By now you'll have heard all about the FCA/PSA merger and what it could mean for both of the already huge automotive groups combining into one massive supergroup of car manufacturers. Of course, like any supergroup, things can get a bit controversial or there might even be some cases of egos and the good old "creative differences". Being ever the optimist when it comes to the future of motoring, I'm hoping that there will be some really great things that come out of the FCA/PSA merger. Will it be a Them Crooked Vultures or a Velvet Revolver? If they want it to be the former, here's 5 things I think they should do!
(Note: I'd like to give a shout out to Shazad Sheikh, as his article about 5 cars that should be brought back under the new merger was the inspiration for this piece. Cheers for the inspiration Shazad!)
If the popularity (and, to an extent, residual secondhand values!) of the UK spec Ford Mustangs have shown us, it's that this part of the world is very much interested in muscle cars. It's not like the Vauxhall brand hasn't done this before - you only have to take a look at the Monaro and the VXR8, cars which both won universal appeal across journalists, enthusiasts and owners alike. Unfortunately, they were forced to stop producing these cars due to the production lines in Australia shutting down.
However, the PSA/FCA merger has thrown this idea a second lifeline. Dodge, another part of FCA, makes muscle cars! The Charger saloon and Challenger coupe are both cars that are beloved in their native USA and there's a healthy grey import market for them outside of North America. With that being the case, why not bring muscle cars back to the Vauxhall/Opel brand by redeveloping the already tried and tested Charger and Challenger for British and European tastes?
Just like Ford does with the Mustang, they can offer a range of engines from a turbo 4 cylinder all the way up to the legendary 707 hp of the Hellcrate drivetrain and maybe even hybrid options too. What kind of nameplate would these cars have? Well, there's only one choice (at least in the UK) considering these are muscle cars - VXR!
New big Citroens
OK, I get it. The big Citroens are a bit of a specialist thing. They were always the eccentric choice. Not everyone is a fan of big, wafty saloons and estates with crazy suspension that can be a bit difficult to properly maintain. But, for those of use who love and remember them fondly, they were some of the most wonderful cars you could ever hope to own without having to spend a six figure sum of money.
The last proper big Citroen was the C6 and, as we all know, it didn't do very well. It's become a figure of fun almost in the time following its withdrawal from sale, looked upon like the Volkswagen Phaeton as a great white elephant that was unsuited to the changing times of the automotive industry. The DS7 Crossback seems to be bringing some of that spirit back, but in the controversial form of the ever popular SUV and without the characterful hydropneumatic suspension that even the oft-derided C6 had.
With the no doubt increased budgets, personnel and wealth of history coming from the Citroen branch of this new automotive megacorporation, maybe they could take a risk and create a brand new premium saloon to sit at the top of the DS model line. Whilst it wouldn't be a Citroen in name, it would certainly be a Citroen in spirit. Maybe they could even borrow some drivetrain technology from Maserati to create the spiritual successor to the SM?
A big, 7 seater SUV in the UK & Europe
Let's face it, people carriers are out and SUVs are in. A growing number of manufacturers are phasing out their old school full 7 seater MPVs in favour of SUVs that have the same amount of people carrying ability on the inside. With that in mind, why doesn't the new megacorporation of FCA & PSA do this too for those of us on this side of the atlantic? It's easier than you might think. Dodge already has the perfect candidate for this in the Durango, the venerable big 7 seater SUV that sells well in North America. It could easily be adapted for British and European markets.
The only question is what badge and what name it would wear. For me, the most logical choice would be to bring back a name from the past - that name being the Vauxhall/Opel Frontera. The Frontera was a reliable workhorse favoured by families and farmers alike and a rebadged Dodge Durango with more European-friendly powertrain choices (very likely including a plug-in hybrid option) would fit that very well, although it would more than likely be far too premium to be a farm carryall like many old Fronteras are still to this day.
Tying into my earlier point about muscle cars being a part of things, they could even sell the V8 powered models in limited numbers under the VXR brand. It would certainly be a cool, cheaper and perhaps more bonkers alternative to something like a Mercedes GLE63 AMG.
Ram in the UK & Europe
Ram Trucks is a staple of FCA's operations in North America. The RAM 1500 and other associated models are big sellers with everyone from workmen to people who want expensive, highly spec'd "lifestyle" trucks. They are also the American market destination for FCA's European vans (The Ram ProMaster Van is the North American market version of the Fiat Ducato and the Ram ProMaster City is the North American market version of the Fiat Doblo). Also, interestingly, the Fiat Fullback is sold as the Ram 1200 in the UAE.
With this in mind, why not introduce the Ram brand into markets on the other side of the Atlantic? Badge engineering the already badge engineered Fiat Fullback (it's based on the Mitsubishi L200) into the Ram 1200 might be a better image for the otherwise Fiat badged utility vehicle. Or, maybe, a brand new Ram Dakota could be developed to compete with European pickups such as the Ford Ranger, Volkswagen Amarok and the aforementioned Mitsubishi L200 by offering something a bit more American in flair and feeling? Maybe even add the Ram-badged vans into the mix too to give a badge-engineered alternative to their Fiat siblings?
As fun as it would be to have the full fat Ram 1500s available for sale over the other side of the Atlantic in RHD, I don't think there's enough of a business case to justify it. They are very large for European standards after all, and they can be very thirsty vehicles! It would make much more sense to sell something Dodge Dakota sized or Fiat Fullback sized over the other side of the Atlantic.