that Chrysler and Fiat are fully merged, they should be
able to move much faster with new-model development,
investment and more.
fine; but remember, DaimlerChrysler looked good on
proofís in the doing. Here are some things Iím
watching for as CEO Sergio Marchionne builds this new
new vehicles, faster.
vehicle introductions have slowed to a trickle at
Chrysler and Fiat. The European market is such a mess
that Fiat halted the development of vehicle
architectures and drivetrains Chrysler and its South
American and Asian units need. With Europe finally
showing signs of recovery from the Great Recession, itís
time to put the hammer down.
full combination of Fiat and Chrysler is likely to open
up the product pipeline in terms of speeding vehicles to
the showroom and offering shoppers a greater diversity
of choices," said Bill Visnic, senior analyst with
Edmunds.com. "As a fully integrated company, Fiat
and Chrysler can do more together faster."
now, Chrysler has fallen short of the ambitious plan for
new models based on Fiat vehicle architectures.
incomplete merger throws a spanner in the works from a
product plannerís point of view," said Eric
Noble, president of the Carlab, a product development
paranoid talk about "Chrysler money going to
Fiat." Itís all one pot of money, but a good
management team will invest it where the return is
highest. That means product development for vehicles
that can be sold around the world. Repairing Fiatís
struggling Italian operations at the expense of
moneymakers like North and South America, China and
Russia is a bad idea.
now one company. One cash supply," said IHS
Automotive analyst Stephanie Brinley. "The money
should go where itís needed for long-term strategic
Chrysler brandís lineup is shockingly thin ó the 300
and 200 sedans and Town & Country minivan. Brand
boss Al Gardner acknowledges it needs more, but what
models? A crossover? A compact? A convertible? Chrysler
probably needs all those and more, and soon.
Romeo is another weakness. Itís past time to either
make Alfa work or eighty-six the troubled brand. Iíve
lost count of how many Alfa reboots Fiat management has
demanded and dismissed while the brandís sales and
has a glorious history, but if this Mayís new-product
plan isnít rock-solid, Sergio should sell Alfa to
brand-hungry Volkswagen for a kingís ransom. Then
invest the money in Maserati, a luxury brand that has a
present and a future as well as a past.
has batted .500 with its Fiat-based vehicles so far. The
Dodge Dart is a good car, but nothing about its design,
features or fuel economy propelled it to the top of
buyersí lists. The Jeep Cherokee looks like a
clear-cut winner, combining classic Jeep capability with
eye-catching looks, new technology and good fuel
needs more hits like the Cherokee. It canít afford to
be "as good as" the competition. Thereís no
room in Chrysler dealerships for vehicles with me-too
styling, unexceptional fuel economy or features.
challenge is that neither Fiat nor Chrysler has
consistently been a leader in compact and midsize cars.
That must change. The 200 is the next test.
far, so good, Sergio.
DaimlerChrysler disaster left us all understandably
gun-shy about foreign owners at Chrysler, but Sergio
Marchionne isnít Juergen Schrempp. Fiat has already
cooperated more fully and eagerly with Chrysler than
Mercedes-Benz ever did.
time to have a little trust based on how Marchionneís
performed so far," Brinley said. "Heís
proven to be a good leader."
has been a fine steward of Chryslerís interests.
Chrysler got access to Fiatís best technology, but
also had the freedom to seek innovations from suppliers
Fiat doesnít use, like American Axle Manufacturing,
inventor of the Cherokee and 200ís fuel-saving
all-wheel drive system.
on the right track," said Drew Winter, editor in
chief of Wardís Auto World web magazine. "Itís
in a better place for the future than itís been for