As Chrysler Fades Away on the Global Stage, Right-hand-drive 300s Remain in Production
On the surface, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep brand is everything a modern-day brand should be. SUVs and crossovers, a looming pickup truck, and no cars. This is what the world wants.
On the opposite side of the coin, Chrysler is the brand seemingly no one, save for North American minivan buyers and a shrinking pool of traditional luxury sedan devotees, wants. Year-to-date, sales of the brand’s two-model U.S. lineup is down nearly 10 percent.
Overseas reports claiming FCA has ended production of right-hand-drive models at its Ontario, Canada assembly plants paint an even grimmer picture, even though the core RHD Chrysler model — the rear-drive 300 — is not, apparently, extinct.
Prompted by an early report in Allpar, numerous media sources are reporting the ceasing of right-hand-drive variants of FCA’s Canadian-made full-size cars. That’s unusual, given that the Dodge Charger and Challenger aren’t produced in right-hand drive (though there’s hopes for a RHD next-generation model).
As for the 300, Lou Ann Gosselin, head of communications for FCA Canada, told TTAC, “We do continue to build the Chrysler 300 RHD at the FCA Brampton Assembly Plant.”
If the RHD 300 was defunct, it would have spelled the end for the brand in several markets, including the UK, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. However, those countries never really took to the brand in the first place, and many are already phasing it out. Chrysler sold just 26 Chrysler 300 sedans in Australia in September, and 210 in all of 2017 so far. In contrast, China’s Great Wall sold 36 vehicles in the kangaroo-laden country last month. In the UK and Ireland, five Chrysler-badged vehicles went to non-conformist customers in August. (The brand disappears in the UK after 2017.)
Suffice it to say, Chrysler isn’t a big draw in other continents. The automaker knows this, and it’s the reason the brand, along with Dodge, is pulling out of numerous overseas markets while the growing Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands fill the FCA void. Earlier this month, FCA announced the end of both brands in South Africa, as reported by Wheels24.
“FCA will say a fond farewell to two of the mainstay car brands, with the Chrysler and Dodge vehicle ranges no longer being available locally,” FCA South Africa CEO Robin van Rensburg stated. “This unfortunate situation has arisen from our principals in the USA no longer building Chrysler or Dodge vehicles in Right Hand Drive configuration.”
It’s this statement that lit the fire under the RHD Chrysler 300 rumors. Down Under, FCA’s Aussie division refuted the report by the South African division.
In a statement reported by Car Advice, Alessia Terranova, manager of public relations for FCA Australia, said, “I am not at liberty to comment on South Africa’s decision. What I can tell you is that Australia will continue to sell the right-hand drive Chrysler 300 as an ongoing product in our lineup. In relation to Dodge, at this stage, this brand is represented as a parts and service operation only.”
As opposed to other countries, the Aussies do seem keener on keeping the Chrysler brand alive. Last year, FCA Australia head Steve Zanlunghi told Motoring, “The way I see it there are still good, profitable opportunities for the Chrysler brand,” he couldn’t give assurances for any point past the 2017 model year.
“I wouldn’t say I am not committed,” Zanlunghi continued. “We are committed. I am committed at least through 2017. Let’s see what happens, let’s see if there are any other products we might be able to add.”
The only new products arriving from Chrysler — two crossovers — won’t appear for some time yet, and it isn’t known whether Aussies are champing at the bit for an opportunity to drive a Pacifica (currently unavailable Down Under). Meanwhile, FCA is eager to have the 300 replace the defunct RWD Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore in Australian police fleets.
[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
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With the possible exception of Boeing, US manufacturing is disappearing from the global stage.