TURIN, Italy — Despite all the talk of new Fiat-based cars, the Fiat-controlled Chrysler Group expects to keep a truck-heavy vehicle mix similar to today's lineup.
"I think it will be very stupid for us to assume the same type of European style and sizing which has driven the automobile portfolio of Fiat Group will prevail in the U.S.," Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne told Automotive News.
Assuming a relatively unchanged vehicle mix dominated by full-sized pickups, SUVs, large cars and minivans, plus 25 percent better fuel efficiency through Fiat's advanced engine technology, Marchionne said Chrysler will achieve up to a 7.7 percent operating profit margin on revenue by 2014.
The vision he spelled out in an interview looks more evolutionary than the headlines trumpeting Fiat products and management have suggested:
• The new broadened Ram truck brand will be a main engine of profit, just as Ram pickups were before the name was elevated to a separate brand covering pickups and commercial vehicles. At Fiat Group Automobiles, the Fiat Professional brand for commercial vehicles is the most profitable.
• Jeep will continue to expand beyond rugged four-wheel-drive SUVs, despite lackluster results by DaimlerChrysler and Cerberus Capital Management, the previous owners of Chrysler, with such vehicles as the Patriot and Compass.
• Engine technologies from Fiat, such as Fiat's MultiAir air management system, will be used in Chrysler's four-cylinder and V-6 engines to increase fuel economy in nearly all segments. Some Chrysler models will offer Fiat diesel engines, probably starting in Canada.
• Chrysler's managers will have significant autonomy to run their operations. There are no plans to send more Italians from Fiat to Chrysler, and some Chrysler gasoline-engine experts could move from Auburn Hills to Turin, Marchionne said.
Five of the 25 Chrysler executives who report to Marchionne moved from Fiat.
Marchionne's goal of a 7.7 percent operating margin would match Chrysler's profits in 1997, the last full year before the acquisition by Daimler-Benz, when Chrysler posted operating profits of $4.7 billion on revenue of $61.1 billion.