Oz Dodges turn into Fiats

The Fiat Freemont is expected to replace the Dodge Journey after a marketing switch in Australia. Photo / Supplied
The Fiat Freemont is expected to replace the Dodge Journey after a marketing switch in Australia. Photo / Supplied

Dodge is to be dropped from the Australian market. Instead, its distributor plans to expand the Fiat range.

Chrysler Australia was recently announced as the new distributor of the Italian brand, which will encompass vehicles that would otherwise have been sold in Australia as Dodge models, says Go Auto.

The Dodge Journey SUV-style people-mover will almost certainly become the Fiat Freemont.

It was previewed at the Geneva Motor Show last month, and goes into production in Mexico in the second half of this year.

The Freemont is mechanically identical to the Journey, with a choice of 3.6-litre petrol V6 or 2-litre turbo-diesel and front-drive or four-wheel drive - but with Fiat-style front and rear-end revisions.

And the Holden Cruze-size Dodge Dart that caused a stir at the Detroit Motor Show in January will be replaced in Australia by the Fiat Viaggio if the company reverses its decision not to build the car in right-hand drive.

Viaggio is Italian for "journey", but the sedan has no connection to the Dodge of that name.

New Zealand's Dodge distributor, Sime Darby, is still selling the brand - including variants of the Journey and Nitro.

"I think it has been well publicised that in the long term Dodge will be sold only in North America, which has been its most successful market," said Sime Darby's general manager, Grant Smith.

"As to when this happens, this has not been confirmed, and we will continue to market Dodge products for the foreseeable future."

Smith recently told Driven that he'd like Sime Darby to distribute the Italian products.

"We would like to distribute Fiat and Alfa in New Zealand too, but that is for Chrysler to decide," he said.

Fiat chose this week's Beijing Motor Show to unveil the Viaggio, which is based on the underpinnings of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and will go into production in China from late June.

Chrysler Australia officials have been meeting in Beijing with colleagues from parent company Fiat to discuss plans for its Fiat and Alfa Romeo brands, which come under the control of the company from May 1.

Senior Chrysler group executive Michael Manley - whose many job titles include chief operating officer of Fiat-Chrysler Asia Pacific and is therefore responsible for the Australian operation - told Australian media in Beijing that a final decision had not yet been made, but that Dodge's days in Australia were numbered.

"We haven't taken a decision to formally kill Dodge in Australia, but if we follow the same pattern as we have in other international markets then it's certainly only a matter of time," said Manley.

A Fiat insider said everyone at Chrysler Australia knew Dodge was gone, but the company had a process to go through before formalising a decision and advising dealers.

Adding the Freemont people-mover and Viaggio sedan would quickly expand Fiat's passenger-car range in Australia, which - as in New Zealand - is limited to the niche 500 light car.

- NZ Herald

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