Both the coupe and the MPV (especially the MPV) could provide a serious bump in volume sure to be appreciated by dealers who invested heavily in their Fiat Studios. I don't think it beyond the realm of possibility that by 2014 Fiat could be selling between 75,000 to 100,000 units annually in North America, with a full lineup of the original coupes and convertibles with Zagato and Abarth.
And let me go on record with more predictions. It's no secret that Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne believes that positioning the company as a mainstream player in the long term requires attaining an annual production scale of six million units. Fiat and Chrysler gets Marchionne to more than four million units. Where will the last 1.5 million units come from?
The answer is simple: Suzuki. Suzuki is currently in divorce court, trying to force Volkswagen to give up its stake in the Japanese automaker that VW acquired after Suzuki was divested from GM.
Relations between Suzuki and Volkswagen are strained, due in part to Suzuki purchasing diesel engines from Fiat rather than its alliance partner Volkswagen. It seems inevitable that the two will split, with just the terms to be determined.
At that point, I believe we'll see Marchionne forge an alliance between Fiat-Chrysler and Suzuki. In fact, the move will probably be his last big deal before handing the reins over to his successor. Such a strategic partnership would make the same kind of sense the Fiat-Chrysler partnership did back in 2009. Fiat is strong in Europe and Latin America, and Chrysler is strongest in North America; each has a small footprint in Asia.
Suzuki holds a solid position in both Japan and India, the same advantage that made the company equally attractive to Volkswagen. And Suzuki has an emerging and developing presence in China, like Fiat-Chrysler. Put all three together, then factor in the strength of the Jeep brand, and you have a powerhouse combination with virtually the same combined worldwide sales volume of Ford, about six million units annually.
The timetable? I imagine behind-the-scenes negotiations are already taking place at a very high level. This could easily play out before the end of 2012, depending on how quickly Suzuki extricates itself from Volkswagen. This fear of Suzuki ending up in a partnership with Fiat could be the main reason Suzuki is forcing the issue while Volkswagen is dragging its heels.