Dodge Journey, a good idea

The next model to be analyzed is the Dodge Journey, also known as Fiat Freemont in some other markets. It was conceived as a new concept of vehicle intended to catch those clients looking for roominess in a car that is not as tall as a SUV and not as big as a MPV. This Dodge, which could be considered a Crossover, was presented in 2007 in Frankfurt Motor Show and available in American market in the first quarter of 2008. Chrysler used Dodge Avenger’s platform to create this mid-sized MPV (for segmentation reasons is closer to a Multi-Propose-Vehicle than a SUV) as a smaller and more practical version of big Chrysler Town & Country/Dodge Grand Caravan. This kind of cars is very popular in North America and they did a very good job as sales figures confirm it. The Journey became a referent in a new segment, which by the time of the launch of this car, was almost unknown in the US and Canada. Since its launch, Dodge has done quite good with this product, not only in the positioning phase, but also with the updates it has had so far to keep it as a fresh product. It has also become an interesting option in those other markets where it is available, and was the base for the development of the first rebadged Fiat, the Freemont, on sale in Europe and Brazil.

Dodge Journey information for September 2012. Source: Dodge USA

Fiat Freemont information for September 2012. Source: Fiat Italia

It is considered a MPV as it can transport up to seven passengers in a car that is not as tall as a regular SUV. The car is as big as its origin, where big cars are the most popular. It is 4.88 m length and 1.87 m wide, and that’s why there it can accommodate without any problem, up to 7 passengers in the top versions. Unlike some other real MPV, its rear doors are opened normally as any other regular car. Because of its measures, the Journey is positioned in two different segments according to the market. Normally it would always be considered a ‘D-MPV’, the top segment for MPV. But in America Dodge offers a larger MPV, called Grand Caravan, which is also considered a ‘D-MPV’. For segmentation reasons in America, the Journey is part of mid-sized MPV, or ‘C-MPV’ segment. In Europe, where big MPV are not that usual, the Fiat Freemont is considered a ‘D-MPV’ because of its size and its competitors (the Freemont is closer to a VW Sharan than a Touran, or closer to a Renault Espace than a Scenic). The segmentation of the Journey/Freemont according to the market is more or less the same what happens with the Fiat Linea in Brazil and Europe, where the same car is positioned differently and so does the client approach. At any case the Journey is a different  option from the Grand Caravan, aka Chrysler Town & Country or Lancia Voyager. It is more sporty and less family car than those big MPVs.

Units sold per model in each market. Market share of each model in its segment for 2011. Change on sales figures in the period January-August. Source: Good Car Bad Car,, FGW Data basis, FANAVABRE

The car got its first facelift in 2011 when Fiat began selling it in Europe, so they decided to improve its interior and add some engine options. Before that, European clients used to received the Dodge Journey in Chrysler dealerships, but Marchionne and his team decided it was an excellent product and it deserved better sales figures using Fiat brand. And it worked, even though it could have better results if it was not because of the European car industry crisis. During its first year in the US, the Journey sold more than 47.000 units, while American market was dealing with the deep financial crisis years. But when things seemed to be bad for car sales in USA and Canada, the Journey did very well. Produced in Mexico, it has always benefited from low labor cost so its price is some how competitive. That’s also the same place where the rebadged Freemont is produced for Europe. But good sales did not stop. The Journey was Chrysler’s only product to rise its sales figures in 2009. In Europe it was presented as the Fiat Freemont in Geneva 2011  with sales target of 40.000 units per year, half of them in Italy. And at least Italian results have proved the target is not unreal. The car intends to be a successor of not one but 3 models: the Fiat Ulysse, Multipla and Croma.

Because of being a mix between a SUV and a MPV, the Journey does not have clear competitors in American market. Ford Flex and Honda Crosstour are likely to be its rivals because of their shapes, engine options and prices. Source: Car & Driver, Autos AOL, SGCarmart, Good Car Bad Car

In Europe the Freemont has done better than Journey and it has gained some market share all over Europe. It has become more popular than extinct Fiat Croma and Multipla. Source: Omniauto,,

As it is a car conceived for American market, it is offered with big and powerful American engines. In US market the offer is composed by 2.4-Liter 16V Dual VVT and 173 hp, and 3.6L V6 PentastarVVT and 283 hp. In Europe there are 3 options: 2 diesels and one petrol. The first two are a 2.0 Multijet with 140 hp and 2.0 Multijet with 170 hp. The petrol one is the same American Pentastar engine with 283 hp. All of these engine options are available with front or all-wheel-drive transmission. It is why the car can perfectly compete with a full equiped MPV or a mid size SUV. But as it is a weird product is not easy to find direct rivals. In North America, it belongs to ‘C-MPV’ so its main rivals are Ford Flex and Honda Crosstour. In Europe its has more rivals as it is one segment above. The Freemont must compete with Ford S-Max, Peugeot 5008, Renault Espace and VW Sharan. In many cases the Journey/Freemont is cheaper than most of them and offers practically the same advantages in a more compact car. It explains why the Journey became America’s best-selling mid-sized MPV and in Europe the Freemont is now in Top 5. Brazil and China are the only markets to receive both versions, the Journey and Freemont. The future for the model? it is not clear yet whether Fiat and Dodge will develop the second generation together. But certainly the success the car has had in both sides of the Atlantic ocean is a key factor to develop a future generation together. Dodge can offer sporty and family cars. Fiat is well-known for its family and practical cars.

