Electric Vehicle Hype Helped Stellantis Stock Soar in 2021, Now It Must Deliver (Part 1)
Built on the hype of its new European brand alliances, some EV revelations and the promise of profitability that always comes with economies of scale, shares of Stellantis (STLA) are up more than 60% in 2021, outperforming shares of Tesla stock (TSLA), which rose 27% over the same period. For this growth to continue in 2022, Stellantis must deliver the product. Here’s how each brand can do it right.
The first part of our two-part review of the Stellantis outlook focuses primarily on US brands.
To readers of a certain age, it may seem like Chrysler has been on the verge of bankruptcy all of its life. From the company’s first billion-dollar bailout in 1980 to its purchase of American Motors (read: Jeep) in 1987 and the “merger of equals” with Mercedes-Benz in the 1990s, and then the bailout of the U.S. government and sale to venture capital firm Cerberus in the Late 1990s and well into the FCA era, Chrysler floated around, finding a way to keep its head above the choppy waters—even if just sometimes. In each of these mergers, takeovers and sales, new brands have been added or removed from the company’s portfolio and promises of synergy and scale have been heralded aloud. This latest reconsolidation – into “Stellantis” – is no different.
Same thing, different fusion
The Stellantis merger added the French Peugeot, Citroën and DS Automobile brands, as well as the German Opel and Vauxhall (in the UK) badges which were phased out by GM in 2017, to the FCA Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram. , Fiat, Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Maserati (Ferrari was created on its own in 2016).
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares, notoriously hostile to electric vehicles, has vowed to give each of the fourteen brands in his stable a real shot at survival, citing “more than 5 billion euros in synergies” and
savings cost reduction measures to be achieved by leveraging economies of scale across its global branded menagerie.
The key to the survival of each of the brands will be two things. The first will be to maintain – or grow – its brand identity as the company moves towards its stated goal of 100% electrification by 2030. The second will be China.
Here’s how each of these brands can make the most of their lifeline.
As I type this, Chrysler has two products to offer in the United States. The first is the Chrysler Pacifica minivan – which is a pretty solid product, as minivans do. The second is the 300 sedan, which began production in its more or less current form in 2004 on a platform that traces its lineage directly back to the W210 E-Class chassis built by Mercedes-Benz in the 1990s. The 300 is a V8-powered car dinosaur – the last of a breed that has been on life support since the last Panther-platformed Crown Victoria rolled off the line in 2007.
More than any other brand on this list, Chrysler needs to reinvent itself if it hopes to survive. If they can get the production version of the Chrysler Airflow Concept all-electric crossover they showed at CES 2022 to look recognizably like the show car, they’ll be halfway there.
To get it right, there can’t be a “cheap” version, no matter how much dealers demand one. Chrysler needs to go big or go home here and introduce a classier version of Ford’s Mustang Mach-E that’s still “Made in the USA” without being a Tesla clone. And, it has to carry a price tag that’s a tick higher than the Model Y. From there, a flagship model loosely based on the DS9 (pictured, top) should bring the 300 well into the 21st century.
Over the past forty years, Jeep has successfully transformed its Wrangler from a denim-lined convertible that valley girls drove to the beach into a go to car choice for guys who like to stockpile guns and “thin blue line” bumper stickers as they dress like army men and misquote Ayn Rand. The rest of the Jeep lineup, meanwhile, has steadily moved upmarket, to the point that a $100,000 Grand Wagoneer doesn’t immediately seem laughable.
If premium Jeep SUVs can keep everything else exactly as they are now and just trade off the rumble of the V8 for refined, electrified power, that’ll be enough to keep them in the luxury SUV game for years to come. I’d also like to see the smaller “cute-ute” Renegade replaced by something based on the upcoming all-electric Peugeot Rifter 4×4 soon, followed by a boxy version of the DS 7 Crossback (below) bearing the plaque Cherokee signage.
If the legendary Ford Mustang and Chrysler Airflow can return as Mustang Mach-E and Chrysler Airflow Concept crossovers, there’s no reason to believe the Dodge Charger couldn’t return as an electric vehicle as well. And – luckily for Dodge! – the Citroen C5 X features a suitably modern and suitably angry platform to slap a Dodge ‘crisscross’ grille and call it done…as long as it can smoke all four tires when you mash the right pedal, that’s -to say.
As for the rest of Dodge’s lineup, the high-powered Challenger and Durango are both getting a bit long in the tooth. The Challenger is a pretty easy variable to fix (two-door charger), but the Durango isn’t worth saving, and I think Stellantis’ CJDR dealers would be better served by an entry-level Opel Corsa crossover from range (below) with cute, round headlights that bring the Neon name to life.
fun fact: The charger and the neon are Great Names of electric vehicles.
Like electric RVs, electric pickup trucks are so hot right now. Another hot market? Compact microphones. And the sold-out Ford Maverick hybrid has the US market all to itself right now. Ram could, presumably, get in the game very soon, as it already offers a unibody pickup based on a similar car in other markets called the Ram 700 (shown, above, in Laramie trim), and sooner Ram brings a little “Dakota” back to the States, the better.
As for full-size Ram pickups, an electric model is sure to hit the market sooner rather than later and will almost certainly be closer in spirit to the body-on-frame Ford F-150 Lightning than the Ultium-based unibody Chevy Silverado. . , but Ram will play catch-up. To succeed, it has to stand out, so expect less emphasis on yard features or creature comforts and more on a decidedly butch aesthetic.
If Stellantis wants to make a splash here, they should ignore the half-ton market and go straight for the top with a high-end one-ton double axle, semi-inspired nose, 15,000+ towing capacity books. , and “Power Wagon” emblazoned on its sides. If they do, they can charge whatever they want – Texans will buy ’em all.
The TL version; DR of it all is simple: Stellantis needs to go back to basics with the majority of its US brands, while continuing to push Jeep higher up the luxury food chain. Sure, that might mean the company has to turn its back on its most vocal, Hemi-loving fans, but the future waits for no one, and this could very well be Chrysler’s ninth life.
Check back soon for my take on the Italian brands of Stellantis and why I think they should pump every spare penny they can into Lancia.
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