By on March 3, 2011

Coming soon to a friendly dealer near you (if you live in Europe) and in a couple of months to another whole set of friendly dealers (if you live in Brazil), ladies and gentlemen, the totally brand-new, super exclusive, Italianate Fiat Freemont! Never seen before at Fiat dealers. This beast is all new. Well, to Fiat buyers anyway.

According to my local paper Estado de Minas, Fiat representatives in Europe, talking to Brazilian journalists at the Geneva Autoshow, swear they have sweated out the details, giving it a whole new interior with a truly Italian vibe (interestingly though no pics of said interior were forthcoming). While at it, they continued the Italian job and decided to change the engines and offer two 2.0 diesels with outputs of 140 and 170hp, both of which developed by FPT (Fiat Powertrain Technologies, the Italian maker’s supplier of engines and transmissions). The venerable 3.5 V6 Pentastar from Chrysler will also be available for those who prefer their Italian with some American punch. News on the engines as per Brazilian enthusiast site Bestcars.com.

Though slow in America, the joining of the hip between Fiat and Chrysler is fast gaining pace in Europe. Brazil is also a “beneficiary” of this growing collaboration. At Geneva, Fiat launched the Lancia Thema and Grand Voyager (see here). Easy to spot what cars donated their lithe bodies to their Italian stablemates, no?

For Brazil, no word on pricing or engines. Here, diesels are verboten for passenger cars. That means at first probably the Chrysler’s 2.7 24v engine will continue to be the only choice. This engine powers the Dodge Journey now available in Brazil.

As Fiat has a better brand than Chrysler in Europe and (especially) in Brazil, will this be enough to get this baby rolling? In Brazil, the car is sold in two versions. The cheaper one goes for R$85,900 and the more expensive one goes for R$99,900 (at R$1.7=US$1, $50,529 and $58,765 verdinhas. )

One thing it has going for it as a Fiat is that it will be sold at Fiat dealers. The Italians have a very capillarized network in Brazil (second only to VW’s). Meanwhile, Dodge’s are sold at Mercedes dealers (a hangover from DC times), which is basically present only in larger cities. The negative? The price and competition. This bird, in Dodge guise, is rarely seen in Brazil’s cityscape. Without the stigma of an import brand (high-cost and difficult maintenance plus difficult re-sale), could this crossover (yes, in Brazil it is marketed as a crossover and not minivan) get close to the segment leaders (Chevy Captiva, Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage among others)? That’s the Italians’ bet.

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53 Comments on “Italian Job: Badge Engineering Baby!...”


  • avatar
    rpol35

    “The venerable 3.5 V6 Pentastar from Chrysler will also be available for those who prefer their Italian with some American punch”.

    The Pentastar is not venerable, it’s too new for that nomenclature and it’s a 3.6 litre. It replaced the older 3.5 which I guess could be considered venerable if not too exciting.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Would you prefer the 2.7L? Thousands of blown-up hulks out there for the taking!

    • 0 avatar
      Mike66Chryslers

      I thought the same thing when I saw “venerable” and “Pentastar” in the same sentence.  Isn’t the Pentastar a NEW engine?  Venerable basically means “commanding respect because it’s old.”
       
      yes, in Brazil it is marketed as a crossover and not minivan
      Yes, the Dodge Journey is marketed that way everywhere else as well, because it IS a crossover, not a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Man the school district I work for bought 5 or 6 of the old Journey’s but I haven’t got to ride in one, let alone drive it.  I’ve looked through the window and the old interior doesn’t LOOK that bad.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought the venerable part was right! In the sense that it deserves respect. Even if its the latest itineration of a long line. That’1s why I wrote venerable.

       Now, in the article I point to in my post, they clearly say 3.5. So, they could be wrong and it may be a 3.7. Will have to check that out later.

    • 0 avatar

      @Mike66Chrysler

      So why does Chrysler tolerate it being marketed in America as a minivan? I thought crossovers were much better than minivans image-wise.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Mike was saying the car is not marketed as a minivan anywhere.
       
