May proved to be another blockbuster month for Fiat Chrysler (FIATY.PK) — its 50th consecutive monthly increase in sales — as the reliable stalwarts that are Ram and Jeep continued to make solid headway and propel the company to a 17 percent gain for the month over May 2013.
Fiat Chrysler moved 194,421 vehicles last month: Jeep saw a brand gain of 58 percent and Ram Trucks tacked on a 17 percent increase for the period. “Our Jeep sport-utility vehicles and Ram pickups continued to do well in May as our dealers reported brisk May sales over five weekends and the Memorial Day holiday,” said Reid Bigland, Chrysler Group’s U.S. sales chief, in the company’s statement.
The firm trounced analyst expectations that called for gains of 14 percent, and the growth is more impressive given the strong year that 2013 was for the industry as a whole. Jeep has been on a particularly good run, thanks largely to its new Cherokee crossover SUV, as well as the newly redesigned higher-end Grand Cherokee, which led to Chrysler’s best May sales since 2007.
Even the stragglers, vehicles that have consistently weighed down Chrysler’s results, helped contribute to the sales upswing. Fiat brand sales — consisting of the 500 and 500L — leapt 18 percent, while the Dodge Dart (renowned so far for its inability to move in great volume), saw its best monthly sales figures ever, up 16 percent.
For its part, Ram light-duty trucks — the 1500, for example — saw a 14 percent gain. That’s healthy by all accounts, but it was the 34 percent surge in Heavy Duty trucks that really helped propel sales; the Ram ProMaster van and Ram Cargo Van were also up 19 percent.
The Dodge Journey, which alongside the Dart hasn’t been a quick seller, was able to put in a 33 percent gain during the month. The Dodge Challenger, which received a light makeover for 2015, was even able to contribute a 4 percent lift in sales over May of last year.
The success bodes well for CEO Sergio Marchionne’s big turnaround plan for the automaker, which consists of a fair amount of folding models while introducing new ones not just in the Chrysler family but for Ferrari, Fiat, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo, as well. Some have expressed concerns over the company’s ability to deliver on its ambitious promises, but the momentum shown by Jeep and Ram indicate promising things for Fiat Chrysler’s goal of moving nearly 7 million units globally per year by 2018.
The new Chrysler 200, which is a pioneer vehicle of the new look for the Chrysler line, reportedly logged 10,000 unit orders on the first day and 17,000 in the first two. Overall, Chrysler brand sales fell 22 percent during the month, “reflecting the end of production of the 2014 Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan and convertible,” the company said.
We covered what the ramifications for each Fiat Chrysler brand would be under the shakeup in a list published last month, when the blueprint was announced. Here are a couple of them:
“The Chrysler brand is not luxury — it’s not premium. Chrysler is the mainstream American brand,” brand CEO Al Gardner said during the presentation. And to help it become the mainstream brand the company wants it to be, there are some big changes on the horizon. There’s going to be a new Town & Country minivan, but get this: it’s going to be a plug-in hybrid. That means that for suburban families that don’t travel more than 20-30 miles per day, there’s a good chance the car’s electric range will cover that before using gas. Combined, Chrysler is aiming for 75 miles per gallon. Odyssey, this is your heads-up.
Gardner is aiming for 800,000 unit sales by 2018, which marks an increase of 350,000 units compared to its 2013 sales results, Autoblog reports. To help define its image later on, a new 100 compact sedan will be introduced in 2016. That’ll go up against the Focus, Corolla, and Civic.
Additionally, the brand is planning a small crossover (that also gets a PHEV option, Jalopnik points out) that will arrive in 2017, and the 300 sedan will get a full makeover that will be introduced at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. The crossover will be a crucial vehicle for the brand, as the growth of the segment has been shouldering a lot of the growth of the industry overall.
Perhaps the most dramatic changes at Fiat Chrysler are occurring here. SRT, currently the performance brand that was spun off from a performance sub-brand, will be folded entirely. This means that the SRT Viper is, once again, the Dodge Viper. The Avenger, which hasn’t exactly enjoyed great popularity, is dead. The Grand Caravan is dead, in order to minimize inter-brand competition with the Chrysler Town & Country, but that will help Dodge become the performance line of the group, having absorbed SRT.
The Challenger and Charger will continue as is until 2018, when each receives a full redesign. A new B-segment vehicle will join the range the same year; the Journey, a bit of a laggard in its class at the moment, will be getting the SRT treatment, as well as a full makeover in 2017. A Dart SRT, with all-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine, will be arriving in 2016 to pursue the WRX- and GTI-loving hot compact enthusiasts.
It’s easy to forget that Ferrari is actually under Fiat Chrysler’s brand umbrella, since the company largely still has a fair amount of autonomy. Breathe easy: No significant changes will grace the prancing-horse brand, and Ferrari enthusiasts will be pleased by Tuesday’s announcements.
Between now and 2018, Ferrari will be launching a new model each year. But this doesn’t mean it’s going for a mainstream bid — production for the brand will be capped at about 7,000 units on an annual basis. Importantly, Marchionne made it a point to indicate that Ferrari was not for sale.
Each model will have a four-year lifespan and will have a modified version with a four-year lifespan after the original run.
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