Chrysler, Dodge Brands' Hazy Future Doesn't Worry Union Boss

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
chrysler dodge brands hazy future doesnt worry union boss

For two brands steeped in Americana, Chrysler and Dodge sure seem to love Canada. Two Ontario plants continue cranking out Grand Caravans, Challengers, Chargers, 300s, and Pacificas, even as the 9,600-strong workforce in Windsor and Brampton grow leery of the future.

It’s not just the complete lack of interest Fiat Chrysler displayed in those particular brands during last month’s five-year plan unveiling; it’s also the threat of import tariffs on foreign-made vehicles that could very well sink across-the-border manufacturing.

Nah, it’s all good, says Jerry Diaz, president of the union representing Detroit Three autoworkers in the Great White North.

In the aftermath of the plan’s reveal, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne, when questioned by reporters, said Chrysler would continue as a “people mover” brand, while Dodge would maintain its status as a maker of performance products (the Dodge Journey notwithstanding). The five-year plan focused solely on major global brands, he said, and Chrysler and Dodge don’t fit that bill.

Diaz isn’t concerned about the snubbed status of both Chrysler and Dodge. The Unifor president told Automotive News that FCA provided assurances that Windsor and Brampton will remain in the automaker’s production portfolio. Product commitments were included in that promise, though Diaz wouldn’t divulge the nature of the products.

“I take him at his word,” Dias said of Marchionne. “I doubt very much that he would want to see the fall of those plants on his watch.”

The thing is, Marchionne’s watch won’t last much longer. The longtime CEO retires next spring, with his replacement unknown at this point. And, depending on how trade talks between the U.S. and Canada go, the landscape could be a very different one come next year. Still, it’s not like FCA has much spare production capacity in the U.S.

FCA’s rear-drive cars and minivans remain strong sellers. Chrysler Pacifica sales are up 6 percent during the first six months of 2018. Dodge Challenger sales are up 4 percent on a year-to-date basis, while Charger posted a 4 percent year-to-date loss (both models recorded a June sales bump, however). The ancient but perpetually popular Grand Caravan continues to win the hearts and minds of buyers, with sales up 9 percent, year to date.

Only the Chrysler 300 — a model seen as an unlikely candidate for a new generation — seems to be facing widespread buyer abandonment. Its sales fell 13 percent, year to date, with volume down 19 percent in June.

While it was initially expected that the Charger and Challenger would gain a Maserati or Alfa Romeo platform come 2021, remarks made by Marchionne last month point to a top-down revamp of the existing (and totally ancient) LX platform. Attention would likely be paid to lightweighting the future Dodges in order to supplement more fuel efficient engine offerings. A turbo four or mild hybrid V6 will surely find its way into entry level models.

As long as they remain legal, it’s hard to see Dodge abandoning performance-heavy vehicles like the Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcat, or the recently unveiled Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye. One reason to stick with the LX platform, besides costs, is that it’s a proven foundation for the vehicles’ prodigious power.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • Ajla Ajla on Jul 05, 2018

    Traditionally, platforms for large non premium vehicles have a long self life. Ford Panther : 33 years Ford D3 : 13 years GM downsized B-body : 19 years GM W-body : 28 years GM FWD G-body : 16 years Mopar M-body : 12 years Mopar LH : 11 years Mopar LX : 14 years

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jul 05, 2018

      The Chrysler M body of 1977-89 was nearly identical to the F body of 1976-77, and the successor J body of 1980-83 for the RWD Mirada and Imperial was different only in that is was limited to coupes. Basically the F, M, and J bodies were close enough to be a continuous production platform from 1976 to 1989 - 14 years. Those weren't large cars, but midsize, and were successors of the A body Valiant/Dart that ran from 1960 to 1976 - 17 years. Anyone who has owned a Chrysler vehicle from 1960 to 1990 knows how incremental the changes were in successive models, and how long certain parts were used, in some cases decades.

  • Gardiner Westbound Gardiner Westbound on Jul 06, 2018

    Notwithstanding the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger have been produced since 2005 Consumer Reports assigns 2018 models a sales crippling "worse than average" reliability rating. Will Chrysler ever get them right?

  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. https://insideevs.com/news/598046/toyota-global-leader-solid-state-batery-patents/Of course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.
  • Pickles69 They have a point. All things (or engines/propulsion) to all people. Yet, when the analogy of being, “a department store,” of options is used, I shudder. Department stores are failing faster than any other retail. Just something to chew on.
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