Chrysler is a company in transition as it moves from relative stasis in terms of adding new vehicles to its lineup over the past several years towards a future that looks to be filled with fresh blood donated by overseas corporate sibling Lancia and Italian parent Fiat. According to an article published by Autoweek, both Chrysler and Lancia will mirror each other's product lineups on either side of the Atlantic, allowing for technology and cost sharing between the two brands and introducing several new models into Chrysler's American showrooms.
A new version of the Chrysler Sebring - renamed the Chrysler 200 - was introduced last year, and while the sedan and convertible pairing was a definite improvement over the very average Sebring it replaced, the current model represents an interim solution in the mid-size segment for Chrysler. Fiat is eager to replace the 200 by 2013 with a sedan that lifts its underpinnings directly from one of its Euro-market mid-size automobiles. The vehicle is also slated to be the first recipient of the six-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission that will eventually spread across much of the Chrysler portfolio.
The revamped Chrysler 200 is scheduled to be joined by a compact car that will also feature a Fiat-derived platform. Chrysler has not sold an entry-level compact since the long-departed Chrysler-badged edition of the Neon. The company will hold the line when it comes to changes made to the Chrysler 300 full-size sedan, a vehicle which was significantly redesigned for the 2011 model year. 2012 will see the addition of an eight-speed automatic transmission to the vehicle's drivetrain, while a few other tweaks and adjustments will be made to its internal styling.
The next-most popular Chrysler vehicle, the Town & Country, is slated to see a re-engineering of its own for 2014. However, the vehicle that emerges from Chrysler's design studios bearing the Town & Country name three years from now might not be recognizable as the luxury-oriented minivan that American shoppers are used to. Fiat's brass have made it clear that it wants to avoid selling platform "twins" like the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Chrysler Town & Country, which means that a move to the crossover segment could be in the cards for the upscale people mover. This would allow Chrysler to compete more directly against vehicles like the Toyota Highlander and the GMC Acadia, crossovers which offer much of the same passenger capacity as a traditional minivan.
Chrysler's expansion into the compact market, as well as the decision to replace the mid-size 200 with a more European offering stand out as the two most important aspects of the automaker's revised future strategy. Response to the new Chrysler 300 has been strong, and the Town & Country has always enjoyed a respectable audience, but lack of a small car option and the absence of any real mid-size sedan firepower have stood out in the brand's lineup. These two new products will set the tone for Chrysler's partnership with Fiat moving forward and introduce a brand new - and critical - era for the company in the United States.