       
      The only reason Journey gets any of the minivan stigma because it replaced the SWB mini in Chrysler’s line-up. That’s an invention of Chrysler enthusiast folks, not marketing or actual reality. No one thinks the Journey is a minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for clarification iNeon! One can always count on the B&B!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: “The Fiat Journey is the world’s best vehicle”! Seriously, though, I feel the concept of the platform is near perfect, if not the execution, because it’s about as close to a station wagon as you can get without the minivan or wagon “stigma”, if there is such a thing anymore. Chrysler really has something in their hands if they would just finish it and not leave it as a stripped-down, low-quality shadow of what it should have been. Maybe, just maybe this Fiat-Chrysler marriage will somehow work out and this platform will be properly developed. It’s clear to see that as more and more of the automotive platforms meld together either through mergers, alliances, and badge-engineering (can’t think of the proper term – think ‘Cruze’), the bad ones will be dropped and the most cost-effective ones will flourish, whether enthusiasts approve or not. This, at least, seems to be a step in the right direction.

    • 0 avatar

      Zackman,

      I agree with you. I just think some of the hype is excessive. Being a Fiat it will now become available to a greater number of consumers, not only in BRazil, but elsewhere in Latin America, and places like North Africa the Middle East and elsewhere.

      I believe it’ll be a relative hit down here. I expect sales to jump from under 100 a month to about 500. If it does better than that (but for that they’ll have to find a less thirsty engine for Brazil) it could well go up to 800 (like the leaders in the segment in Brazil).

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    Would that they would bring a “new and improved” version to North America!  The Dodge Journey sells like crazy here in Canada – I think it is the biggest selling CUV on the market – and this despite the fact that anyone who does any research at all will soon discover that they are very poorly put together.  The reason they still sell so many?  Value.  On paper the thing is a screaming deal – very capable and convenient, reasonably efficient, and lots of features for the money.

    A Dodge Journey with a good – or even decent – interior would be killer even here at home.  Hopefully Sergio realizes this.  But, if the latest Wrangler is any indication of the types of interior ”improvements” we can expect across the line…well, then I’m pretty bearish on Chysler’s comeback.  The new Wrangler is really a half-hearted effort.  Quite disappointing.  They only addressed about 50% of the glaring deficiencies in the previous model in my view (as an owner of a 2008).

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Very interesting. At the Cincinnati Auto Show a few weeks ago, my wife and I were very impressed with the strides made to spiff up the interiors of the 200′s, the Patriot and Compass and the 300 re-design. I think we spent the most time at the Chrysler display because of all the changes. Now, will the cars hold up better? Time will tell. As far as the Wrangler is concerned, I had a 1992 and thought the interior was over-done, but, when in the 1970′s, we were diehard CJ-5 and C-101 fans. I guess I’m hopelessly old-school about Jeeps.

    • 0 avatar
      Roundel

      Methinks you are a bit behind the times in terms of info.
      The new Journey interior is worlds better than last years model.
      http://top-car-wallpapers.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/2011-Dodge-Journey-Interior.jpg
      The Freemont is essentially the refreshed Journey with a new badge.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja


      I rented one last year, when I vacationed with my family in NY and then drove it up to Canada and back after a week.  Don’t remember how many miles I put in it, but it was a bunch, and it was a very pleasant highway and around-town cruiser.  The instrument panel though, had been designed by a sadist, but I understand they’ve replaced it in the 2001 model.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    No, I’d prefer the new for 2011 3.6 Pentastar to either the 2.7 (obviously) or the “venerable” 3.5.

  • avatar
    mjz

    The Dodge Journey IS the best selling CUV in Canada. The 2011 model is a huge improvement, with a top-notch interior. Quit bitch’in ’bout the Wrangler inprovements, they only had a year to complete a major overhaul of the entire line-up for crying out loud. The new Wrangler interior is head and shoulders above the previous model, and the Pentastar V6 is coming soon. If only we could get some of those diesel engine versions here.

    • 0 avatar
      YellowDuck

      Yeah, I just checked the website and the new Journey insides do indeed look better!  Good for them.  Hopefully the build quality is also there.  Like, door panels that stay attached to the doors, that kind of thing.

