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Dodge Dart Shines Light on Future Chrysler-Fiat Vehicles

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Chrysler’s compact car plans are thanks to its new partner, Fiat. In the Dart we get the first real-world example of what to expect from upcoming replacement vehicles for the Jeep Liberty, Chrysler 200 and others in the future.

Chrysler has stated that the Dart’s underpinnings are based off a new basic platform originally used to design and produce the Alfa Romeo Giulietta in Europe. Chrysler says the Dart platform — called Compact U.S. Wide — will also underpin most of its upcoming midsize and large sedans, crossovers, SUVs and minivans. The exceptions are the Jeep Wrangler, which will remain body-on-frame, Ram’s trucks and the 2013 SRT Viper.

How can one platform complement such a wide range of vehicles? Chrysler says a vehicle platform refers only to the most basic, fixed structural elements (also known as “hard points”); everything else — from general length, proportional elements, wheelbase, type of engine and suspension architecture — can be altered. A platform can cost up to $200 million, says Chrysler; the shared cost will save money and speed up the development of new vehicles. The new front-wheel-drive platform is designed for hybrid and all-wheel-drive systems, as well as for a newly developed nine-speed automatic transmission.

A new Jeep Liberty will come this year, according to a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing by Chrysler. That’s an advancement of one year from the expected 2013 launch, which Chrysler presented under its five-year product plan in late 2009. It’s even possible we could see the new SUV at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. Chrysler’s CEO Sergio Marchionne told the Detroit Free Press that the new Liberty will “be a trail-rated, full-blooded Jeep that has its origins in the architecture of a sports car.”

Under Chrysler’s previously announced product plan, the Jeep Patriot and Compass will be replaced by one compact crossover based off the Dart platform; also expect a redesigned Chrysler 200. Both vehicles should launch in 2013. When the new 200 comes, the Dodge Avenger will be discontinued. A Chrysler-branded midsize crossover also should show up in 2013. The automaker plans model-year 2012 or 2013 midcycle updates for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram trucks. A subcompact Dodge hatchback (not based off the Dart) is also scheduled for 2013. The carmaker is also considering a Chrysler-branded compact hatchback called the “Chrysler 100,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

In 2014, the Chrysler Town & Country will undergo a complete redesign and also be underpinned by the CUSW platform. We probably got our first glimpse of the new Town & Country via the 700c Concept shown off at the Detroit auto show. There’s still some uncertainty whether Dodge will get a Grand Caravan replacement, however.

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