If there’s one thing that Australians love, it’s a performance car. This is recognised by FCA Australia, with a business case currently being evaluated for conversion of the Charger and Challenger to right-hand drive.
Speaking to media at the Los Angeles motor show, Mike Manley, head of Jeep, RAM and COO of the Asia Pacific region and FCA Australia boss Steve Zanlunghi told CarAdvice that they understand the appetite for these cars in Australia.
“We’ve had the discussion on it and we have said we are looking at the business case because we know what Mustang does in Australia. I heard it was a six month wait, but you guys told me it’s an 18 month wait. Then again globally they have just taken down their production,” Zanlunghi said.
(Ford has halted Mustang production in the US while it waits for a sufficient order bank to build again. It is understood Australian waiting times would not have been impacted or improved by this halt.)
“We are constantly looking for the opportunities in the marketplace and that’s one of them. Especially when there’s the Falcon and Commodore going, so if we can make a business case out of it then we can see those vehicles here in Australia.”
FCA had previously looked at converting the current generation to right-hand drive in the factory, but the costs were quite high, making the business place unviable.
“One of the biggest problems we have with conversion of current generation is the level of the standards that an independent [smaller operation] is held to, is not the same as the standards a factory is held to,” Manley said.
“So when you convert it, it actually costs you a lot more money because you’re making unique components to make that conversion work. So the investment levels are almost the same now as doing it in the factory.”
“I can tell you the number today is roughly three times what it was six years ago. That doesn’t answer your question, but it’s a much bigger number than you’re thinking of.”
Our understanding is that FCA also looked at using an independent supplier in Australia to perform the conversion, but the cost didn’t make sense given what the retail price of the vehicle is in the USA (the Challenger starts at around US$27,000).
Manley said that if the business case does stack up, it’s likely to be a for the next generation, which is around three years away.
“If the decision is made, it would be made for the next generation platform on the vehicle. That actually is going to help Steve’s case. Because as you move towards the next generation of these platforms, they’re more global and tends to be much, much easier to package all of the right hand drive components that you want,” Manley said.
“Even though all of the DNA of Dodge would still be in that car, the number of components would be shared across a number of other cars. Which again makes it a lot easier because you’re adding up all of one volume of brand. So realistically if that was to happen, you’re probably three years out.”
It has been rumoured previously that the next generation of Challenger and Charger will be based on the Giorgio platform, which currently underpins cars like the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio. Manley told CarAdvice that the next-generation vehicles could share components with that platform, such as brake systems.
If that’s the case, we could see the option of things like carbon-ceramic brakes available on Challenger and Charger, along with huge weight savings over the current models.
“That’s why I said the next generation platforms that are more global in their approach would give us more opportunity. Elements of that platform are going to find their way into other vehicles,” Manley said.
“Brake systems for example, not the unique things that make it drive like an Alfa, but all of those things help. That’s what I was alluding to.”
Do you think these cars would do well in Australia, given the performance and value relationship? Tell us in the comments below.