• Nov 6th 2009 at 7:00PM
  • 17
One of the more intriguing tidbits that dribbled out of Chrysler's grueling 8-hour press conference on Wednesday is that the company is considering getting back into the heavy truck business. They're not talking about heavy duty pick-ups, they're talking about 18-wheelers.
Up until the early 1970's Dodge sold heavy trucks, including semi-tractors. In fact, Dodge trucks were famous the world over. But like GM and Ford, the Chrysler Corporation decided to get out of that business at a time when the commercial truck sector was under pressure.

When times are good heavy trucks generate a significant amount of profits. Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Renault, Toyota (Hino), Nissan and Mitsubishi (Fuso) are still in the business. But it takes a lot of capital investment to get into and stay in the highly cyclical heavy truck segment, which is why the American car companies abandoned that market years ago.

In this case, the idea to get Chrysler back into the heavy truck market is Fiat's, not Chrysler's. And that is precisely why this could actually happen.


John McElroy is host of the TV program "Autoline Detroit" and daily web video "Autoline Daily". Every week he brings his unique insights as an auto industry insider to Autoblog readers.
Fiat is one of the largest heavy truck producers in the world, through its Iveco subsidiary. Most Americans are unaware of the company and its trucks because it doesn't sell them in the American market. But it sure would like to.

In fact, Iveco trucks are not sold in Mexico or Canada either, meaning it's missing out on one of the largest markets for heavy trucks in the world. It would take a lot of time and effort for Iveco to establish a distribution network to sell its trucks. But with Fiat taking over Chrysler, presto!, the Dodge dealer network offers an instant distribution system.

Or, I should say, the Ram network. As you're undoubtedly aware, Fiat is breaking Dodge trucks off from the Dodge brand and branding them as Rams. They must be thinking that as long as they're creating a new truck brand, why not extend the line from compact pick-ups all the way up to Class 7 or 8 semis?

And throw a couple of commercial vans into the mix while you're at it. Chrysler needs something to replace the Sprinter, and Fiat has just the vehicle it needs in the Ducato. Since Ford is bringing the Transit Connect to the American market, Fiat also has the perfect competitor to go up against it with the Doblo. In fact, like the Transit Connect, the Doblo is also made in Turkey, meaning it won't get killed by exchange rates.

It's easy to see why Fiat is thinking along these lines. By bringing its Iveco line to the NAFTA market, it helps justify its takeover of Chrysler. By providing Ram dealers with the kinds of commercial vehicles they haven't had in decades, it can potentially make them a lot more profitable.

This is a small chunk of Fiat's master plan for Chrysler, but I find it to be an intriguing piece. Whoever would've thought we'd live to see the Pentastar people back to selling big rigs?


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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have to admit that as much as I look forward to the opportunity to drive a Fiat 500 here in the U.S., this heavy truck idea is the first thing that makes even an iota of business sense to me about the Fiat/Chrysler deal.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I wouldn't really say Mitsubishi is still in the business since they sold most of the Fuso to DCX a while back. Maybe they still have some interest in it as far as the factories and some of the tech, but controlling interest belongs to the Germans. ASFAIK most all of the big name trucking companies are owned by like a handful of brands, so I really don't see Dodge seriously climbing back into a market that is so saturated and so difficult that only a few independant players exist any more.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If you didn't see this coming you weren't really looking at Fiat very well. IVECO trucks would naturally be part of Fiat's plan to get back in the USA. They still have parts suppliers in the USA from the last time they sold trucks here. They still sell large generators
      • 5 Years Ago
      I didn't see this in the five-year plan...
      • 5 Years Ago
      @Radio: I don't think it would be a big deal. Corporate customers are not stuck on brands as much as consumers. In commercial trucks fuel mileage makes huge difference for operating costs, I think big rigs get around 1 to 2 mpg? If Fiat has something that is better, they will gain a lot of new customers. Big rigs are used for a ridiculous amount of miles.
        • 5 Years Ago
        More like 6-7 mpUSg.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Return of the Bighorn? :D
      • 5 Years Ago
      So Dodge will be Chrysler's GMC?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't know ... compete against Peterbilt, Kenworth, Freightliner, International, Mack and Volvo? Times have changed since Dodge made a so-called heavy truck. Its a tough nut to crack.
        • 5 Years Ago
        it's not really that clear-cut anyway; the true # of competitors is pretty low in this market. Kenworth and Peterbilt are the same company (PACCAR,) Mack=Volvo, and Daimler owns almost everyone else other than International.
      • 5 Years Ago
      But International Harvester Australia, following its involvement with Iveco, became Iveco International Trucks in 1992. In 2001, the company was renamed Iveco Trucks Australia.
        • 5 Years Ago
        wasn't aware of that. appreciate the information!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't think so. If it cost a nickle to poop, Chrysler would have to vomit.
        • 5 Years Ago
        that one is made by International, at least in Australia.
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