What will happen with Chrysler in the coming years?
On Wednesday, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares hit on the former Fiat Chrysler’s direction moving forward. If you’ve even casually followed the industry over the past few years, you already know where that conversation is headed: toward trucks and SUVs. Indeed, Tavares did shore up that point after a visit to the company’s Detroit assembly plants, such as the Jefferson North plant building the Jeep Grand Cherokee. “We expect pickups and SUVs to be developed in Auburn Hills,” Tavares said. Naturally, then, we and several others hone in on the brand that currently builds neither: Chrysler.
As the brand keeps ticking along with nothing but an aging sedans and a couple of minivans under its umbrella, we ask every couple years whether it will see the ax within the next few years. The answer to that question is a frustrating mix of optimism and (perhaps well-placed) pessimism, depending on who’s addressing that question.
As the Detroit Free Press points out, Tavares did mention the brand, if for no other reason than to assuage ongoing rumors hinting at its demise. “We’re very keen on supporting a Chrysler brand rebound,” Tavares says. However, at this point he isn’t elaborating on exactly what that’s going to look like.
Brand identity is a cloud that’s loomed over the brand for years, following it back through FCA, DaimlerChrysler and even its independent days. While Jeep and Ram have distinct identities, it’s tougher to put a finger on Chrysler’s, apart from the relatively small minivan segment. “You need to give Chrysler an identity at this point,” says CarExpert.com publisher Karl Brauer. “Fiat and even more so Chrysler have atrophied. They didn’t have a strong identity to start with that could easily take advantage of where the market was going.” To wit, the brand also does not currently have a full-time CEO at the helm. At the moment, Dodge brand chief Tim Kuniskis is filling in, and Tavares is expected to more permanently fill the vacancy in the coming months.
Can Dodge bank on performance?
Speaking of Dodge, the brand does have more of a distinctive focus right now. The Challenger and Charger both lean hard on their performance cred with the Hellcat models. Beyond that, at least Dodge does have an SUV with the Durango. However, some have also called Dodge’s existence into question for a few different reasons. Among current brands, Dodge has the oldest models out there, with it’s “latest” all-new car being the current Durango, which debuted back in 2010.
As it exists right now, Dodge also banks on massive V8s for a large chunk of its sales. However, Kuniskis did give more detail on the brand’s electrified future. Like Jeep and Ram, it seems the performance will shift within the Dodge brand so it will have a future.
Ultimately, we’ll get a better look at both Dodge and Chrysler’s future over the coming months. Whichever direction Stellantis takes, it’s still clear both brands will most likely look remarkably different in the next few years.