A quick review of its model lineup shows that the Chrysler 300 and Pacifica are the only two Chrysler cars left on sale in the USA in 2021. Once one of the former Big Three in the US – GM, Ford, and Chrysler – the brand sold only 110,464 vehicles in 2020, down 13 percent from 2019. That is very low in comparison with Ram’s 624,642 units, Jeep’s 795,313 units, and Dodge’s 267,328 units. At the height of its popularity in 2005, Chrysler sold nearly 650,000 vehicles. Today, it’s a shell of its former self and not even represented in the compact, mid-size, or full-size SUV or crossover SUV segments at all.
When the PSA Group and FCA (Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles) merged earlier this year, slow-selling brands were put under the microscope. Only 110,464 Chrysler cars were sold in 2020 – a 39-year low – so the famous American brand was one of them. With 16 Stellantis brands, the future was looking dim for struggling brands such as Fiat, Chrysler, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo. So it came as a welcome reprieve when Stellantis gave all its brands ten years to show their worth, refresh their models, improve sales performance, and present a business case.
A conglomerate of 16 brands
With a huge number of brands to run, it is almost inevitable that some of them will fall by the wayside in the coming years. Not even the larger Volkswagen Group has that many brands and it seemed like a done deal that Lancia would be put out to pasture.
The brand sells a single model – the Ypsilon – in one country – Italy – and sold only 43,076 of them in 2020. Compared to the effort it took to reinvent Alfa Romeo – and the limited success with which this was met – Lancia must surely be a lost cause? Yet, it was given the same ten years to secure its future.
As a reminder, the current 16 Stellantis brands as they exist in 2021 are, in alphabetical order:
- Alfa Romeo
- Fiat Professional
The three pillars
If Chrysler’s future were in doubt, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares seeming put our concerns to rest when declaring recently that, along with Fiat and Peugeot, Chrysler is one of the three pillars of Stellantis. The three brands represent the company’s American, French, and Italian heritage. In view of this, the decision was made to revive Chrysler to its former glory instead of bringing Peugeot back to America. Most relevant to Americans would be saving Chrysler, but how can this be done?
Chrysler needs a plan
Ten years is not a long time – not even two complete product cycles – for Chrysler to reinvent itself, and this is what it needs to do:
Expand the lineup
Chrysler needs more vehicles to sell. Its 2008 lineup included the 300C sedan, Aspen SUV, Pacifica and Town, and Country minivans, Sebring compact sedan and convertible, Crossfire sports car, and PT Cruiser compact MPV. Chrysler will have to increase the number of models it sells to appeal to a wider audience. It also needs an affordable base model at an attractive MSRP.
Sell SUVs and crossovers
By 2019, the minivan market in America has shrunk to fewer than 400,000 units or less than three percent of the market. The segment is oversubscribed, with Chrysler, Kia, Honda, and Toyota, among others, fighting for a piece of a shrinking pie. Chrysler does well with the Pacifica but needs SUVs and crossovers with various seating configurations and plenty of cargo space because these are today America’s most popular vehicles. There are plenty of opportunities within Stellantis to leverage platforms and technology and get these vehicles on the market without delay.
Revive the 300
The 300 is an iconic Chrysler badge but the current car is very old. Chrysler should share the development with Dodge and create a new 300 on Dodge’s Challenger/Charger replacement’s underpinnings, which will give them a player in the sedan segment at a reduced development cost. Given how many rivals have left the segment, a shared product strategy makes the most sense and will maximize sales and profits for the remaining players in the segment.
Chrysler has to become an exciting brand again, such as when the brand was an American style leader known for its innovative thinking, advanced features, and cutting-edge design. It would help to revive some of that excitement by reviving old nameplates such as the Aspen, Delta, Voyager, and 200. Bringing back the SRT branding would inject some much-needed excitement too.
With all the exciting electric Maseratis shown in the Italian automaker’s roadmap for the next few years, it is clear that there is plenty of new EV technology to leverage in Stellantis and Chrysler should start to develop their own derivatives immediately. PSA’s CMP electric platform is already developed and one of the best and most versatile EV platforms out there. It is ready to use and can be expanded for larger vehicles.
Leverage synergies within Stellantis
With so many platforms, engine choices, and other technologies available within Stellantis, Chrysler can dramatically reduce the cost of developing its future models, as well as fast-track development.
Conclusion – The way forward
All Stellantis brands have received a welcome reprieve from being axed, but it is unlikely that there will be space for 16 brands in the 2031 version of the automaker. Given its heritage and its status as one of the three main heritage pillars of Stellantis, there is plenty in the Stellantis arsenal with which to empower the future Chrysler. Fiat’s prospects in America look bleak, but it could still make a case for itself as a small-car maker in Europe, returning to its roots. Brands like Lancia might not survive at all.
Stellantis recently announced a joint venture with Foxconn to develop connected-car, telematics, cloud, infotainment, and other in-car technologies for the entire auto industry. The new entity will be called Mobile Drive and will be owned equally by Stellantis and Foxconn. Fiat and Chrysler also plan to team up with Hon Hai Precision Industry, Foxconn’s parent company, to develop and build EVs and connected vehicles in China. At the moment, Stellantis’ future looks bright, and Chrysler seems to be in it. Let’s hope it gets its mojo back.