Fiat + Chrysler will equal the 6th largest automobile manufacturer in the world. [fflash=left]http://www.youtube.com/v/2RyPamyWotM&hl=en_US&fs=1[/fflash]Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Feb. 11, 2010 Dodge – Man’s Last Stand At Chicago’s famous McCormick Place, home to the 2010 Chicago Auto Show, the Economic Club of Chicago initiated a gathering of influential leaders from across Chicago’s broad business landscape. Hosted by the Auto Alliance, the Economic Club of Chicago was the scheduled venue for Chrysler Group’s Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne to give an update and overview of Chrysler’s current and future expectations. Unfortunately, Sergio was unable to attend as he was called upon to attend and announce the $3.3 Billion USD investment in an auto manufacturing plant to produce cars and trucks in Russia. In his place, Chrysler called on the current President and CEO of the Dodge Car Brand, and Senior Vice President, Product Design, Ralph Gilles to give the “State of Chrysler” as it stands today and an optimistically laid out plan for the future. A self-admitted “Car-Guy”, Ralph espoused his love for automobile design including model car building from his pre-teen years all the way to his present position in which he continues to oversee future designs we will see on the road through 2014. Tracking Chrysler’s sales on a monthly basis over the years, we all know how desperate the situation is. Chrysler/Daimler/Cerberus mating and dissolution, Bankruptcy, $Billions in government bailout funds, product devoid of innovation, continuing sales declines even into the 2010 model year and a balance sheet filled with what can be best described as written in red ink. Regarding the Chrysler/Daimler/Cerberus combination, “I would need a couch and a psychiatrist to speak about it,” said Ralph. “Brands and companies do not die, they are victims of Homicide.” A poignant and to the point statement when speaking about Chrysler’s recent past would be an understatement. “I can look you in the eye and tell you I never felt better about Chrysler” With that statement, Ralph showed a renewed slide show filled with his personal passions, brand optimism and excitement for future Chrysler products to come. This included the standard ra ra pronouncements we have become accustomed to from Chrysler as of late but also included something entirely new and might I add, refreshing. That being the personality behind Chrysler’s present leadership. Speaking in layman’s terms minus the car jargon, Ralph laid out Chrysler’s current status as being the low point. Beginning this year, Chrysler expects to climb back to its former glory with automobile sales in 2014 matching those from the beginning of the decade. A very tall and optimistic forecast given the way Chrysler sales have moved lower to begin the second decade of the 21st century. 2014, Chrysler expectations $8 Billion in cash on hand. Government loans paid in full. Sales of 2.8 million vehicles A very tall order given the present fundamentals and lack of new product. To get there, Chrysler will introduce the Fiat 500 into the US marketplace later this fall. The Micro may have a niche group of enthusiasts but having seen it in person, American consumers will more than likely avoid this famous “world” vehicle the same way they are rejecting the current Smart Fortwo. Both cars are not that much different in size. Regarding product mix, 2009 saw a 57% Car/43% truck mix. By 2014, Chrysler expects upwards of 68% of their product line to consist of cars with just 32% comprising trucks. [fimg=left]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/501/2010_Alfa_Romeo_Giulietta.jpg[/fimg]2010 Alfa Romero Giulietta A vehicle platform that may help Chrysler “get there” is the Guillietta. A C/D size vehicle, the platform will be the basis for Chrysler to compete with the Accord, Camry, Fusion and Malibu. Although there was no names were mentioned regarding the future small car platforms, Ralph had a number of slides of concepts that looked no more than conceptual drawings at this point in time. Really nice looking sketches of A&B class size vehicles but in a very alpha stage of development. Leadership It will take much more than fancy slides and promises to meet the rosy expectations and there is only one way to get there. That being a strong leader with a focused vision. “Now working for my 8th CEO, Sergio Marchionne is by far the most impressive CEO I have ever worked for,” added Ralph Gilles. “I would recognize Sergio as a conductor”. During the Q&A period, a single question was asked that condensed “Sergio’s contributions” into a single statment. Q: If you had to describe Sergio in one simple phrase, what would it be? A: “Absolute attention to detail.” Another individual, Doug D. Betts, was recently appointed Chrysler’s Senior Vice President of Quality in June 2009. Regarding his qualifications, he cut his industry teeth while working in and amongst QC programs working for Toyota. As Ralph mentioned, “Doug makes it almost impossible to build a bad car”. Chrysler’s leaders including both Sergio Marchionne and Ralph Gilles are promising 25% increase in fuel economy across the lineup by 2014. Given the present regulatory environment and future CAFÉ requirements, this would be a minimum Chrysler would “have to meet in order to continue as a viable auto manufacturer within the US. Chrysler is also promising the introduction of a broad range of future product with advanced technology in order to pull off that 2.8-million vehicle per annum 2014 target. My take… There is still a lot of boastful promises and limping along with 10 + year old product today does not make a healthy and growing concern tomorrow. Dodge – The Soul of Chrysler Future Dodge product including the Charger. While the Chrysler, Jeep and RAM brands make up a large part of the new company’s core, it is Dodge that “Builds Excitement”. As we have asked the question for well over a year, why is the Dodge Viper continuing to be built let alone promoted? When you see less than 30-vehicles sold in any given month, it is a money loser… The reason? Since its inception, it has brazenly been featured on over 150 automobile magazine covers. This is Chryslers only really “Hot Product” even if it sells in numbers that a small manufacturer of travel trailers could produce with gasoline costing $4.00 per gallon. It is a rolling commercial and will continue to be one of Dodge’s key vehicles for brand recognition well into the future. That future includes an all-new Viper of all things as well. [fflash=right]http://www.youtube.com/v/F2pgSuhzOCo&hl=en_US&fs=1[/fflash]Dodge Charger - We Make Getaway Cars And Dodge itself? It is Chrysler’s brand with “Soul and Attitude” “Dodge can get into your soul and make you feel good,” added Ralph. Future While there was an all-electric version of the Fiat 500 on the show floor, Chrysler was rehashing some old photos from the on and then off ENVI designs including the EcoVoyager and ZEO we have covered in the past. This section was more about fluff then substance but maybe that was the point? “Fully electric vehicles are not quite ready for Society but we will be ready when it is”, Ralph added. We wish them the best of luck but only with the promise of the fuel efficient small cars to become part of the US’ solution, not continue to be part of the US’s problem. That being our addiction to oil and all the deaths and mayhem contributed to it.