Fall 2009 Auto Guide
auto
The Fiats are coming, the Fiats are coming

Grande Punto
Grande Punto 5-Door -- Also sold as a two-door hatchback, the sleek-looking Grande Punto 5 Door measures 158.6 inches long and seats five. Weighing 2,436 pounds, it uses a 95-horsepower 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine to turn its front wheels. Automatic dual-zone climate control, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls and reverse parking sensors are all standard.
Base price: approximately $20,400.

The picture of Alfa Romeo products coming here is no more clear.

Bringing Alfa Romeo back to North America has been high on Fiat's wish list for a long time, but the projected costs of developing a U.S. distribution network frustrated those hopes. Now it has nearly 2,400 Chrysler Group dealerships, any of which theoretically could offer the Alfa-branded vehicles.

Alfa currently has nine models. Initially, as many as three models are likely to find their way to North America by 2011 in some form -- including the compact MiTo and the mid-size 159. "Alfa Romeo brand will return to the U.S. with a range of products. Following this is the intention to manufacture Alfa Romeo models in the U.S. in an as yet undisclosed Chrysler plant," Gadeselli says.

The cost of retooling Chrysler plants to build the projected seven to 10 smaller Fiats, Fiat-based Chryslers and Alfas will be staggering -- well into the hundreds of millions. Neither Chrysler nor Fiat has that kind of cash. When push comes to shove this downpour of planned new 2011 models may be reduced to a trickle.

Meanwhile, Chrysler has already given the ax to several models:

  • Dodge Aspen.
  • Dodge Durango.
  • Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible.
  • Chrysler Pacifica.

Other slow-selling products may also wind up on the chopping block, including:

  • Chrysler PT Cruiser.
  • Chrysler Sebring/Dodge Avenger.
  • Dodge Caliber/Jeep Compass.
  • Dodge Viper.
  • Dodge Nitro.
  • Jeep Commander.
  • Jeep Patriot.

Certain Chrysler bread-and-butter products are probably safe for the foreseeable future. As Chrysler Group's core products, they will remain despite current sales difficulties. They are:

  • Chrysler Town & Country.
  • Dodge Grand Caravan.
  • Dodge Ram.
  • Jeep Wrangler.
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee.

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