Rumors and Omissions: Chrysler’s Product Future Remains Hazy, but Might Not Be As Threadbare As You Think

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Limited - Image: Chrysler

The once-mighty Chrysler brand is not a purveyor of niche sports cars, so its two-vehicle lineup continues to draw attention to itself. To call its lineup sparse would be an understatement. Still, despite a change in its priorities (sparked by the ascension of Jeep and Ram), Fiat Chrysler’s not giving up on the 93-year-old brand.

It would be weird to hop on the Chrysler Freeway in Detroit, head to Auburn Hills, pass by the Walter P. Chrysler Museum on the way, then head to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles headquarters at 1000 Chrysler Drive if the Chrysler brand didn’t exist.

While 2018 brought us news of a new (and fairly wild) Chrysler product, it also pushed two anticipated models into the Maybe Not Zone while throwing away another model’s future. Is there any hope of a Chrysler lineup that’s not a two-car parade? Apparently, there is.

The one product almost assuredly joining the brand is the Portal, a minivan-type vehicle based on the Pacifica platform. FCA heralded this model with a funky electric greenhouse masquerading as a concept vehicle, though it isn’t known whether a production model would completely eschew internal combustion engines.

While the obvious place to build this model is the company’s Windsor assembly plant, home to the Pacifica, the Portal’s arrival in 2020 might coincide with the death of the amazingly long-running and forever affordable Dodge Grand Caravan. As we told you recently, America still loves the Grand Caravan, and it loves you.

fca-portal-concept

Before anyone was talking about a production Portal, however, the buzz — or what passes as buzz in the Chrysler realm — surrounded two planned crossovers: a midsize model and a full-size model, both late to the game. This year brought little talk of these models; rather, we just learned that the aging 300 sedan would not be around to gain the 2021 revamp enjoyed by its LX-platform Dodge siblings. Automotive News even dropped the future crossovers from their product pipeline page.

The automaker’s new five year plan positions Chrysler as a people-mover brand, the company’s late CEO, Sergio Marchionne, said in his second-last public appearance. Obviously, minivans are made for moving people, but so are crossovers. Automakers from GM to Honda are attempting to capitalize on consumer demand by straddling boundaries between existing crossover segments. Hello, Passport and Blazer. Surely room exists in this crossover fray for Chrysler.

Allpar says there’s room — and product. Adding fuel to the rumor mill, the publication cites sources who claim the Chinese-market Jeep Grand Commander, which rides atop a lengthened Grand Cherokee platform, will serve as the basis for a three-row Chrysler crossover. This would be the midsizer we’ve talked about for the past few years. The model might end up in production alongside the Grand Cherokee in Belvidere, Illinois.

Jeep Grand Commander

While Allpar didn’t have anything to say about the rumored full-size model, which was expected to carry the oft-used Aspen name and appear for 2021, it did detail a potential assembly line replacement for the 300. Okay, swallow your grain of salt now. The rumored model, it seems, is a crossover or wagon-type vehicle that uses the modified LX platform coming for the 2021 Charger and Challenger; presumably, it would be built alongside the Dodge cars at FCA’s Brampton assembly plant. (This would be very good news for the plant’s future, if true.)

Given the amount of mystery surrounding Chrysler’s future, anything’s possible. Brampton will have the capacity when the 300 leaves, and it’s nearly certain it will leave — FCA has specifically avoided mentioning a 2021 revamp for the 300, and sales of that sedan are nowhere near as robust as they once were. AN sources claim it’s gone in 2020. It’s worth noting that Ford’s Explorer and the Lincoln Aviator adopt a rear-drive platform for 2020.

Confusing things even more are comments made by Marchionne at last January’s Detroit auto show. When asked about a future Chrysler crossover, the chief executive told Motor Trend, “It’s there. We have the car designed and we’re ready to go,” adding that the model would use the Pacifica platform.

“The platform is ready, and the plant can take it. We can probably get it up and running in 18 months,” he said. It now seems Marchionne was likely talking about the Portal. Or was he?

Are you exhausted yet? One thing’s for certain: a Chrysler with only two models is not a proud Chrysler.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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