By on July 5, 2018

FCA Brampton Assembly Line Challenger & 300 - Image: FCA

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 Windsor minivan assembly Dodge Grand Caravan 2011 - Image: FCA

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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42 Comments on “Chrysler, Dodge Brands’ Hazy Future Doesn’t Worry Union Boss...”


  • avatar
    Syke

    Where is it said that every platform must be the latest, cutting edge technology? There’s certainly enough customers out there who like driving the traditional (as long as its not totally ignored by development).

    If it works, more power to it.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Anyone complaining about the “age” of a platform absent any evidence of deficiencies should be pilloried. No one calls the Accord or Camry “ancient” despite the fact that their respective platforms got their starts in the 1980s.

      • 0 avatar
        Rocket

        While Honda and Toyota have been known to nurse platform along for ridiculously long times, the new Camry and Accord are both on new architectures.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “No one calls the Accord or Camry “ancient” despite the fact that their respective platforms got their starts in the 1980s.”

        True, but even before they got their new platforms this year, both models got major refreshes and restyles over the years. Meanwhile, the Grand Caravan, Journey, Charger, Challenger and 300 look exactly like they have for many years (11 in the case of the Grand Caravan).

        And, yeah, FCA can still sell these, but except for the Challenger, and performance versions of the Charger, they’re all fleet models and blue light specials.

        They can’t do this forever.

        • 0 avatar
          TwoBelugas

          “They can’t do this forever.”

          Perhaps at least one of Toyota, Honda, Nissan, GM, Ford, Huyndai, Kia, VW, Audi, etc can show FCA how they have been selling ~150k v6/v8 RWD sedans each year and keeping them updated constantly.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            How do they sell that many? That’d be the magic of Hertz.

            I’m not bagging on these cars – matter of fact, I really like them, the 300 in particular. I’d like them to stick around. Doing minimal stuff like a new dashboard, and updating the interior materials, might help.

          • 0 avatar
            TwoBelugas

            “Doing minimal stuff like a new dashboard, and updating the interior materials, might help.”

            Seeing the pathetic interior of successive generation of Toyotas it’s obvious no one in real life, outside of auto-journalists that ran of things to complain about, gives crap about “soft touch” and “luxurious interior”. The LX cars’ strengths are not unlike that of the Camry: durable, all the bugs worked out more or less, cheap to produce, non-offensive, and sells well to rental fleets and consumers alike, and the best seller in the segment(yes, the two LX cars outsell Taurus’s, Avalons, Impala derivatives, etc)

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “despite the fact that their respective platforms got their starts in the 1980s.”

        Can you elaborate on this claim?

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      “If it works, more power to it.”

      They take that quite literally at SRT…

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Dodge is selling Chargers and Challengers. Chrysler is selling Pacificas. Both brands are doing fine. I think all the talk about th demise is misplaced.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I wonder if there’s a plan to de-content the Pacifica so it can sell as a Dodge. I know the Caravan’s tooling is paid off, allowing them to sell them at a far cheaper price than something more modern would cost, but eventually that particular plug is going to have to be pulled.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      Probably not as long as the Caravan is outselling the Pacifica. I’m guessing there’s a lot of fleet sales in that number, but if they can do it profitably, I can see why they’d resist change. They have to be cannibalizing Pacifica sales to some degree though, right?

  • avatar
    Rocket

    Sergio clearly has no interest in investing in the brands. If FCA could afford to shutter the brands, the likely would have already pulled the plug. It’s cheaper to let them limp along until they can find a suitable buyer for the entire company, and let them deal with the Dodge and Chrysler brands.

    If Hyundai purchases FCA, don’t be surprised if they close the brands rather quickly. I’d rather see them fill the showrooms with new products, but can they really justify running two more mainstream brands?

    • 0 avatar
      MoDo

      Hyundai isn’t and never will buy FCA. Now Geely on the other hand….

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The advantage of a foreign buyer taking over an American company is that there’s a built-in dealer network, parts network, and history to tap into.

      Putting classic names on Korean or Chinese models is the easiest way to gain initial acceptance in the American market. A good advertising company could tout the new Dodge Coronet/Monaco or Chrysler Newport/Lebaron as the latest in a long line of “American” cars.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Perhaps they’re referring to the upcoming, long-awaited Chrysler CUV, codenamed “Vapor.”

