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Chryslers face the axe

Up to nine Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge models could be axed or redesigned by 2012, according to details leaked of a new Chrysler-Fiat business plan.  However, Chrysler Australia is taking a wait-and-see approach to changes proposed this week by new Chrysler-Fiat CEO, Sergio Marchionne.

Marchionne is heading up one of the biggest product shakeouts in Chrysler's history to resurrect the embattled US carmaker.  But Chrysler Australia's general manager marketing and product strategy, Craig Bradshaw, says it is too early to assess the local fallout any proposed changes.  Chrysler Australia is taking a "wait and see" approach, he says.

"We have to wait to assess the impact on our local market," he says.  Bradshaw says the company has no advance information of Marchionne's proposed changes.  Some of the proposed changes have been already leaked by the Wall Street Journal in North America.  It says that Chrysler's North American model lineup will be slashed to make way for more Fiat-based cars.

Some new Chrysler models will share Fiat platforms in an effort to cut costs and harmonise production processes.  The cars expected to die are the Chrysler Sebring, PT Cruiser, Dodge Nitro, Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Caliber, Dodge Avenger as well as three Jeep off-roaders, the Compass, Patriot and Commander.

The survivors are said to be the Chrysler 300C sedan, Chrysler Town and Country, Dodge Challenger, Dodge Journey, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler.  Although the list of Chrysler's facing the chop is long, some like the Sebring and Avenger, are expected to morph into new Fiat-based cars.

Under the new Chrysler-Fiat regime, known as Chrysler Group LLC, Alfa Romeo and Fiat are expected to return to America as soon as 2012.  Fiat was phased out in North America in the 1980s because of poor quality and reliability problems. Alfa Romeo discon tinued marketing cars there in 1995.

Chrysler will continue to build its performance cars and pickup trucks while Fiat is expected to build a range of smaller fuel-efficient European-style models for the US market.  Locally Chrysler Australia is a factory owned distributor but still shares some backroom operations with Daimler.

Daimler severed its ties with Chrysler in 2007 and the US carmaker was subsequently purchased by private equity group Cerberus Capital Management before Fiat stepped in last year.

Chrysler's Asia-Pacific business, including Australia, is one of the few bright spots, despite Chrysler and Jeep sales being down 30 per cent this year.  Australia is Chrysler's largest right-hand-drive market and the No.1 Jeep Wrangler market outside North America.