My memories of Chrysler are not good.
When I was a kid, my parents had a Chrysler Le Baron. It trapped my younger brother in a seat belt that refused to unclick. Not long after, the engine blew up. Thankfully, my brother was already released from the Le Baron’s ugly grasp.
I’ve been resentful of Chrysler ever since, and I have to admit I even felt a little bit of glee as I watched the company’s quality and sales numbers sink.
Today, I think it’s time to give up my long-standing ill will towards Chrysler and look toward a very different future for the company and its cars. Why now? Because yesterday was new Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s marathon (seven-hour) press conference unveiling his five-year plan for Chrysler. It’s mostly good, though it doesn’t inspire much confidence within the next two years. The hope, and the major change, begins when the Fiat platforms start entering the market around 2012.
Autoblog ran a great minute-by-minute recap of the entire conference. Here are some highlights, divided by brand, of what vehicles we can expect in the coming years from Chrysler, and which ones will (finally) go away:
First, have a look at the new logo. The traditional ram-face logo is gone, replaced by bold Dodge lettering. Simple, but cool.
Dodge cars that we can expect to stick around through at least 2014 are: Charger, Challenger, Journey, Avenger, and Grand Caravan. Avenger and Journey will be refreshed for 2010 with a new interior, new engine, refreshed exterior, and a healthy dose of comfort, convenience, performance, and fuel economy. Expect a 2010 refresh of Grand Caravan, too, with some interior and exterior mods, a new engine, a complete suspension retune, and improved fuel economy. Avenger will get a Fiat platform in 2013.
Also, expect a new full-size CUV in 2010, a Fiat-based compact sedan in 2012, and another small car in 2013.
The Dodge Viper will go away in 2010, followed by the Nitro in 2011 and the Caliber in 2012. Viper fans rest easy, though, because it could come back in 2012 with some Italian influence (Fiat owns Ferrari too, remember!).
Remember Ram is becoming its own brand, separate from the Dodge brand. Dealers will get the above logo for their stores. There’s not much to report here, except:
The Dakota will be killed in 2011, possibly replaced by a unibody pickup (think Honda Ridgeline). Fiat will add some commercial vans to the lineup in 2012, while the Ram light duty and heavy duty pickups continue with a refresh in 2012.
The Jeep brand will see a few changes. A new Grand Cherokee will arrive in 2010, along with major refreshes for Patriot, Compass, and Wrangler. Patriot and Compass get new interiors, while Wrangler gets a new engine. And check this out: Wrangler will get a diesel option, though it may not be offered in the U.S.
The Patriot and Compass will go away in 2013, replaced with a Fiat-based model. There will also be a new small SUV in 2013. Liberty will get a Fiat platform in 2013, too.
The Wrangler will get another refresh in 2011 to commemorate the Jeep brand’s 70th anniversary.
It’s hard to get excited about much here, aside from that Aston-esque new logo (even though the leaked version, above, looks more like clip art). There is a huge gap of anything new between now and 2012. The Sebring will get refreshed in 2010 and survive until 2013, when it’ll be replaced by a Fiat platform. Chrysler will get a new Fiat-based small car, compact sedan, and crossover in 2013, with a new Town & Country minivan in 2014. PT Cruiser will die at the end of 2010, while the 300 gets a 2010 refresh to last it through 2014.
Finally… the American-ized Fiat 500 will begin arriving in select Chrysler dealerships in 2010. We’ll even get an Abarth!
So there you go, fellow Car Gurus. I’m excited for some Fiat-based Chryslers in the next few years. Are you?