Chrysler Future Heavily Tied With Italian Brand Lancia

July 26, 2010

Chrysler’s lineup, both in North America and Europe, is in for a major shakeup over the next couple of years now that the expanding Fiat Group and its demanding CEO, Sergio Marchionne, are pulling all the strings. We’ve already seen hints of some of the plans with the unveiling of the Chrysler-badged Lancia Delta hatchback at this year’s 2010 Detroit Auto Show, and Marchionne pretty much gave it all away when he announced that the Chrysler and Lancia divisions were to be merged--in fact, the Chrysler brand has already been axed in some parts of Europe, replaced instead by Lancia.

The plan is to convert Chrysler into a near-luxury brand, similar to what GM has done with Buick and what Ford hoped Mercury could have been. The two brands already share a CEO in the form of Olivier Francois, and in the near future they will also share platforms and models.

The new Chrysler-Lancia lineup is currently being styled collaboratively in Detroit and Turin, Italy, where Fiat is headquartered.

It will include a new subcompact car to be derived from a current Fiat platform and due for sale in 2013. This model will compete with the likes of the 2011 Ford Fiesta and upcoming 2012 Chevrolet Aveo.

Due in 2011 will be a new compact car, also based on a current Fiat platform and available in both hatchback and sedan bodystyles.

Later this year will be the introduction of a heavily facelifted Sebring, which will still be available in sedan and convertible bodystyles but will sport a brand new dual clutch transmission borrowed from Fiat. This will be matched to Chrysler’s new Pentastar V-6 engine. The revised Sebring’s lifespan will be short, however, as a replacement is due in 2013.

The next-generation Chrysler 300 arrives early next year complete with a fresh new look, eight-speed automatic transmission and an optional 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine reserved for a high-performance SRT8 model. Expect a new level of luxury and quality not seen before in a Chrysler vehicle.

Also in the works is a new mid-sized crossover that should arrive in local showrooms around 2013. Few details are known about this model but there’s a chance that it will share its underpinnings with the new Dodge Durango that’s set to go on sale early next year.

Finally, the Town & Country minivan will undergo a major overhaul later this year, picking up the new Pentastar V-6 engine as well as a revised interior. A replacement for this model isn’t due until 2014 at the earliest.

[Automotive News, sub req’d]

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