Chrysler LLC and Fiat S.p.A. recently announced that they've entered into a strategic alliance that Chrysler believes "provides significant strategic benefits that support our viability and long-term competitiveness." Translation: When the ink dries in April, Fiat will have bought a 35-percent stake in Chrysler.
The partnership will benefit both companies through platform and technology sharing. Fiat gets a boost from Chrysler in gaining a foothold in North America, and Chrysler gets a healthy infusion of cash. But the actual ramifications of the deal are unclear and subject to speculation.
Here's a taste of what I'd like to see come out of this Chrysler-Fiat alliance:
1. Blue&Me system in Chrysler vehicles.
Although we've liked the implementation of Chrysler's UConnect infotainment system in its latest generation of vehicles, the system is no Microsoft Sync. The addition of Sync has positioned Ford Motor Company as a tech-car company and transformed our opinion about the automaker. UConnect is easy enough to use, but lacks the "wow-factor" that keeps Sync at the consumers' top-of-mind. The partnership with Fiat could open the door for the similar Blue&Me infotainment interface (also developed by Microsoft) to be implemented in Chrysler vehicles. Additionally, the ecoDrive portion of the Blue&Me system would go a long way toward improving Chrysler's green image.
2. Better, smaller Chryslers.
Perhaps not under the Chrysler marquee, but certainly Dodge could benefit from a home run in the small, economical car department. The smallest cars in Chrysler's entire portfolio are the Dodge Caliber and the lame duck PT Cruiser, which leaves Chrysler unable to compete with the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and soon, Ford Fiesta subcompact segment. Fiat, on the other hand, has loads of experience building small, yet high-quality, cars. With help from the brand that brought us the 500, which has won nothing but critical acclaim in Europe, perhaps Chrysler could bypass the Fits and Yarises and take on the current King of the Class, the Mini. Which brings us to our next point...
3. Fiat 500 on American roads.
As part of the alliance, Chrysler has stated that it would assist in bringing Fiat brands to the U.S. market, which means Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and--hopefully--Abarth will be coming Stateside. (Ferrari and Maserati are already represented, and presumably not part of the deal anyway.) Alfa Romeo has already begun its slow trip back to America with the 8C Competizione and plans to expand its lineup in the future, but what I really want to see is the Mini-killer Fiat 500 and its hardcore sister, the Abarth 500, in U.S. driveways.
4. An Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione in the CNET Car Tech garage.
I can dream, can't I?