Sunday 17 November 2019

Chrysler on comeback trail

Martin Brennan

The future is looking bright for Chrysler on both sides of the Atlantic. The company has posted the first quarterly net profits since emerging from Chapter 11 government protection, which staved off a total collapse in the US two years ago; while in Europe it is getting the financial and marketing boost it needs through its tie-up with Fiat's Lancia wing.

Fiat's investment, in money and technology, is the main reason for the spectacular comeback. Fiat bought 46 per cent of the company and is providing an improved and expanded vehicle and engine line-up.

Things are looking so good that Chrysler has reached an agreement with banks and private investors to clear the $7.6bn (€5.3bn), 12 per cent interest bailout from the US and Canadian governments for a 6 per cent deal with other investors showing savings of $300m (€210m) a year.

Now Fiat plans to take a controlling 51 per cent stake in the company and in a further vote of confidence has taken an option to increase this to 76 per cent by the year-end.

Here Chrysler struggled in the past with just six dedicated dealers and a poor line-up of models. All this has changed with the Lancia wing, the luxury end of the Fiat brand on the continent, being rebadged as Chrysler here, with a raft of new models, new technology and new engines.

The Jeep range also gets the Fiat treatment with the Compass arriving in June with a price tag of €27,000 for the top specification model. The Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and Grand Voyager will follow with good economy engines.

Of interest to families in these cash-strapped times will be the arrival of the super-mini Chrysler Ypsilon in October. This city car carries the name of the baby Lancia model, but it is a new vehicle with luxury finishes at a competitive price.

The model will have three trim levels, including air conditioning and three engine options with prices expected to start in the region of €12,000. The engines on offer will be the tried-and-tested 1.2 litre, the award-winning 900cc twin-air high economy offering and a 1.3 litre diesel. All come into the Band A tax rate and return excellent fuel consumption figures.

The Ypsilon comes with five doors but retains a coupe look with the rear-door handles concealed in the bodywork near the curved roof line.

The proportions are ideal for urban driving -- just 3.84 metres long, the bonnet sits like a shell on the short front-end and the boot is surprisingly good with 215 litres of space growing to 245 litres with rear seats down. Steering and gear change are light to the touch and there is a sense of good interior space.

Another Chrysler to look forward to is the Delta, a model that straddles the Focus and Mondeo segments of the market. It arrives here with luxury trim in August with a starting price in the region of €20,000.

Sunday Independent

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