Early next month, Chrysler will formally unveil its future product strategy to the media at an all-day event staged at the automaker's Auburn Hills headquarters. However, The Wall Street Journal has apparently gotten early word from inside sources on what to expect -- and the changes Chrysler is set to implement (under the guidance of post-bankruptcy stakeholder, Italian automaker Fiat) are sweeping in nature. Several models will be phased out as Chrysler takes the steps necessary to reinvent itself, and a couple of brands we haven't seen in the U.S. for years will make a return.
From the Italian side, look for the premium Alfa Romeo brand to return to the United States beginning in 2012. The jaunty Alfa MiTo hatchback will reportedly be joined by the Milano and a to-be-determined sedan, all of which will be built in North America, according to the Journal. Importing Alfas to the U.S. is simply too expensive a proposition to be considered feasible. In addition to the Alfa Romeos, the Fiat 500, the popular, retro-styled European runabout (pictured) will be produced in Mexico and sold here through Chrysler dealers.
As for the U.S. brands and nameplates, there will be changes aplenty over the next several years. The Dodge Charger and Challenger will reportedly live on, but the Caliber hatchback, Avenger sedan, and Nitro SUV will all be retired. Few will lament their departure. Even the Dodge Grand Caravan will be phased out eventually, allowing Chrysler to focus exclusively on the Town & Country. The critically lambasted Chrysler Sebring will be replaced by a Fiat-based midsized sedan, and the Chrysler PT Cruiser will retire as well. A new version of the Chrysler 300 full-size sedan is on its way. Dodge trucks are being spun off into a separate Ram brand.
Over at Jeep, the 2011 Grand Cherokee has already been unveiled, but the compact Patriot and Compass models will apparently be shown the door. A new small Jeep derived from Fiat mechanicals will eventually join the roster. The iconic Wrangler isn't mentioned in the WSJ piece, but there little reason to expect anything but continued strong support for popular off-roading staple.
The biggest challenge of all will be for Chrysler to simply live through the multi-year transition. Fiat is sharing technology with the Detroit automaker, but isn't infusing it with cash. That means that Chrysler's current lineup, plus the couple of new vehicles it already had in the pipeline, has to shoulder the load until the desperately-needed new vehicles are in place.
We'll follow up on this next week with a list of what's coming and going after Chrysler makes the announcements official. Stay tuned.