Fiat Chrysler will shift Dodge Journey production from Mexico to Italy when the compact crossover is redesigned for the 2019 model year, supplier sources say.
The next-generation Journey is expected to share a platform with the Alfa Romeo Giulia. That means a transition from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive would likely continue to be an option.
Moving production to Europe would help FCA free up capacity in North America, where the company wants to expand output of Jeep SUVs and Ram pickups. It would also boost plant utilization in FCA’s European assembly operations, which remain underutilized as Europe continues to recover from its economic downturn.
The Journey is currently sold in Europe as the Fiat Freemont.
Fiat Chrysler’s 2014 Product Plan called for the redesigned Journey to be introduced this fall. However, as Automotive News reported in April, the current model will soldier on for at least two more model years and continue to be built at FCA’s Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico.
Production on the 2017 Journey is scheduled to begin July 25 and the 2018 model will enter production in Toluca on July 17, 2017, an FCA source said.
Toluca Assembly also produces the Fiat 500. However, FCA is building pilot vehicles in Toluca for the successor to the Jeep Compass and Patriot. Full production of the Compass and Patriot successor is scheduled to begin at the plant on Jan. 30, 2017.
The Journey is one of FCA’s oldest models — significant U.S. sales began in 2008 — and has one of its oldest powertrains. It has a four-speed automatic transmission in its most fuel-efficient model, which is rated at 19 mpg city/26 highway.
If the redesigned version moves to a rear-wheel-drive powertrain, as expected, it would likely mean a shift to an eight-speed transmission and a significant increase in fuel economy.
They Journey received its last major freshening for the 2011 model year. Through May, sales are down 9.7 percent in the U.S. to 37,423.