NAIAS 2018: FCA Brings Big Ambitions for Global Growth

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FCA Sergio Marchionne at 2018 NAIAS

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is used to making headlines, so his recent comments about the state of the auto industry and about the future of FCA have been causing lots of ripples at and beyond the 2018 North American International Auto Show that’s now underway in Detroit.

Among other bold statements, Marchionne urged his peers to innovate or risk becoming “commoditized” (or obsolete); pontificated on electric vehicles; and threw cold water on any speculation that he’s keen to split up or sell FCA before retiring, which he says will happen in 2019.

“Auto companies need to quickly separate the stuff that will be swallowed by commodity from the brand stuff,” Marchionne told Bloomberg.

Beyond his bold statements is what everyone heads to NAIAS for: great cars, such as the 2019 Jeep Cherokee, a crucial, beloved model that has stayed true to the brand’s rugged roots.

Also creating a lot of buzz: the 2019 Ram 1500 pickup, which won Cars.com best-of-show at NAIAS.

Ram is essential in the company’s fleet—it carries the highest profit margin and is FCA’s answer to new Chevrolet Silverado and the aluminum-bed Ford F-150.

Ford, for its part, made a big deal at NAIAS about doubling its investment in all-electric vehicles over the next five years, and a huge expansion of its fleet of EVs. Marchionne wasn’t impressed.

“Making an announcement at the Detroit Auto Show that ‘We’re going to have X-number of vehicles that are electrified in the future’—is that a wise economic thing to say?” Marchionne quipped to reporters. “The answer is, probably, ‘no.'”

Maintaining a positive outlook, Marchionne is eager to at least double FCA’s profit by 2022, and expressed big ambitions to make Jeep truly global to help drive growth.

But first, FCA must make up for the shortfall in 2017 Jeep sales figures, which—according to a report by Automotive News Europe—fell 1 percent to fewer than 1.4 million sold last year.

In order to not miss its 2 million target for 2018 sales, there will need to be a concerted effort to rev up Jeep brand sales. Knowing Marchionne, the wheels are already turning.

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