This page is being updated as new information is revealed.
Chrysler's five year plan is being unveiled, with a limited-entry webcast on Chrysler LLC's corporate web site, constant updates at Automotive News, and frequent updates here at allpar.com. The plan will take around five hours to describe. The agenda: Dodge Brand, Quality, Product Development, Powertrain, RAM Trucks, Jeep, Manufacturing, Purchasing, Dealers, Canada, Mexico, International, Mopar, Chrysler Brand, Product Plan, Financial Plan Review, Summary, Q&A, Closing
* Journey, Caravan, Avenger: new engine, new interiors, exterior refreshing
* 2014: all new Grand Caravan
* New C-sedan, B-hatch, D-car, 7-passenger crossover
* Repackaging around lifestyles rather than ... whatever they were using before
* Possibly, new Viper for 2013/2014
* Quality improvements will continue and extend to dealer service
Chrysler Engineering will be expanded from June 2009 to July 2010, with contract workers doubled, a 7% increase in direct employees, and a doubling of purchased engineering services.
Chrysler itself will be a global center of expertise for hybrid and large displacement engines. Fiat, which has partnered with Cummins in the past, will be a global center of excellence for diesels.
Engines. Fiat technologies, including smaller turbo engines, MultiAir, start/stop systems, and direct injection will be added rapidly. The World Engines (2.0 and 2.4 liters) will gain MultiAir and direct injection, as will the Pentastar V6. Fiat’s dual-clutch transmission will be used by Chrysler. Pentastar V6 will launch in the second quarter of 2010. A twin turbo version of the Pentastar V6 will be launched as will a single-turbo version. V8 efficiency will be increased.
Transmissions. The four speed automatic will be phased out, the six-speed improved, and the Fiat C635 dual clutch will be phased in progressively. New ZF axles will be made in Marysville starting in Q2 2010. New automatics for rear-drive cars are being sought.
Dodge. The plan is for a complete repackaging of all Dodge cars, with new options mixes, by the end of the fourth quarter of 2009. A complete overhaul of branding, marketing, positioning, and point of sale is to be completed by the end second quarter of 2010. The car and truck brands are being separated to “amplify the youthfulness of the Dodge brand.” Cars will have a base, mid, high, and sport level. SRT will continue as the “ultimate performance sport” level. Scott Kunselman, head of engineering, said Chrysler will more than double volume per platform by 2014.
Vehicle development (engineering). Future projects will use more resources up front, fewer at the end, and will bring vehicles to market within 16 months. A new benchmarking process establishes 320 functional measurements and benchmarks the best competition — similar to the pre-Daimler process but more detailed, with targets set and physical achievement confirmed as the project continues. Results will be confirmed by a new quality group representing the customer rather by the involved engineers. Gas mileage will be increased by cutting weight and improving aerodynamics (the Ram was cited for its best in class aerodynamics.) Time to market will be cut as the S0 build phase is dropped, due to the use of virtual tools and prototypes. More parallel activities will cut time, too. A disciplined design freeze should reduce time to market, as will early supplier involvement — a hallmark of Chrysler’s own renaissance of the 1990s.
Sharing. Increased sharing with Fiat will result in increased quality (due to use of tested components), decreased cost and time to market. The primary sharing will be in modules/systems, followed by powertrain (with V6 engines from Chrysler and four-cylinders from Fiat), and then by components. 20-30% of vehicle cost will be in model/brand differentiated components. Chrysler’s Powernet electrical architecture will be used for E-class vehicles, Fiat’s for C/D vehicles.
CATIA. Chrysler will start using a proprietary automated computer technology for structure optimization (it is currently using CATIA). Alternate materials such as high-strength steel, aluminum, and magnesium will be used for weight reduction.
Quality. Doug Betts said that Chrysler was not effectively organized, and that new launches had below average quality, with an overall inadequate rate of improvement. He did however note that action was taken starting in late 2007. Changing corporate monthly meetings from boardroom style to hands-on style started in March 2008 to show leaders the issues. Merging all quality functions into one organization was completed early this year. 200 people are now working together on one master plan. Internal metrics and targets were changed to more accurate figures, as of January 2008; cross-functional warranty reduction teams were set up by January 2008. Reliability fell in model-year 2007 but has recovered. 200 plant engineers were added to help with quality issues. Reliance on JD Power SSI/CSI based surveys has been replaced with the Customer Promoter Survey which is faster and has more clarity (as of January 2009).
New quality initiatives include improving quality of service parts (redesigning them to fix original issues), thereby reducing repeat repairs; fixing service issues by making parts more readily available, having more tools at the dealerships, and having technqiues to fix every problem, with new metrics; and improved human interactions at the dealer, with care standards, a score system, and better customer feedback.
