Sergio Marchionne says it’s possible, refused to make a commitment

Intentional or not, FCA chief executive Sergio Marchionne has hinted on a significant change for the next-generation Chrysler 300, one that involves a shift to front-wheel drive for the traditionally rear-wheel drive full-sized luxury sedan. Marchionne made the comments during the Chrysler Pacifica’s launch in Chrysler’s Windsor, Ontario production facility.

The FCA boss stopped short of confirming his comments when asked to clarify on them. He likely realized that his words could be taken out of context so instead, he clarified that the Windsor facility is “capable” of making a production run since it’s possible to use the underpinnings of the Pacifica for the next-generation 300. The facility in Ontario will be the production base of the new minivan and while it would be interesting to see a front-wheel drive 300, Chrysler signing off on such a proposal could entail moving the production of the 300 from its current facility in Brampton, Ontario. The proximity between the two facilities – around 217 miles – could make for an easy transition and would see the 300 leave behind the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger in the Brampton facility.

That said, Marchionne’s comments should be taken with a grain of salt considering that he set the record straight, saying his comments shouldn’t be treated as a commitment to a dramatic shift in production strategy. But it does open the possibility of seeing the next-generation 300 come with a front-wheel-drive configuration. Having that should equate to a more refined driving experience, improved fuel economy, and a bigger and more efficient use of interior space, three characteristics that are likely to be high on the checklist of prospective customers for the next-generation 300.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

Why it matters

I don’t want to say that the Chrysler 300 has become stagnant because sales of the car through April 2016 have increased by 29 percent – 21,487 units from 16,708 units – compared to its tally in the first four months of 2015. But there are those that feel that Chrysler isn’t maximizing the 300’s potential as much as it should. These people point to the model’s disappointing sales volume in 2015 when the 300 actually suffered a 1 percent decline in sales – 53,109 units from 53,382 units – compared to 2014.

There are a variety of reasons that could point to the 300’s sales volume, but if the model really needs a spark as it enters its next generation, shifting to front-wheel drive could be one of them. It might not sound like a conventional switch seeing as FWD models are usually used by people haulers like minivans, but a lot of modern sedans like the Hyundai Sonata and the Lexus ES are FWD. Maybe it’s time for the 300 to take that route too.

I get that there are drawbacks to doing this, particularly in terms of performance. Front-wheel drive cars will never match the maximum performance capabilities of their rear-wheel drive counterparts, but is that really that much of a problem for a car like the 300? For better or worse, the 300 finds itself in that unenviable position of trying to be a luxury car and a performance car all at once. Sure a case can be made that in its current setup, it could be considered as such. But this is Chrysler’s flagship sedan and as such, shouldn’t it be treated as more of a luxury car than a performance car? I know that’s subject to different opinions but I’m of the mindset that a front-wheel drive version of the 300 would improve the model’s standing in the market in the future as opposed to it remaining a rear-wheel drive model. Package it as the model that could get more out of its potential.

FCA’s got a big decision on its hands now that the next-generation 300 is on the horizon. If Marchionne was intentionally trying to be coy when he dropped hints of a possible FWD 300, he picked a good time to get the discussion going. Now let’s see what FCA decides on what it wants to do with the next-gen 300.

Chrysler 300

2015 Chrysler 300 High Resolution Exterior
- image 578647

Read our full review on the Chrysler 300 here.

Source: Reuters

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: