AUBURN HILLS, Michigan – The decades long “turf war” between Chrysler and Dodge for customers is (mostly) over.
“Chrysler is to be FCA’s mainstream American brand,” said Chrysler brand CEO Al Gardner.
That means several new products for Chrysler, including a new compact in 2016 (called the 100), a full-size crossover in 2017, and a mid-size crossover in 2018. The full-size crossover will be offered as a plug-in hybrid, as will the Chrysler Town & Country from 2016 forward.
Dodge, for its part, will put the Grand Caravan on the chopping block. It joins the Avenger, which is already being phased out to make way for the new Chrysler 200.
Fiat Chrysler projects that the Chrysler brand will grow from its present 350,000 sales per year to 800,000 vehicles by 2018. During the same period, Dodge is forecasted to fall from about 600,000 cars today to 550,000 next year, eventually returning to 600,000 vehicles in 2018.
That sounds like a tough pill to swallow for Dodge, but brand chief Tim Kuniskis characterizes it as a “purification” that will allow it to focus on performance. To that end, SRT will come back under the Dodge umbrella and will produce versions of the Dart and the Journey replacement. The SRT Dart sounds especially appealing, as it promises all-wheel drive and a high-output turbo engine.
The Charger and the Challenger, which Kuniskis characterizes as the foundation of the brand (along with the strong-selling Durango), will be redesigned for 2018. They will remain full-size cars.
Making Dodge a performance brand sounds appealing, but it remains to be seen whether Chrysler, which presently fields only three vehicles, will be able to grow fast enough to make up for that contraction. Going mainstream also leaves Fiat Chrysler without a true luxury brand in the United States, unless one counts Alfa Romeo. It appears that the company is counting on Jeep and Ram to continue returning the sort of profits that one normally sees from premium cars.