AD0 16, K-car, J-car, Jags From Mondeos…

And now this. FCA boss Marchionne is going to wring some profits from the investment in the Giulia platform known as Giorgio.

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Future Maseratis, Jeeps and Dodges will use the Giorgio platform. Did they design it to be so flexible? This was reported in Automotive News“Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will offset the high costs of relaunching Alfa Romeo by sharing the brand’s Giorgio platform with Maserati, Dodge and Jeep, CEO Sergio Marchionne said.” It’s not going to be quite badge engineering yet it does point towards the Alfa-ness of Alfas and the fussiness of Maseratis being constrained by the need to make the platform compatible with cheaper cars sold as Dodges and Jeeps. This is how they explain it: “Maserati would use an upgraded version of the platform on all its models, including the next Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans, GranTurismo and Alfieri sports cars and possibly for a midsize SUV to sit below the Levante, the source said.”

1982 Cadillac Cimarron: source
1982 Cadillac Cimarron: wikipedia.org

I have not studied the platform relations of FCA cars in detail (meaning not at all) so I can’t say what kind of chaos lurks under the shiny paint of all their cars and their market positions. Presumably they do not have tight platform management like VAG, Opel or Ford (or any?), and they have to get to something like that from where they are. That said, the announcement that FCA will use the Giorgio platform as described sounds as if it’s a afterthought or something Marchionne discovered gazing at his iPhone while having a smoking break outside the front of one of his offices.

What would be more convincing would be if the small, medium and large platform concept had been announced in 2010 and the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio were the first fruits. No, FCA have realised that they have sunk €2.5 bn into theses cars and want to do something with the data now they have the CAD files. It’s expediency.

2000 Jaguar X-type: dailytelegraph.co.uk
2000 Jaguar X-type: dailytelegraph.co.uk

How expedient can a car company be? The ADO16 body yielded 25 or so very similar cars in the ’60s and the Giorgio cars will not be so mechanically uniform. They will have their own sheet metal (I assume). The GM J-body gave us the quite nice 1981 Opel Ascona and a variety of more and more horrible Chevrolet, Pontiac, Olds, Buick and Cadillac derivatives. There is a chance that the Maserati QPs spun off the Giorgio platform will just not cut it in the dimensions stakes. Remember Alfa’s narrow 80s cars based on the Alfetta? Alternatively the Giorgionettes will be so different as to nullify the alleged advantage of the platform derivation.

Further, the relationship of the more costly cars may end up resembling the case of the Mondeo and the much-loved Jaguar X-type: there was not much visibly in common and the Jaguar had a raft of refinements. Only if you’d read a car magazine would you know the two cars were related. Yet the link permanently clouded the Jaguar’s image, even if the Mondeo itself was recognized as a fine car. And Alfa Romeo is to Maserati what Ford is to Jaguar.

Finally, it seems that Marchionne has managed to muddy the distinction between his brands, nudging Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari ever so slightly closer together.

At least Lancia was not mentioned. Will they get their own components?

[Slide show credits: 1981 Dodge Aries here and 1984 Chrylser Executive Sedan here.]

 

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

8 thoughts on “AD0 16, K-car, J-car, Jags From Mondeos…”

  1. The most relevant comparison is surely BMW, which uses broadly the same platform for everything bigger than a 3 series. And versions of the same transverse-engined platform for everything smaller. This is what successful car companies do.

    Giorgio is apparently both strong and light, which is a good start. Frankly, if FCA don’t share engineering investment more wisely then they are dead. The question mark for me is electrification. Does Giorgio support 48v plumbing and hybrids?

  2. “At least Lancia was not mentioned. Will they get their own components?”

    sadly, it seems that Lancia will get no components at all. I already commented that I’d love to see a RWD pair of Lancia flagship offerings (a saloon and a coupe to be the spiritual successors to the Flaminia) but it simply won’t happen. nor anything other than that will happen to Lancia.

  3. You know, recent FCA platform sharing is an interesting subject, for much is not what it seems.

    Marchionne, having accepted the challenge that he had to develop a 40 mpg US highway compact car to gain a percentage of Chrysler ownership from the US and Canadian governments following bankruptcy, had to do something quick. The 500 was out of the running, but the Giulietta chassis beckoned. And so was born the Compact US Wide CUSW platform, add a dollop of wheelbase and width, cram in the 1.4l Multiair turbo and a manual transmission, and ta da – the new Dodge Dart mileage champ for 2013.