New vehicle quality has been addressed with more rigorous testing starting with the 2009 Ram which has garnered better results from Consumer Reports; through better benchmarking and higher internal standards; and through investigation of the determinors of perceived quality. Quality design simulations are being done before physical models, with the ability to simulate real vehicles and lighting, allowing for the identification of perception issues (such as exposed hardware in the wheel-wells) before a prototype is built.
Future vehicles. Coming up in Q4 2010 will be revised Avenger, Journey, and Caravan. All will get a new interior and engine, refreshed exterior, and repackaging; lower noise and harshness levels, higher performance and gas mileage. Caravan will get best in class ride and handling, comfort, features, performance, and fuel economy. Charger will be all new and dramatically styled, with a class-leading interior, and best-in-class performance and gas mileage.
Branding will work around lifestyles, with groupings such as sweet/simple; fun/practical; uptown/luxury; thrill-seeker; cool/extrovert; and SRT, ultimate-performance.
Current Dodge cars will undergo a "fix the fundamentals" program, retuning the driving experiencing and adding technology for more efficiency and performance. Dodge will get a C-segment sedan, finally replacing the Neon; a B-segment hatchback, a new mid-sized sedan, and a seven-passenger crossover by 2015. The B-car would be from Fiat; the C (Neon-sized) and D (Avenger-sized) were not discussed in detail.
Ralph Gilles has praised Marchionne, saying he breathed new life into the company, raising the energy level. Board chair Kidder said Chrysler would gain true economies of scale.
The company plans to make Dodge more refined, but retain its appeal to younger people.
Chrysler had $5.7 billion in cash at end of September.
Expected long term features are replacement of all Chrysler small and midsized vehicles by 2013, consolidation of minivans to the Chrysler brand, refocusing of Dodge cars, expansion of Jeep despite the loss of the Patriot and Compass, integration of Fiat technologies into Chrysler and Chrysler technologies into Fiat, and use of Fiat brand names in the United States coupled with the loss of the slow-selling Chrysler and Dodge brands outside of the Americas.
Short-term features expected are renovation of the Sebring and Avenger, repositioning of the Compass, refreshing of the PT Cruiser, a last-minute re-engineering of the LX platform to eject the need for Mercedes components and to make the platform more suitable for Fiat use, as well as replacement of the World Engine with a Fiat four-cylinder range. Electric cars are expected to continue on their course, as are trucks.
Two vehicles whose fate has been questioned will presumably be discussed - the Chrysler 200C and Dodge Dakota. Both have been absent from leaks and mainstream speculation recently. The Jeep Scrambler could conceivably also have a place in Chrysler's future.
Long term, one major question for Mopar fans will be whether the influx of Fiats is temporary or permanent. Will Chrysler Engineering be restaffed and given more responsibility for designing mid-sized cars for the United States, and perhaps for localizing smaller cars as well? Will the large rear-drive cars be returned to the United States for primary engineering? Or will Chrysler be consolidated into an expanded Jeep, truck, and minivan engineering center? These questions should be answered later today.
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BREAKING: Dodge to end Viper production in July '10
BREAKING: Dodge to end Viper production in July '10, new car in 2012
At the Chrysler business plan meeting this morning, Ralph Gilles, CEO of the Dodge car brand, dropped big news on the Viper. After going back and forth for the past 18 months on what to do with Viper, Chrysler has decided that production of the current Viper will end in July 2010. Before that happens, 500 final cars will be built that, according to Gilles, will be the most special Vipers ever. Gilles explained that the company wanted to preserve the value of existing Vipers by not continuing the current generation indefinitely. He didn't give any details on what would be special with the final 500 cars.
However, Viper fans need not mourn yet. Gilles revealed that an all new car is being developed with a launch targeted in 2012! Even better the Viper will be getting some help from Chrysler's new Italian colleagues... and lets not forget about a certain Fiat outpost that uses a yellow-and-black Prancing Horse for its logo that's based in Maranello. Let's just hope they keep the Viper's elemental nature in the new generation.
* Expansion of Chrysler engineering workforce
* Jeep Wrangler to continue. Patriot /Compass and Liberty replacement in 2013.
* Ram in heavy trucks (18-wheelers)?
