Chrysler Is Gambling and Winning

January 23rd, 2012

We are consistently amazed by how well Chrysler/FIAT is doing. And its success demonstrates just what a gamble the auto biz is.

Yes, there have been problems with the FIAT 500‘s U.S. introduction, but they can be fixed. Chrysler needs to get its minivan market share back. Alfa Romeo’s reintroduction to the U.S. (Giulietta above) keeps getting delayed, but CEO Marchionne maintains it will happen. He is supposed to be a “world-class poker player.”

In fact, the biggest problem for the company is not Chrysler but FIAT’s ability to do business in Europe’s dismal economy. It’s likely that the alliance of the two firms, which is going very well, may well end up pulling FIAT out of the doldrums—and maybe to the U.S. if things get worse in Italy. If that happens, the Italians may string up Marchionne like they did Mussolini.

The Jeep brand typifies the group’s success, but new cars are coming from all directions:

The new vehicles coming in 2013 include new midsize sedans to replace the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger and new versions of the Compass and Liberty. They’ll be based on the platform that underpins the Dart and built in Toledo.

The Dodge Dart is based on an Alfa platform, which will also underpin a new car for China. Developments like the Dart will only bring the two companies closer together.

2012 Jeep Grand CherokeeJeep has been the big mover so far. Chrysler is betting a potful on its upcoming diesel Grand Cherokee (SRT8, right)—and may put diesels in the Wrangler, Dodge Durango, and maybe other SUVs. The success of that bet depends on whether gas prices rise and whether the American public will finally come to its senses on the subject of diesels.

The company is building a $1 billion Jeep plant in Russia, where 2.65 million Jeeps were sold in 2011. India may get some of that output.

Another real success for Chrysler has been the 300 sedan, in both its S and SRT8 versions. Reviews have been more than positive. Wrangler sales are up 44 percent over last year.

Indeed, the company must be doing something right. Nine 2012 Chrysler cars and trucks were recently picked by Consumer Guide Automotive for inclusion as either Best Buys or Recommended Buys. One of the latter, incidentaly, was the FIAT 500.

Marchionne is putting his eggs in more than one basket. He says, “The plan is laid out. Execution is the key.”

Can Chrysler keep on its roll? Is the company being too ambitious?

—jgoods

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used FIAT 500
Used Chrysler 200
Used Dodge Avenger
Used Jeep Compass
Used Jeep Liberty
Used Jeep Grand Cherokee
Used Dodge Durango
Used Chrysler 300
Used Jeep Wrangler

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  1. Anon
    | #1

    why are russians getting this jobs insted of the uneployed americans?

  2. Randy
    | #2

    So far the only bright spot I see for the Chrysler gas hog reputation is the new Dodge Dart. (and the lackluster Fiat 500) This summer $5 a gallon gas (could go even higher if we go head to head with Iran over the Persian Gulf) will be the smoking gun that blows Chrysler’s head off. Sergio’s gambling losses will be paid by Chrysler workers. (Somehow the fat cats never pay for their mistakes, they just use their golden parachutes.)

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