TURIN -- Fiat S.p.A. may sell the Chrysler 200 in Europe to win fleet customers in key markets such as Germany and the UK.
The sedan would be sold as a Chrysler model in the UK and Ireland and as a Lancia in the rest of Europe. It would rival cars such as the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Mondeo and Opel/Vauxhall Insignia.
The 200 will go on sale in the United States by the end of this year and Fiat S.p.A. CEO Sergio Marchionne said it could make sense to bring the 200 to Europe, mainly for business customers in the big fleet markets of Germany and the UK.
But Olivier Francois, CEO of the Chrysler and Lancia brands, is not sure that there is a business case. A major drawback is that no diesel engine will be offered on the 200 in the United States, where the car will be sold with 2.4- and 3.6-liter gasoline engines. Half of Europe's new-car sales are diesels. The percentage is even higher for company fleets where most buyers opt for the better fuel economy diesel offer compared with gasoline powerplants.
"We are running numbers to see if it could become a profitable business case,” Francois said.
It is likely to cost about 50 million euros ($70 million) to modify the 200 for Europe, industry sources said. This figure includes adapting the car for the diesel as well as redesigning the front and rear bumpers and headlights.
The car's short lifespan would make it difficult to recoup the investment. The 200 could be on European roads for less than three years, if it were to debut in late 2011 and a replacement, based on a Fiat platform, arrives as planned at the end of 2013. In Europe, a car's life cycle averages six years.
The 200 is derived from the Chrysler Sebring but is a heavily restyled and re-engineered model.
Chrysler plans to sell 80,000 units of the 200 in the United States next year, a fraction of the volume sold by segment leaders such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
If it is launched in Europe, the 200 would be sold through an integrated Lancia/Chrysler network comprising about 800 dealers and more than 1,000 stores, which will be fully in place by next May.
Fiat has a controlling 20 percent stake in Chrysler and plans to boost Lancia-Chrysler sales in Europe to 295,000 units in 2014 from a combined 132,500 units last year.
Chrysler sales are tiny in Europe and Lancia sales are small outside of its Italian home market. Of last year's 132,500 combined sales, 121,000 were Lancias and 11,500 were Chryslers. About 102,000 of Lancia's sales were in Italy.
Lancias are not sold in the UK and Ireland.