Fiat Chrysler Automobiles SA readies itself for 2019
New year will reveal 10 new cars, a promise of better service and pricing while a pair of hopping-mad SUVs will debut
Among the largest of automotive groups with multiple brand nameplates and ranges to look after is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
Taken at face value, you’d be forgiven for thinking only of the Italian compact-car specialist and to an extent, American behemoths such as the Chrysler 300C. However, the Global FCA rabbit hole goes deeper. There’s also Alfa Romeo, Abarth, Ferrari, Maserati, Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge that fall under the global FCA umbrella.
Graham Eagle is a stalwart of the local automotive industry with a career that spans 20 years, including a stint at Nissan. He recently left as Honda South Africa’s operational director and is now at the helm of FCA South Africa as co-CEO.
We recently spent time with the leader as he unfurled the company’s plans ahead of a 2019 full of promise. Among his most unenviable of tasks is to resuscitate struggling Alfa Romeo, which currently sells fewer than 10 cars a month. It’s an undertaking that he admits will take much to correct a lot of past wrongs.
According to Eagle, a change in tack begins with consolidating what already exists in terms of staff, infrastructure, dealer operations, marketing and product alignment. The company is strengthening its dealer network with new premises, chief among them in Bryanston where it has taken over the old Investment Cars building while also realigning the ratio of new, pre-owned and service centre representation nationwide.
From a promotions perspective, Eagle says the company and Fiat headquarters have agreed to review product line-up and pricing, which he admits was a little unrealistic for this market. He says renewed competitiveness has been given the go-ahead and the FCA product range will match rival brands on pricing and finance options that reflect current trends and customer demands, such as the previously unheard-of 72 months repayment plan.
For South Africa the company has ceased to sell Chrysler and Dodge line-ups but is committed to keep auxiliary facilities for maintenance services going to honour commitments to the sizeable population of both brands that still roam our roads.
With a reduced number of nameplates, only Jeep, Fiat/Abarth and Alfa Romeo remain. The company will also introduce new engines that reflect buyer demands and will launch nine models in the new year.
According to Eagle, during the first quarter of 2019 the company will introduce the new Jeep Wrangler, a retouched Renegade, and we will see the entry of the new Compass. The latter will be available exclusively in Trailhawk guise, reportedly with class-leading off-road driving ability.
The Nurburgring record-breaking Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV, powered by a 2.9l twin-turbo six-cylinder; the cosmetics-led, limited-edition Stelvio Black Tech; and a retouched Guilia hatchback will also arrive in the first quarter.
In each of the subsequent three quarters of 2019, the new Fiat 500X and a 206kW Guilia Super Veloce will debut. The year will end with the hosting of Camp Jeep Western Cape, a gathering of Jeep owners with their cars for one last hurrah before the year ends.
The revamped Cherokee is also on its way but the last word is reserved for one of the most anticipated cars of 2019 — the Grand Cherokee SRT TrackHawk powered by the now legendary Hellcat 522kW supercharged 6.4l Hemi V8 engine. Orders will open in January for this brute with a rated 0-100km/h acceleration time of a staggering 3.5 seconds.
Largely, the plan looks simple enough until you factor in the local company’s Achilles heel — Alfa Romeo. According to Eagle, the plans to revive the brand hinge largely on changing perspectives and the tweaking of certain elements of crucial importance.
“We are looking at creating separate Alfa Romeo dealer floors, which can be tailored to specifically meet criteria required by the brand’s high-end customer expectations,” Eagle said.