Report: Fiat Wants To Turn Chrysler Into Luxury Brand

Posted: September 22, 2009

Chrysler's new owners want to take the marque upscale. Way upscale.

Autoblog reports that Fiat, the Italian automaker that took control of Chrysler's three automotive brands after their summer bankruptcy, "is working through a far-reaching game plan for the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands, and it sees Chrysler competing in the luxury space."

Chrysler brand CEO Peter Fong told Automotive News that the company's goal is for car shoppers to see Chrysler as "a notch above Lincoln, a notch above Cadillac."

We wish them the best of luck. And we encourage them to ring up Enterprise and reserve a Sebring. They need to understand what they're saying here.

Motor Trend reports, "Together, the three Chrysler Group brands are trying to carve out unique identities...as each tries to reinvent itself as a competitive automaker." Dodge, apparently, will aim for a sporty image, though not necessarily the all-American muscle car image it sought in recent years, with retro-ponycar designs and car names taken from the world of firearms. Dodge "intends to move away from the muscle car image, bringing new vehicles into the fold that are more well-rounded, focusing on overall driving dynamics rather than all-out power," according to Motor Trend. Jeep will see little change, as its off-road image and iconic Wrangler styling already give it a unique place in the market. Jeep CEO Michael Manley insists, "You won't see Fiat DNA in our products."

But Chrysler will aim for high-end luxury. It's a high bar for the marque to jump. Autoblog notes, "parent Daimler had similar aspirations for the Chrysler brand, with vehicles like the 300 and Pacifica leading the way. While the 300 had some success and commanded a reasonably high MSRP, the Pacifica was a comparative failure. Then Chrysler followed up with the Sebring, which put to bed any hopes and prayers for an upscale Chrysler brand." Daimler gave up the project, selling its stake in Chrysler at a loss...and within a few years, Chrysler was bankrupt. Though the 300 still looks the part, Autoblog notes, Chrysler "currently has nothing that can reasonably be said to compete with Cadillac."

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