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From Citroën to Dodge, meet the Stellantis family of vehicles

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

This weekend, the trans-Atlantic merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Groupe PSA of France will cement an industry-leading 14 brands under one roof, eclipsing Volkswagen AG's 12.

But don't expect to see a Peugeot 5008 or Citroën C4 in American showrooms anytime soon. Or Ram pickup trucks and Dodge Hellcats prowling the streets of Paris.

Industry analysts say the merger will continue to accelerate the globalization of Jeep, which FCA has transformed into one of the world's most recognizable SUV brands. But otherwise, the merger positions Stellantis to have strong product lineups on two continents — with potential for growth on a third, China.

Engineering teams can then take advantage of a bigger toolbox to share vehicle platforms and components — especially electrification at a time when governments are mandating vehicle powertrains.

Translation: you may never see that Peugeot in the U.S. — but you might see its chassis and electric motors underpinning a new Dodge SUV.

That stands in contrast to FCA's 2009 merger — rushed on a political timeline as the Obama administration chaperoned the marriage of Italy's Fiat SpA and Auburn Hills-based Chrysler Group amid the global financial meltdown. Shaped by Washington predictions of an industry shift to small, high-mpg small sedans, Fiat introduced a lineup of wee cars and crossovers that struggled to gain traction in a U.S. market that accelerated in the opposite direction: towards bigger SUVs.

 

"The Washington narrative was that Detroit didn't know how to make small cars," IHS Markit senior auto analyst Stephanie Brinley said in an interview. "Time was critically important because Fiat had to meet so many requirements in order to buy Chrysler out of bankruptcy."

Chief among those promises was that Fiat had to help Chrysler produce a 40-mpg car. The result was the sippy Dodge Dart sedan which rotted on dealer lots. The 30 mpg Fiat 500 suffered the same fate.

"The PSA-FCA merger is different," smiles Brinley. She says it's significant that the amorphous Stellantis name has been picked — a moniker untethered to any one brand. "They chose a name with the premise that this is a new, global company."

A PSA Group spokesperson says that the company has not issued any plans for product synergies. While Peugot has had eyes on the U.S. market, analysts agree Stellantis is unlikely to follow in Fiat's footsteps. Instead of trying to introduce Americans to a French brand, Stellantis is more likely to shore up existing products like Dodge and Chrysler.

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