Open Road

Why FCA needs to resurrect Eagle

Long live the Talon!

It seems only applicable to discuss the resurrection of a dead car brand in this season of Easter. Many names have come and gone over the past century, and many have stayed gone for good reasons – I do not see many people clambering for Hummer or Oldsmobile. While Ford and GM have slimmed their brand portfolios to focus resources on successful ones, FCA has decided to buck the trend and expand their brand offerings. RAM was split off from Dodge, and Fiat and Alfa Romeo have been reintroduced to the American marketplace. While Fiat's presence was meant to catalyze a renaissance of small car offerings for a company trying to impose the Caliber on unsuspecting customers, the brand has yet to break 50,000 US sales in a year and the Dart replacement has been anything but a success.

FCA has decided to send the Dart and 200 to the great clouds in the sky (or the fires below depending on your experience with those products) due to a sagging interest in small cars and is focusing on large vehicles with greater profit margins. However, gas will only be cheap for so long and when it skyrockets again, FCA will be left in with their pants down like the blood-sucking lawyer from Jurassic Park sitting on the toilet with a T-Rex staring down (spoiler: one of them does not survive the encounter). FCA's focus on crossovers and trucks will help line its pockets right now, but a new car takes 3 years and a billion dollars to develop. This is why I believe that the Eagle brand can be FCA's savior.

Eagle started in the late 1980's when Chrysler purchased AMC and rebranded their products under the new banner. It was meant to attract the enthusiast driver, but leftovers from AMC and rebadged Mitsubishis did not make a solid business plan. The brand lasted about a decade before the final nail was
put in the coffin. The 21st Century has brought a new breed of enthusiast in the eco-focused driver, and Eagle should be that flag-bearer.

FCA has demonstrated that their expertise is in full-sized vehicles, and so a partnership is necessary to make small cars successful. There is one brand that has demonstrated a mastery of small and efficient vehicles along with a need for development capital – Mazda. Fiat has already partnered with them for the 124 Spyder, and so a built-in relationship currently exists. However, Eagle can become a partnership brand to incorporate other Mazda products.

Mazda will also be gaining dealership exposure through the Eagle brand. FCA currently has about 2,500 dealerships as compared to Mazda's 700. As Mazda pursues a more premium image for their brand, Eagle can provide an entry-point to their products as well as FCA's. Most first-time buyers cannot afford a new truck or premium sports sedan. Brands like Chevrolet and Hyundai provide access to a market of buyers who cannot afford more expensive offerings currently, but may be able to in the future. Eagle can be that access point for FCA as well as Mazda.

Eagle will need multiple products to be successful. The Mazda 3 could be rebranded as the Eagle Vista for the compact sedan and hatchback market. The Mazda 6 could be rebranded as the Eagle Premier for the midsize sedan market. However, both of those chassis can be leveraged for multiple additions to fill out the product portfolio. The Mazda 6 wagon could be brought over to compete against the VW Golf Sportwagen.

The most popular Eagle product was the Talon. A two-door compact will fit perfectly on the Mazda 3 platform and since the Talon was AWD, this may be the Mazdaspeed 3 that enthusiasts have been waiting for. There is also no AWD coupe to compete with the Talon for under $30,000. Having the market to themselves may bode well for Eagle.

Eagle is the brand that FCA can leverage for a mutually beneficial partnership with Mazda. FCA gets the efficient and dynamically superior products they have been unable to develop on their own; Mazda gets the scale and capital it needs to continue its Skyactiv development. Eagle is uniquely positioned to be a win for each brand as well as customers who desire fun, efficient vehicles in the entry-level marketplace (essentially, all of us who are not maxing out our 401k yet). This is another resurrection for the history books.

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