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Chrysler, Fiat, Dodge missing from FCA 5-year briefing

Larry Vellequette, Automotive News  /  May 31, 2018

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will not present a future plan for its eponymous Fiat and Chrysler brands, as well as Dodge and Lancia -- placing those storied but troubled mass-market brands' futures in question -- according to a schedule of presentations listed by FCA for the daylong event to lay out its 2018-22 business plan Friday in Balocco, Italy.

The unpublished schedule, available on a company website for part of Thursday before being taken down, indicates that the automaker will lay out future plans for Jeep, Ram, Maserati and Alfa Romeo, but no other brands, as it did at similar events in 2009 and 2014.

It's unclear whether the lack of presentations for the Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat brands on the schedule may be changed before the event, or what the fate of those brands will be. Lancia is not sold outside of Italy and has only one model. A spokesman for FCA US declined to comment.

The schedule also shows that CEO Sergio Marchionne and his team will also present a "Technology Update on Autonomous Driving and Connectivity." FCA and Waymo on Thursday announced a partnership that will see the Google affiliate purchase up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans beginning later this year, and discuss licensing Waymo's self-driving technology for an FCA retail vehicle.

Another presentation is titled "FCA and CO2 Reduction." The automaker has been locked in a dispute with regulators in both the United States and Europe over emissions issues with its diesel engines.

FCA's management team also will present the "Compliance Plan Impact on our Product Approach in Each Region." This presentation is likely to give information on the longevity of the Dodge and Chrysler brands in the United States, which are dominated by older vehicles, except for the Chrysler Pacifica.

A final presentation is titled "US Finco Opportunity." Bloomberg reported earlier this week that FCA is considering creating a captive finance arm in the United States, replacing its marketing relationship with Santander Consumer USA, which currently operates Chrysler Capital.

Finally, the schedule for the Balocco event indicates a presentation, likely to be led by CFO Richard Palmer, for the "Business Plan Financial Overview," followed by a Q&A session for investors and analysts in attendance, and closing remarks. The last three events will be broadcast live here.

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FCA to build Ram and Fiat-badged midsize pickups

Richard Truett, Automotive News  /  June 1, 2018

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' plan for the Ram brand to re-enter the midsize pickup market returns the company to the segment it invented in the mid-1980s.

At Friday's investor presentation in Italy, Ram brand head Mike Manley revealed plans for the new truck to debut in 2022. There will also be a Fiat-badged version of the truck, presumably to replace the current Mitsubishi-derived Fiat Fullback, which is not offered in the United States.

In 1987, Dodge debuted the Dakota, which was slightly larger than compact trucks from General Motors and Ford, as well as imported trucks from Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and Mitsubishi.

The Dakota inherited the Ram's big-rig styling in the mid-1990s and sold well, usually racking up sales in the 150,000 range most years in the U.S. After the third generation of the truck got old and sales began to stall, it was killed in 2011.

General Motors revived the midsize truck segment in 2015 with the second generation of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Since launch, GM has sold nearly 500,000 units of the Colorado/Canyon in the U.S. The midsize truck segment is up nearly 18 percent this year, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

The new midsize Ram will face stiff competition not only from the GM twins, but also from the reborn Ford Ranger, which will also be a midsize truck. It is due to arrive next year.

It's not clear if FCA's new truck will revive the Dakota nameplate, but it will likely put greater pressure on Nissan and Toyota to update the aging Frontier and Tacoma pickups.

Several of the original Dakota models, such as the convertible and the high-performance Shelby and R/T versions (both of which offered a V-8 engine and plenty of tire-shredding performance), have become prized collector's items.

FCA plans to build the new midsize truck at its Saltillo, Mexico, plant.

Dodge Truck (aka. RAM) presentation - http://www.autonews.com/assets/PDF/CA11575761.PDF

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2019 Ram launch slows to a trickle

Larry Vellequette, Automotive News  /  June 11, 2018

Delayed EPA approval for key versions of the redesigned Ram 1500 could spoil the brand's plan to flood the market with old and new pickups this year and possibly overtake the Chevrolet Silverado in sales.

Nearly five months after the start of production of the 2019 Ram 1500 — known as the DT — the only models EPA-certified for sale are two- and four-wheel-drive versions equipped with the standard 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.

DT model Ram 1500s began arriving at U.S. dealerships in the second half of March, but dealers haven't yet received the 3.6-liter V-6 version or the 5.7-liter V-8 with an optional 48-volt belt-start generator. The belt-start generator, a fuel-saving mild-hybrid device, is standard with the V-6.

"I have customers looking for them and asking about them every week," said one Ram dealer in Michigan.

It's unclear why 2019 Rams with belt-start generators are not available.

The delay also could result from the EPA being far more stringent with automakers in its testing in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. FCA and the EPA remain locked in litigation over the automaker's previous use of its 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine in the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee, which resulted in delayed certification for the 2017 and 2018 EcoDiesel Ram 1500s.

Still, after a high-profile launch at this year's Detroit auto show, the slow rollout of 2019 Ram 1500s appears to be suppressing the pickups' sales.

The lack of a V-6 this long after launch is a problem. In the old truck, the V-6 represented about 20 percent of sales.

Though Ram pickup sales were up 4.3 percent in May compared with 2017, it was the first monthly sales increase this year. Year to date, sales are down 8.4 percent. However, FCA US said retail sales of the Ram 1500 pickup were up 18 percent in May to 27,011.

Last year, Ram appeared to hatch a plan to knock the Silverado out of the No. 2 spot in the full-size pickup segment in 2018 by continuing to build the previous-version DS, backed by discounts — while ramping up production of the new Ram 1500.

But while Ram sales are off this year, Ford's F series, the top seller, is up 5.7 percent; Silverado sales are estimated to have increased 11 percent. This time a year ago, Ram and Silverado were running almost neck and neck.

Like Ford and General Motors, FCA reports sales of its half-ton light-duty pickups together with its heavy-duty three-quarter and one-ton pickups and normally does not differentiate model-level retail sales. Its monthly totals also do notbreak down sales by DS or DT versions.

With the DS Ram still in production, FCA has been able to wage an incentive war with GM and Ford, beginning last month after a fire at a magnesium supplier in Michigan interrupted Ford F-150 production for a short period. In Texas, for example, Ram was advertising $4,000 in bonus cash on top of $13,500 in savings on a 2018 Ram 1500 Lone Star Silver crew cab.

Through May, average incentives of $6,578 per vehicle are 11 percent higher than in the first five months of 2017, according to Motor Intelligence, citing Autodata Corp. data. But Motor Intelligence said that average factory incentives for Ram pickups in May had dropped to their lowest level since January.

Dealers say interest in the redesigned Ram 1500 remains strong, even if customers can't yet buy or order one equipped with the more fuel-efficient 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Indeed, according to suppliers, FCA's Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, where the redesigned Ram 1500 is built, is scheduled to operate six days per week through Sept. 4, including two scheduled Sunday operations in July and scheduled holiday shifts on Independence Day and Labor Day.

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