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Chrysler, Dodge still committed to right-hand drive

The future of the Chrysler 300 SRT has been guaranteed by FCA Australia, despite reports that RHD production had stopped.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia has reaffirmed its commitment to selling the right-hand-drive (RHD) Chrysler 300 locally, despite a recent South African report stating that global RHD Chrysler and Dodge production had ended.

FCA Australia also says it is still pursuing a business case to reintroduce Dodge models to the local market.

Initial reports relating to the end of RHD Chrysler and Dodge production came from overseas where FCA South Africa CEO Robin van Rensburg was quoted saying the two brands were permanently exiting the market.

“This unfortunate situation has arisen from our principals in the USA no longer building Chrysler or Dodge vehicles in right-hand-drive configuration,” he reportedly said.

However, FCA Australia PR and communications manager Alessia Terranova responded: “I am not at liberty to comment on South Africa’s decision. What I can tell you is that Australia will continue to sell RHD Chrysler 300 as an ongoing product in our line-up.

“With respect to any plans for Dodge, at this stage, this brand is represented as a parts and service operation only. However, as widely reported, we do have a live business case with the US in relation to new RHD Dodge models.”

The Chrysler 300 large sedan is the only Chrysler-badged model still imported to the Australian market for sale.

Additionally, it will soon hold the honour of being the last remaining competitor in the upper-large passenger car segment in Australia, as its sole rival, the Holden Caprice, is being axed this week following the closure of local car manufacturing.

Sales of both the 300 and Caprice have continued to fall in recent years as the market has trended towards ever-popular SUVs.

Specifically, 300 sales have decreased 43.4 per cent year on year in 2017, with 209 units sold to the end of September. This current tally is 89.4 per cent lower than that of 2013, when sales peaked at 1964 units during the first nine months of the year.

FCA announced in 2015 that the United Kingdom would stop importing Chrysler models by 2017. Given that the UK is one of the biggest RHD markets in the world, a business case for the 300 in smaller markets, like Australia and New Zealand, would be hard to establish, regardless of their traditional interest in large passenger cars.

The current-generation 300 has been around since 2012 and is approaching the end of its life-cycle. The American-built model was late to market due to the global financial crisis that levelled Chrysler's finances and led it to Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the Fiat takeover.

After nearly vanishing from the Australian sales charts in 2012, Chrysler fired back with the second-gen 300 in diesel, petrol and SRT forms, helping to reinvigorate the brand.

However, average quality levels and a lack of variety in the Chrysler range  – including the availability of halo models – have impacted performance.

Chrysler has left the Australian market before, once in the early 1980s when Chrysler Corporation sold its South Australian factory – where the Valiant was produced – to Mitsubishi.

In 1994, the brand returned locally as an importer with a range of new models over the years since, including the PT Cruiser, Crossfire, Voyager and Sebring, all of which are no longer sold, as well as with Dodge products like the Caliber and Journey.

FCA’s other renowned American brand, Jeep, has has performed well in Australia, carrying on with a growing, up-to-date line-up.  

The Ram brand is also available via independent RHD conversion specialists American Special Vehicles (ASV), which is a joint venture between Walkinshaw Automotive Group and Ateco Automotive.

Should the Dodge brand return to Australia with a brand-new line-up? Tell us what you think in the comments below.