every chance to make it, although I predict that the Chrysler of a few years from now will be very much different from today’s Chrysler, with smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and less of a dependance on SUV and truck sales.  They will also have streamlined their product lineup, and will be more of a niche player in the automotive marketplace.  While Fiat and Alfa Romeo will donate new vehicles, all of the poorly-selling vehicles currently in showrooms will be phased out or replaced, but mostly just phased out.  Look for more modern interiors, with all of today’s avaliable technologies, as well as more highly-engineered engines, capable of doing more with less, which is the current mantra of engine designers.

by John Suit

Photo Sources: www.chrysler.com, Road Reality

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