Special Coverage

Chrysler's Next Chapter

AUBURN HILLS, MI – Chrysler Group LLC will share three platforms with Fiat Automobiles SpA on the way to offering 21 different models in 2014.

The Fiat technology will allow Chrysler to enter two market segments – the A- and B-sectors – it currently does not compete in, the auto maker says.

Once the rollout and a consolidation of platforms are completed, Chrysler will employ just seven architectures to produce its entire vehicle lineup, down from 11 today.

Two Fiat platforms will be used to cover the A- and B-segments, the auto maker says. Those will be employed for the Fiat 500, which will be sold in North America through Chrysler, and two other models.

One Fiat and one Chrysler platform will be cover the C/D segment, down from eight Chrysler architectures today. Models offered in that sector will be reduced from 14 to nine.

Three platforms, all from the Chrysler side, will blanket the premium, or E, segment, and seven models will continue to be offered in that niche.

One Chrysler platform and three models will continue to cover the truck market.

By consolidating platforms, Chrysler will double its volume per platform by 2014 to more than 300,000 units annually, says Scott Kunselman, senior vice president-engineering.

Development times will be sped up, he adds, as Chrysler takes five months out of its engineering cycle by stepping up use of virtual tools, increasing supplier involvement and commonizing components.

For example, Chrysler will eliminate the full-skin prototype stage when using carryover architectures, such as in the D segment, where it will employ a Fiat platform for the next-generation Dodge Avenger replacement for 2012-2013.

The auto maker also will double its contract engineering resources and the amount of outside services it purchases, while hiking in-house resources 7% in 2010.

Product development will focus on light-weighting and aerodynamic designs. Chrysler says all new vehicles must meet aerodynamic targets and follow a development process employed with the new Ram pickup, which the auto maker says boasts best-in-class aerodynamics.

Chyrsler will use high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium strategically to create thinner, lighter vehicle structures.

Using a shared platform with Fiat, Chrysler’s next-generation D-segment cross/utility vehicle will be 600 lbs. (272 kg) lighter than the current Jeep Liberty, Kunselman says.

Fiat and Chrysler will share electronic systems, and Kunselman promises “unparalleled and affordable” infotainment and connectivity technology.

Next year, Chrysler will offer text-to-speech technology to limit driver distraction from cell phone operation, he says. Also planned is crash-notification telemetrics and vehicle-to-dealer diagnostic capability.

The auto maker also will piggyback on Fiat’s Eco Drive telemetric technology geared toward improving fuel economy.

dzoia@wardsauto.com