    A further government requirement had been a US factory making economical 4 cylinder engines. So a MultiAir factory was built at a refurbished plant in Dundee Michigan. The naturally aspirated engines thus produced headed down Mexico way to be fitted in the newly available Fiat 500. The 1.4t engines got stuffed into a new version of the Abarth made there as well, but due to a bigger stronger subframe than the EU version of the 500, the darned 6 speed gearbox wouldn’t fit. So five speed manual only. A lot of fun to drive I found, but overpriced when reasonably specced up. A base WRX cost the same if you could put up with an interior crafted from cardboard and recycled plastic bottles, but the performance was even better, while failures of flimsy seat adjusters were unheard of.

    In the rush to produce the Dart, such frippery as weight saving measures were cast aside, and a distinctly porky car resulted, getting on for 1500 kg. A few months later, with a standard 2.0 litre engine left over from the Global Engine days and a lazy automatic, progress was snuffly – that was not the 40 mpg version that few initially purchased, but it was what people bought. With the 1.4t and some lashed up DCT gearbox or a manual 6 speed, things were a bit better, but not much. This car has now been discontinued completely. It never sold widely. The first ones were incredibly poorly assembled as well, particularly in the tin-bashing stakes. Obvious errors.

    Then, feasting again on the CUSW platform, FCA turned out the new Jeep Cherokee with front styling no doubt enhanced by that poor chap who did the Multipla. Again it resulted in a hulking brute in the weight department compared to its competitors. But it was a sales success because say Jeep and many reflexively unhitch a chequebook.

    Not wanting to stand pat, FCA then put out a new Chrysler 200, based on an even more stretched CUSW platform. It lasted just two years before Marchionne axed it along with the Dart, saying it was a rotten vehicle, thus insulting those poor customer slobs unfortunate enough to have believed the original marketing drivel and purchased one, now sitting on worthless vehicles, and pretty much causing sales to stop instantly. Forlorn unsold examples populate FCA lots across the North American continent as we speak.

    Back home in the EU, the platform was used to make the 500L, 500X and Jeep Renegade, all little porkers. In its most recent fling, the CUSW was adapted to make the new huge Pacifica minivan. Whether a coherent plan was ever put in place for a platform strategy is quite unclear. Gazing at the underneath of a Pacifica might reveal a trace of Giulietta lineage, but you’d have to be a genius to know where to look. Needless to say, all this panicky casting about for a chassis has meant that each iteration of the CUSW platform is pretty much unique. Lord knows how much money has been wasted in modifying a supposedly standard platform over and over again.

    I have driven the Dart, Cherokee, 500L, 200 and 500X. Dearie me. Not inspiring. The V6 200 isn’t bad, but it’s hampered, as is the Acura TLX V6, by the simply dreadful ZF transverse application 9 speed automatic. It’s worse than you can even imagine and ruins the cars into which it’s installed. Why have I managed to drive all these losers? It’s more of a case that my pal, the enthusiastic warranty manager at a local FCA dealership won’t allow me not to. He insists. Yesterday he was again pushing me to try the 124 Mazda MX-5 derivative, and it was minus 12C at midday! I managed to utter soothing words about waiting for Spring.

    For sheer ineptness, Fiat’s input to Chrysler vehicles would be hard to top if true. Stories of incompetent Italian executives swanning around Chrysler’s Auburn Hills HQ abound, to include their dissing the competence of their US engineering employees. Autoextremist.com has been particularly critical for five years now about Marchionne and his management style, and has cast doubts as to whether Fiat ever embraced the 6 sigma quality assurance programs that began in the 1990s at non-Japanese car companies who were already hard at it, and relied instead on macho flair and self-confident ego to carry the day. But who knows the truth? Actual sales volume has doubled since 2010, but others have done just as well. The question really revolves around costs, and very low percentage margins on revenues.

