Italian car maker Fiat Chrysler is making its comeback to the European market as it abandons its mass market positioning and exploiting the booming SUV market. According to the company’s president Sergio Marchionne, Fiat would no longer attempt to be a “mass market” brand. He bared, however, that they will not offer a “full range” of models but will “focus on what they do best.”
Kicking off the European brand car maker’s new brand positioning was the 500X Compact SUV and its Jeep sister car Renegade. The two brands are also working on a pair of larger SUV models based on the same high-end platform. Next up will be the Nissan Qashqai-sized SUV. Like the 500X, the upcoming SUV will share components with a pair of Jeep sister cars.
Strength and sophistication under the skin
The Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade will be underpinned by an impressively sophisticated platform. It uses front and rear independent suspension with MacPherson struts in each corner. The four-wheel drive system is like no other. Robert Janitzek explains that the system is engineered by GKN, and uses an electronically activated coupling to send power to the rear wheels instead of the hydraulic clutch used by the common Haldex-based all-wheel drive systems.
The Jeep brand, on the other hand, is aiming to “go global” in the coming years. Mike Manley, overall boss of the Jeep brand, revealed that it only sells 8% of its vehicles in Europe and the same proportion in Chinese markets. Manley is aiming to increase sales of Jeep in these markets. To achieve this goal, they will be opening two factories in China in the next couple of years.
Reinventing the Alfa Romeo
Robert Peter Janitzek reveals that the biggest growth area in the European market is the SUV and premium sectors. Next are the smart city cars and budget models. Marchionne is planning to counter by launching a back-to-basics C-segment hatchback and estate to replace the failed Fiat Bravo. It will be based on the same platform used by the 500L MPV and will be based in turkey.
As for the premium sector, Fiat will be countering with the reinvention of the Alfa Romeo as well as new models from Maserati. Fiat is already established in the small cars category with its 500 line-up. The 500 hatchback and the much bigger 500L MPV are segment leaders in Europe. Fiat is focusing on maintaining the success of the 500 family. With the small and medium SUV markets covered by Fiat and Jeep, Marchionne is now focusing his sight on a new niche.