The New Chrysler

2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Here’s what the company is going to sell before the new Fiat techno-cars arrive, according to Detroit analyst Jim Hall:

The vehicles that will sustain Chrysler in the interim are the high-volume, high-profit Dodge Ram and minivans. Adding luster, Hall said, but not necessarily volume because they are in shrinking segments, will be the new Jeep Grand Cherokee next year followed by the new Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger.

Can the company survive on that? Maybe, if the economy cooperates and Fiat production technology can be integrated into the company’s operations. These are supposed to resume “soon,” said CEO Sergio Marchionne, depending on demand. Vehicles owned by the 789 closed dealers will be routed to the open dealerships, so it’s hard to imagine the factories reopening this month, which possibility the Detroit News mentioned.

So the public will get another chance to buy mostly old-tech cars over the next 18 months, which it has shown little appetite for during the past 18 months. GM and Ford have new cars in the works, and Chrysler needs a real shot in the arm to compete. This is the make-or-break time, it seems to me. Maybe the Fiat 500 and the new Alfa 149 hatchback will come in time.

Alfa Romeo 149

Alfa Romeo 149

Still, Marchionne is clearly on the march to create a new company built to avoid the mistakes of the past and capitalize on shared technology, something Daimler-Benz didn’t do when it controlled Chrysler. He’s shaking up the board of directors and jumping into the new company feet first. In an email to employees, he talked about the revamp of Fiat:

Five years ago, I stepped into a very similar situation at Fiat. It was perceived by many as a failing, lethargic automaker that produced low-quality cars and was stymied by endless bureaucracies. But most of the people capable of remaking Fiat had been there all the time. Through hard work and tough choices, we have remade Fiat into a profitable company that produces some of the most popular, reliable and environmentally friendly cars in the world. We created a far more efficient company while investing heavily in our technologies and platforms. And, importantly, we created a culture where everyone is expected to lead. We can and will accomplish the same results here.

Buona fortuna, Sergio!

Do you agree that the next 18 months will be critical for Chrysler? What should the company have in its product pipeline?

—jgoods

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