    You can appreciate therefore, with all FCA vehicles solidly at the bottom of the various reliability indices over here, that the company remains alive mainly by flogging RAM pickup trucks and various Jeeps, where criticism is always discounted. Can the new Alfas change all that? Well, what are the odds? Seriously. Perhaps the Giorgio platform will be the saviour, but far more discipline will be required in its applications or there is no point whatsoever in trying to reduce costs by standardization, as CUSW has shown.

  4. Bill – That’s a veritable exegesis.

    Didn’t dear departed Barack have some part in making US production of the 1.4 MultiAir part of Chrysler’s rescue deal?

    On platform matters, my Jeep / Chrysler mad colleague was quite taken aback when I told him that his new Cherokee had a transverse engine. I thought better of telling him that it was based on a Giulietta chassis, or that his wife’s Renegade is a high-riding Corsa underneath.

    The Renegade replaced a Chrysler-badged White Hen, made in – probably – the only factory where Fords and Chryslers are built side by side.

  5. Most of what Bill says is established territory for us professional FCA watchers (although, are you sure about the subframe story on the Abarth? My brother has a Euro-spec SS and it’s definitely a five-speeder.)

    For me, there are two ways you can read Marchionne’s regime. The charitable view is that Fiat was as good as dead when he took over and just keeping it going at all has been an impressive achievement. He is very good at his specialty subject, that is, leveraging opportunities out of unlikely openings (see GM put, Chrysler bailout, Ford-500 deal, etc). In this reading of events, the mere continued existence of Fiat and Chrysler is a minor miracle and ultimately overshadows numerous errors in platform management, product planning and quality control, since all of those fundamentally stem from trying to run a full-fat operation off a diet balance sheet. As such, trying to keep all the various balls in the air at the same time necessarily means a few broken eggs from time to time – for example, starving Fiat’s product renewal in Europe to rebuild Chrysler over the pond, and then doing the same in reverse.

    The uncharitable view is that Marchionne is essentially a bean-counting autocrat who nevertheless isn’t nearly as on top of FCA’s issues as he makes out. The main evidence for this is the willingness to bet the farm on what are hugely risky punts – for instance, the Alfa relaunch, abandoning any pretence of a presence in the Civic or Accord class (and in Europe, essentially leaving everything above 500-level to the wolves), or a complete failure to do anything about the group’s diabolical quality control. Take a look at the panel fit on the bonnet of just about any current Grand Cherokee from the first two years of production or so. I have never seen one that is even vaguely close to fitting properly. And they’re all misaligned in new and interesting ways. It genuinely takes real effort to achieve that. Anyway, according to this version, Marchionne’s desperation to merge with someone – anyone – is just that and reflects the fact that FCA is basically screwed in the medium-term with essentially no meaningful alternative-propulsion programs underway, a massive dependence on low fuel prices (do ya feel lucky?) and a massive amount riding on the relaunch of a brand that almost certainly hasn’t made any money since at least the last time a professional crook resided at 1600 Penn.

    At the end of the day, the important thing with FCA is to make sure you take a hard look behind the curtain. The bottom line is that there is no strength in depth – most of it amounts to a mirror trick. This is most notably displayed with the nonsensical PowerPoint roadmaps they periodically lay out for investors, complete with fantastical ‘product plans’, but a single example I read about this week also demonstrates the point nicely enough. Alfa has reshuffled its Australian dealer network (again) in preparation for the launch of the Giulia and Stelvio. Formerly, they had 48 dealers across the country. The newly-slimmed-down network has 16. Even allowing for a handful of additional stand-alone service centres, I would be very concerned about the fact that two-thirds of your existing network has waved adios – it implies another company is in the market and has picked off a bunch. In any case, this is the foundation that Marchionne is effectively punting the group’s future on.

    1. Alfa lists 56 dealers for the UK. Last time I looked, Australia was a little bit bigger than the UK so, even allowing for the fact that population density is strongly biased to the East Coast, would I want to buy a car from a company with that much commitment to my market?

  6. I was unaware that CUSW is related to the platform underneath the 500L / X. I thought it was new for the Giulietta, and not recycled from the Punto.

    Fair comment about the quality issues though. Chrysler / Dodge seem to have a terrible reputation in USA for knocking out badly made cars – even the ones still based on the old Mercedes platform.

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