* Hemi and (we believe) Cummins to continue, 6.4 Hemi coming with ~ 450 hp
* Both small and large Fiat vans to replace Sprinter
* Chrysler to handle large displacement and hybrid engines for Fiat worldwide
* Regular and twin turbo Pentastar V6 engines
* International expansion through Lancia, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep
* Dual-clutch automatics to arrive, 4-speeds and (probably) Mercedes automatic to leave
* Journey, Caravan, Avenger: new engine, new interiors, exterior refreshing
* 2014: all new Grand Caravan
* New C-sedan, B-hatch, D-car, 7-passenger crossover — all but crossover based on Fiats
* Repackaging around lifestyles rather than ... whatever they were using before
* Possibly, new Viper for 2013/2014
* Quality improvements will continue and extend to dealer service
Dealers. Dealer network productivity is to be increased, with redefined dealer standards. Chrysler went from 21% of dealers to 12% in the US, losing 2,831 dealers in the last 19 years. Project Genesis is continuing as planned, to increase franchise attractiveness, profits, and throughput, providing a sound base for reinvestment. Full implementation is due for 2011. At the moment, Chrysler has around 440 sales per dealer in metro areas; the goal is for them to go up over 700. Tight credit is a serious problem especially for dealers — and Chrysler dealers tend to sell fewer cars per month than competitors. New dealer financing will replace Chrysler Financial by December.
Just 36% of dealers have a return on sales greater than 1.5%; they expect this to increase to 60% by 2014. Dealer support is being expanded to include financial skills. Planned growth of commercial vehicle sales will require overcoming strong competition and changing service hours to meet business owners’ needs. In general, dealers need to overcome problems of high land cost, and customer convenience (old or suboptimal locations).
A green facility initiative is planned to both increase environmental friendliness, and to cut costs.
A North American version of the Fiat 500 is expected to increase foot traffic and new customers. It will mainly be sold in key metro areas with specific interior showroom branded salons, and a high degree of customization through accessories. The 500 will have dedicated sales and service staff.
Since June 10, dealers have committed over $250 million in capital investment, with 20 new buildings, 200 major renovations.
Fiat has an established set of dealership standards and methods which was already rolled out to Chrysler dealerships. 61 training sessions were held in 55 days for over 5,200 people already. The standards cover customer cdare, sales, post-sales, and management, and are being phased in through 2012, with continuous improvement required. While Chrysler had implemented similar moves in 1997, they were dropped after the Daimler acquisition. A team of 150 people is committed to increasing dealership performance, including in service. Over $120 million is being invested in 2010 — $500 million over five years.
Jeep. Jeep is aiming to double its global sales from 2008 numbers, and its leader, Mike Manley, wants to take it “back to its rightful place of being the global SUV brand.” Jeep was apparently the largest SUV brand in the world through 1990 and today is #6 in the world. Their largest group of owners is “Dreamers,” time constrained by family and work, but wanting authentic gear for the time they’ll be able to “do more and dream less.” The new campaign is “i live. i ride. i am. Jeep.” (e.e. cummings joke goes here.) The plan is to re-establish the brand with a new look, feel, and attitude; renew the customer-brand connection with lifestyle engagement; and deliver a clear call to sales action.
Wrangler remains the anchor of the Jeep brand and will be refreshed in both 2010 and its 70th anniversary, 2011. There will be new derivatives and special models based on the Wrangler.
Jeep Liberty will move to a Fiat platform in 2013.
Core Jeep customers were truck-based, wanting capability and 4WD. Expanded SUV customers want unibody vehicles, fuel efficient, with on-road dynamics. The shift from truck to car based SUVs is growing. All Jeeps must have certain aspects; volume models have specific attributes in addition. (These attributes include the grille, short overhang, trapezoid wheel-arches, functional interior, open-air concepts, visibility, durable materails, handling in bad weather, advanced four wheel drive, towing capacity, and a variety of specific off-road capabilities.)
Manufacturing. (These changes are already being implemented and numerous before/after photos were shown.) Safety will be improved with metrics considering “near misses” as well as serious injuries. “World Class Manufacturing” is designed to cut costs and increase quality. Workstations will be redesigned to improve ergonomics and prevent injuries, back problems, and other issues. More just-in-time delivery systems will be used, with material delivered to the point of use and less operator walk time. Machines are being cleaned and restored to their original state, allowing for easy inspections of their status (e.g. seeing leaks), and work conditions, including lighting and flooring, are being improved. Chrysler once again involves workers in planning.
Supply chain optimization is being discussed by Dan Knott, head of purchasing, but the same words have been used before. Apparently Chrysler is slated to buy $28 billion of components in 2010, Fiat $40 billion; Chrysler’s purchasing power will increase. The number of unique suppliers is now 48%; by 2014 that will be 35 or less% (estimated). A new organizational structure is being set up which reflects Fiat’s, with, for example, Chassis and Itterior, Commodity, etc being replaced by Metallic, Mechanical, Services, etc. Regional sourcing offices in Italy, Austria, India, China, and Korea will leverage Fiat’s international strengths. There will be weekly synergy meetings, aligned teams, and shared strategies for commodities and major suppliers. Parts will be commoditized where possible. There will be regular top-level supplier meetings, an expanded supplier advisory council, regular communication, accelerated processes for supplier claims, and a new group to optimize inventory.
