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What would be the world’s fourth largest car company – by volume – took a step closer to becoming a reality this week. The long-running saga of the merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and PSA Group looks set to be finalised by early 2021, after the two sides signed cross-border merger terms.
But what does it mean for Australia? Well, the new company – to be called Stellantis – would bring several high-profile brands together. Under the deal, the new company would control Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Maserati, Jeep, Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Opel and Vauxhall.
However, all of these brands have low volumes in the local market, with Jeep the biggest having sold 3791 vehicles year-to-date (to September). In fact, even when combined, the Stellantis brands have only sold 7644 new vehicles in 2020, which is behind even newer brands including MG.
With the details still being hammered out globally, it’s too early to say what it will mean for local operations, but there are several key models from the brand that could have a big impact. We’ve picked five models from the five most notable brands that will form Stellantis and explain what they could mean for local buyers.
There are few models more important to Stellantis’ future than the Grand Wagoneer. This is the American off-road brand’s biggest and most luxurious model to date, with Range Rover clearly a target for this full-size SUV.
Adding it to the local line-up would give Jeep a new flagship just after the long-awaited new-generation Grand Cherokee arrives in the fourth quarter of 2021. A refreshed line-up is just what Jeep needs to try and turn around its recent sales decline.
Could Stellantis bring back the ‘Commodore’? It might seem a left-field idea, but with PSA Group owning Opel, it has the rights to the car we knew as the ZB Commodore. While it wasn’t as popular as the locally made Commodores, the ZB was still the best-selling large car in the country. It’s a market most have abandoned, but Peugeot still believes it has value, recently launching the all-new 508 here.
So, would a Commodore wearing its original Opel Insignia badge sell better? Hard to say, but there’s certainly potential in the Opel brand. General Motors tried and failed to launch Opel here, and it would be expensive and foolish to establish a brand for just one model. But with the all-new electric Mokka as well as the Crossland X and Grandland X, Opel has a number of vehicles that could work in the local market. Plus, there’s still goodwill for the Astra nameplate if the brand wanted to play in the small-car market.
It’s fair to say the planned revival of the Italian brand as a premium player again has been underwhelming. While both the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV have enjoyed critical success, that hasn’t translated into sales. The Giulia has been outsold by both the Jaguar XE and Volvo S60 this year, while the Stelvio is faring even worse in its class - selling just 352 examples, while the likes of the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC have notched more than 3000 sales.
Which is where the Tonale comes into play. While it’s unlikely to be a best-seller, a cheaper, smaller SUV option would not only expand the range, but give the Italian brand the type of model that’s popular right now.
Officially, Alfa Romeo Australia hasn’t committed to the Tonale yet, and production was delayed earlier this year, but it would be surprising if they chose to ignore it given the increasing popularity of luxury SUVs.
The beauty of a good retro design is that it doesn’t really age. Which is good news for Fiat Australia, because globally the company has committed to an electric future for the pint-sized city car, the 500e, which has a likely high price tag that makes it unappealing for Fiat locally.
Fortunately, Fiat has committed to continue building the current petrol-powered 500 indefinitely, which is good news for Australia because it’s the brand’s biggest selling model and still has a 10 per cent share of the ‘micro car’ market.
Still, the 500e does look promising – with its retro looks and modern zero-emissions powertrain – so who’d like to see that Down Under, too?
The French brand is the second-biggest volume contributor to the would-be Stellantis conglomerate – shifting 1555 units so far in 2020. Almost half of those sales have been the 3008, the French Volkswagen Tiguan alternative.
Which is why the brand’s latest model, the 2008, is so important. It’s the new small SUV that will compete against the likes of the Volkswagen T-Roc, Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-30, so if it succeeds there is significant (albeit relative) growth potential for Peugeot.