      Yes, the Wrangler is somewhat improved.  At least you can see the HVAC controls from the driver’s seat now, and the knobs and such are a bit nicer.  They also put the little indent back on top of the dash (as on the TJ), and added a pocket to the center stack – those are small things, but really make a difference because in the 2007-2010 JK there is literally nowhere other than the door pockets to put anything!  But, that hideous, cheap looking plastic on the center console around the the parking brake lever?  What would it have taken to make that out of something decent-looking? 

      And *everyone* was expecting the Pentastar in the Wrangler for 2011.  And maybe something better than a 4-speed automatic?  Sheesh….

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know who “everyone” expecting was. Really everyone I know knew that Pentastar’s availability would not allow it to be deployed across the lineup overnight. So GC got the priority being the new platform. Then we have 300, which is a flagship. And Wrangler was selling too well as it was, so there was no chance.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Will the new Lancias and Fiats-to-Brazil be made in America?

    • 0 avatar

      AFAIK, this car is built in Toluca Mexico. Thats why the pricing is “somewhat” competitive. At least for Brazil, in this market segment. Some people at Fiat tell me they’ll slash 10 000 reais off the initial price when it’s ready for Brazil. So, even though that remains to be seen, Starting at 70 000 reais it’ll be a winner. If they could get it down to 65 000 I think it’d become the leader in segment.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    Is it built in Italy?

  • avatar
    mjz

    The Journey/Freemont is built in Chrysler’s Toluca Mexico plant, along with the new Fiat 500, (previously the discontinued PT Cruiser was built there as well).

  • avatar
    mjz

    2012 Wrangler get Pentastar V6 and 6 speed auto. Wish we could get diesel version too.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    If they want to save money by re-badging a Journey, surely they won’t open a new factory (other than the Toluca plant) to build it. That would be madness.

  • avatar

    As others have said, this car will be built at the Toluca, Mexico plant (to reach Brazil without paying import tax as Brazil has a free trade agreement in cars with Mexico). BTW, the 500 will also be shipped to Brazil from Mexico, so BRazilians reading this and interested in the 500 should wait. As it presently comes from Poland it pays a 35% import tax. Once it comes from Mexico, Fiat could cut off anything from 5000 to 10000 reais off the price.

  • avatar
    Alessandro

    Pics of the interior.
    http://www.autoblog.it/galleria/big/fiat-freemont-03/1

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks!

      Now, let’s spot the differences between Dodge Journey 2011 (with updated interior) and Fiat Freemont. Are there any?

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Marcelo: Yes! The Fiat version gets a manual transmission, we here in the US do not.
       
      If someone were to bless me with US $30,000, I would probably spend it on a Journey R/T AWD immediately. The upgrades have made it appeal to me even more. However, I really like the subtle changes the Fiat version has. It’s kind of a shame we (in the US) probably will never see one on our streets.
       
      I have to admit, I dislike the Freemont name. All of the scenic and historic places throughout the world, and they chose a working class suburb in California (Yes, I know it’s F R E M O N T)? At that point, they could have just called it Toledo. At least you could lie and say it has something to do with the Spanish city…

      Edit: I forgot, SEAT has the Toledo. OK, why not Salzburg? Or Kowloon? Or Bangalore?

    • 0 avatar

      @geozinger

      LOL – thanks for laugh. When I saw the name Freemont I immeadiately associated it to a very popular and low class BRazilian cigarette brand, which is called Belmont. Don’t know how many people will make that association, but if Freemont is supposed to exude quality it seems they are not nailing it. Nither in Nort or South America!

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      I wonder how Freemont is pronounced in Italian…or Portuguese.

    • 0 avatar

      In BRazilian Portuguese there will be 2 possibilities.

      Some will pronounce the Free part like in English, but will an “ie” or “ee” sound after the last t. The T will also cange into a “ch” sound like in “China” or “cheese”

      So : Free-mon-chee

      Most though will say the Free part like they’d say the e in the name “Fred”. So “eh” sound and not ”ee” sound.

      So: Freh-mon-chee

      No idea in Italian though.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Marcelo: Glad I could give you a laugh.
       