Supplier quality is now part of the Purchasing organization, with 80 new experts (a 45% increase) by 2010, increased engagement with suppliers, and better validation of supplier products and processes.
Supplier costs savings are being returned. The old Chrysler plan (SCORE) of splitting cost savings from supplier ideas is being brought back, with Chrysler and supplier each getting 50% of the savings. This resulted in billions of dollars in savings when implemented in the 1990s.
Still no word on 200C. That might come with the 200C.
Chrysler brand. CEO Olivier Francois. “Why would a Frenchman who works for an Italian company work for an American company in Michigan?” (His question.) Sometimes distance gives perspective. “The pathway is passion. ... to make hearts race with every glance. It is an American sensation.” (He went on for a while like this.) “A visit to the Chrysler museum is such an experience.” Lancia was in a similar condition as Chrysler when he came. He started with a 4% market in Italy with six nameplates, in 2009 at 4.8% with four nameplates. Lancia focused on three basics, product, marketing, and network. In the US, Chrysler has five nameplates with total 1.8% share, looking for 3.4% share with more nameplates by 2014. “It’s about 84 years of history.” Comfort, performance, styling, innovation, quality, value, efficiency. Walter P. Chrysler: “I gave the public quality, beauty, speed, comfort, style, and power, all at a low price.” Quality, value, and efficiency require hard work but the rest is also needed for Chrysler.
Coming in Q1 2010: 300 Sport edition, Town & Country Fashion Edition, PT Cruiser Final Edition, Sebring Ocean Edition. This indicates the PT Cruiser will not continue past 2010 after all. Coming in Q4 2010: reshape the Sebring and refresh Town & Country.
Chrysler’s ambition is to be distinctive at all these levels. The new attributes must be established. Refined, balanced performance, provocative styling, intuitive innovation, craftsmanship, pride/value, efficiency — responsibility as well as mileage. We need to expand the portfolio, improve quality, create exciting designs.
Chrysler’s ambition is being different, remembered, and aspirational, not mimicking another automaker; and having an integrated image across the board, products, merchandising, showrooms, auto shows, advertising, catalogs, web sites. Everything must reflect aspiration. Brochures should be aspirational and elegant. 40 million visits so far to chrysler.com — “Paradise or Hell for our brand image?” — no brand image on the existing site; a new site goes live in a few days. It will set a new tone for the brand. New showrooms coming, too. New car show displays are on their way. New catalogs are done. New product is coming. New advertising is coming. “We have done this in one month but the bigger work is to be done.”
Mainstream shows and events are expensive but have low visibility. It is time to find new methods. It is time to present new vehicles like models on a runway, not a highway. There's also a new logo. Brand equity must be increased. Chrysler will stand one notch above everyone else. Chrysler will however also have B, C, and D segment cars as well as the CUV.
Mopar. CEO Pietro Gorlier. Mopar continues to look into other channels including wholesale retail, independent repair shops, and collision parts with a price matching program. Mopar has been adding techs and service advisors, and developing an “express lane” system for immediate service on their car, as well as adding a market-driven smart pricing program. Accessories are now being designed during vehicle development, engineered to ease installation, with availability at vehicle launch. The goal is for 80% of dealers to have weekend and extended hours for service. A new wiTech (wireless) diagnostic system is being added, with new wiring diagram applications (the first dynamic wiring information system, a design driven by technicians and using vehicle-specific on-demand information). The parts network reorganization should save 13% of trips. A wave of actions started in June 2009 to improve parts distribution logistics.
2009: fix the basics; 2010: target industry benchmarks, enforce dealer standards; by 2012, become best-practice so customers view the service organization as an asset.
Quality of customer care drivers: brand-customer interface (product, customer care center); dealer-customer interface (sales, service, parts/accessory experiences). Rigorous key performance indicator process needed to drive success, excellence can only be achieved when everything exceeds customer expectations. There must be proactive customer support and a closed-loop approach with follow through. (This echoes the old Five Star program as it was originally designed.)
A single U.S. toll free number will be created for each brand, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram, to customize the owner experience - 800 CHRYSLER, 877-I-AM_Jeep, 800-4aDodge, and 877-RAM-5720.
Distribution. Most of the international outlets are joined with Daimler. Sales will be integrated into the Fiat organization in Latin America and Europe to provide full support. In Asia, Chrysler has been more self sufficient and will provide its distribution structure to Fiat.
