It's official--Chrysler has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Now the long task of sorting out the good from the bad at the storied automaker, with the added task of joining hand in hand with Italy's Fiat Group to build a new Chrysler with a new range of small cars.
You might have questions about shopping for a new Chrysler today, and those are easy to answer. Yes, you're safe to buy--the government says it's going to back your warranty. Yes, Chrysler will be here in its current form for a while; Chapter 11 doesn't mean it will be going away overnight, though your local dealer may be having trouble sleeping at night as the company figures out which showrooms must close. The time is right to bargain hard for a new Chrysler, Dodge, or Jeep, with every expectation you'll get service and parts when needed.
But what does the future hold? By early 2011, the vehicle lineup at Chrysler will be dramatically different. If all goes as planned, the hallmark moneymakers at Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep will be joined by new small cars engineered by Fiat and built in the U.S. or abroad. Among them: sporty hatchbacks, cute city cars and maybe a convertible or two. A few models on the bubble may survive, too, though their future's a little more hazy.
The 2012 Chrysler lineup will be very familiar in some ways, and completely new in others. TheCarConnection predicts Chrysler's future lineup will look like this:
Jeep Grand Cherokee: The new version shown above just broke cover at the New York auto show. It's a new crossover body spun from Mercedes' M-Class, Chrysler says. The handsome shape is backed by a new V-6 engine and a very high-quality interior that surprised auto show attendees. It's a core product for Jeep and for Chrysler.
2009 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited X
Jeep Wrangler: Another essential for the Jeep lineup, the Wrangler's made the historic transition from military use to personality piece better than, say, the HUMMER H2. It's available in different body styles, and it's an anchor for the brand in the same way the Mustang is a Ford hallmark.
2009 Chrysler 200C Concept
Chrysler 200C: This new Chrysler sedan emerged earlier this year at the Detroit auto show, with even skeptics agreeing on its shape while they wondered if Chrysler could build it. With Fiat's help, this vehicle could well take form as a replacement for today's forgettable Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring twins.
2011 Chrysler 300
Chrysler 300: The big rear-drive sedans from Chrysler have buffed its image and its flair for retro-modern styling. The 2011 Chrysler 300C has been shown in the company's official filings for government loans, so we suspect it's going to carry the Chrysler brand forward as planned, as the company's flagship model.
2009 Dodge Ram
Dodge Ram: Big trucks may become a thing of the past in a 35-mpg world, but the Dodge Ram is a moneymaker, a crowd pleaser and a critical success. The latest version has one of the best truck interiors, one of the best towing setups, and it's guaranteed to stay in the lineup until the Feds pry it from Chrysler's cold, dead hands, to borrow a phrase.
2009 Dodge Grand Caravan
Dodge Grand Caravan: Chrysler's minivans are still the best sellers in their class--and though it's likely the Chrysler Town & Country may survive as well, the Grand Caravan is the focus for the new Chrysler. Expect updated versions with new drivetrains and a much better interior as soon as Chrysler can afford them.
2008 Fiat 500
Fiat 500 and 500C: Fiat's charming city cars have been a constant presence in Chrysler's latest media push. It's a sure bet to see the 500 and 500C very soon, as the company seeks to steal shoppers from the MINI Cooper. Added bonus: the fuel-miser 500 is sure to help out Chrysler's push for better fuel economy.
Fiat Grande Punto
Fiat Grande Punto: Dodge needs hatchbacks to fill out the void left behind by the Neon, and hopefully, the Caliber. The Grande Punto could be that vehicle--a sleek front-driver with a range of four-cylinder engines and even a sporty turbocharged version. It's also due for a full replacement as a 2010 model, as the latest Punto spy shots indicate. Chrysler has said it would design new bodies for some Fiats, and we think this is a prime candidate to get new sheetmetal and to take the Caliber's place at the small-car plate.
Fiat Panda: Jeep's Compass and Patriot may have seen their best days, but a small Jeep makes a lot of sense in a high-fuel-economy world. So, how about a Jeep version of the Fiat Panda? Fiat's CEO, Sergio Marchionne, may have let it slip when he referred to the Panda as a Jeep. In any sense, it makes perfect sense, especially given its 40-mpg capability.
Alfa Romeo MiTo GTA
Alfa Romeo MiTo: Dodge may or may not be getting that Lotus-based Circuit roadster promised last fall as its first electric vehicle. What to slip in its place--especially since the Viper appears doomed? An Alfa Romeo MiTo GTA is a good first step. A turbocharged four-cylinder with 240 horsepower sounds like a great compact coupe, even if it gets Dodge crosshairs instead of the evocative Alfa grille.
Alfa Romeo 149
Alfa Romeo 149: Chrysler needs fresh material, too. The Alfa Romeo 149 has been all but confirmed as a new vehicle for the new Chrysler--and it's completely new this fall, as a 2010 model to be unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show. A four-door version has been discussed with Chrysler dealers, though it's possible a hatchback could be sold in the U.S. too.
On The Bubble
2009 Dodge Charger SE
Dodge Charger: Does Chrysler need two rear-drive sedans? While the company's shown the Feds its 2011 Chrysler 300 sedan, no mention of the Charger has been made. Is it still there--0r is it like the Mercury Sable, out in the wilderness while the new Taurus shows up this summer?
2009 dodge challenger se rallye
Dodge Challenger: It might last a few more years as Chrysler makes the transition to a small-car company. Clearly, though, Chrysler's days as a musclecar maker are on the wane. Again. Didn't we do this in 1973?
2009 Jeep Liberty Sport
Jeep Liberty: The size and scope of Jeep remains a hot topic at Chrysler and Fiat, we can only assume. Is a Jeep lineup of Panda, Wrangler and Grand Cherokee enough? Probably. The Liberty might just join the Dodge Nitro on the scrapheap as a result.
Dodge crossover: Chrysler's killed off the Aspen SUV and the 2009 Dodge Journey doesn't seem destined for a long life. A bigger, seven-passenger version of the new Grand Cherokee under a Dodge badge is a 50-50 bet.