The end of 2011 brings about the death of two considerably-criticized Dodge models, the Caliber crossover and the Nitro SUV, both of which have been conceived and produced during the time Mercedes-Benz’s parent firm Daimler reigned more than the Chrysler Group.
The last examples of the Caliber and Nitro models rolled off Chrysler’s Belvidere, Illinois and Toledo North assembly plants respectively this month.
Introduced in 2006, the Caliber was designed to change the Neon in the identical fashion that Nissan attempted to win the European C-section (assume VW Golf) with the Qashqai crossover, but with no the exact same success.
The Caliber left a lot to be desired, specifically in the powertrain/drivetrain department and its rent-a-vehicle like interior.
Monthly revenue of the compact five-door model peaked in May 2008 with 12,856 units, dropping to a pitiful 412 units in November 2009, with Dodge delivering one,202 Calibers final month.
Platform sharing is nothing new in the automotive world. Everyone does it as it enables companies to reduce development costs across the board. For example, if it weren’t for the VW Touareg, Porsche probably wouldn’t have the means to develop the model that effectively made it a cash cow: the Cayenne.
And truth to be said, most of the times, your average buyer doesn’t know what’s hiding under the sheetmetal nor if the vehicle in question is identical in many ways to a model bearing a different badge, because what he or she sees and feels are indeed different.
The trouble starts when carmakers engage in blatant badge engineering, simply placing a different grille and a new logo on the steering wheel and calling it something else.
And that’s where the problem lies for Fiat and Chrysler. The automotive alliance recently revealed a trio of Lancia models in Europe: the Thema sedan, Flavia Cabrio and the Voyager MPV, which are nothing more than rebadged versions of the Chrysler 300, 200 Convertible and Town & Country respectively.
The group’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, knows that this is nothing but a stop-gap solution – even if another badge-engineering product, the Fiat Freemont, has received 18,000 orders since June, or more than double than the Dodge Journey’s best-ever year in 2009 when it sold 8,300 units.
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Out of all the mainstream brands included in the Fiat Group and Chrysler LLC portfolio, Alfa Romeo has the most potential to achieve a global reach and bring in some much needed cash and sales. The Italian company’s boss Sergio Marchionne is well aware of this and that’s one of the reasons he doesn’t want to sell Alfa Romeo to Volkswagen, despite Ferdinand Piechs’ persistent efforts.
However, one of the most pressing problems with Alfa Romeo is the constant delays, be that for the successors to models like the 159 series or the company’s long-awaited return to the U.S. market.
Suffice it to say, there’s no way of being sure that the Fiat Group has managed to sort out the time schedule-related problems when it comes to Alfa Romeo. Nevertheless, at a recent event for investors, the Fiat Group introduced an updated plan for the Milanese brand, which it hopes will revitalize Alfa Romeo through the presentation of new models.
The company’s product plan calls for the introduction of two types of cars, described as “brand igniters”, which refers to vehicles designed to strengthen the brand’s image, and the mainstream “brand sales pillar” models to improve sales.
The first new vehicle to arrive is the carbonfiber-bodied, mid-engined 4C supercar that will also signal Alfa Romeo’s return to the US market in 2013. Although it will be a low-volume seller, the two-seater model’s design and advanced technology promise to act as 21st century reminder of Alfa’s sport history and credentials.
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