International product development. Jeep will be expanded in international market. Chrysler and Dodge have been spread thinly. In the future, a global portfolio of vehicles will cover 2/3 of global market segments with powertrains that reflect international demand. There will be B and C segment hatchbacks, minivans, and CUVs for Dodge and Chrysler, which will dovetail with Jeep vehicles. The goal is for 500,000 sales/year, up from 144,000. All of the Chrysler global product portfolio will be refreshed by 2012, with half derived from Fiat platforms by 2014.
Both Lancia and Chrysler have similar problems, including incomplete portfolios, limited distribution, low brand recognition. The alliance can selectively used either the Lancia or Chrysler brand in any given market for a better focus — with a full market portfolio in each market. The Dodge and Ram brands will continue in appropriate markets as regional or niche brands. Chrysler models will be offered to Fiat for distribution under Fiat brands to give Chrysler access to more volume. Chrysler Australia will move to Iveco.
Financial services are already moving from Daimler.
Jeep expansion will include five global models.
International. (Mike Manley) - Dodge was brought out in 2006 with Caliber, Avenger, Nitro, and (later) Journey.2007 was the best year ever with 240,000 units and 2008 was doing well before the market collapse. 30% of volume for 2008 was Dodge, 29% Chrysler, 42% Jeep. Profitability has been an issue with Dodge adding volume but not profitability and Chrysler has had profits squeezed by competition. Most national sales companies are integrated with Daimler at this time. Latin America is the largest share, then Europe, then Asia. “Three brands, but little volume.” Market share is little over 1%. Fiat has a strong distribution structure with 3 million vehicles in Latin America vs Chrysler's 45,000 and they have a full infrastructure. In Europe, Fiat has over 10 times the volume. In Asia, the businesses are similarly sized but Fiat has more partners.
Chrysler does not compete in the A, B, or C segments where half of international trade is. It does compete well as a niche manufacturer but there are problems going forward even with this model.
Canada. Reid Bigland, CEO of Chrysler Canada, which has three plants (Windsor, Brampton, Etobicoke), three regional sales offices, three parts facilities, and one headquarters. Around 3% of Chrysler sales come from Canada, and around 30% of Chrysler vehicles come from Canada. (Allpar note: Chrysler has been strong in Canada with a higher market share than in the US.) Chrysler Canada’s market share was around 13% for numerous years, but has fallen in 2009 with a forecast of 11-11.5%. (The share was 17% in 1999 and 2000). Chrysler was on a roll in 2007, gaining more market share than any of the competitors, and had two of the top five best sellers in the country. The 2008 crises put an end to the gains. (Chrysler Canada did not file for bankruptcy.)
Canadian sales is dominated by small and compact vehicles (39%), pickups (17%), and people movers (14%) - that’s 70% of the market. Midsized sedans are just 11%. 83% of vehicles sold in Canada have four cylinders. There are clearly opportunities for Fiat Group-based vehicles.
Chrysler still has a 70% market share in Canadian minivans, got a 2009 J.D. Power most dependable award (three-year reliability), has best gas mileage; best selling minivan in Canada throughout its life. Journey remains the best selling crossover (out of 39 vehicles). It’s the top pick for IIHS.
In Canada, Chrysler has 440 dealers, all selling vehicles from each brand; 88% are profitable, with a 25% return on investment (figures are September 2009 YTD.) Five new dealerships were announced or opened in the past 30 days and existing dealers can invest in their facilities. Canada has gone from around 490 dealers in 2004 to 440 in 2009. The goal is to return to 13.8% market share.
Mexico. Joseph Chamasrour, CEO of Chrysler Mexico: 150 dealers, all selling all Chrysler brands... and Mitsubishi, since Chrysler is the distributor in Mexico for Mitsubishi. Customers are satisfied with the brands according to J.D. Power (except Chrysler brand which is #14 of 17 manufacturers). Mitsu satisfaction is #5, Jeep #6, Dodge #7. Most dealers are profitable. Over 95% of the vehicles sold are Jeep and Dodge (excluding Mitsu.)
Chrysler has been gaining in the Mexican market by .5% while Volkswagen, Nissan, Ford, and GM have all fallen. Free trade agreements opened Mexico to numerous new brands - there are now 333 nameplates in Mexico, up from 240, and 52 brands, up from 41 in 2003. Chrysler market share has swung up and down from 9% to 11.8% through 2009.
The Mexican market is 55% pasenger cars, 15% SUVs, 20% trucks, 10% minivans/sport tourers. Chrylser was #4 in 2006, #1 in 2007, #2 in 2008, and so far is #2 in 2009 despite a three month factory shutdown. Journey is #1 in its segment. Chrysler has a 33.6% share of the minivan/sport tourer segment this year up from 28.4% last year. Journey has double the sales of its nearest competitor. Dodge has had five years of growth in truck market share with a #1 award for Dakota by J.D. Power in 2009; and current share of 27.5%, #2 in the market (up from 12% in 2004). Passenger cars are a key challenge with share dropping from 8% in 2006 to 5% YTD in 2009 - a steady decline.
