The high-powered 6.4-litre V8 Chrysler 300 SRT will be sold in Australia, but it won’t make it to showrooms in America.
Chrysler brand president and CEO, Al Gardner, told CarAdvice at the 2014 Los Angeles auto show that the brand is in a strong position given that its US rivals won’t have rear-drive large sedans to fall back on in the coming years, as Chevrolet will lose the Australian-made SS (based on the Holden Commodore) when the Australian maker shuts its doors in 2017.
However, Gardner said the US market will not receive the 6.4-litre Hemi V8-powered model sold in Australia as the SRT – instead, the 5.7-litre will be the sole V8 engine offering for the North American market, as the recently restructured Fiat Chrysler Automobiles looks to clarify the positioning of its marques including the US-centric Dodge and more global-focused Chrysler.
“We are pulling the brands apart between Dodge and Chrysler. We’ve very specifically recognised that the performance is the Dodge guys. That’s where SRT is going in North America. Now that’s not necessarily the case in Australia, funnily enough, because we don’t sell Dodges down there in the numbers we’d like to,” he said of the fact Dodge only sells the Journey SUV locally despite offering performance-oriented vehicles in its home market.”
Gardner explained that there will still be a 6.4-litre V8-powered Chrysler 300, “but not in North America”.
“So you folk out there in Australia get lucky,” he said, indicating that the Chrysler brand is moving away from the hardcore performance models in its home country.
“So, Chrysler recognises that as a group, as a big corporation, we recognise there is a big opportunity in Australia and some of the Asian countries to do exactly what I’m talking about. So we’ll keep building SRT and we’ll put it in to the markets that make sense,” Gardner said.
Gardner made it clear that the 300 will have a defined role in the US market, as well as the global sphere, as time progresses.
“We recognise that as the industry and the segment changes, the mass market guys are moving north from a price standpoint, the luxury guys are coming south – and we plan to meet them right in the middle with something that is content so well that they can’t compete with it from the top end. but our brethren from our domestic manufacturers probably can’t compete with it without having a rear-wheel drive sedan.
“You have to have the driving performance of these cars in order to genuinely sell in to that price range, and yes the top-end guys can do that because they’re all rear-wheel drive, balance-based,” he said.
“But if you’re looking at our competition (Chevrolet Impala and Ford Fusion/Mondeo), they’re front-wheel drive. So they can’t give you that style, that drive, that elegance that a rear-wheel drive sedan can do. So that’s kind of fun,” Gardner said.
When asked if Chrysler needs to have something in addition to rear-drive to stand out – more of a luxury focus, for instance – Gardner was clear.
“No I don’t think the Chrysler brand will go luxury,” he said. “We’re forced to go luxury in certain countries because of the import taxes and the duties we pay. Having said that, this is not a brand that’s a luxury brand.
“This is a mainstream brand that can build a car and compete at the top end, but it’s really designed for your average people who just want a great car, and frankly we don’t want to price it north of some crazy number.
“We’re not here to compete with the Mercedes’ and BMWs of this world. That’s their stuff. We’re mainstream, we build a great car, we want to build a great American car and we want to export it all over the world,” Gardner said. “There’s no plan to go luxury though.”
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia has not yet revealed its plans for the local-spec Chrysler 300, nor has any timing for the new model been confirmed. We’d expect to see it by mid-2015.