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Published on Tue, Nov 9, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Alfa Romeo, by Chrysler?

Jeep platform could become a Maserati or Alfa Romeo, or both November 9, 2010—The news that Fiat's Sergio Marchionne is toying with the idea of building new variants off the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee platform definitely highlights how intertwined the automotive industry is today. Stop and think about this for a moment: The 2011 Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango, two staples of the American SUV scene and about as ‘apple pie’ as can be, are built on a platform designed in partnership with German engineers from the failed DaimlerChrysler marriage. In fact, a modified version of this platform currently also underpins the current Mercedes-Benz M-Class of SUVs. If Marchionne's new plans come to fruition we will see continued use of this solid platform, but this time under the Maserati and Alfa Romeo banners, and possibly powered by nothing less than Ferrari engine technology. What would Mr. Goodwrench think? While Ford continues to enjoy its ‘American Renaissance’ and GM prepares for its highly anticipated IPO later this month, fellow domestic brand Chrysler has been quietly left on the sidelines. In recent surveys and traffic pattern analyses, current Dodge and Chrysler vehicles consistently rank below average. However, we anticipate that this may be about to change. While Chrysler continues to report quarterly financial news that is still in the red but "otherwise moving in the right direction," they are desperate to convey that new product, and not further cuts or closures, will be their path to redemption. In December, Chrysler will host the automotive media on a whirlwind tour of its substantially updated vehicles, such as the 2011 Dodge Charger, Jeep Compass, Chrysler Town and Country, Chrysler 300, as well as everyone's former whipping post, the Chrysler Sebring, which will now be known as the Chrysler 200. All are going to take-on understandably skeptical American buyers and dealers with new engines, heavily modified sheet metal, lighting, interior design and refinement, as well as advanced connectivity. However, the real test begins with the L.A. Auto Show next week, which essentially kicks-off Chrysler's consumer ‘redemption tour’ in the guise of the national 2011 model-year auto show season. While platform sharing is nothing new in this industry, perhaps the stakes for success have never been higher. Chrysler desperately needs to reestablish itself as an innovative and dynamic source for exciting vehicles, which surprisingly once was its primary calling card. In addition, careful spreading of technology and engineering helps improve return on investment and profitability, as long as it is done in respect of the chosen brands and the drivers that support them. James Bell, Executive Market Analyst Kelley Blue Book’s

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