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Dodge-based Fiat Freemont One of Many Chrysler-Based Product Debuts in Geneva

New badges, new powertrains, but will Europeans accept American maker under any name?

by on Jan.25, 2011

The Dodge Journey will reappear, at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, with a Fiat badge on its nose.

Geneva Motor Show-goers will be the first to see tangible evidence of the fast-expanding relationship between Italy’s Fiat and its U.S. partner, Chrysler, when the pair lift the covers on the all-new Fiat Freemont, early next month.

Make that more-or-less new.  While the Freemont nameplate is an addition to Fiat’s European line-up, the crossover is familiar to American motorists under the Dodge Journey nameplate.  Both models will be produced at Chrysler’s plant in Toluca, Mexico.

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The addition of the Journey is a critical next step in the evolution of the relationship between the U.S. maker and Fiat, which stepped in to help pull Chrysler out of bankruptcy, in 2009.  Significantly, the White house laid out a series of targets that Fiat must meet to bring its initial 20% stake in Chrysler up to as much as 51%.  That includes introducing high-mileage models in the U.S., as well as expanding the American maker’s traditionally insignificant presence abroad.

The Geneva Motor Show will witness a number of moves designed to meet that last requirement.  A variety of Chrysler-based models will debut there, including a revised 2011 version of the maker’s minivan, a new flagship sedan for Fiat’ upscale Lancia brand, and the more mainstream Fiat Freemont.

While the Freemont will keep Journey's 7-passenger, 3-row configuration, a critical addition will be a diesel.

The new model – for Europeans, anyway – does nothing to hide its very U.S. roots, playing up the sort of roominess and adventure associated with things American.  According to a press release, Freemont is, “a ‘factotum vehicle’ designed to meet the diverse needs of families and those seeking a spacious, comfortable and versatile vehicle to cater for the frenetic pace of everyday life or weekend leisure time.”

Don’t expect many changes to the latter model.  The most obvious and immediate will be the addition of a Fiat badge on the grille.

The most significant revision will be hidden under the hood, where Fiat will reflect European market realities by giving Freemont buyers an optional 2.0-liter MultiJet turbo diesel – available in either 140 or 170-horsepower configuration.

The Fiat Freemont will debut in front-wheel-drive configuration, initially, with only a manual gearbox.  Shortly after launch, Fiat will add an automatic.  The Italians will also broaden the powertrain offerings with the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which will provide optional all-wheel-drive.

Significantly, Fiat’s 7-passenger crossover will feature the same restyled interior that is migrating its way throughout the rest of the Chrysler line-up.

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