Posted on March 30th 2013
Big changes have happened at Chrysler recently, which are out of the American arms control, that have delayed some projects many folks have been anticipating. While being interviewed by multiple media people at the New York Auto Show, SRT boss Ralph Gilles put some details into context.
The SRT Dart is on indefinite hold as we reported earlier due to Chrysler not having a proper or easily produced all wheel drive system or turbocharged engine that would make the car worthy of the SRT badge. We have an inkling that they had something front wheel drive being developed with a turbo 2.4L in the 250 HP range that failed to meet the SRT standards. That particular car may end up coming to market as a Dart R/T some day but we wouldn’t advise holding your breath waiting for it.
The Barracuda was brought up in an interview by Motor Trend and Gilles told them the Challenger replacement “is not as far along as people think and that the current Challenger still has life left in it”. If we go back to the Detroit Auto Show where Sergio Marchionne (pictured) met the press, he stated in passing “if we do the ‘Cuda” while replying to another question which backs up the fact that the car likely isn’t very far along at all, if its even been approved. While Gilles was asked about the Barracuda, he only replied with what sounds like the next generation Challenger that is supposedly not coming for 3 years at the earliest.
The Dodge Challenger that was originally set to be heavily refreshed this year has been bumped back one year. At one of the upcoming 2014 auto shows they will debut the model year 2015 Challenger that is said to receive an all new interior, front and rear fascias, LED lighting and a track edition which follows the theme set by the recently shown Viper TA. Model year 2015 will also see the debut of the supercharged 6.2L Hellcat engine to the SRT line-up along with the much adorned 8-speed transmission across the board to all Challenger trim levels. The Charger and 300 will also be refreshed for model year 2015 and receive the same or similar updates that we saw applied to the 2014 Grand Cherokee.
Why did these vehicles get delayed? Many reasons. Fiat wants to buy the remaining 41.5% of Chrysler which is currently owned by the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, a trust set up to pay the medical costs of Chrysler’s union-member retirees (VEBA) and they think their 41.5% stake is worth 10.3 billion. The problem with this is that Fiat says their stake is only worth 4.2 billion.
VEBA says they will take the company public to prove it and Fiat doesn’t want that because it would mean a singular Chrysler IPO and Fiat wants to merge the two before doing a public offering. They can still do a merger if VEBA takes it public, but at a much higher cost.
The price they’ll pay is currently being figured out in an ongoing Deleware court case. For Fiat to get financing that big they obviously need as much equity, assets and money in their bank accounts and to their name as possible to be attractive to multiple banks – hence the product delays. Other reasons include the ongoing economy debacle in Europe which saw 2012 car sales fall to levels not seen in 17 years. February 2013 car sales were down 10.2% and those low levels have been very hard on Fiat-brand which plays in the heart of the car business thats been hit the hardest over there; low and medium priced vehicles.
High end cars are still selling fine and have even seen increases, hence Fiats push to get Alfa Romeo and Maserati off the ground with new models while they hold back the launch of new lower cost Fiats. This too costs money but the fruits of their efforts have recently been seen with the launch of the new 2014 Maserati Quattroporte, 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C and a slew of others numbering as high as 15 that will debut over the next few years.