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CHICAGO Chrysler has put its motorsports program, which includes NASCAR, under review as part of a restructuring announced on Wednesday, but does not plan to cut spending at this time.
"We're going to be more focused this time in NASCAR, we're going from two teams to one team," Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles said at the company's headquarters outside Detroit.
However, no cuts for the 2010 racing season are planned at this time, spokesman Dan Reid said. Chrysler cut its NASCAR-related spending this year by about a third by dropping some track sponsorships and reducing race-team expenses.
The latest planned cutbacks by Chrysler were part of a strategic plan outlined by Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, who also leads Chrysler, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
NASCAR and most motorsports have been hurt this year as fans and corporate backers slashed spending amid the recession.
Chrysler, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Toyota Motor Corp all reduced their spending on NASCAR, including in some cases ending track or race-team sponsorships. On Wednesday, Toyota withdrew from Formula One racing to save an estimated $300 million annually.
In putting its motorsports program under review, Gilles said Chrysler thought it was "missing out on the grass-roots motorsports."
A focus on grass-roots means more of an emphasis on semi-professional and amateur racing where drivers race cars that can be purchased from a showroom as opposed to the custom-made cars used in NASCAR, Reid said.
Chrysler sponsored seven cars this year in the top Sprint Cup race series with Penske Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports. Next year, it will sponsor three Sprint cars and two cars in the lower-level Nationwide Series with Penske, Reid said. The Sprint deal runs through 2012, while the Nationwide one is a multiyear deal.
Chrysler also will remain the official automotive sponsor for two races at the track in Talladega, Alabama, Reid said. It also will continue to sponsor a National Hot Rod Association driver through its Mopar parts business.
U.S. automaker Chrysler unveils 5-year business plan
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Chrysler, the U.S. automaker that came closer to annihilation than any of its rivals, rolled out its five-year business plan Wednesday, saying it intends to become "a great public company once again."
Now managed by and partly owned by Fiat, the Italian automaker, Chrysler desperately needs new cars to build its laggard sales, according to a number of analysts. So far this year, its sales are down nearly 40 percent. The presentation Wednesday was anticipated as a gauge of whether the company can make a comeback.
"The top priority is to invest to create a compelling brand and product offering," C. Robert Kidder, Chrysler's board chairman, told hundreds of industry analysts and reporters. After months of meetings, "the board's confidence that Chrysler will reemerge as a strong competitor in the auto market is considerably stronger," he said.
In a six-hour presentation, company executives talked of plans for Chrysler's Jeep, Dodge and Ram brands and discussed how they will operate in its new partnership with Fiat.
Chrysler said it will have 21 new models by 2014. By that time, the company now best-known for its gas guzzlers expects to have reoriented itself to smaller, gasoline-sipping cars.
Two of the new models will be smaller than anything in the current product line, and their engines will be far more efficient, executives said. While the company projects that 72 percent of its engines will be six-cylinder and eight-cylinder next year, that proportion is forecast to shrink to 48 percent by 2014.
"We have to find a way to limit our gas guzzlers," said Paolo E. Ferrero, a Fiat executive who is now in charge of power trains at the new Chrysler.
Much of Chrysler's evolution toward fuel efficiency is attributable to Fiat technology, the company said. It projects that 42 percent of Chrysler's engines will be based on Fiat technology.
The fate of the company is of special interest to U.S. taxpayers and the Obama administration.
The U.S. government has pumped $12.5 billion into Chrysler over the last year and now owns 10 percent of the company. A United Auto Workers health trust owns 55 percent of Chrysler, and Fiat owns a 20 percent stake that could grow to 35 percent if management reaches performance objectives.
The United States has also won a promise that at least some of Chrysler's success, if it happens, would benefit U.S. workers. Under the financing agreement, Chrysler must either manufacture 40 percent of its U.S. sales volume in the United States, or its domestic production must be at least 90 percent of its 2008 U.S. production volume.
The event here Wednesday represented an early opportunity to judge the merging of the two corporate cultures.
Sergio Marchionne, the company's new chief executive, was welcomed to the room by a crush of video cameras and lights. A corporate celebrity noted for eschewing suits for baggy sweaters, he holds dual Italian and Canadian citizenship.
Speakers in the auditorium, meanwhile, blared Bruce Springsteen for the American company that, like many of the characters the songwriter has depicted, is vying for a comeback.
