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Fiat-Chrysler Darts Forward

 January 31, 2012 12:08 PM


A recent article in the New York Times noted the first fruits of the Chrysler and Fiat merger (see A Merger Once Scoffed At Bears Fruit in Detroit and Will the Dodge Dart be a high-caliber replacement?). Fiat seems to be experiencing some early success in its Chrysler acquisition, as the company introduced two new models last week: the Maserati Kubang and the Dodge Dart.

Auto analysts have heaped praise on both the Kubang (the Maserati SUV) and the Dart (a fuel-efficient small car offering). They view these products as evidence of the types of synergies that exist between Chrysler and Fiat. The Kubang brings together Maserati styling with Jeep technology (notably, the platform). The Dodge Dart brings Alfa Romeo small-car technology to Chrysler.

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On the Kubang:

…the marriage of an all-American Jeep with the Italian luxury heritage of a Maserati is the best evidence yet that Chrysler and Fiat can create products together that they could not afford to make independently… "the closest thing to a truly symbiotic relationship that the industry has ever seen," said Jim Hall, managing director of the automotive consulting firm 2953 Analytics.

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On the Dart:

The Dart gives Chrysler a competitive product in the important small-car segment of the American market, where the company has had little success…From a marketing standpoint, the Dart should be a big boost to Chrysler's dealers, who have been hard-pressed to attract younger, first-time car buyers.

I was one of those who didn't think Fiat-Chrysler was such a great combination (see Fiat/Chrysler Revisited, Can Fiat Really Pull It Off, Is Fiat Nuts?). I remain a bit skeptical that this deal will succeed due to the challenges associated with deriving value from Chrysler, and integrating it into Fiat's global operations. But who knows, …maybe I'll be proved wrong.

For me, the success of the Fiat-Chrysler deal depends critically on this first set of offerings (e.g., the Dodge Dart and the Maserati Kubang).

Personally, I think they're both pretty good-looking cars. We'll just have to wait and see if there's more to it than just looks…

 

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