US automaker Chrysler announced October 27 that it will unveil its new lineup on November 4, debuting the first offspring of the Chrysler-Fiat arranged marriage.
As Chrysler was foundering in bankruptcy last winter, Fiat was given a large stake in the company in return for engineering advice, not any monetary investment. Chrysler's antiquated product portfolio consists almost exclusively of SUVs, minivans and trucks and is in desperate need of a successful passenger compact car and sedan.
Speculation is rife as to what Italian models will make the trip across the Atlantic and which of Chrysler's many deadbeats will get the ax. If the two companies leverage each other's strengths, Chrysler will continue to produce its successful muscle cars and pickup trucks while Fiat will contribute European-style models which aim at a more affluent and family-oriented market.
It's thought that as many as seven Fiat models will be made and sold in the US by Chrysler, according to the newspaper The Detroit Free Press. Perhaps the most likely new arrival will be the smash hit the Fiat 500, which is absolutely tiny by US standards. It is expected that the 500 will be made in Mexico and be ready for the US, after the required market modifications, in 2011.
Fiat has said it will reintroduce its Alfa Romeo line, which suffers from a poor image in the US due to its mixed successes in the 1970s and 1980s. The line pulled up its stakes in the 1990s but will return as early as 2012, perhaps in the form of the successful MiTo subcompact model.
For Chrysler it's a case of addition by subtraction: Chrysler's Jeep line, bloated with redundancies, will probably be slashed to just its strongest models. By 2012 the Chrysler Sebring sedan and the Chrysler PT Cruiser will get cut.
The shift away from big cars is also likely to force Chrysler to phase out its Caravan minivan line, which was once inescapable on US roads. Chrysler has long been the premier van producer in the US but soon the Chrysler Town and Country could be the manufacturer's only minivan.
But what new Chryslers made with superior Fiat technology will be announced? The arrival of new additions November 4 is the most exciting news yet in this intercontinental wedding, but it also proclaims the end of the honeymoon phase.
The most pressing question is whether or not Chrysler, which is plummeting in US market share, can even stay afloat until Fiat arrives with its life-preserving Italian technology. This means that regardless of what is unveiled next week, Chrysler will have to get by until 2011-2012 on its current gas guzzlers and just two new models, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300 sedan.