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Chrysler's Fiat Plans Will Have To Beat History To Work

Posted by: David Kiley on March 30, 2009


In the evolving alliance plans between Chrysler and Fiat, the strategy calls for Chrysler to take existing small cars, car platforms and engines from Fiat to produce Dodge and Chrysler vehicles, and Fiat to utilize Chrysler’s excess manufacturing capacity and dealer network to sell Fiats and Alfa Romeos.

Got that?

Here are some thoughts. First, how many vehicles largely developed by one companay and sold by another have succeeded? Here is a partial Rogues Gallery of vehicles developed under this notion:

Pontiac Vibe, which is really a Toyota Matrix. Both cars are built off the Toyota Corolla.
1980s Chevy Nova and 90’s Geo Prizm, which was really a Toyota Corolla.
Mitsubishi Raider pickup, which is really a Dodge Dakota.
Saab 9-7, which is really a Chevy Trailblazer.
Suzuki Equator, which is really a Nissan Frontier.
Geo Metro, which was really a Suzuki Swift
Eagle Talon (pictured above), which was really a Mitsubishi Eclipse.
Dodge Raider, which was really a Mitsubishi Montero.
The Chrysler Cossfire was a Mercedes-Benz SLK under the skin.
Geo Tracker was really a Suzuki Sidekick.
Ford Festiva was really a Kia Pride.
Ford Aspire was really a Kia Avella.
Geo Storm and Geo Spectrum was really an Isuzu Impulse.

Shall I go on? None of these cars was worth a bucket of warm spit in the annals of the auto industry, or made any impression on their buyers?…that I am aware of.

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Reader Comments

Paul (Vw)

March 30, 2009 10:40 PM

Pointless comment...

I miss the Chevy Luv truck. Yes, it was an Isuzu...but it was fun to drive.


March 31, 2009 3:13 PM

you have a point, but people in the States could purchase either flavors.

There will be no brand overlapping between Fiat and Chrysler.


March 31, 2009 4:17 PM

Audi A3.. which is really a VW Golf
Porsche Cayenne which is really a VW Touareg...
Chrysler 300C which is a MB E-Class

If done right, is not that bad of an idea...


March 31, 2009 4:32 PM

Huh, How many Lexus models were build off Toyota platforms?

Are you saying that without a"knock-off" being built the original would have been sucessfull?

Are you reporting from New York as you sit on the subway train??

From Kiley: I would say there is a big difference between Toyota spinning a Lexus off a Toyota designed and engineered platform that was designed to be used for multiple vehicles produced by the same company....and one company trying to rebadge the cars of another. All the examples I mentioned in my post have been flops at worst, or barely consequential at best.


March 31, 2009 10:40 PM

I seem to recall the early 90's Eagle Talon/Mitsubisi Eclipse being hugely popular. The fact that Mitsubisi failed to refine the original design in later models and chose instead to make it larger and heavier killed the image of the design. It was an excellent design for its time.
Many of the others, however, I totally agree. My favorite was the Geo Prism - a co-worker of mine had one with major engine problems. She swore she would never buy another American car again... That was when I informed it was a rebadged Toyota! It still amazes me how clueless much of the American car-buying public really is. The American car manufacturers biggest problem is this perception that a vehicles country of manufacturer has something to do with build quality.


April 1, 2009 8:04 AM

Maybe a key difference is that Fiat's aren't sold in the US. Nearly every car you list has the "sister" car sold in this market.


April 1, 2009 8:57 AM

I own a small 4wd fiat panda. It comsumes as low as a toyota hybrid. It costs a third or less. Doesn't need tons of lead for the batteries... I'm not sure they'll be in time for a deal, but nothing is as far from US cars (which I like but wouldn't buy for they're antieconomic) than Fiat, and that could be the real bet...
btw: in the 80's chrysler owned for a while Maserati and did a mess (very poor quality cars). Today Fiat means Ferrari, Maserati ...and quality is 100% there.


April 1, 2009 10:44 AM

The Festiva AND the Kia pride were both Mazda 121's. The aspire AND the Avella were both 121's as well. The spectrum was an Isuzu Imark. This has been going on for decades. And yes some of them were great. the average lifespan of a festiva is 300,000 miles. I personally know of 5 with OVER 500,000 miles.


April 1, 2009 2:43 PM

bigger problem... why would you buy a Chrysler if you can get a Fiat or Alpha Romeo instead? They make comparable cars, and considering the fact that Chrysler is collapsing, you would get a better dealership incentive.

check out for more about how this is a BAD IDEA


April 1, 2009 6:47 PM

Its ALFA ROMEO. I would imagine that the models produced by Chrysler would be very different than Fiat and Alfa badged cars. Also fact, there is nothing that Chrysler currently makes is comparable to any Fiat or any Alfa and vice versa


April 2, 2009 7:28 AM

There is no overlap whatsoever between Fiat's small, economical family models and the Chrysler group's big SUVs, pickups and minivans, whose sales have been hammered. Sales of Fiat cars would be incremental and would not cannibalize those of whichever domestic models Chrysler chooses to keep in production. Be smart buy Fiat ;-)


April 2, 2009 8:39 AM

I don't like ford. From the beginning i just like Limousine car and truck. If you just have a look or get a chance to sit in. You will get crazy to buy one.


April 2, 2009 8:52 AM

Perhaps you should add the Mini to the list. It uses a UK platform, a Peugeot engine and, despite being incredibly expensive for what it is, is a smashing success.....


