Sebring, 200C: ambiguous future
July 23rd, 2009
Sergio Marchionne has stated that Fiat/Alfa will be using Chrysler
’s mid-sized platform, in an announcement that may have stunned numerous onlookers, who expected Chrysler to move to a future Alfa Romeo platform. However, the situation is not clear.
Chrysler has two mid-sized platforms at this time: the J-cars, Sebring and Avenger, and the upcoming Chrysler 200C, which is, like the Dodge Challenger, a shorter-wheelbase version of the large LX (which will, as expected, also be adopted by Alfa Romeo).
There are numerous options open to Chrysler and Fiat. The J-cars have been widely panned by critics, though the largest gripes are related to styling, which is largely subjective and relatively easy to change; and to the powertrains, which include a V6 that is being superceded by the Pentastar V6 and a four-cylinder which is likely to be replaced by a Fiat design. The J-cars have some platform advantages in terms of flexible manufacturing and could be re-engineered relatively quickly to lead their class, given the absence of Daimler systems and demands. It is possible that these are the mid-sized cars that Fiat may adopt, in whole or in part, rather than replacing them with a Fiat platform which is still in development. This position would be bolstered by Marchionne’s statement that Chrysler’s mid-sized car capabilities have been grossly underestimated.
Another possibility is that, as expected, the Dodge mid-sized car will be replaced by a modified Fiat/Alfa design and that the Chrysler mid-sized car will be the 200C, and that it is the 200C which will be adopted by Fiat along with the 300C, selling as an Alfa.
Regardless of the option chosen, Fiat’s plans make it clear that flexible manufacturing will be Chrysler’s future as it produces a much wider range of vehicles in a smaller number of plants. Chrysler already has a great deal of flex capability (the PT Cruiser and Dodge Journey, which share very few parts, sail down the same assembly line with no switchover delays) but this will be pushed further as smaller cars are introduced. The 200C is likely to be built alongside the 300, Charger, and an Alfa Romeo version (and, many hope, the Challenger); the small and midsized front wheel drive cars, however, appear to be fated to share the Belvidere plant.
One insider suggested that the forthcoming midsized (D class) car will share a basic platform and body with the compact (C-class) car which will replace the Caliber. The Patriot could still continue but it would likely move to the same platform.
Chrysler and Fiat are most likely still working out what will be made where and when, using what technologies, but it appears that sharing is far more advanced than it was at the same point in the DaimlerChrysler tie-up – and that Sergio Marchionne and other engineers and executives are less concerned about the nationality of designs and more concerned with their desirability.