A larger dealer network plus a better diesel engine have given the Dodge Journey a new life in Europe as the rebadged Fiat Freemont.
At its June introduction in Italy, Fiat said it planned to sell 13,000 Freemonts this year, but by early July the automaker had collected 15,700 orders and it has asked Chrysler Group to increase production of the Freemont.
Fiat planned to sell 33,000 Freemonts in 2012, the first full year of sales in Europe. As a result, Fiat was promised 3,000 Freemonts a month from Chrysler's plant in Toluca, Mexico.
To meet the higher-than-planned European demand, Chrysler boosted Freemont production by more than a third to 4,067 units in June by working overtime.
Chrysler is looking for ways to get Fiat 4,000 Freemonts every month without the added cost of overtime, Fiat said.
Unlike the Dodge U.S. version of the minivan, the European vehicle has a different front and rear styling, its handling and suspension settings have been tweaked, and it is offered with Fiat's 2.0-liter MultiJet 2 diesel engine, available in 140p and 170hp configurations, not offered by Dodge.
More dealers, low prices
One reason why the Freemont is selling so well is because Fiat has a larger dealer network than Chrysler did when it was operating independently in Europe. The Journey's sales in Europe peaked at 8,318 units in 2009 before declining 23.4 percent to 6,375 units last year, according to market researcher JATO Dynamics.