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What FIAT Chrysler’s New Plans Mean for Both Brands

  • FIAT Chrysler spells out its grand plan
  • The American side goes mainstream
  • The Italian side gets funky

FIAT Chrysler boss, Sergio Marchionne, doesn’t think of his company’s latest 5-year plan as a new chapter. “We are beginning to write a completely new book,” he said recently. That book is a story of how an operation called FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) rose from the ashes of bankruptcy and corporate takeovers to establish itself as a global vehicle manufacturer, revealing strategies for every brand it owns along the way. These include Jeep, Dodge, SRT (the high-performance sub-brand), Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, plus (of course) FIAT and Chrysler.

Let’s start with the home team (Chrysler), which will now assume the role of rival to mainstream players such as Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet. Dodge, meanwhile, is to take a different path toward sportier models with more specific youth appeal in an effort to minimize any overlap of products. Although the Dodge Dart remains on the scene, the winged-C emblem is set to adorn the nose of a compact car in 2016: the 100. This is a class populated by the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla, so the 100 needs to be really, really good.

Received warmly by reviewers and available now is the 2015 Chrysler 200 midsize sedan. It’s an all-new generation and comes with the option of all-wheel drive (in V6 models), while a 9-speed automatic transmission is standard across the range.

The current 2014 Chrysler 300 full-size sedan has been around since 2011, so a mid-cycle refresh is imminent before a complete update in 2018. For next year, though, the performance-oriented SRT version of the 300 gets the ax. As consolation and compensation, the Dodge Charger SRT (based on the same platform) remains.

While the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan is also heading into history, a new Chrysler Town & Country is due in 2016 with a plug-in hybrid option projected to achieve 75 miles per gallon. This same plug-in hybrid technology is also slated for a couple of all-new crossovers. A full-size version comes in 2017, followed by a midsize model in 2018.

As well as plug-in hybrids, Chrysler’s intention is for its entire range to be fuel-efficient. Central to this is a new family of advanced 4-cylinder gasoline engines — code-named Hurricane — that use turbocharging and direct fuel injection along with lightweight aluminum blocks to optimize efficiency and power output. Mild hybrids are also in the works, using stop/start systems and electric motor assistance.

Given the Euro connection with FIAT, it makes sense that diesel drivetrains will be available. Europeans are years ahead with their diesel technology, availability and acceptance. The company also intends to fit more 8- and 9-speed transmissions throughout its lineup.

This summer is when the 2015 FIAT 500X breaks cover. It’s a small crossover based on the same platform as the upcoming 2015 Jeep Renegade. FIAT is also hinting at what it calls a “specialty car.” An educated guess might be a roadster, since FCA made no mention of an Alfa Romeo/Mazda joint project in its 5-year plan, which was one of the rumors buzzing around the industry.

Speaking of Alfa Romeo, the 2015 4C coupe and convertible are coming this year, heralding a return to the United States after a 19-year absence. FIAT Chrysler Automobiles is investing $7 billion into the marque with the aim of creating an 8-model range. Whether American drivers will get the full complement remains to be seen, but a midsize sedan is in the cards for 2015, plus a compact model further down the line and possibly a crossover SUV or two by 2018. That year should also see a new sports machine to succeed the 4C.

What it means to you: FCA anticipates its share price to reach $5.57 by 2018. If you dabble in the market, this info might be useful. Otherwise, at least we all have a bigger picture of the auto landscape when it’s time to buy our next cars.

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