Now that it has gained access to a robust dealer network through Chrysler, Fiat is finally ready to make its re-entry into one of the world’s biggest auto markets. But will Fiat’s reputation as a maker of unreliable, cheap cars hold it back from success yet again? Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne seems to think so–which is why he plans to bring over Alfa Romeo cars instead.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Marchionne (now CEO of both Fiat and Chrysler) is planning to bring over the more upscale Alfa Romeo brand cars to the U.S., rather than the Fiat models, to compete with the other luxury European brands. The 500 will be the only Fiat model to actually make it to our shores, and is expected to exist within its own brand–similar to how BMW handles its Mini vehicles in the U.S. The Free Press also says some of those Alfa Romeo models may be built in North America and exported to Europe.
Platform sharing is one of the biggest reasons Marchionne sought to own a stake in Chrysler, and he is now working hard and fast to utilize the tactic. First up: Fiat will build an Alfa Romeo version of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee to be dubbed the GTX, which will likely be built at Chrysler’s Jefferson Avenue plant.
Another instance of platform sharing will be Fiat’s use of its C-EVO platform not only for a new Alfa Romeo Milano, but also for the next-gen Dodge Caliber and Jeep Liberty. An even stranger proposition: a Jeep version of the Fiat Panda to be built in Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico, plant, where the 500 will also be built.
One of the biggest issues Marchionne faces with Chrysler is conjuring replacements for the slow-selling, much maligned Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger mid-sized sedans. One option could be to use a shortened version of the rear-wheel drive LX platform that underpins the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger – the Chrysler 200C concept. ARWD entry in the traditionally front-wheel drive mid-sized segment could set Chrysler apart from the competition – something it has never been able to do in that segment.
The Free Press also reports that Marchionne has eliminated three layers of management at Chrysler, reducing the structure from eight levels to five: Marchionne (who has taken up residence in a technical center office in Auburn Hills, rather than the executive tower) sits on top, followed by senior or executive vice presidents, directors, senior managers and “Level 5″ workers, a groupthatencompasses all other salaried employees.
Marchionne’s plans to use Fiat models stem from the need for Chrysler to make quicker product decisions; several 2011 models will be delayed due to the company’s journey through bankruptcy.
“The new company will focus on speed without shortcutting,” he said.
Marchionne is a man on a mission – and we can only hope that mission proves to be wildly successful.
Source: The Detroit Free Press