just-auto.com

ITALY/US: Fiat ready to unveil Chrysler product plans

By just-auto.com editorial team | 1 October 2009

Fiat will rush the first all-new Chrysler model on to the US market by the end of 2011 and create a new Ram brand for its truck line under a revival plan for Chrysler that will be shown to the US government this week.

Fiat, which assumed management control of Chrysler under a reorganisation funded by the Obama administration, is scheduled to brief officials of the White House autos task force on its plans for Chrysler, reported Reuters, cutting people involved in the discussions.

The sources said this plan would create a new Ram brand for what have been Dodge-badged trucks.

Fiat will also bring its first all-new Chrysler product out by the end of 2011, compressing the normal vehicle development plan.

That will be in addition to the Fiat 500 which the Italian carmaker plans to introduce to the US by late 2010. More new models will roll out in 2012, the sources added.

Neither company would comment on the report.

Chrysler's nine-member board was briefed last week by Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne on the strategy for reviving the US automaker's vehicle line-up.

Chrysler needs new vehicles after emerging from bankruptcy with US$10bn in US government financing. Former owners, Cerberus Capital Management and Daimler both cut investment in new vehicle programmes to conserve cash amid falling sales.

Sources said Fiat would focus first on investment in improving Chrysler's vehicle interiors and would also revamp the mid-sized Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger sedans, reversing an earlier plan that would have scrapped those models at the end of 2010.

Reuters said this decision would mean a reprieve for Chrysler's Sterling Heights Assembly plant where hundreds of workers rallied last week in an effort to save some 1,200 jobs.

By focusing on steps to bring quick improvements to Chrysler cars, Fiat hopes to shore up sliding sales over the next two years.

The separation of the new Ram truck brand would allow Fiat to make Dodge more of a performance car brand, the sources said.

But the move could also make it easier for Chrysler to spin off its truck business down the road if a continuing slump forced Fiat or US government officials to consider such a step.

Marchionne said earlier this week that part of his plan for Chrysler would involve more common platforms that could be used by both Fiat and Chrysler as the basis for a number of vehicles.

He added that there would be a future for the Dodge Avenger and Sebring under the Fiat plan.