The new Fiat management faces daunting challenges to its hopes of reviving Chrysler. Chrysler's business situation over the last year has been dire.
After General Motors and Chrysler pleaded for government aid, the Obama administration earlier this year quickly decided to help General Motors. According to Steven Rattner, the former head of the president's auto industry task force, the administration "could not imagine this country without an automaker of the scale and scope of General Motors."
But the decision to aid Chrysler was more difficult because the company's prospects were so dim.
"Chrysler was tougher, having been larded up with debt, hollowed out by years of mismanagement, and operating as just a North American player" Rattner said in a speech last month. "Chrysler, for example, did not have a single car that was recommended by Consumer Reports," a magazine that publishes reviews of automobiles and other products.
The rollout Wednesday, which is heavy on product descriptions, is intended to answer such criticism.
After eight hours of presentations Wednesday about Chrysler's future, the biggest question remained unanswered: How does the automaker get from here to there?
Bold projections of growing U.S. sales, billion-dollar profits and showrooms full of modern and fuel-efficient new vehicles based on Fiat engineering all depend on Chrysler's ability to revive interest in crippled vehicles like the Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Avenger and Nitro.
The first job Chrysler and Fiat engineers face as they try to create a prosperous union boils down to convincing American buyers to take another look at those vehicles until a fleet of new Fiat-based models begins rolling out of Chrysler plants in 2012 and 2013.
"It's cosmetics," said analyst Rebecca Lindland of IHS Global Insight, questioning whether Chrysler's carryover models can generate enough money to pay for the ambitious $23-billion investment program the company laid out Wednesday.
Based on the five-year plan the automaker revealed at its Auburn Hills headquarters Wednesday, Chrysler will have to struggle on largely with mildly reworked versions of its current vehicles until a flood of new Fiat-based models and technologies begin to arrive in 2012 and 2013.
Chrysler plans to introduce new versions of the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans, Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV and a seven-passenger large crossover in 2010, but those vehicles were all in the works before Fiat signed on to rescue the automaker earlier this year.
Chrysler-Fiat's plan depends on major sales increases by the Chrysler and Jeep brands, substantial growth in overseas sales and building vehicles under contract for Fiat.
The longer term picture includes 21 new vehicles -- including several small cars in segments where Chrysler does not compete -- and new engines and other technologies intended to make the automaker a leader in fuel efficiency.
Dodge vehicles like the Caliber, Avenger, Journey and Nitro all will get interior upgrades and minor tweaks to reduce noise and improve handling, Dodge chief Ralph Gilles said.
The first Fiat vehicle in production at a Chrysler facility will apparently be the popular 500 city car late in 2010. It will be followed by convertible and sporty models, but none of them will contribute significantly to Chrysler's sales.
Chrysler will use a variety of Fiat engine and transmission technologies. A family of Fiat-designed 1.0-liter to 1.4-liter gasoline engines will power some Chrysler models.
The new Ram brand of trucks will add two Fiat-based delivery vans, one large and one small. Ram may even build semi trucks.
Jeep should add a smaller SUV to its product line in 2013, but the brand is expected to stay true to its off-road roots with a rugged trail-rated version of every vehicle it builds in the future. Jeep plans to boost its worldwide sales to 800,000 units in 2014, an increase of nearly one-third from its 2007 sales of 609,000.
In addition to the new subcompact Jeep, the slow-selling Patriot and Compass are to be replaced by a single compact SUV in 2013. Jeep also plans to replace its Liberty model with a more fuel efficient SUV that year.
Those three vehicles will use fuel-efficient car-type platforms developed by Fiat.
The plan aims to boost the Chrysler brand's sales by 50% on the strength of a model line that will grow from five vehicles today to seven -- all of them new -- in 2014.
"Chrysler has to get people to accept that it's a transformed brand," said Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics. "The new vision for the Chrysler is pretty interesting."
Chrysler is to get a new Detroit-engineered 300 sedan in 2010. Chrysler sales should reach 600,000 in 2014, according to the plan. The automaker expects sales of its Dodge cars and Ram trucks to remain roughly stable in the future.
Next-generation 300 sedan an expensive decision: Marchionne
'But it’s done and life will move on,' Chrysler CEO says
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne Christinne Muschi/Reuters
TORONTO -- It's one decision Sergio Marchionne probably wishes he could undo.
Chrysler Group LLC is planning to build a completely revamped version of its once-popular 300 full-sized sedan at its Brampton, Ont. factory next year. But if the company's new chief executive had his way, the replacement likely never would have seen the light of day.
"I won't even tell you the amount of money that the [new] 300 platform costs," Mr. Marchionne told reporters and analysts gathered Wednesday to hear his five-year plan to revive one of America's iconic automakers. "You'd be shocked out of your pants. But it's done and life will move on."