April 2, 2009 2:04 PM

The great (IMHO) deal

I think the Chrysler-Fiat deal could work because they complete each other in every way and Fiat has good financial conditions (few debts and nearly 2,3$ billions of revenue in 2008)
Commercially, Chrysler needs a stronger presence in Europe, South America and Far East and Fiat, with its huge dealers network, can help it (note that Fiat is no.4 in Europe, no.1 in South America, especially in Brasil, is linked with TATA the biggest Indian Motor Company and is negotiating with Chery - Chinese Motor Company - for a partnership). On the other hand Chrysler can give the same chance to Fiat, that is re-entering the US market after a very long time.
The goal for both is geographic diversification which can increase their business and give the opportunity of becoming two real global players. Industrially, Fiat, as the other European car-makers, has a lot of experience in making unguzzler, not-only-small and clean engines for two reasons:

first, gasoline and diesel are very expensive in Europe (1 liter=1.35 euros. 1 liter=nearly a quarter of a gallon, 1 euro=nearly 1.36 $);
second the European standards on CO2 emissions are stricter than US ones.

Certainly, you're right!!!! Fiat has made it very clear that it will not be assuming Chrysler debt (and that sounds like a bad kid !!!!), but also all the technology which Fiat is ready to give to Chrysler has a value, a commercial and industrial value that can help in reinforcing its assets - which can decrease creditors' risk - and in obtaining the necessary debts restructuring and labor concessions. Then Fiat is ready to invest nearly 6,5 $ billion in the next 3 years on restructuring at least 3 Chrysler plants to realize new, clean and flexy-fuel models from the beginning of 2011, based on the completely new platforms - not the present ones, except new 500 and Alfa Mi.To. - developed by Fiat. Most of those platforms are just ready to be used by Chrysler after plants restructuring (small cars, hatches and sedans: new Alfa Milano, new Alfa Giulia, new Brera Coupè/Spider, new Fiat Linea, 500, Punto, Bravo, Panda and Croma and the new Alfa big sedan developed on Maserati Quattroporte GTS platform which will be on the streets in the beginning of 2012).
The goal is economies of scale in the entire global market: same platforms different models.......that is the dogma !!!!!

Last but not least, the vey first models/platforms are going to arrive in US with Fiat/Alfa or/and Chrysler/Dodge badge in the beginning of 2011:

The complete Fiat 500 line-up (probably Abarth 500 too)

The complete Fiat Linea line-up

Alfa Romeo Mi.To.(probably together with the incredible GTA: 1.750 liter 4 cylinders turbocharged 240 hp and nearly 340 nm of torque and only nearly 32 mpg)

Maybe new Lancia Delta

Thats all folks, bye

*** for those who are sceptical about the quality of Fiat Powertrain Technology (the Fiat Group company which developes engines for all the brands except Maserati and Ferrari), its chief-engineer is an Italian guy named Paolo Martinelli who is the former Ferrari Formula 1 chief-engineer (with him Ferrari has won 13 F1 World Championship Title: the Shumacher era, of course!!!!). Then Fiat has been the first to use the most important technologies in European car industry: direct injection and common-rail technologies in gasoline and diesel engines simply because Fiat invented them.... not VW not BMW not Mercedes. More powerful, more fuel efficient and cleaner engines under the same or even smaller displacement.


April 2, 2009 2:15 PM

not sure that the FIAT deal does any thing. no new vehicles till 2011 or later? what are they suppose to do till then? no new cash or source there of. the only way this works if the tax payers keep giving them money. so this doesn't help them at all for several years. and by then the market could have changed again


April 2, 2009 6:57 PM


April 3, 2009 3:06 PM

I could be really pedantic and point out that the Kia Pride was actually a made-under-license then-defunct Mazda 121, but then I'd be...pedantic.

My question is, how quickly could Fiat even create vehicles for Chrysler to use? They don't even have an actual automatic--a must for this market--in their current line-up. Add in crash and emissions standards, and we're talking at least two, three years before we see any significant influx of Fiat models into the Chrysler portfolio.

Ken Wiese

April 3, 2009 3:09 PM

Does anyone remeber "Franco-American Motors"? This was American Motors attempt at this very thing when they were in trouble in the early 80's, and alined with Renault. It brought us the AMC Alliance - a good idea, but a junk car. All the arrangement did was devalue AMC to the point where Chrysler could afford to scoop it up. I expect the same thing will happen to Chrysler.


April 8, 2009 6:28 AM

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



April 15, 2009 5:55 PM

The 2 door Raider/Montero was an exceptional offroad vehicle and still has a big cult/online following; its owners report they can traverse terrain Jeeps can't handle. Just watch the speed at which ones that come on the market are snapped up confirms this.

It also won numerous Paris-Dakar rallies, and while I realize those vehicles are heavily customized, it does attest to the strength of the basic design.

If Chrysler hadn't bought Jeep around this time, they'd have sold many more Raiders.


May 24, 2009 2:23 AM

I drive a '96 Geo Prizm with 250,000 miles on it and I get 36 mpg. That's worth way more than a bucket of warm spit to me - a buyer who is still VERY impressed!


June 10, 2009 11:40 AM

Club DSM, a club for the eagle talon/Mitsubishi eclipse is more than likely one of the largest car clubs in the world. There are thousands of chapeters world wide. What other car do you know of in it's price range that for minimal investment can smoke almost anything including 911's and Ferrari? An August in Ohio would change your mind or any execs mind that accually was interested in sales and not sinking a company to make a bonus. It was a sad day when Diamond star motors dies and the exclipse is only a shadow today of what It used to be when chrysler had a hand in it.

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