To say that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has had a tough July is an understatement bigger than saying a nuclear bomb “goes boom”. First, they lost their leader Sergio Marchionne to complications following shoulder surgery, then to rub salt in the wound, July’s sales numbers arrived in what must have felt like a gut punch from an MMA heavyweight. While the entire Canadian auto industry struggled, FCA was one of the hardest hit with a 33.3% drop in overall sales compared to last July. While this slump surely won’t last, it does call into question the futures of the two automotive brands that FCA is named after, Fiat and Chrysler.
Fiat originally arrived in Canada back in 2009 to relative fanfare after its 25-year absence from the North American market. Sadly, that fanfare doesn’t seem to have translated into sales, as Fiat currently produces just 0.28% of all FCA sales in Canada. Dive into the statistics and you’ll see that sales shrank at a shocking 79% over the first seven months of 2018. That translates to overall sales of just 49 vehicles total in July— an unsustainable number by any measure.
Chrysler isn’t faring much better, either. While sales aren’t as dismal as its Italian counterpart, it’s difficult to set the automotive world alight with just two models— the Pacifica and the 300. The Pacifica is admittedly an excellent minivan, but that means little in a world where buyers are flocking to compact crossovers. The 300 meanwhile isn’t getting any younger, having been on the market in its current configuration since 2011.
Despite sharing their company’s namesake, the future of both Fiat and Chrysler remain uncertain as neither offers anything that requires their respective brands to exist. The Pacifica could’ve just easily become the next Grand Caravan, while the Charger has the large rear-wheel-drive sedan market covered. As for Fiat, buyers clearly aren’t interested in the 500L or 500X, while the 500 and 124 Spyder could just as easily wear Dodge badges.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as Jeep continues to post excellent sales numbers with a 15% increase in July, and the 2019 RAM 1500 is sure to start boosting sales as it continues to trickle onto dealership lots. Dodge also saw a few rays of sunshine, as the ever-popular Journey saw a 23% year-over-year increase and the Charger was up 6%. Nevertheless, a few rays of sunshine amongst a dark cloud is all this good news amounts to.
The late Sergio Marchionne claimed to be “committed” to the Chrysler brand back in June, but now that Michael Manley is at the reins, who knows what the future holds? Will he remain committed to Sergio’s 5-year plan? Or will he decide to take FCA on a different path? As it currently stands, it’s not a reach to imagine a future FCA without the F or C.