[UPDATE] FCA Denies Chrysler is Dead – Major Five-Year Plan Announcements Coming This Friday

Will Chrysler Get the Ax?
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne. [Photo: FCA]
UPDATE 5/31/18: TFL received information from a source working at an FCA dealership that those dealers informed employees Chrysler was, in fact, going to be discontinued. However, an FCA spokesperson responded to TFL’s request for comment stating the company will not, in fact, cut Chrysler from their portfolio.

Speculation is swirling as CEO Sergio Marchionne prepares to present the company’s future roadmap on June 1st.

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne will soon leave the building. He’s retiring from the company in April 2019, and his replacement will be responsible for overseeing their future projects. However, before Marchionne exits, he has one more major task ahead. This Friday, June 1st, he’ll present FCA’s future product roadmap to the future. In it will undoubtedly lie several major changes to the company’s existing structure, and speculation has already begun as to what that means for its subsidiary brands. At the moment, FCA controls Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and the Mopar parts brand.

Again, everything is speculation up until Friday, but reports point out some real possibilities for where the company may be heading in the next few years. For instance, given the explosive popularity of SUVs and crossovers, Jeep will likely become the standard-bearer for FCA. Jeep alone is responsible for a significant portion of the company’s profit at this point, so the new CEO will likely do everything conceivable to protect that golden egg. On the other hand, brands that have ebbed under FCA’s banner, like Chrysler, could see a rather different fate.

Will Chrysler Get the Ax?
The Chrysler 300 has soldiered on since 2011 with one facelift in 2015. [Photo: Chrysler]

Chrysler, Fiat pushed to the outskirts

Fiat, as a brand, never really clicked in the U.S. market. While the brand built momentum for the first few years it was in the market – peaking in 2014 with 46,121 units – it’s been falling off ever since. However, it’s not just the United States where Fiat could shrink either. As part of the June 1 plant, Fiat production could well move out of Italy to countries with lower wage schedules. Fiat cars, namely the 500, are less expensive models with smaller profit margins than more expensive brands like Jeep.

In the United States, the 500, its derivatives (500X and 500L) and the 124 Spider are the only models sold. In Europe, there’s also the diminutive Fiat Panda and slightly larger Fiat Punto hatchbacks, among a few other regional models. Under the new plan, Fiat could shrink to just the 500 and Panda, the latter of which won’t be sold in the U.S. Since the 500 doesn’t sell fantastically either, both it and the 124 Spider could pull out of our market.

Chrysler could see a worse fate, according to a May 30 report by Automotive News. They mention an (as of yet) unconfirmed rumor from an anonymous source. However, they also reference a quote from Marchionne at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show regarding FCA’s shift toward trucks and SUVs: “Our commitment continues to be quite strong, especially when it comes to Dodge. We have found a way to play in the passenger car side with Dodge in a very clear way, and we’re uniquely positioned.” No mention of Chrysler, however. The brand, also slated to expand into entry-level cars and hybrids, ultimately shrunk to just two models: the aging 300 sedan and the Pacifica minivan. UPDATE: Although some sources claim Chrysler’s fate is sealed. FCA begs to differ. An FCA spokesperson told TFL that the brand is not going away.

Jeep and Ram will conquer the world

Mainly, FCA’s future fortunes will reportedly rest on the expansion of the Jeep and Ram brands. Take Jeep first – Marchionne aimed to double the brand’s sales volume from 1.4 million units in 2017 to 2.8 mission by 2022. The brand is selling well in Europe, and he seeks to capitalize on Jeep’s success by growing further into the European market as well as those in Asia and South America.

Trucks are also monumentally popular here in America. After all, the best-selling vehicle for decades has been the Ford F-150. With the 2019 Ram 1500 and subsequent heavy duty models, Ram continues to spar with Ford and GM for the top spot. However, it’s not just here where they’re gaining popularity. Again, the brand could expand further into global markets.

Will Chrysler Get the Ax? 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is FCA’s only current hybrid vehicle. [Photo: FCA]

Electric and hybrid plans

Not only will FCA’s vision for the future center around repositioning brands, but also the types of cars they’re bringing to market. The company has lagged behind the competition when it comes to hybrid and electric cars. However, moving forward, they’ll have to convince investors they can close the gap. That means bringing new hybrid and electric models to market to compete with analysts’ projected growth in demand for electric cars. FCA plans to use Maserati as its test bed, stating models after 2019 will all be electric.

Apart from that, Marchionne also stated at least half of FCA’s fleet will incorporate some type of electrification. That could range from mild hybrid systems like those in the new Ram to new hybrid models like the impending Wrangler JL.

Which direction do you think FCA should head for the future? Let us know in the comments! Subscribe to The Fast Lane Car and TFLnow on YouTube for news, views, and real-world reviews published throughout the week.

Check out today’s episode of TFLnow Live below, where we discuss FCA’s future plans and cars that may be going away in the next few years: