By on December 21, 2018

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Limited - Image: Chrysler

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.

fca-portal-concept

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.

Jeep Grand Commander

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]

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30 Comments on “Rumors and Omissions: Chrysler’s Product Future Remains Hazy, but Might Not Be As Threadbare As You Think...”


  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    “Chinese-market Jeep Grand Commander, which rides atop a lengthened Grand Cherokee platform…”

    Nope. It’s based on the CUSW platform, in other words it’s a stretched Cherokee (FWD), not a Grand Cherokee (RWD).

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Where is the Ramcharger dammit?

  • avatar
    Jordan Bell

    Its a shame they’re discontinuing the 300. It has everything that’s great about the Charger, but with more traditional styling.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Once more, with feeling.

      The near-luxury full-size car market is dead, dead, deadski.

      The last one out will turn the lights off.

      And no, the Kia Stinger is not selling well or provides any light to the end of this dark depressing tunnel, nor the Avalon.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I feel like there is a finite base of 300 buyers, and they have all been exhausted..

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      I like the 300. But the market just isnt there anymore, especially when the same showroom already has the awesome Charger Scat Pack and Challenger Redeye sitting on the same floor.

      One niche Chrysler could have done was provide the new 300 with AWD and the Hemi engine. But that would appeal to a small niche of buyers (myself included) and wouldnt put a big dent in sales.

      The Pacifica is a decent product for what it is, and the hybrid version has a decent electric range that is getting new buyers in the showroom. But thats not enough to carry a nameplate I suppose.

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    That Chinese thing actually doesn’t look that bad.

    Shame about the 300 although if you’re going to save only one the Charger is probably the better choice.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Yeah, it’s not bad looking in that angle. Picture it with a Pacifica-like front end, not bad.

      And yeah, the Charger sells better than the 300 by a fairly wide margin. Police fleets help with that. Personally, I much prefer the 300’s (or Challenger’s) styling to that of the Charger.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        I like the Charger. It is comfortable, roomy, and fast – if not a bit plain in the styling department. Where else are you going to find a 300-500hp 4 door family sedan for less than 50k?

  • avatar
    RHD

    So Chrysler is only offering the 300 and the Pacifica. It sure got neglected under Marchionne.
    Well, then… maybe they could re-badge a Plymouth or a Dodge? Oh, yeah, right.
    A bit longer at this, and FCA will just be FA.
    And since Fiat sells very few vehicles in America, after not too long it will be just “A”, selling only Jeeps and RAMs.
    Walter P. is rolling over in his grave.

  • avatar

    In 1960 Chrysler made only one model – fullsize Chrysler in several configurations. And DeSoto was rebadged Chrysler with slightly different grill. Dodge also only one model. There were Valiant, Imperial and Plymouth though.

    In comparison Ford made full size Galaxy or Victoria or whatever they called it, compact Falcon and Thunderbird.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    One other thing, passing by the Walter P. Chrysler museum might be a problem. It no longer exists. FCA closed it a year ago to make room for more office space.

  • avatar

    Belvidere assembles the Cherokee. Not the Grand Cherokee. The later is assembled at Jefferson Avenue.

  • avatar
    Bobby

    “[Chrysler has] two planned crossovers: a midsize model and a fullsize model.”

    Giving the Chrysler brand 2 garden-variety looking crossovers is pointless
    since the Jeep brand already has a plethora of its own crossovers/SUVs on hand (and most Jeep dealers also sell Chryslers).

    If I were running the Chrysler brand I’d give it 2 retro ’30s themed crossovers, the smaller badged as a “PT Cruiser” (but this one would have AWD and would be designed as a premium Chrysler model, not as a stripper Plymouth model like the original was supposed to be) and a larger model called Town & Country (since their minivan is now called Pacifica). Otherwise you’re going to create a case of clear product overlap- especially with the midsize Chrysler crossover sharing the same selling space as the existing Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      Spending product development money on the Chrysler brand is folley in every sense unless its related to the minivan or similar utilitarian vehicles based on existing platforms. The minivan is Chrysler’s only relevant product. Anything in the shape of a crossover they bring to the brand is going to be up there with the slowest selling consumer goods of the past decade or two. They will all overlap with products sitting on the same dealer lots with brand names (Jeep) that demand a higher transaction price.

      As much as I/we might like to see a more robust product lineup, I really don’t see a true revitalization happening…..ever. Eventually the minivan will soldier on as the last remnant of the brand or get folded into another brand.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Otherwise you’re going to create a case of clear product overlap- especially with the midsize Chrysler crossover sharing the same selling space as the existing Cherokee.”

      Exactly, and this is what JLR has done with F-Pace. Evidently the collective lunacy of what used to be America will simply buy everything you offer them no matter good sense or good taste.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    How many new models at Chrysler in past 3 years? In past 5 years?
    Ghost of Chrysler Past, Chrysler Present, and Chrysler Future show up at FCA’s Christmas there better be a beat down on FCA to spend capital so Chrysler has a future.

    And fund a museum while your at it you scrooge FCA. You did not close the Centro Storico Fiat museum did you?

  • avatar

    Lancia is the brand with only one model which is the rebadged FIAT and still lives on like forever.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    The note about the museum someone made above got me curious. When the Chrysler museum opened in 1999, there were six Chrysler models and Plymouth was still around. I Googled for some pictures; it’s like seeing artifacts from some lost civilization.

    Company museums are pathetic unless the future holds some hope. They say “Hey, look at what we used to do! Please, try not to think of all this while you drive your minivan, which is all we can come up with these days to turn a buck and try to hold on to a slice of the market we mostly gave up to everyone else.”

  • avatar
    RHD

    Quick solution to Chrysler’s dearth of products: Import Suzukis (with all options as standard equipment) and rebadge them as Chryslers.
    The Grand Vitara could be renamed as a Newport or perhaps the Wayfarer.
    Apply new chrome-plated plastic letters and POOF!, the Jimny becomes the Chrysler Hunter. (We want those, anyway.)
    The Swift can just be the Chrysler Swift; that can’t hurt anything, and will really help out the CAFE.
    The Suzuki Ciaz… how about the Centura, we haven’t had that nameplate in the States, it will sound like something new.
    There you have it… a well-rounded lineup of Chryslers, and they’ll all last 200K with reasonable preventive maintenance.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Pillow top seats? You may have something there. I was just looking at a web site with old car ads, and zeroed in on one for the 1984 Chrysler Fifth Avenue on the RWD M platform. The interior put today’s tan/beige/black plastic interiors to shame. Of course, the rear seat appointments couldn’t be put in today’s cars without going back to a formal roofline and vertical C pillar.

  • avatar
    CanadaCraig

    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.

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