TO SOME, it’ll be the logical conclusion to years of showroom stagnation. To others, it will be a sad farewell to one of America’s longest-lived – not to mention iconic – automotive brands. That is, it will be if rumours of Chrysler’s imminent demise turn out to be true.
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, will reveal FCA’s next five-year plan on June 1 (European time) at the Balocco test facility near FCA Italy’s headquarters in Turin. Besides expected announcements of a Giulia Coupe and a three-row counterpart to the Stelvio for Alfa Romeo, a new product offensive for Jeep and Maserati, and relocating Fiat’s production base outside of Italy, Marchionne may also put the Chrysler brand in mothballs.
According to industry outlet Automotive News, an announcement of Chrysler’s shutdown could be made at the June 1 briefing. As supporting evidence, the report cites the conspicuous absence of the Chrysler name when Marchionne was quizzed about the automaker’s future plans for passenger cars in North America. While Marchionne voiced his support for Dodge, Chrysler – which unlike Dodge only makes passenger cars – didn’t warrant a mention at all.
If Chrysler isn’t a key part of FCA’s future passenger car plans, odds are it isn’t part of its future plans at all.
And when you look at the state of Chrysler’s showroom, you’d be forgiven for thinking that FCA has been wilfully neglecting the brand. Since cutting the Chrysler 200 small/medium sedan, the company’s North American line-up has consisted solely of the 300 large sedan and the Pacifica people mover. In Australia, the 300 is the sole Chrysler representative in FCA dealerships.
What’s more, the 300 is now seven years old and a replacement has yet to surface. That alone adds weight to the Chrysler shutdown rumour, for if the brand is indeed on the cusp of retirement then why bother engineering an all-new large four-door sedan – especially when corporate cousin Dodge already offers one in the form of the Charger?
It’s a sharp contrast to what was promised in 2014, when Marchionne pledged to bulk out Chrysler’s line-up to eight vehicles by 2018. Clearly, the plan changed somewhere along the way.
We should know precisely what that plan is this weekend.
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