CARte Blanche

by Philip Djaferis

Roll-on 2016 with FCA

Since the unveiling of the new Giulietta little has stirred in the Alfa stable. Lots of noise for sure, with images and film of fast laps around the Nurburgring etc., presentations at Autoshows but beyond this nothing! Is everything going OK? Me thinks not…in my view the style of the new Giulia was not a step forward and it already looks old before it even has sold one unit. My hope for ‘to-die-for’ styling were dashed the moment I saw it. Coming only as a 4-door to fight the mighty M4 and the like is also a misstep. Sedans are definitely not the major market segment in Europe so even the tamer versions which we are promised but not seen yet will hardly be setting the world on fire.

FCA sales have been creeping upwards thanks to the new 500X which is beginning to get some sales traction and the Jeep Renegade which appears to be developing into a successful foray by Jeep into lower segments. The Fiat 500L is nowhere outside Italy and if we are to take Marchioness quote in respect of the entire Lancia range i.e. that it lacks appal outside of Italy he must be thinking hard about its future – major cosmetic surgery required I think. The interior is fine, but it desperately is needing a nose-job!

Lancia, which I just mentioned is barely on a starvation diet and the recent unfortunately result from the EuroNCAP test has not helped except to bring to the attention that the brand still exists in some for or other.  FCA can’t afford such failures when its already down…they still have a chance to revive Lancia if they could concoct a new Delta Integrale based on the DNA of the last Evo…just do it Mister Marchione!

The new Tipo is another flight of fancy seemingly at odds with what we were being preached about the core values of Fiat. On the one hand we have the 500 franchise which apart from the 500L seems to be delivering on tis promise, in the middle the Panda which is bobbing along OK, but mostly in Italy, the Punto in suspended animation and now suddenly we are told that we have a value proposition in the making to rival Dacia?! Please…! Well, they have been struggling to explain to us a new story now and it might just stick but they have to bring the message clearly across that Fiat is a trendy and fun brand (500, Panda, new 124 spider) but still has family values at heart…while they are thinking about it can they stick a 150PS engine in the Tipo please? and a new Punto maybe?

Globally, Fiat seems to be sending mixed messages too. Brazil, China and India hardly share anything! No further comment.

But Alfa? Lots of promises but little delivery up to now, meanwhile competitors are dishing out so many models and variations that one can’t count them any more or describe them…a formidable catch-up exercise if there ever was one.

Maserati might have had a lot of potential but limiting it to the upper echelons has its limits…lower down it would be rivalling Alfa Romeo as the brands DNAs converge far more than Lancia might have had…

Chrysler and Dodge are purely North American name-plates and inevitably on the endangered species list unless something radical happens. The failed attempt of marrying Lancia and Chrysler was an utter disaster…it killed Lancia globally and Chrysler had a reprieve due to the ready to take-off 200. Some broader base is required to actor the brand and become a credible long-term rival to Buick and upper end Fords, Japanese, Koreans and lower premium brands. Meanwhile, Dodge deprived of RAM as a volume generator (in statistics at least) is also trying to reorient itself – once the Charger and Challenger are forced to move into the future and away from their platforms where will they head? I somehow doubt that Hemi-V8s are the future…

Jeep appears the only brand in the FCA stable which knows what it is there for and developing nicely so it looks like driving the show down the line.

So let’s see what Mister Marchione and his merry men (and undoubtedly numerous women) will serve us in 2016.

Happy New Year!!!

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