After a product lineup revamp in 2011, Chrysler Group is preparing to open the second act of its revival next year, unveiling the first Chrysler Group-branded vehicle unit based on a Fiat platform and powered by a Fiat engine -- a Dodge compact sedan, the replacement for the Caliber.
This is the most valuable vehicle in the revival because it will display how well engineers can adapt the European platforms and technology of Fiat to North American tastes.
Company engineers built the platform for the Dodge sedan by widening and lengthening Fiat's high-volume compact platform. The revised platform is called the CUSW for Compact U.S. Wide.
It will spawn a range of mid-sized and compact vehicles for Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge. The Dodge will compete with Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus in a vital segment where Chrysler has not been competitive.
Customers of Chrysler Group who have gotten used to big vehicles with high-performing gas-guzzling engines will see a huge change within the next two years.
Chrysler will offer two families of four-cylinder engines with turbocharging and an array of fuel-saving automatic transmissions, such as the eight-speed, the nine-speed and the six-speed dual clutch. In addition, the company is not confirming whether diesels could be far behind.
Chrysler, which has been off the radar screen of customers who want eco-friendly rides, is attempting to make a case that it deserves serious consideration. The performance of the company in executing these next-generation Fiat-based units will determine how compelling the argument of Chrysler is.