Long-term plans for Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Maserati hinge on tech-heavy future

June 1, 2018

Nearly 15 years after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne took the reins of the global automaker, the only consistent force within the company has been change.

On Friday, Marchionne and other FCA executives outlined a broad plan to focus heavily on worldwide sales of Jeep, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati, while letting other brands such as Fiat and Chrysler somewhat wither.

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The presentation was aimed toward investors in a bid to bring more money into the stretched automaker's coffers. The plan is focused heavily on utility sales to bolster the company's position.

It's a tone that FCA has used before, notably in 2009 and 2014 when the automaker outlined similar plans, but Marchionne's announced departure set a new timbre for urgency.

In addition to individual brands, FCA announced a gradual phase-out of diesel powertrains in everyday vehicles (but not commercial vehicles), and a phase-in of electrified powertrains and self-driving hardware.

Jeep 2022 roadmap

Jeep 2022 roadmap

Jeep

As in 2014, the new plan acknowledges the sales boom of crossover and utility vehicles, and how it has bolstered Jeep's position in FCA's future to the fore. Four new models are planned for Jeep in the 2018 five-year plan including a subcompact crossover smaller than the current Renegade, a three-row crossover, a Jeep pickup, and a new Grand Wagoneer.

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Jeep's product plan was most heavily impacted in the 2014 plan by the slow rollout of Alfa Romeo, most notably the arrival of a new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which FCA said would arrive in 2017. That didn't happen, but considering the responsibility Jeep carries now to keep FCA afloat, a new SUV and more would be critical. Jeep didn't say when a new Jeep Grand Cherokee would arrive, perhaps 2022, but it's likely to figure heavily into the future product plan.

Whomever is tasked with leading FCA after Marchionne's departure will corral a long list of promises for Jeep's worldwide portfolio. The Jeep Grand Commander three-row SUV is slated for China, and perhaps beyond, but it'll nearly compete with a long-wheelbase Jeep Grand Cherokee planned for the future, a bigger Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer derived most likely from Ram's 1500 pickup, and a Cherokee-sized three-row SUV.

Flash back to 2014 when Jeep outlined a plan to replace the aged Compass and Patriot in 2016 with overlapping crossovers. That didn't happen, a new Compass came a year later, and somewhat split compact crossover duties with the Cherokee.

Whether the flotilla of utility vehicles promised Friday reaches showrooms is unclear, but FCA's first application of consumer-ready self-driving systems in a Jeep Grand Cherokee speaks volumes about the brand's role for the future.

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