      As for “In BRazilian Portuguese there will be 2 possibilities…” It’s no wonder I had so many problems with Portuguese, I can’t keep all of the different letter sounds separate in my mind when I used to read the stuff. I should explain: I worked for a Tier 1 parts supplier about 20 years ago, and they had a Brazilian subsidiary. I worked in the advertising department and was also responsible for typesetting the catalogs. I was somewhat functional in Spanish, but Portuguese just blew my mind as we say…

    • 0 avatar

      @geozinger

      Don’t feel bad, and that was just my local Brazilian Portuguese. If I were to speak a Northeastern version of Brazlian Portuguese, the pronounciations would be different still.

      Again, don’t feel bad! Spanish is the most regular of the Romance language. And Portuguese, though so close to Spanish, is the most irregular! That makes it the hardest latter-day Latin language to learn.

    • 0 avatar
      Alessandro


      Freemont pronuced like other italian words sounds like this:
      Freh-mont (with “eh” stand as the “E” in Fred but longer)
      I think that Fiat choose this name without checking the place on the map or google.. but only for its american sound

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    Freemont? I thought Newark would be a more appropriate name.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Freemont (awful name) has new grille, badging, manual tranny/diesel option. That’s about it. Otherwise looks like clone of Journey. By the way, that new Journey interior is REALLY nice. HUGE improvement over 2010 model.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Looks like the same significantly upgraded interior that is offered in the 2011 Journey.

  • avatar

    That’s what I’m seeing, too. So, so much for promises. So, to sum up the Fiat Freemont is a clone of the Journey 2011 except for diesel engines and nose job. In markets where Dodge doesn’t go it’ll be OK, but elsewhere…I half expect them to pull the Dodge from BRazil.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    Comparison of new Journey vs Fiat
    Dodge
    http://top-car-wallpapers.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/2011-Dodge-Journey-Interior.jpg
    Fiat
    http://www.autoblog.it/galleria/big/fiat-freemont-03/1
     
    Unless the Fiat uses better materials (can’t know from the pictures), they are exactly the same.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    I asked my local CJDR dealer if they could get me a Sebring/200 with the manual, from Mexico. The part I liked the most is that they seemed to think they could– if it would make the sale.
     
     
    Sharks, the lot of them.
     
     
    P.S. That Journey looks fantastic with the manual shifter. I’d be much more interested in a new Chrysler car if the only manuals weren’t the Caliber Compatriots, trucks or the a$tronomical Challenger R/T.

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    I would have definitely used a different name.
     
    I think Viaggio or Giro would suit it better.

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    I had a 2011 Dodge Journey in mid-level trim for about a week. It was an extremely pleasant people-mover. The interior was extremely quiet at any speed, well built and fairly well thought out. Everyone who rode in it enjoyed the rear legroom although nobody ever sat in the third row. Gas mileage was decent for it’s size and weight. I had an AWD model and averaged about 20 with four people and luggage in the car, going up towards Vail in Colorado, a 5000-9000 feet elevation change. It even steers and handles fairly well for it’s size and weight, but it’s no sports car.
    The Fiat version looks more aggressive and stylish from outside, which should help it a bit. The US version looks anonymous, especially in Rental Car White.

  • avatar

    Honestly, a Journey with a fiat-ified version of the NEW interior (which is quite nice) and some reasonable diesel engines… actually seems like a nice car.  Even if the whole thing is ridiculous.  Really, they’re going to sell a Chrysler 200/sebring as a Lancia Flavia? talk about name-rape.
     
    -James at http://www.carthrottle.com

    • 0 avatar

      Oddly enough, it seems that to go from Dodge to Fiat, these cars “translate” well enough. But the change from Chrysler to Lancia is more problematic…Ultimately however, maybe they (Lancia) should just use different names and all would be well. Them whoring out their hollowed names is the mistake. In Brazil, like most of Europe, Chrysler and Dodge are a largely unknown entity. So such badge jobs maight work (God knows Lancia has been in need of good large cars for more than a while). Just change the names!

      Also, I think some Fiats might make good Dodges. Things like Linea with turbo jet engine. Or even Idea. Or even Bravo as a hot hatch for Dodge, just use the Marea’s 2.4 turbo (in this instance I wish Plymouth were still around, they’d be perfect as re-badged Fiats). In America, where Fiat is unknown, it might just work.


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