The company's name may be Fiat Chrysler -- but those car brands are not the automaker's main focus for the next five years.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCAU) shares fell sharply on Friday, June 1, as outgoing Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne outlined his final strategic vision before he leaves the helm of the Italian-American automaker, focusing heavily on the company's Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands.
"These brands comprise the most significant portion of our revenues and our earnings," said Marchionne, adding that FCA will be cash flow positive by the end of the month.
The 65-year-old CEO said debt was "a legacy that has dogged both Fiat and Chrysler for decades," and that erasing it "is a fundamental change in how this company is perceived. It is a significant milestone in the process of healing of a structural weakness."
Marchionne, who will step down early next year, emphasized the need for cleaner, more efficient vehicles, noting that the London-based Fiat Chrysler plans to invest 9 billion euros ($10.5 billion) in hybrid and electric technology to ensure the company complies with emissions standards. The company also aims to phase out diesel engines in European passenger cars by 2021.
"Love him or hate him, you can't deny that Sergio is leaving FCA in better shape than when he found it. The company is leaner, more focused and better prepared for the emerging transformation in mobility," said Ivan Drury, senior manager of industry analysis at Edmunds, a Santa Monica, California-based data provider that focuses on the auto industry.
Fiat Chrysler announced plans to expand Jeep's presence in the global market. Presently, one in every 17 utility vehicles sold in the world is a Jeep, according to Jeep brand chief Mike Manley, and he expects one in 12 utility vehicles sold to be a Jeep by 2022, but did not provide specific sales target. The Jeep Wrangler is already the most wanted car in America as of April, according to CarMax.
Manley said the plan for Jeep is for two launches per year worldwide. Jeep will launch nine new products and offer four battery-electric versions by 2022 as well. Earlier this year, Jeep unveiled four 2018 Jeep Wrangler models.
While Jeep seems to be a safe place to bet Fiat Chrysler's future on, Drury said, there is a certain amount of risk in placing so much responsibility on a single brand.
At Ram, the brand's truck unit aims to grow global sales by up to 30% to 1 million units by 2022 and, in doing so, become the number two commercial vehicle brand in North America.
"FCA is doubling down on the company's strengths, which should pay off, at least in the near term," said Drury. "Rising gas prices likely won't be enough to completely deter shoppers from trucks and SUVs, and giving buyers more of what they want is usually smart business sense."
Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler's luxury brand, Maserati, will launch hybrid and fully electric vehicles, in a bid to take on Tesla Inc. (TSLA) . Its other premium luxury brand, Alfa Romeo, will also include hybrid components and plug-in hybrids.
Tim Kuniskis, the head of Maserati, said the brand will have an all-electric supercar named "Alfieri" that will accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in around two seconds.
"With an all-electric supercar, it may look like we are targeting Tesla. We are," Kuniskis said.