"If I ran the company..." The CarAdvice team play 'fantasy football' with the automotive industry and take turns in the top seat of the big brands. What would we do if we ran the show? This time, Trent takes the helm at the multi-brand conglomerate, Stellantis.
As you’ve no doubt seen here in the news releases at CarAdvice, the Stellantis Group is now official, effectively creating overnight the fourth biggest car company in the world. With conglomerates FCA (Fiat/Chrysler Automobiles) and Groupe PSA (Peugeot Societe Anonyme) merging to form one (pretty hefty) group, one of two very different outcomes could materialise.
One – each brand maintains its significantly different point of sale appeal in the market so that we don’t get a bunch of homogenised, average vehicles. Fiat Freemont anyone?
Two – each brand is diluted to the point of becoming a badge engineering exercise, where the unique appeal of each is whittled away.
I know which one I’d prefer. And I reckon I know which one you, the people who are going to be buying the cars, would prefer. In fact, let us know in the comments section below what you’d like to see each brand within the Stellantis conglomerate do.
Stellantis CEO, Carlos Tavares, is on the record stating that the merger will lead to cost savings, but not by randomly killing off brands. Further, Tavares has also stated that Stellantis would invest in new products, and support the factories by doing exactly that. He's bullish, and he's got a point to prove, so it's safe to assume there will be some exciting things happening across the broad portfolio of brands.
First up though, and perhaps most importantly, we’d like to see the group sell some vehicles in Australia. As in, really sell some vehicles. With the exception of a few of the brands, the volume of some once-great marques in this country has dwindled down to a figure barely worth reporting.
Citroen is a particularly good case in point – outsold in Australia in 2020 by Ferrari. No, you didn’t misread that. Citroen sold fewer cars in Australia last year than Ferrari – 203 total sales, down from 400 the year before. Trying my best to take a positive stance, that makes Citroen more exclusive in Australia than Ferrari…
Here’s the breakdown of brands that forms Stellantis, and below that is our desire for what we'd love to see the parent company do with them:
Peugeot: We’d love to see this legendary French brand keep working away on medium and large sedans and coupes, with beautiful styling and up to date, hybrid or electric drivetrains. Keep the styling right, keep the interiors beautifully designed and executed, and forget the cookie cutter SUVs. Although, SUVs pay the bills as we know, so if we have to accept a couple of them to keep the lights on, so be it.
Citroen: Citroen’s commercial vans have always been popular, so keep building them, but when it comes to passenger cars, focus on funky, retro or modern styling, and the likes of C3/C4. Larger Citroens have been excellent when tested overseas, so let’s see more of them in RHD configuration in Australia.
DS Automobiles: Take a leaf out of Volvo’s book with Polestar and turn DS into an unashamedly forward-facing, future technology brand. Pure electric, small, medium, large, SUV, sportscar, it doesn’t matter the platform. Ensure the styling is edgy and different, and make them stand out from the crowd. Deliver battery range that sets the standard for the rest to follow.
Opel: Yes Opel has a long history, yes it’s respected in some markets, but Opel needs to be consigned to the annals of history. If you’ve got other small car brands within the group, it doesn’t make sense to simply badge engineer a car with an Opel badge just for the sake of it. Stop trying to force the brand into markets around the world that don't want it.
Vauxhall: Quality products for RHD Markets around the world. There’s a warm and hot hatch desire to be fulfilled, and RHD markets are starved for real variety in that part of the market specifically. Concentrate on the UK, and other smaller markets, who no longer sell GM product of any kind. Deliver a powerful hybrid drivetrain and set a hot hatch benchmark.
Fiat: The two most popular cars in Italy are usually the Panda and the 500, and with good reason. Originally conceived as Italy’s take on VW, Fiat should be a brand for the people, offering what the people want. Affordable, small cars, with efficient small engines, and let’s see some off the wall stuff like a 4X4 Panda as well.
Lancia: This is a tough one. A legendary brand, that has categorically lost its way. Whatever the reason, a car like the Ypsilon is all the fodder we need to let this once revered brand wander off into the sunset. We’d love to see Stellantis re-inject some of the DNA that once made Lancia great, but if that can’t happen, don’t disrespect it any further. A brand like Lancia selling a car like the Ypsilon is beyond tragic.
Abarth: Abarth is an easy one. Hot versions of whatever cool Fiat is best suited to modified fodder. Hybrids, turbos, superchargers, whatever it might be, let’s see Abarth properly tune Fiats to the point where they are cool to look at and fun to drive. The Fiat 500-based Abarth is a cracker. The Mazda MX-5-based Abarth isn’t.
Alfa Romeo: If this incredibly revered brand is to survive, it must stop rushing out cars to meet market expectation before those cars are properly honed and sorted. 4C should have been a giant killer, but it wasn’t ready, and it was flawed from the outset. Sergio Marchionne was many things, patient wasn’t one of them. Alfa is a brand with tremendous value in the market, but the cars it releases into the future must do justice to the badge.
Maserati: Take a look at the MC20 and it’s immediately evident what the Trident is capable of. Stunning design, and clever engineering, coming together in a compelling package. There are enough brands in the Stellantis group for Maserati to step away from SUVs and concentrate on Supercars, GT Coupes and luxury four-door sedans.
Chrysler: It’s tough to formulate a survival strategy for this once-great American brand. With other brands in the portfolio capable of delivering the product, and the 300 well past its use-by date, Chrysler could easily sail off into the sunset. That's even more the case if Dodge takes up the shortfall.
RAM: America’s desire for full-size pick-up trucks shows no sign of abating, and neither does ours judging by the more than 7600 RAMS that have found homes in Aussie garages since ASV started converting them locally. RAM is a truck-specific brand and should stay that way. Hybridisation and electric power is on its way of course, but if RAM keeps building trucks that people want to own, its future is assured.
Jeep: Along with Land Rover, it’s hard to think of a more legendary off-road brand than Jeep. Regardless of what it does and how it does it, Jeep will always have a loyal band of followers. Wrangler – and to a lesser extent Gladiator – can’t prop the whole brand up though. Other Jeep products need to be well-designed, built to a high standard and reliable. If Jeep sticks to those principles and keeps delivering properly capable off-roaders, its future looks positive.
Dodge: This brand confounds us most in the portfolio in Australia. Do you reckon its performance muscle cars would work here? Yep, resoundingly. Imagine being able to buy a RHD Hellcat or Charger SRT. Dodge knows where its fanbase is and it should continue playing to it. Current hybrid tech is an easy win to make big V8s more efficient than ever, and Dodge can continue to build rambunctious muscle cars for a while yet.
Let us know what you think!