FCA brand standing reshuffle tipped

Big changes could be in the wind for some Fiat Chrysler marques represented here.

TWO of four conjoined American brands that once stood tall in New Zealand appears to have a future here, if rising speculation about plans set to be aired by Fiat Chrysler tonight proves correct.

Dodge, now a nameplate only with departure of the Journey seven-seater that has solely represented this nameplate for the past two years, is most likely to be permanently shelved, but also under threat is Chrysler, again now down to just one vehicle in this market: The SRT8 edition of the 300C large car.

Jeep, however, which is already by far the strongest of the US-associated brands in the Fiat Chrysler family, seems set to become even stronger. Likewise, the future for RAM also appears good.

Meantime, there is talk that the Italian side of the cabal might also deliver change, with Fiat falling in importance and Alfa Romeo – the star of the moment through a push with its Giulia sedan and freshly-landed Stelvio sports utility – and Maserati blending into a conjoined operation, ableit with both brand names remaining intact.

International commentators are promoting these concepts as the world awaits to hear what FCA chief executive Sergio Marchionne has to say at a key investors’ meeting in Turin, Italy, tonight where the next stage of FCA’s global strategy will be unveiled.

The gathering, at which heads of all FCA distributors will attend, is seen as the final strategic throw of the dice for the company ahead of Marchionne’s planned departure in 2019.

The Reuters news agency today reported that the final strategic push from the mercurial chief entails betting the carmaker's future on Jeep and Maserati while downsizing its volume brands.

Reuters, citing anonymous sources, said that under the plan, FCA could end the sale of Fiat cars in North America and China in the coming years, while removing Chrysler from its global portfolion and mostly confining it to the US.

This is all in tune with a pitch to ramp up a focus on the booming SUV and pick-up segments.

Marchionne, 65, took the reins of Fiat in 2004 and is credited with bringing it back from the brink of ruin.

The new strategy will see FCA place its faith in the Jeep brand, the largest and most profitable marque in the FCA portfolio, as well as RAM pick-up trucks.

Mr Marchionne will look to double Jeep’s global output by 2022, according to reports, targeting emerging markets in Asia and Brazil, as well as Europe, to spearhead sales with new models and hybrid powertrains.

The importance of Fiat, which has failed to gain traction in the US and Chinese markets, and Chrysler, which only offers two models globally, will be downplayed, while Alfa Romeo and Maserati could be merged into a single entity, the Bloomberg news agency suggests.

All FCA marques sold in New Zealand fall under the auspices of by the Ateco Group. Jeep is the largest contributor.