The beginning of the new year in the automotive industry has been marked by, among other things, the confirmation of the merger between the FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and PSA (Peugeot Société Anonyme) groups; at the end of this month, the new giant Stellantis will officially see the light of day.
And giant it will be: the marriage of the two automotive groupe gives rise to the fourth largest manufacturer on the planet, behind Toyota, Volkswagen and the Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi group.
In total, more than twelve brands will be grouped together under the Stellantis corporate banner. That's a lot. Too many in fact, in the eyes of many, especially since the company's new boss, Carlos Tavares, is known for his propensity to limit expenses. When the executive took over as head of the PSA Group in 2014, he succeeded in making the firm profitable after years in the red. Tavares also oversaw the PSA Group's takeover of Opel from General Motors in 2017, and brought the company back to profitability in just one year, something GM hadn't done in nearly 20 years.
As a result, some changes are to be expected. It should be noted that Carlos Tavares is not just a manager; it is said that gasoline runs through his veins. Therefore, though there will be changes, the decisions might not be purely financial in nature.
Most of the brands in the Stellantis fold have several models in their product offerings, but there are two with relatively bare shelves, and they could be attractive targets for a first series of cuts. At least that's what Associated Press reported on Sunday, citing comments from industry analysts. One of them is Chrysler, which has only the Pacifica minivan and the aging 300 sedan in its lineup. The other is Lancia, whose only model, the Ypsilon, is sold exclusively in Italy.
So the guessing game beings. Of course, from a historical point of view, it would be sad to see the disappearance of Chrysler, which has been with us for nearly a century since its founding in 1925 by Walter P. Chrysler.
One of the solutions would be to make it an all-electric banner. That would be a way to preserve the name and revive the brand, perhaps even allow it to start its second century from a healthier starting point.
What changes are coming remain to be seen, but that there will be change is virtually certain. We’ve already noted, for example, that the Peugeot brand is expected to make a comeback in North America.
Stellantis will be worth watching in 2021, for we can expect a steady stream of announcements – with the requisite rumours to precede them.