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Italian brand growth a priority for Fiat Chrysler

Right-hand drive version of the Dodge Dart compact sedan won't make it to Australia.

Building the Alfa Romeo and Fiat brands are the priorities for the man charged with overseeing the Fiat Chrysler group in the Asia-Pacific reason. And that rules out a right-hand drive version of the Dodge Dart compact sedan, at least for this generation of the car, given it shares much of its undperinnings with the Alfa Giuletta already on sale here.

Mike Manley wears many caps within the Fiat Chrysler group. As the boss of Jeep and Asia-Pacific head of Fiat and Alfa, he’s also the man responsible for the vehicles coming to Australia. And the Dodge brand doesn’t figure in that planning as he looks to rationalise the number of marques and models in the group’s line-up.

“Dodge has basically become a North American brand,” Manley says. “Progressively I’ve removed Dodge from markets around the world. I’ve taken it out of Europe, I’ve taken it out of China. That said, Dodge is a loved brand in Australia, whether it’s the American heritage or the muscle cars … so the theory is yes, in practice you can never say never.

“We’re looking at how we develop the portfolio with which brands to make sure we have a viable product plan for our dealers and us to grow our business. And I think in that area, Alfa Romeo has huge potential. “The jury is out in terms of right-hand drive Dart, because there are other options for us. You take Giuletta, Viaggio at the moment is only left-hand drive, but that’s a great car too…”

The Fiat-badged Viaggio is a restyled version of the Dart, meaning it also owes its existence to the Giuletta platform. The Viaggio is the spearhead for Fiat’s push into China and goes on sale next month. A move into India - and another 1.2 billion aspirational auto owners - is the logical next step for the Viaggio. Indian cars are right-hand drive, which would give Fiat’s Australian operation access to a vehicle that would be much easier to base a business case on.

Fiat Chrysler Group Australia spokeswoman Lenore Fletcher is more open in the company’s aims. “If it has a steering wheel on the right hand side, we’ll look at it,” she says. “We’re doing that now as part of the takeover (private importer Ateco sold the Fiat and Alfa brands until May 1 this year) process.”