    (Snark aside, there’s plenty of stuff that FCA can make in this plant.)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      JOE NAMATH: There’s only one thing you need to know to be a great quarterback…
      NAMATH’S WIFE: [interrupting] Joe honey I fixed it, it was just vapor lock.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    The “ancient platform” static is tired. My R/T handles very well for such a heavy (4,400 lbs.) beast. I’d buy another on this platform in a cocaine heartbeat. Jeremy Clarkson calls them taxicabs, well his next sober breath will be his first, so take it for what it’s worth. Besides, FCA doesn’t tout these models as sports cars per se, they’re unapologetic muscle cars. Camaro and Rustang are supposed to have sports car handling, although you’d never know it watching ‘Stangs exiting Cars & Coffee events. Incoming!

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      4400 lbs is not even that heavy anymore for a full size sedan anymore, even if we considered FWD ones.

      Lets be honest, the only people who complain that the LX and LY cars are too old are the people who normally consider FCA cars beneath them anyway. Do you really think they will pay for a Maserati based 300? Nope, they’ll make some joke along the lines “Hurp…not Fix It Again Tony” or some other tired punchline and go back to driving their favorite brand of super reliable affordable full size RWD sedans…..oh wait…

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        4400 lbs is not even that heavy anymore for a full size sedan anymore, even if we considered FWD ones.

        Am I permitted to at least be saddened by that fact?

        Now a days when I hear a midsize to full size sedan is LESS than 4000 lbs I sit up and take notice.

        • 0 avatar
          Sub-600

          A 2017 Impala has a curb weight of 3,662 lbs. A 2017 Taurus has a curb weight of 3,969 lbs. Two domestic full sizers under 4,000 lbs.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Yes I’m aware.

            On an only tangentially related note, why do a Grand Cherokee and a Durango weigh 5,000 lbs?

            Those are two real porkers.

        • 0 avatar
          "scarey"

          My formerly-owned Buick Park Avenues MY1976, weighed between 4624 and 4784 lbs. And THEY were big. Or so I thought at the time.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        …and the only people who complain about people who complain about the age of FCA’s cars are Mopar fanboys.

        • 0 avatar
          Sub-600

          2018 Durango listed at 4,680 lbs. 2018 Grand Cherokee 4,505 lbs. Of course they could go higher depending on drive configuration and engines, etc. Base models not much heavier than my car though, lol.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Durango 4,680 to 5,510 lbs

            Grand Cherokee 4,513 to 5,363 lbs

            GC is the real porker considering the footprint.

        • 0 avatar
          TwoBelugas

          @sub-600

          “A 2017 Impala has a curb weight of 3,662 lbs. A 2017 Taurus has a curb weight of 3,969 lbs. Two domestic full sizers under 4,000 lbs.”

          Note that neither is with a V8 and the 300/Charger both have V6 as base engine. Both are FWD at that weight. AWD Taurus pushes 4300lbs I think. Isn;t the base Impala an I4?

          For apple to apple, a 300 Touring starts at 4012 lbs. If being under 4000 lbs had some regulatory incentive I’m sure Chrysler would have no problem making it.

          • 0 avatar
            Sub-600

            This is true. My Charger also has AWD which adds a little more weight.

          • 0 avatar
            TwoBelugas

            Drool… AWD RT…You must have gotten an 11-14. I love that generation of Charger’s front MUCH better than what they have now.

          • 0 avatar
            Sub-600

            I have a ‘13, perfect for upstate NY winters. I can’t replace it, they only offer the pentastar with AWD now. It’s a pretty angry looking front.

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            Do you really think the average buyer is whipping out a scale and measuring the things? In fact I think to Joe Average, a heavier car might actually be more desired as it feels more substantial and solid. Not everyone fetishizes the Loutus Elise, especially in a big cruiser.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Taurus doesn’t need a V-8. The SHO is already quicker to 60 than Sub’s R/T.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      What does handling have to do with people being idiots while doing burnouts? Oh, its a Ford, that’s why. Carry on with your stretched justification of your bias.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    The entire existence of FCA has been positioning the company for a takeover. Paying off debt and separating RAM trucks from Dodge created two valuable brands within the company, which along with Fiat’s position in Europe and South American, a buyer would be attracted to. Once a buyer is finally found the company is sold and Chrysler and Dodge with their mostly outdated products die.

  • avatar
    Funky D

    It is too bad that Pontiac didn’t pursue this path. It likely would have survived and been more than a de-facto Chinese subsidiary like Buick.

  • avatar
    ajla

    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

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      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.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    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?

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