Fiat-Chrysler’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, has thrown a cat among the pigeons this week at an event at the automaker’s Windsor, Ontario plant. Chrysler’s 300 could switch from its current rear-drive layout to a front-drive-based architecture shared with the new Pacifica minivan. The current model 300, which is loosely based on an old Mercedes-Benz platform, is due for replacement sometime beyond 2019.
We know that the Dodge Charger, the 300’s mechanical twin, would also be replaced around the same time, but reports differ on whether or not it would get a version of Fiat-Chrysler’s newest rear-drive platform, the one that underpins the Alfa Romeo Giulia. Financially it certainly makes some sense to borrow the Pacifica’s front-drive platform to the 300, due to greater economies of scale, and it would also lighten the sedan thereby improving its fuel efficiency. But it would also pretty much kill any possibility that the big Chrysler keeps its V8 engine option. Which brings us back to the Giulia’s rear-drive platform, which could enable Chrysler to keep the 300’s V8 power.
Next to issues of image, Fiat-Chrysler faces a few challenges in transitioning its full-size cars to a front-drive platform, namely where to built such vehicles. Today, the rear-drive 300 and its Dodge siblings are assembled at the automaker’s aging Brampton, Ontario plant. According to Automotive News, modernizing the Brampton facility could cost $1 billion, a potentially necessary step given that the Windsor plant where the Pacifica is built likely won’t have the capacity to also build a sedan. Marchionne did mention that, as soon as the outgoing Dodge Caravan is phased out of production, Windsor would have room for another product, but that most likely will be the full-size, three-row crossover (also built on the Pacifica platform) due in Chrysler showrooms around 2018. At this point, FCA seems unsure how to proceed with the 300 and its related Dodge products—a task no doubt made more difficult by the fact that the market for large sedans is in decline.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see them fade away altogether.