Rumors and Omissions: Chrysler's Product Future Remains Hazy, but Might Not Be As Threadbare As You Think

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The once-mighty Chrysler brand is not a purveyor of niche sports cars, so its two-vehicle lineup continues to draw attention to itself. To call its lineup sparse would be an understatement. Still, despite a change in its priorities (sparked by the ascension of Jeep and Ram), Fiat Chrysler’s not giving up on the 93-year-old brand.

It would be weird to hop on the Chrysler Freeway in Detroit, head to Auburn Hills, pass by the Walter P. Chrysler Museum on the way, then head to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles headquarters at 1000 Chrysler Drive if the Chrysler brand didn’t exist.

While 2018 brought us news of a new (and fairly wild) Chrysler product, it also pushed two anticipated models into the Maybe Not Zone while throwing away another model’s future. Is there any hope of a Chrysler lineup that’s not a two-car parade? Apparently, there is.

The one product almost assuredly joining the brand is the Portal, a minivan-type vehicle based on the Pacifica platform. FCA heralded this model with a funky electric greenhouse masquerading as a concept vehicle, though it isn’t known whether a production model would completely eschew internal combustion engines.

While the obvious place to build this model is the company’s Windsor assembly plant, home to the Pacifica, the Portal’s arrival in 2020 might coincide with the death of the amazingly long-running and forever affordable Dodge Grand Caravan. As we told you recently, America still loves the Grand Caravan, and it loves you.

Before anyone was talking about a production Portal, however, the buzz — or what passes as buzz in the Chrysler realm — surrounded two planned crossovers: a midsize model and a full-size model, both late to the game. This year brought little talk of these models; rather, we just learned that the aging 300 sedan would not be around to gain the 2021 revamp enjoyed by its LX-platform Dodge siblings. Automotive News even dropped the future crossovers from their product pipeline page.

The automaker’s new five year plan positions Chrysler as a people-mover brand, the company’s late CEO, Sergio Marchionne, said in his second-last public appearance. Obviously, minivans are made for moving people, but so are crossovers. Automakers from GM to Honda are attempting to capitalize on consumer demand by straddling boundaries between existing crossover segments. Hello, Passport and Blazer. Surely room exists in this crossover fray for Chrysler.

Allpar says there’s room — and product. Adding fuel to the rumor mill, the publication cites sources who claim the Chinese-market Jeep Grand Commander, which rides atop a lengthened Grand Cherokee platform, will serve as the basis for a three-row Chrysler crossover. This would be the midsizer we’ve talked about for the past few years. The model might end up in production alongside the Grand Cherokee in Belvidere, Illinois.

While Allpar didn’t have anything to say about the rumored full-size model, which was expected to carry the oft-used Aspen name and appear for 2021, it did detail a potential assembly line replacement for the 300. Okay, swallow your grain of salt now. The rumored model, it seems, is a crossover or wagon-type vehicle that uses the modified LX platform coming for the 2021 Charger and Challenger; presumably, it would be built alongside the Dodge cars at FCA’s Brampton assembly plant. (This would be very good news for the plant’s future, if true.)

Given the amount of mystery surrounding Chrysler’s future, anything’s possible. Brampton will have the capacity when the 300 leaves, and it’s nearly certain it will leave — FCA has specifically avoided mentioning a 2021 revamp for the 300, and sales of that sedan are nowhere near as robust as they once were. AN sources claim it’s gone in 2020. It’s worth noting that Ford’s Explorer and the Lincoln Aviator adopt a rear-drive platform for 2020.

Confusing things even more are comments made by Marchionne at last January’s Detroit auto show. When asked about a future Chrysler crossover, the chief executive told Motor Trend, “It’s there. We have the car designed and we’re ready to go,” adding that the model would use the Pacifica platform.

“The platform is ready, and the plant can take it. We can probably get it up and running in 18 months,” he said. It now seems Marchionne was likely talking about the Portal. Or was he?

Are you exhausted yet? One thing’s for certain: a Chrysler with only two models is not a proud Chrysler.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Dec 24, 2018

    Step 1 - Ditch Alfa and FIAT (and I am an Alfa fan). Step 2 - stuff Hemi in Giulia and add imperial badges Step 3 - stuff Hemi in 124 and add some sort of Chrysler name Step 4 - put hemi in 500...then throw it off a bridge (the hemi is just to make sure it sinks quickly Step 5 - joint venture with Hyundai. Stuff Hemi in the big Genesis. Add pillow top seats and Chrysler badge. Profit? Not a chance in Hades but it'd be a fun ride until the lights went off.

    • See 1 previous
    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Dec 31, 2018

      @Lorenzo Doesn't strike me as particularly difficult to do a pillow topped seat in existing configurations.

  • CanadaCraig CanadaCraig on Jan 13, 2019

    I certainly wouldn't bet the farm on the idea of the 300 being killed off. 2018 saw one of its best sales years in quite some time. And it basically stands alone as the only choice for a full-sized 'American' sedan. It can't cost FCA that much to make either. [relatively speaking] It would be foolish to get rid of it.

  • Doug brockman There will be many many people living in apartments without dedicated charging facilities in future who will need personal vehicles to get to work and school and for whom mass transit will be an annoying inconvenience
  • Jeff Self driving cars are not ready for prime time.
  • Lichtronamo Watch as the non-us based automakers shift more production to Mexico in the future.
  • 28-Cars-Later " Electrek recently dug around in Tesla’s online parts catalog and found that the windshield costs a whopping $1,900 to replace.To be fair, that’s around what a Mercedes S-Class or Rivian windshield costs, but the Tesla’s glass is unique because of its shape. It’s also worth noting that most insurance plans have glass replacement options that can make the repair a low- or zero-cost issue. "Now I understand why my insurance is so high despite no claims for years and about 7,500 annual miles between three cars.
  • AMcA My theory is that that when the Big 3 gave away the store to the UAW in the last contract, there was a side deal in which the UAW promised to go after the non-organized transplant plants. Even the UAW understands that if the wage differential gets too high it's gonna kill the golden goose.