CHRYSLER has been given a stay of execution as the soon-to-retire head of the brand reveals he now wants to evolve the 93-year-old brand into a line of self-driving people movers.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles chief executive Sergio Marchionne late last week crushed rumours that the badge would soon join other dead US car brands including Pontiac, Hummer and Oldsmobile as he rolled out the company’s latest five-year future product plan to business analysts.
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Instead, Marchionne said the company would shift Chrysler’s purpose away from sedans to “minivans”, and an ongoing autonomous tech partnership with Google’s self-driving development arm, Waymo. He also confirmed the prospects of sister brand Dodge, which he said would continue to carry one of FCA’s performance flags.
“Dodge needs to continue the particular space as a performance brand, and we need to continue to build on that core skill,” British automotive website Autocar reported him as saying. “The minivan business space will be filled by Chrysler, filling the mobility solution in the US market.”
Marchionne’s failure to mention Chrysler in the lead-up to last week’s briefing fuelled speculation that the brand’s days were numbered. Marchionne also used the opportunity to explain the reason behind Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ decision to repositioning Chrysler as a people mover and self-driving tech development resource.
“Those two brands are not in question but they're local NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) brands, and need to be developed for local market conditions,” he said. “Our view is that 70 percent of the US market is already non-sedan, so to try and build traditional sedans is not helpful.
“Brands like Dodge can play a role there because of their performance heritage,” Marchionne said.
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The strategy will bolster Chrysler Pacifica production with another 62,000 headed to join a small number of Pacificas already reporting for robotic duty on the Waymo project. FCA’s longer-term plan is to sell the MPV to the public, fitted out with driverless technology.
According to reports, the press briefing also revealed a third model would join the 300 and Pacifica, but details are under close wraps for now. If the recent revelations are an indication, it’s likely the next model will be either an SUV or a people mover.