A change has been occurring in North America for several years now. Passenger cars have fallen out of favor with consumers as crossover, SUV, and pickup sales have exploded thanks to their increased practicality by way of higher ground clearance, all-weather capability, and easier access to cargo. The increase in crossover sales has been covered extensively by many automotive publications, including by Mopar Insiders. Looking past the decline of passenger cars, it is not hard to conclude that a brand needs crossovers, SUVs, and pickups to survive – key components that are currently missing from the Chrysler brand.
Right now, Chrysler is surviving on only two models: the 300 sedan and the Pacifica minivan. Rumored to be joining the Chrysler lineup in the near future is a midsize three-row crossover to replace the dated Dodge Journey in showrooms, a large three-row crossover based on the Pacifica’s architecture to compete with the likes of the Traverse, Enclave, and Pilot, and eventually a smaller MPV similar in function to the highly-advanced Portal concept.
Missing from these plans is a compact crossover to satisfy the customers turned off by the off-road-focused Renegade and Compass crossovers. While midsize crossover sales have seen sales increases at the expense of sedans, the small crossover segment provides much more opportunity. For example, in the United States last month, the Explorer and RAV4 were the best sellers in the midsize and small SUV segments, respectively. However, the RAV4 sold 41,093 units while the Explorer sold 22,782; even the best selling midsize crossover sold only around 55% of the volume of the best selling compact crossover. So clearly, there are more sales opportunities to be had in the small SUV segment than in the midsize segment, especially if Chrysler can include an appealing blend of utility, efficiency, and capability, all at a low cost and without stepping on the toes of the Renegade and Compass. I believe this is where the Tipo comes in.
As we’ve already covered in this article thanks to forum member and contributor TripleT, the Tipo is an excellent car with a surprising amount of value and wouldn’t require very many modifications to fit the Chrysler brand in the US while filling a crucial gap in their lineup. While the article referenced above mentioned the possibility of a Tipo sedan or wagon being fit for the Chrysler brand, recent discussions on the forums have brought another idea to light: the Tipo hatchback could be sold as a crossover if it was slightly raised, included some black plastic cladding to give it a more rugged appearance, and gained a set of roof racks to complete the transformation. This would likely not be a cost-intensive product to develop. The finished product would be a similar concept to the Subaru Crosstrek.
If the Tipo crossover could undercut the prices of competitors such as the Kia Soul, Honda HR-V, Nissan Kicks, and Toyota C-HR, it could be a very valuable asset to help fill the gap left by the Dart, often one of the only choices on a CDJR car lot for subprime buyers. If it was deemed a worthwhile investment, it could also include all-wheel drive. If the vehicle is a sales success, the inclusion of AWD could help free the Renegade from the mainstream-crossover segment and allow Jeep to explore the possibility of adding additional off-road capability to its cheaper models and move them upmarket a bit to improve profit margins, since there would be a Chrysler product to fill the entry-level crossover void.
One could argue that the Tipo would require even less modification if it arrived in the United States as a Fiat, but given the poor sales performance of the 500X, that would be a risky move as the Fiat brand has seemingly fallen out of favor again in the United States. The 500X would have likely been more successful if it had a more mainstream design, but it is still associated with the Fiat brand which means that new examples of that vehicle are not available for purchase at CDJR dealerships. An attempt to rebadge that car as a Chrysler could be somewhat successful, but media would likely deride the resulting vehicle as nothing more than a rebadged Fiat and continue to pronounce that the Chrysler brand is dead.
Since the Tipo’s design has no ties to the Fiat brand in the eyes of US consumers, it would stand the best chance at being rebadged as a Chrysler if FCA is willing to invest a bit of money into that project.