The last time Chrysler made a serious attempt at the C-segment was in 1995 with the Neon. High initial sales were soon followed by less-than-stellar crash scores, a redesign that put off buyers, the death of the Plymouth brand, and the unholy offspring that was the Dodge Caliber. With Fiat needing to add a “40 MPG CAFE” vehicle to the fleet to continue their acquisition, the Dodge Dart was born. This first fruit of the Fiat/Dodge marriage isn’t just a rebadged Alfa Romeo Giulietta (pronounced Juliet-ta), and there’s a reason for that. Dodge wants a bigger part of the pie since sedans account for 80% of the compact segment. Rather than “sedanify” the Giulietta, Dodge took the extra step of crafting an entirely new vehicle that shares little with the Italian organ donor. Can some Italian spice give Dodge what they need to compete with the growing compact sedan segment? Dodge invited us to a regional preview event to find out.
With Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep brands consolidating into single dealerships as part of Chrysler’s “Project Genesis” dealer overhaul, CEO Sergio Marchionne is voting overlapping models off the island, starting with Dodge’s Grand Caravan and Avenger. Automotive New [sub] quotes Marchionne saying
We cannot have the same type of vehicle in the showroom because the consumer is not stupid. We’re not going to create the confusion and conflict in the showroom.
Dodge’s minivan (which outsells its Chrysler T&C sibling, albeit at lower margins) and midsized sedan will be replaced in 2013 by a single crossover, based on the next-generation minivan platform. A compact crossover, based on a Fiat platform, will replace the Avenger “after 2014.” Oh, and the subcompact is definitely off. In other words, you can pretty much forget the product plans unveiled two years ago at Chrysler’s five year business plan.
Ferdi Piech is trying his hand at instigating a velvet revolution. He is dangling huge sales increases at Alfa in front of workers and customers, hoping that they string up Marchionne and ask Volkswagen to take over Alfa. Or something along these lines. Anyway, Piech said in Geneva that Volkswagen could nearly quadruple the annual sales of Alfa Romeo, if Fiat would only do the right thing and sell Volkswagen the ailing Alfa brand. (Read More…)
Usually, unions take to the streets when their company is supposed to be sold. In Italy, unions demand the sale of their company.
In Milan, union representatives marched to the German consulate and handed the consul a letter in which they demand that Fiat lets Alfa go and that Volkswagen takes over.” With the letter delivered, the demonstrators grabbed megaphones and shouted: “Alfa has no chance with Fiat. We want Volkswagen!” Scusami? (Read More…)
Automobilwoche [sub] picked up strong signals that Volkswagen is interested in adding Alfa Romeo to their growing roster of brands. Last December, Marchionne had put Alfa on strategic review, and gave the brand, as Ed Niedermeyer put it so delicately, “a year to get its proverbial shit together.” They popped some Imodium, and in April, Marchionne was “determined” to build the brand into a “full-line premium carmaker.” Nevertheless, here and there whispers had popped up that Alfa could be sold if the right buyer would show. (Read More…)
[An expanded and updated version of this CC is here]
We’ve had a lot of utilitarian vehicles last week, and even into this Monday, so with yesterday’s Corolla AE86 leading the charge, we’re going savor some delicious sporty coupes. This Alfetta GT coupe is an interesting follow-up to the AE86, for at least two reasons. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, this lovely Alfa was not only a feast for the eyes in that largely vulgar mid-seventies period, but was also an influential one. The Alfetta GT was one of a few key designs of the period that had a profound and lasting effect on styling trends, including the Corolla itself. The other reason: cars like the fast, cheap but ultra-reliable Corolla GT-S helped put Alfa out of business in the US. (Read More…)
Alfa-Romeo is turning 100 this year, and to celebrate, all the famous Italian design houses are showing their own conceptual expressions of Alfa-ness. And strangely, from Pininfarina’s buttoned-up (and bizarrely-named) 2uettottanta, to Bertone’s over-the-top Pandion, the entries thus far have felt a little… lackluster. Have Alfa’s recent problems killed the mystique? As it turns out, Pinin and Bertone were just getting us warmed up for Zagato’s stab at an Alfa tribute, this stunning TZ3 Corsa. Loosely based on 8C running gear, the TZ3 Corsa is not only an Alfa tribute, it’s also a racing special commissioned by German collector Martin Knapp, and homologated to FIA GT2 spec. Which means it doesn’t just look good. You know, TTAC’s birthday is coming up too…
Fiat Chairman Luca Cordero Di Montezemolo will be leaving the firm to pursue a career in Italian politics, according to Automotive News [sub]. Montezemolo will remain on Fiat’s board, and will continue to serve as chairman of Ferrari, but he will be replaced atop the Fiat empire by vice-chairman and Agnelli family heir John Elkann. Fiat’s shares rallied considerably this morning, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, but not because Montezemolo is on the way out. Rather, Fiat has finally announced the news that speculators have been waiting patiently for: the firm now confirms that it plans to spin off its auto business.
Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne seems ever more committed to the idea of bringing the Alfa Romeo brand to the United States, telling Automotive News [sub]:
I’m a lot more confident now that Alfa Romeo will reconstitute a product offering that is acceptable globally, and more in particular in the United States and Canada. There is a strong likelihood that the brand will be back here within the next 24 months
Last week we took the counter-intuitive step of calling out Chrysler for refusing to hype its forthcoming products. “Let’s face it:” we wrote at the time, “Chrysler needs buzz, hype, awareness, or some kind of excitement surrounding its future generally and its forthcoming products in specific (if only in the irritating “teaser” format) almost as much as it needs anything else.” Well our wish has been granted, sort of, as this rendering of a 2013 B-segment Dodge hatchback has hit the internet [via AutoBirdBlog] to inspire rare optimism about the Chrysler Group’s future. For a number of reasons though, this is not the buzz-builder we were looking for.
Cross-cultural alliances are the craze of the moment in the auto industry, particularly in the form of Europeans hooking up with Japanese partners. Renault & Nissan, PSA & Mitsubishi, Volkswagen & Suzuki and Bertel Schmitt & Tomoko (sorry, couldn’t resist it!) are just a few examples. Fiat, on the other hand, is not following the crowd. Moneycontrol.com reports that Luca di Montezemolo, Chairman of Fiat, is saying no ad un socio giapponese. “The others are doing what we have (already) done,” Montezemolo says. “This is a time when we have to be careful not get indigestion.” Is the Chrysler merger not sitting well on the stomach?