Blame China’s economic slowdown and a shift in capital expenditures to Jeep as the key reasons Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has delayed its Alfa Romeo revival by at least two years, to 2020.
“Our commitment to the overall brand strategy remains in place” for Alfa Romeo, said FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne, Wednesday, in an investment analysis conference call following FCA’s announcement of a net fiscal year 2015 profit of 377 million euros [$408.9 million].
Wednesday’s update lists, in order, a full-size car, two more utility vehicles, two “specialty” models and a hatchback appearing in the 2017 to 2020 timeframe.
“There has been a permanent shift to [utility vehicles] and pickup trucks,” Marchionne said, in summing up the U.S. market.
In earlier comments, he noted that the “primary focus of development for Alfa is going to be NAFTA,” the North American Free Trade Agreement markets of the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“There are no defeat mechanisms, devices, in our vehicles,” Marchionne said, in defense of FiatChrysler’s diesel-powered models. The hybrid and diesel powertrains in upcoming Jeep and Ram products are designed to help FiatChrysler meet strict CO2 emissions and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. The company has been relying on purchasing credits from cleaner brands such as Tesla, to meet various standards.
“More than half our fleet is going to be hybrid,” Marchionne said. Think of “hybridization as a way of life.”
He said the U.S. EPA may relax the 2025 56.5-mpg CAFE standard, but “only in terms of timing.” A break for automakers “will not make the situation go away.”
FiatChrysler’s reliance on UVs and pickup trucks also spells doom for the Dodge Dart compact and Chrysler 200 midsize cars sold in NAFTA. The two sedans will not be replaced with next-generation models when their lifecycles end, Marchionne said, though he hopes to find an automaker partner to build new versions. If FiatChrysler has such a partner lined up, it’s not saying. Potential partners could include Nissan, which has ample manufacturing capacity in Smyrna, Tennessee, and Mazda, which provides the platform and assembly of the new Fiat 124 Spider, and which has a new plant in Mexico where it builds the Mazda2, Mazda3 and Scion iA.