One of the main ways he is going to try to achieve a US$3-billion net profit by 2014 at Chrysler will be to squeeze more model offerings from the vehicle development budget.
His goal is to build 21 different Chrysler and Fiat SpA models on only seven basic vehicle platforms by 2014, four fewer platforms than in 2010. By boosting the average number of models per platform to three from 1.9, and the volume of vehicles sold per platform to 305,000 from 125,000, the automaker saves on engineering and development costs for all models.
A platform is generally a vehicle underbody, suspension and other components. The idea is to spin off models along the same platform and cut down on costs. For example, the Toyota Motor Corp.'s Matrix and Corolla cars share the same underpinnings.
Mr. Marchionne's major surprise when he became involved in Chrysler's restructuring was that the car company was spending too much development money without thinking about whether there was sufficient return, he said.
"The proliferation of architectures in this organization, which has been my pet peeve forever, has just caused an incredible strain on the organization," he said. "I mean, we've got cars here based on a single platform that are not used for anything else. You can't make money doing this."
He singled out the next-generation 300 for being expensive.
"If you asked me today would I go out there and reinvest in that architecture without [thinking about] all the potential deliveries of that architecture and finding out what additional volume I could drive off [that] architecture in the United States, the answer is probably no," Mr. Marchionne said. "Architectures are expensive animals."
Investment in the new 300 sedan was partially made before Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection. The current version of the 300 platform, known as the LX, is also used for the Dodge Charger and Challenger cars.
Chrysler built 190,000 units of the 300 sedan when the model was at its peak around 2005. By contrast, the new version is only expected to sell 80,000 units a year. That makes the cost of developing a new version less justifiable on a per-unit basis, said Doug Shepard, an analyst with supplier consultancy AutomotiveCompass LLC. "It gets expensive."
Chrysler is spending US$23-billion in development to refresh its product lineup and add new models. It is aiming to sell 2.8 million vehicles worldwide by 2014, more than double today's level.
Chrysler sees 33% sales growth in Canada by 2014: exec
Chrysler expects its Canadian sales to grow at least 33 percent by 2014 thanks to an alliance with Italy's Fiat which will expand its small car offerings, a top executive said Wednesday.
The automaker expects overall Canadian auto sales to grow by a more modest eight percent in the same period, said Reid Bigland, chief executive officer of Chrysler Canada.
"These forecasts are on the conservative side and very achievable," Reid told journalists and analysts gathered for a presentation of Chrysler's five-year plan.
Chrysler's projected sales of 220,000 vehicles -- which represents an increase in market share from 11.5 percent in 2009 to 13.8 percent in 2014 -- will still be below the 233,000 vehicles Chrysler sold in 2007.
And that was when Chrysler "didn't have the wind at our back that the Fiat products are going to provide," Bigland told reporters and analysts.
While Chrysler's minivans have been "moving faster than chicken pox through a kindergarten" it has traditionally lagged in the small and compact car segment, which makes up 39 percent of the Canadian market, Bigland said.
Fiat's strength in that segment will help Chrysler expand in that key segment and further growth will be possible as a result of upcoming improvements to existing models, he said.
After remaining stable at 1.6 to 1.7 million units a year, Canadian auto are now forecast to come in at 1.48 million for 2009, Bigland said.
Bigland forecast that the Canadian market will grow marginally to 1.5 million in 2010, 1.55 million in 2011, 1.57 million in 2012, 1.58 million in 2013 and 1.6 million in 2014.
Chrysler seeks to increase Wrangler production to 800,000 in 2014
Chrysler announced Nov. 4 it would like to increase the production of Jeep Wranglers to 800,000 by the year 2014. The announcement was made at the Chrysler Group LLC Business Plan Meeting.
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner attended the meeting in Auburn Hills, Mich., and told Toledo Free Press the day was “nothing but good news for Toledo.”
“I think over the next couple of years the Jeep plant is going to get a major shot in the arm. The Wrangler is going to be re-tooled and reinvigorated. The desire to see the production of the Wrangler rise from 100,000 to 800,000 will place emphasis on the marketing and promotion as well as the assembly of the Jeep Wrangler,” Finkbeiner said.
According to Finkbeiner, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of the Chrysler Group LLC, made the announcement that the company would like to see an increase in Wrangler production to 800,000.
Finkbeiner said Marchionne told him “I love the Jeep Wrangler. Be proud of the Chrysler name and the workers that are going to boost sales in the country.”
In the next 14 months the Wrangler will undergo two major improvements, Finkbeiner said. First, the interior of the vehicle while undergo an over-haul. Second, in late 2010 a diesel-fueled Wrangler will be released.
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