Speaking to market analysts during a conference call earlier this week, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne indicated that the automaker is moving up the market timing of a new Fiat-based compact sedan from sometime in 2012 to late 2011. Marchionne, who also heads up the Italian firm that currently controls Chrysler, confirmed that extensive clinics have been conducted with the first vehicles and that the response has been extremely positive. "We're 98-percent there on styling. My expectation today is we'll be able to get this car into the market in Q4 of 2011. We continue to work pretty aggressively on timing." This platform architecture is also destined to spawn a number of other Chrysler variants, including some next-gen crossovers.
New product is viewed as being absolutely essential to Chrysler's long-term viability. While the slow-selling Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger are due for significant structural tweaks and interior enhancements within the next six months, their Fiat-designed de-facto replacements would no doubt be far stronger entries into this critical high-volume market segment. There's other encouraging news in the shorter term, as well. Next month, an all-new and hugely important 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee hits the showrooms -- complete with the firm's new and super-efficient 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine. Updated versions of the Wrangler and Patriot are due in the third quarter, and by year's end, the automaker's minivan clan as well as the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and Journey will benefit from upgrades of their own. Last but far from least, the highly-publicized Fiat 500 will finally make its debut here. According to Marchionne, 75 percent of Chrysler's existing portfolio will be new or significantly changed by January 2011.
Ultimately, Marchionne feels that fast-tracking the new-product introduction schedule will also help speed up the process of taking Chrysler Corporation LLC public. While admitting that the proposed timing remains somewhat nebulous, "The fact that we have gotten this far would suggest there's a strengthening base for us looking at an IPO in a much-shortened time frame than most people had expected."