The Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Dart are set to be killed off by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as the brand refocuses its intentions in the US market.
The two sedans – which were designed to appeal to budget-conscious buyers – haven’t seen the success the company reportedly expected, with chief Sergio Marchionne stating that decreasing fuel prices are seeing sales of larger utility models strengthen. Petrol is now priced at about US$2 per gallon (3.78 litres – based on today’s exchange rate, that’s $0.75 per litre).
“We have decided to de-focus, from the manufacturing standpoint, to de-focus on the passenger car market,” Marchionne said in a conference with market analysts. “Without creating additional capacity, in the United States, we need to … to try and deal with the development of both Jeep and the Ram brand.”
So, the 200, which was the result of a $1 billion overhaul of the company’s plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and the Dart, a $600 million investment, could still be built outside of the US. Some reports suggest that FCA is looking to align with another car maker, possibly to build those vehicles in a plant outside of the US.
“There will be a number of things that will be put in place in the next 18 months – things that have been agreed and detailed, that will effectively withdraw the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart from the marketplace, for a long period of time, during which we will be continuing discussions with potential partners,” Marchionne said.
FCA has idled its Sterling Heights plant for six weeks due to slack demand for the 200.
The move will free up production capacity for other brands under the FCA umbrella, such as Jeep and Ram, and that’s where the sales are in the US market. The company claims it cannot build enough examples of the Cherokee and Wrangler to meet world demand, not to mention its Ram pick-up trucks.
The result of the potential extra production capacity is a readjusted sales goal for Jeep by 2018, adjusted up from 1.9 million to a rounder 2 million sales target. In 2015, the brand sold 1.2 million Jeeps worldwide.
A question remains over what happens if the fuel price goes back up again.
Marchionne gave a little hint away about how the Jeep brand will add that extra volume, with the following statement about the new flagship Jeep, the Grand Wagoneer:
“I think the important thing for us to reinforce is the fact that the Wrangler, in its new home in Toledo, will have additional production capacity available to try and meet demand on a global scale, and I think it’s important for us to have found a home for the Grand Wagoneer family, both the Grand Wagoneer and the Wagoneer in whatever shape they come,” said Marchionne.
Why is that important? Because while we’ve known there would be a Grand Wagoneer – which the brand is likely to pitch as a luxury SUV offering to compete with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLS – there will also be a Wagoneer, which will, in all likelihood, will be a more affordable family-focused seven- or eight-seat SUV with a few less luxury trinkets.