In 14-brand Stellantis, who will make the cut?

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Stellantis is here, and that means some of the seven brands that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is bringing to the table might not be around for much longer.

The high points of the post-merger blueprint in North America are no secret: Churn out as many Ram pickups as possible and push Jeep into higher price points and new segments.

But Stellantis executives will have to figure out how the rest of FCA’s expansive brand roster fits into the long-term puzzle and whether cuts need to be made.

Chrysler is down to two minivan nameplates and the aging 300 sedan. Alfa Romeo is seeing signs of life — its U.S. sales grew 1.6 percent in a down market last year — but volumes are low for the Giulia sedan and Stelvio crossover.

Fiat has been hanging on with its line of small cars, but its slowing sales have dropped even further amid the pandemic, falling by more than half last year to just 4,303 vehicles. Meanwhile, Dodge has carved out a niche as the muscle brand, but it has no electrified offerings, and two of its three nameplates still in production are cars in a market that’s heavily tilted to SUVs and crossovers.

Add in the seven brands that PSA Group is contributing to the merger, and some streamlining appears likely. But killing any FCA brands wouldn’t be an easy decision or process, even though almost none of the company’s dealerships are single-brand stores that would be left out in the cold.

“You need to be really prudent if you’re thinking of killing a brand as a parent company,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst for iSeeCars.com, a used-car search site. “I look at two brands like Fiat and Chrysler. It seems certainly easy to imagine them going away, that they’re not justified given their sales volume and market share. But I also feel all those rules that we would have normally been assuming for [FCA] are different now because of the merger with PSA.”

Alfa Romeo has been in an uphill battle since its 2014 return to the U.S.

Last fall, FCA CEO Mike Manley said the automaker was refocusing Alfa’s portfolio on segments and markets where it has successfully competed in the past. He wouldn’t rule out the possibility of additional products beyond 2022 but said that depends on performance.

Two new crossovers are expected to boost the Alfa lineup through next year.

Maserati seems to have a future as an electrified luxury option that will offer a range of self-driving capabilities in the years ahead. Manley said in September that Maserati is FCA’s only true luxury brand and that it would keep that role within Stellantis.

Doug Betts, a former FCA executive who is president of J.D. Power’s automotive division, isn’t optimistic about Alfa Romeo’s future in the U.S.

He has encouraged friends shopping for a vehicle to test drive the Giulia because he considers it to be a “beautiful car.” But being a car, he said, is a problem in a crossover-heavy market.

“There’s a stigma with Italian brands, about reliability and so forth,” Betts said.

Brauer said Alfa has a “strong identity and an iconic long-term nature that would be unfortunate to squander” by letting it go.

Dave Kelleher, FCA’s dealer council chairman, doesn’t want to see Chrysler dropped.

Kelleher said the brand still has one of the best minivans on the market with the Pacifica. Chrysler led the minivan segment with sales of nearly 100,000 Pacificas in the U.S. last year, in addition to nearly 40,000 of the discontinued Dodge Grand Caravan.

Kelleher, who owns David Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Glen Mills., Pa., believes Chrysler should move forward as a family brand. He hopes Stellantis adds a crossover to the Chrysler lineup as well.

He also would be open to adding a second Chrysler car. Instead of engineering a new model, Kelleher said, the company might be able to rebadge a car from the PSA lineup at a low enough cost for that to make sense, even if it didn’t generate significant volume.

“You have to be realistic,” he said. “The car’s going to sell, in a volume dealership, five or 10 a month. It’s not going to be a dominant vehicle, but if the cost basis for the company’s relatively down, why not look to do that?”

For now, Chrysler has brand equity, but it’s in a vulnerable spot with few products to sell, said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for Edmunds. She doesn’t think a crossover would help given that consumers already can buy utility vehicles from Jeep’s expansive portfolio or opt for a freshened Dodge Durango.

“I think giving it a reason or purpose or a niche would probably be the first order of business before trying to come up with products that would save the brand,” Caldwell said. “I don’t know if the brand’s days are numbered, but I think if they do not give it a better strategy, it does feel inevitable.”

The performance niche that Dodge has carved out since splitting off Ram in 2009 should be enough to keep it alive under the Stellantis umbrella, analysts said.

Brian Moody, executive editor for Autotrader, said he can envision Dodge “becoming primarily a heritage brand, where they may have one or two cars that fulfill a nostalgic niche, even if it transacted at a higher price point than what a normal sedan or coupe would.”

But Moody wonders how long the brand can continue with its aging underpinnings. “Do they develop all new platforms, or are there some shared platforms that [Dodge] can take advantage of?” he said.

Betts said the Charger holds a unique place as a muscular four-door complement to the Challenger.

The brand could find new life if it turns to electrification.

“If, ultimately, they make the transition to electrified powertrains but still [keep] the same personality, then I think there’s a great future,” Betts said.

Kelleher believes Dodge could bring excitement to that growing part of the market.

“I’d like to see Dodge continue to expand the line,” Kelleher said. “How cool would it be if Dodge came up with the most powerful hybrid that was ever built?”

Fiat is clinging to life in the U.S. The Italian brand, reintroduced to Americans in 2010, has a rich history but hasn’t found a welcoming public.

It could be on the way out soon. FCA said last month that the Fiat 124 Spider, which was based on the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and 500L are dead after the 2020 model year. That leaves just one nameplate: the 500X.

“For whatever reason,” Moody said, “their message of a more premium experience in an Italian [car] is not really clicking with American buyers.”

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