We’ve mentioned that Beijing Auto (BAIC) showed a Saab 9-3 rebadge at the Beijing Auto Show, but we have thus far failed to highlight another re-style of a Western also-ran by the Chinese automaker. This C70 sedan is ostensibly an electric vehicle prototype, but under the skin it’s all Chrysler Sebring. BAIC built the unloved sedan for several years in China, and numerous reports indicate that this prototype has several Sebring attributes, including that rear door cutline and the transmission. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that the C70 somehow previews the look for the new Sebring-replacing Nassau, but that’s not likely. Still, it gives you an idea of what could be done with the Sebring… even by a relatively new Chinese firm.
Chrysler won’t officially confirm it, but the Detroit Free Press cites Chrysler dealers who say that the tarnished-to-death Sebring nameplate will be replaced with the name “Nassau,” when Chrysler brings out a Fiat-facelifted version of the midsized sedan later this year. The Nassau name first entered Mopar history with the 1955 Windsor Nassau, a a two-door coupe advertised as having “the 100 million dollar look.” After a mere two model years as the Windsor Coupe nameplate, the Nassau name lay dormant for decades before returning as a 2000 styling buck for the Chrysler 300, and again as a midsized sedan/wagon concept in 2007.
Chrysler Group LLC has some serious faith in its planned Sebring “intervention,” as it has purchased the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant back from the estate of its bankrupt predecessor for $20m. According to the Detroit News, the move was necessary to secure $8.2m in local tax abatements, and as a result, the Sebring and Avenger will continue to be built there until 2012. But, warn ChryCo spokesfolks, “There is no commitment on the future of SHAP beyond 2012,” when the refreshed Sebring will finally be replaced by a new midsize sedan based on a Fiat platform.
Well, the death of the Sebring name anyway. The Detroit Free Press reveals some of the first details about Chrysler’s all-important refresh of the Sebring/Avenger, a vehicle that CEO Sergio Marchionne recently admitted (in what was surely a Lutzie-award-worthy understatement) is “not the most loved car by car enthusiasts.” The biggest detail: it won’t be named Sebring. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering that the Sebring’s issues are less related to a tepid reaction from the enthusiast market, and have more to do with the fact that even the least car-literate Americans recognize the Sebring name as a symbol for all that is wrong with America’s auto industry.
Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne was supposed to give a speech in conjunction with the Chicago Auto Show today, but backed out at the last minute, sending Dodge honcho Ralph Gilles in his place. The Chicago Sun Times was able to snag an interview with the globetrotting CEO though, and it features some of Sergio’s more candid (if confusing) comments on the state of new product development at the New New Chrysler. Of particular interest is his very apt criticism of Cerberus’s mismanagement of new product development, specifically the decision to replace the 300 before the Sebring.
The biggest market segments in the United States are the C [midsize cars] and D [large luxury vehicles] segments. If you only have a dollar to spend that’s where you go spend it, especially if you’ve got products that are structurally not working.
The decision was made to invest elsewhere. So we developed a brand-new platform for the 300, a decision that took capital that may have been required elsewhere to go play in a different sandbox. Until you’re clear about where you need the money, where the money needs to be spent to ensure longterm survival – that part of it was substantially missing.
Today’s review of the Fiat Bravo is more than just a unique look at a European-market vehicle that will never be sold in the United States: it’s an(other) early look at the future of Chrysler. Sergio Marchionne has called the C and D segments “critical” for US-market success, and the C-Evo platform that lies beneath the Fiat Bravo tested today, will form the basis for planned 2012 replacements to the Caliber and PT Cruiser and possibly the re-launched Sebring and Avenger (reportedly in stretched form). Indeed, the Lancia-trimmed version, known as the Delta, was shown at the Detroit Auto Show in Chrysler-brand drag, apparently to prove how easy these rebadges will be. As cynical as this might seem, Mr Bronfer’s relatively positive review leaves little doubt that Fiat’s got more to offer the C and D segments than the aging, neglected Mitsubishi platform that currently underpins Chrysler’s offerings in these classes. In that sense, this is some of the most positive news we’ve heard about Chrysler’s future in a while.
Automotive News Europe [sub] reports that Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has ordered a strategic review of the Alfa Romeo brand, citing declining sales and mounting losses. Alfa’s sales have fallen from 203,000 units in 2000 to 103,000 last year, and the brand has lost between €200m and €400m in each of the last ten years. According to Marchionne, Fiat’s sporty brand has undergone too many reinventions. “You cannot be a newborn Christian every four years,” he explains. “It’s the same religion, eventually you need to own a religion and carry it to conclusion.” The recent delay of the 147 replacement due to name-related issues was merely the latest trouble for the Alfa brand, which has struggled with aging products and underinvestment. According to Marchionne, Alfa faces two possible futures: retirement or rebirth… on Chrysler platforms?