Chrysler Reveals Its Five-Year Game Plan
In a marathon seven-hour briefing, Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne and a cadre of Chrysler Group LLC executives outlined the company's vision on how to stay alive -- and hopefully thrive -- between now and 2014. Despite continuing dismal sales figures, Marchionne, who also heads Fiat S.p.A., stated that Chrysler is far more secure than before the takeover thanks to a substantial reduction in fixed costs that saw it holding $5.7 billion in cash at the end of September, roughly 42 percent more than it had in June when it was acquired by Fiat. "We are ready to prove to consumers that Chrysler can once again be a strong, competitive company that produces a full portfolio of reliable vehicles that capture the imagination and inspire loyalty." If Marchionne's optimistic vision -- that includes 21 new models during this period -- pans out, Chrysler will manage to break even in 2011, more than double its current sales by 2013 and repay all of the $12.5 billion it accepted in U.S government funds by 2014.
To help it meet those ambitious goals, the New Chrysler plans to rely on a substantial influx of Fiat powertrain and platform elements, and combine engineering efforts and suppliers wherever possible to reap the greatest operating synergies. To help it meet the upcoming EPA fuel-economy bogeys, Fiat will introduce gasoline engines fitted with its mileage-maxing Multi-Air technology and turbocharged applications as well as its latest clean diesels. The first Multi-Air model will arrive late next year when the Fiat 500 makes its U.S. debut. Also in the mileage-max mix will be Fiat's six-speed dry dual-clutch transmission (DDCT). While Fiat will lead development on all small displacement engines, Chrysler is to remain the point player for V6 and V8 engines, including its new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which will ultimately offer both naturally aspirated and single/twin-turbo choices as well as incorporate its own strain of Multi-Air tech.
At a divisional level, Dodge is due the biggest revamp, built around a strategic repositioning intended to replace its male macho image with more pure lifestyle appeal. Key changes there start next year when the Avenger, Grand Caravan and Journey receive serious updates, the Charger gets redesigned and a new, seven-passenger crossover joins the lineup. While a tweaked Nitro also will carry on, the Caliber won't. Dodge plans to build only 500 more of what were described as "very special" Vipers between now and July 2010 before it, too, goes away to be replaced in mid-2012 by a new and yet sports car that will be based on Fiat-sourced architecture. Beyond that point, Dodge will add a new C-segment sedan to battle cars like the new Ford Focus, a smaller hatchback model and an all-new Avenger, all on Fiat-based platforms. As we previously reported, Ram has been split off into a separate truck brand, which will place more emphasis on full-size pickups, commercial light vans and diesel-powered models, although the departing-in-2011 Dakota may be replaced in 2012 at by a mid-size unit-body alternative and there's talk of a Ram-badged Class 7/8 over-the-road hauler.
The flagship Chrysler brand also slated to reap major benefits from Fiat's stewardship. Changes there start next year when an all-new Chrysler 300 rolls into showrooms along with a comprehensively upgraded Sebring mid-size sedan. A new compact sedan arrives in 2012, while MY2013 will see a new small car spun from a Fiat B-segment platform, a mid-size crossover and an all-new Sebring successor. The veteran Town and Country minivan gets revised for 2011 and fully redesigned in 2014.
On the Jeep front, the 2011 Grand Cherokee will be the first vehicle to be fitted with Chrysler's new Pentastar V6 while Fiat is prepping three new Jeep models for 2013: a subcompact SUV, a compact replacement for the Compass and Patriot and a mid-size sport ute that will serve as the next-gen Liberty. The Wrangler, due a major revamp for 2011, is slated to spawn several variations, all of which will retain the classic Jeep Trail-Ready "no-compromises" DNA. Although the "green" side of new Chrysler Group LLC lineup was a bit less defined, execs did confirm that the Ram Hybrid pickup is still due to launch for MY 2011.