30 October 2009

FIAT-Chrysler Ready to Unveil New US Product Plan

After a year of ceaseless drama and a union with Italy's FIAT Group, the new Chrysler will unveil a five-year plan next week that's been leaking from sources inside the company.

Next week, in a six-hour press conference to be held on
November 4, the management of the FIAT/Chrysler group is expected to announce a set of new vehicles, as-well-as the necessary incremental cancellations of product for the six different brands that will be sold in the U.S. by FIAT and Chrysler by 2012. Here's a summary of some of the rumors out-there in the run-up to the PC:

FIAT: The new 500 subcompact will come to North America to challenge Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta and the coming VW Polo. To be built in Mexico, the Fiat 500 probably will show up in sporty 500 Abarth trim, a convertible, and other specialty versions of this European-Car-of-the-Year.

Jeep: Say goodbye to most of the new products introduced by Jeep in the past decade. After this year, there will be no more Jeep Commander, Jeep Patriot or Jeep Compass, according to the latest reports from Detroit. The 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee is on track; a possible new small Jeep could be announced.

Dodge: The pain comes mostly to the Dodge brand, where the best-selling Dodge Grand Caravan (minivan) could be dropped as the brand gets a new performance focus. Also on the chopping block: the Dodge Caliber hatchback, Dodge Nitro SUV, Dodge Avenger mid-size sedan. In their places, Dodge will get a new hatchback and possibly a new sedan based on next-generation compact FIAT architecture.

Dodge RAM Trucks: Fiat's said to be splitting off the trucks from the Dodge brand under the Ram nameplate. The full-size Ram pickup is expected to stay in the lineup, and the Dakota could stay under a new name, to give the brand more than one entry.

Chrysler: The Chrysler brand survives, and actually FIAT has big plans for it: It's been mentioned by executives in Italy and in the US that the brand will be moved upscale. Therefore, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the Town & Country minivan stays- as a new family higher-end vehicle. Chrysler loses the Sebring sedan and convertible in favor of new European-designed mid-size four-door; the PT Cruiser finally dies as well next year. The new 2011 Chrysler 300 sedan is on track for a launch next year.

Alfa Romeo: Sources say this long-dormant brand will re-enter the U.S. in 2012 positioned at the top of the new Chrysler/FIAT range. A new Alfa sedan based on the 2011 Chrysler 300 could be in the works; Alfa Romeo may also sell the MiTo hatchback, Milano hatchback, and Giulia sedan here--and could build them all in some of Chrysler's North American factories.

MSNBC reports that the company will follow the November 4 announcements with eight regional dealer meetings across the country.


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