Marchionne Marches on at Chrysler

October 25th, 2010

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Lots is happening at Chrysler, and the basic good news is that the company is moving to replace some of its truly dreadful cars with new Fiat-based products. And by 2014, a range of high-efficiency Pentastar engines, from 3 to 4 liters, will be offered in up to 13 vehicles.

Now available in the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and coming soon to the Challenger, the new Pentastar V6 has more horsepower, more torque, and better fuel economy than current Chrysler engines. It’s greener and cheaper to produce, and will likely power the base Challenger trim (now $25,305). This engine is a nice alternative to the gas-guzzling 6.4-liter Hemi in the current Challenger SRT8 at $43,100.

The Challenger still faces tough competition from the Camaro and Mustang, and it’s very much an also-ran compared to these.

The next compact sedan from Dodge will likely be based on the current Alfa Romeo Giulietta (above) and replace the stone-ugly and brain-dead Caliber. Launch is tentative for the new Dodge late next year, and power will come from one of the smaller MultiAir engines.

That vehicle may well take on cars like the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze. Let’s hope it’s based on the Giulietta hatch, which CEO Sergio Marchionne called “the most advanced mass-produced car Fiat has ever had.”

Fiat 500 AbarthChrysler is also in the process of picking 200 dealers for its Fiat line. Targeting 119 select markets in the U.S., the company wants standalone, sharp, dedicated stores with full maintenance facilities. The first car launched will be the Fiat 500 (right) next March, and the company hopes to sell 50,000 of them.

Fiat has increasingly become a worldwide operation, and Marchionne showed some recent pique at the problems of doing business in Italy with its creaky government and inefficient unions.

Signor M. is concerned about the lack of profit from the company’s Italian operations, the hidebound labor situation, poor productivity, and a generally unencouraging climate to mass-produce cars. He is always one to speak his mind, and this is a dispute that isn’t going to go away.

The company recently revised its current revenue forecast upward to €55 billion, which is no small change.

Is Fiat on the right path at Chrysler? Are you open to considering buying one of the new Chrysler cars?

—jgoods

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