Dodge Journey and Fiat Freemont. The only difference between them is the bottom part of the grill

No differences in the back


Fiat Freemont Park Avenue at Paris Motor Show 2012

For more information about Dodge Journey/Fiat Freemont information and its rivals:

The Car Connection: Dodge Journey vs. Ford Flex

Car Sort: Dodge Journey Express vs. Ford Flex SEL

True Delta: Dodge Journey R/T vs. Honda Crosstour EX-L

Car Alternatives: Fiat Freemont  vs. Ford S-Max

Car Alternatives: Fiat Freemont vs. VW Sharan

La Revue Automobile: Fiat Freemont 2.0 Multijet 170 4WD vs. Peugeot 5008 1.6 THP 156







Fiat-Chrysler begins its come back to China

After the presentation of Fiat Viaggio in Beijing Auto Show 2012, the Group is getting ready to enter the Chinese market with some of its brands. The Viaggio will be the, by the moment, the only product to be produced locally, but more products from Fiat brand as well as Dodge and Chrysler will soon join Jeep in world’s largest market. Fiat will be initially present with the C-segment sedan, and will import both, the 500 and Freemont from Mexico. The small one will be offered with some specific changes while the large MPV will be offered with the 173hp 2.4 engine. It is also expected the return of Chrysler with its big sedan, the 300C imported from Canada. After being produced in China during Daimlers era, this sedan will go back to China with its facelift and much better interiors to compete with of Germans in D-segment in large version configurations. Its launch will take place in June 26th and its price should be 500.000 yuans (US$79.000). Dodge is also getting ready. Some spy shots reveiled by the site showed its Journey (is the Dodge version as the logo can be seen in the steering wheel). It means that China will be, as it is Brazil, another market to have both models available, Fiat Freemont and Dodge Journey. Nevertheless, it is expected the Journey to be more expensive as it will have a better engine of 283hp 3.6 V6. Its price is not expected to be far from Freemont which starts at $250.000 yuans (US$39.000). All of these models will join the only brand of the group that has not interrupted its presence in China, Jeep.

Dodge Journey/Fiat Freemont. Both models are available in Brazil and soon in China. Photo by

Jeep models are available in China in 120 dealers. They are all imported from North America and it makes them really expensive SUVs. No matter its representation in the country has changed a lot during the last 30 years (its owners were always changing) the brand still has a good reputation among Chinese. Last year they sold 19.013 units, up 63% compared to 2010. Is a small number compared to competition but it can be seen as a good starting point for future sales with local production. In fact Fiat-Chrysler’s plan include the start of production in 2014. In the meantime, Jeeps will continue to be well recognized, and its sales will rise without reaching the big numbers local production means. It is because imported cars are highly taxed by Chinese authorities and it makes Jeep products really expensive: the Grand Cherokee starts at $576.000 yuans (US$91.000). All of that means that Fiat has a lot of potential but they need to start local production as soon as possible if they want a respectable place in this important car market.

Full production starts for the Dodge Dart

The all new Dodge Dart. Photo by

The all new Dodge Dart. Photo by

On monday May 7th, Belvidere Plant in Illinois began full production of the all new Dodge Dart. The pretty C segment sedan will be available in showrooms from june this year and it is expected to be a success as it certainly offers a great mix of nice exterior design, high quality interiors, and great engines developed with Fiat. “We are probably bulding the best product not just in the country but in the world” for Dodge, said George Welitschinsky, president UAW Belvidere Assembly Plant. Customers will have a choice of 12 exterior colours, 14 interior colours, 3 fuel efficient engines, 3 transmission choices, and world class aerodynamics starting at US$16.000, just below its main competitors: Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla.

Photo by

Photo by

The Dart is a product that was born after Fiat’s take over Chrysler in early 2009. By that time, economic crisis made American Government to search for solutions to the bankrupted automotive sector. Dart is the answer to one of main conditions for this take over: to produce a small fuel efficient car (26 MPG city/41 highway) in America. Fiat brought its fuel efficiency technology to Chrysler and then they added Alfa Romeo’s C-EVO platform to get this beauty mid size sedan that will serve as the base for Fiat Viaggio in China. Those characteristics plus the fact that C segment is becoming really popular in the US market (third largest one with 16% market share, after SUV and D segment*), are enough to think that this product will reach important numbers very far from the flop of Dodge Caliber.  

2011 USA Market, C segment**

(Model: Units sold 2011 (Variation) / Units sold Jan-Apr/12 (Variation)

1. Toyota Corolla: 240.259 (-10%) / 93.232 (-8%)

2. Chevrolet Cruze: 231.732 (+846%) / 75.288 (0%)

3. Honda Civic: 221.235 (-15%) / 101.592 (+11%)

4. Hyundai Elantra: 186.361 (+41%) / 61.237 (-3%)

5. VW Jetta: 177.360 (+44%) / 54.424 (-6%)

6. Ford Focus: 175.717 (+2%) / 85.468 (+57%)

7. Toyota Prius: 136.463 (-3%) / 86.027 (+56%)

8. Nissan Sentra: 114.991 (+22%) / 39.173 (-21%)

9. Mazda 3: 102.417 (-4%) / 42.218 (+25%)

10. Nissan Versa: 99.730 (0%) / 43.530 (+18%)

11. Chrysler 200: 87.033 (+125%) / 44.981 (+120%)

12. Kia Forte: 76.294 (+11%) / 25.557 (-4%)

13. Subaru Impreza: 41.196 (-7%) / 29.243 (+86%)

14. Dodge Caliber: 35.049 (-22%) / 6.646 (-51%)

Photo by

Photo by

From the numbers above it is possible to conclude that C segment is moving and giving importance to new models such as new generation of Ford Focus and Honda Civic, or successful facelifts like the Chrysler 200. According to it, the new Dart could reach about 120.000 units on its first year of sales. Important to mention the big market share gained by hybrid Toyota Prius, something to be considered for future hybrid technology models of the group in America.

*FGW data basis