FCA trucks and SUVs led company sales increases in October, bettering records set in 2015. FCA, which is FIAT Chrysler Automobiles, is the holding company for FIAT, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Maserati. Since its formation in 2014, FCA reorganized its brands, streamlining the products each offers.
Plowing most of its attention and resources into four core brands (Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo and Maserati), FCA plotted a path meant to not only increase worldwide sales of each brand, but also place the corporation firmly in the black. FCA seemed to double down on its 4-brand strategy when it announced its 5-year plan covering 2018-2022 earlier this year. In that plan were promises of new and updated vehicles for the four core brands, concentrating on trucks, SUVs, crossovers and electrified models.
Notably left out of the 5-year plan were Dodge, Chrysler and FIAT, which all build mostly cars. No serious industry watcher believes this was a mere oversight. At best, it signals that FCA is undecided about these brands’ future roles and potential contributions. At worst, it could mean decisions have already been made to drastically reduce their footprint within the company or eliminate them entirely.
Currently, though, all FCA brands except FIAT posted year-over-year sales gains in October. Among all the good news, the Dodge Challenger, the Chrysler 300 and the Alfa Romeo Giulia were the only 3-passenger cars posting increases. Otherwise, it was FCA trucks and SUVs carrying the day. "FCA gets a lot of criticism," said Autotrader’s Brian Moody, "but how interesting that an automaker previously known for big sedans is turning the corner, pressing forward with small SUVs and full-size trucks — FCA is a global success story in the making."
FCA’s concentration on trucks and SUVs brought its sales totals for October 2018 to 177,391 vehicles. This is a 16-percent increase over 2017’s 153,373 units. Current year-to-date numbers are also up over 2017. Through October of 2017, FCA had sold 1,732,511 units for the year. Through the first 10 months of 2018, FCA sold 1,857,374 units, a 7-percent gain.
What Went Wrong?
Whether FCA leadership is ready to stick a fork in its grand FIAT United States experiment is uncertain, but there wasn’t one bright spot in FIAT’s reported October sales report. All four FIAT nameplates posted sales numbers down by double digits from October 2017. As a brand, sales were down 35 percent from the same month last year. Current year-to-date sales through October 2018 were down 43 percent through the same 10-month period last year, from 23,021 to 13,235.
What Went Right?
Minivans helped elevate Dodge and Chrysler sales this October over those of last October. Posting a 357-percent year-over-year gain, the Dodge Caravan moved 11,110 units over the curb. The Chrysler Pacifica’s 9,277 October 2018 sales bettered last October by 22 percent.
Ram’s year-over-year October sales were up across its entire lineup. As a brand, its October 2018 sales were up 14 percent over October last year. This increase was led by a 63-percent increase in the ProMaster Van and an 11-percent increase in Ram pickup-truck sales.
Jeep sales were also up from the previous October by 9 percent. Leading the gains were the Compass at 26 percent and the Cherokee at 11 percent. Although the Wrangler was down year-over-year, its current year-to-date sales are up 25 percent. The Compass is up 125 percent year to date. Current year-to-date Jeep sales are up 19 percent from the same period last year, from 140,445 to 154,827. "FCA is beginning to reap the rewards of the work they started years ago," Moody said. "Specifically, reshaping the brands that matter and will continue to matter to consumers for decades to come — namely Jeep and Ram."
A 37 percent improvement in Chrysler 300 sales this year over last joined Pacifica increases to bring the brand to a 21 percent overall monthly increase. Current year-to-date Chrysler sales are weaker than the same 10-month period last year by 9 percent.
At Dodge, the Journey SUV’s year-over-year October sales increase collaborated with the Caravan and the Challenger’s gains to give the brand a 38-percent boost in sales over the same month last year. The Dodge brand is up a whopping 1 percent year to date.
Finally, mostly on the Stelvio crossover’s 108-percent October-over-October sales gain, Alfa Romeo posted a 16-percent increase in units sold this October over last. Giulia sales were up 10 percent. Through October, year-to-date Alfa sales were up 133 percent, from 8,557 to 19,917 units. Stelvio sales for that 10-month period were up 832 percent.
According to Moody, "Most of FCA’s big gainers are not large, profit-laden SUVs, but smaller SUVs like the Wrangler and the Patriot. And that boutique-ish approach (small, unique, compelling cars) seems to be working for Alfa Romeo, as well."