DETROIT -- Chrysler Group's new vehicles will be American on the outside with a lot of Fiat on the inside.
In a wide-ranging presentation today, Chrysler executives unveiled a two-pronged strategy for the next five years. The U.S. automaker will rework many current vehicles next year while working on new vehicles with Fiat powertrains and platforms for the following few years.
Chrysler's dismal U.S. sales in October -- down 30 percent, for a 22nd straight month of decline -- underscored the urgency to improve the group's vehicles.
"There is no 'business as usual' at Chrysler," said Chairman Bob Kidder. "There is an incredible commitment and energy for change."
Here are some product highlights unveiled so far in a scheduled seven-hour presentation that began this morning:
In 2012-2013, the Dodge car brand plans:
• A new vehicle for North America in the C segment, which encompasses cars such as the Ford Focus. The car would be based on a Fiat platform.
• A hatchback smaller than the C vehicle, imported from a Fiat factory.
• A new sedan on a Fiat platform to replace the Avenger sedan.
New Dodge crossover
In the meantime, Dodge plans a full-sized seven-passenger crossover for the fourth quarter of 2010. The brand also plans updates next year for the Avenger, Journey crossover, Caravan minivan and Charger muscle car.
In addition, production of the Dodge Viper will end next summer, and an unnamed sports car will be added in 2012.
The Dodge brand will pursue a new lifestyle mission, de-emphasizing its traditional pitch to performance-minded males.
This leaves the new Ram truck brand to build a brawny image for pickup and work-vehicle enthusiasts. The Ram might even produce a heavy-duty 18-wheeler, said Ram brand CEO Fred Diaz.
But the Chrysler Group's larger challenge in the coming years is to meet the federal fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg for the 2016 model year. That's where Fiat engines and powertrains come in.
Chrysler will use a Fiat diesel engine along with a 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder. The inline-four will appear first in the U.S. version of the Fiat 500 in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Chrysler will align its engineering organization to Fiat Group, making the most of common platforms, systems and components between the two companies, said Scott Kunselman, senior vice president of Chrysler Group engineering.
By 2014, Chrysler will share three platforms with Fiat, increasing Chrysler's average models per platform from about two in 2010 to three in 2014. During that period, average volume per platform will increase to 305,000 units from 125,000. In the process, four platforms will be consolidated, Kunselman said.
While Chrysler's task ahead is huge, CEO Sergio Marchionne tried to allay fears about the company's finances.
Chrysler has improved its cash position since Fiat S.p.A. took the company out of bankruptcy in June, said Marchionne, who also is CEO of Fiat.
"Some of you have been surmising we're burning through cash," he told the assembled analysts and reporters. "This is not true."
The company had $5.7 billion in cash on hand at the end of September, up from $4 billion when Fiat took over in June