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?