GENEVA – Displays and presentations by Fiat Automobiles SpA and Chrysler Group LLC at the auto show here emphasize how the two auto makers are inching forward toward the form they will take in the future, following the broad strokes outlined last November by CEO Sergio Marchionne.
The Lancia and Chrysler brands held a joint press conference, with the two stands side by side.
Jeep, Fiat and Alfa Romeo all had substantial stands of their own, and off to the side, a 431-hp Dodge Challenger SRT and a matte black 425-hp Dodge Charger SRT had handfuls of enthusiasts hanging around.
During the days of DaimlerChrysler AG, Dodge planned a major presence in Europe, but now Fiat-Chrysler is planning to make Dodge cars a niche brand for hard-core, politically incorrect enthusiasts.
Having the two hot cars at Geneva is a test of acceptance and interest, says Guillaume Drelon, a Chrysler France spokesman.
Such cars already are imported into the Middle East, and if there is a way to bring them to Europe profitably, Chrysler would prefer to control the distribution rather than leave it to the gray market.
Some Dodge vehicles will become Fiats, such as the Journey people mover that will replace the Ulysse minivan. Fiat and PSA Peugeot Citroen have abandoned their cooperation to make large minivans together in a French factory.
Marchionne already has announced the Chrysler and Lancia ranges will be the same around the world, like that of Opel-Vauxhall.
In April, Marchionne is expected to detail what brand will be used where.
The Chrysler marque is far bigger internationally than the Lancia brand. Although Lancia is well-known in Europe, it sells in big numbers only in Italy. The question being pondered is whether Chrysler should be used in every market but Europe, or everywhere but Italy.