Chrysler’s grand turnaround plan is “on track,” according to CEO Sergio Marchionne, who told TheDetroitBureau.com that, if anything, the maker is moving faster than he had anticipated during the a day-long session in November 2009 when the company’s long-range turnaround plan was revealed.
But some of the biggest changes are only just falling into place as new products, such as the Dodge Dart, come to market. Much of the maker’s future strategy will depend – like Dart – on developing platforms that can be shared between Chrysler and its Italian partner, Fiat SpA.
That includes a range of new and updated offering that are in the works for the Jeep brand, arguably the strongest marque in the maker’s U.S. line-up. An all-new version of the Liberty – which recently ended production – will make its reappearance at the January 2014 Detroit Auto Show and will share a Fiat-based platform.
Also on tap is the return of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer which will add a new three-row model to the Jeep line-up. Designed to serve as seven-seat competition for various General Motors and Ford full-size sport-utility vehicles, it will slot in where the ill-fated Jeep Commander was targeted a few years back.
The Grand Wagoneer will also serve as a replacement for the Dodge Durango, a product Marchionne said he made a mistake approving. “It was too far along” to cancel, he said during an interview, but should have been introduced as a Jeep model, not a Dodge. The Grand Wagoneer – which revives a long-gone but never forgotten Jeep nameplate – will be produced alongside the Grand Cherokee at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant, in Detroit.
Other big changes are in store for Jeep, according to various company officials.
The new Liberty, for example, will migrate to the CUSW – or Compact U.S. Wide – platform derived from the Fiat Giulietta. The CWUS “architecture” will eventually be used in a number of different Chrysler products and made its debut with the 2013 Dodge Dart.
The 2014 Jeep Liberty will bring the debut of Chrysler’s all-new 9-speed automatic transmission, here paired with a 3.2-liter V-6. “If I have my way,” Marchionne told TheDetroitBureau.com, “you’ll see that transmission on all our front-drive products.”
The smaller Fiat SUSW platform will be used as the foundation for a new subcompact Jeep, meanwhile, and shared with a new crossover coming to the Italian maker’s line-up. According to a report in Automotive News, the new Jeep model will be assembled in Turin, Italy and shipped to the U.S. beginning in the second quarter of 2014.
The Fiat version, the 500X, is also expected to be sold in the States but will feature a noticeably different body from the as yet-unnamed small Jeep.
The two smallest models in Jeep’s current line-up will also undergo some big changes. The Compass is expected to live on though the future is uncertain for the Patriot which has had its run extended from 2013 to 2014. Both are expected to switch from a poorly rated CVT gearbox to a new 6-speed next year.
One uncertainty is how consumers will accept the Fiat-derived platforms which are not expected to feature the same off-road capabilities as traditional “Trail-Rated” models. That was apparently a factor in the weak demand for the Compass and Patriot models. But Chrysler executives, up to and including Marchionne, are betting that better designs will drive more demand – especially considering that most of Jeep’s competition, such as the Ford Explorer and Escape and 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, are migrating from track-like platforms to crossover designs.
Tags: Fiat-Chrysler, Jeep Commander, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Patriot, Sergio Marchionne, auto news, car news, chrysler 9-speed transmission, chrysler news, dodge dart, fiat news, jeep compact, jeep grand wagoneer, jeep liberty, jeep news, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, thedetroitbureau