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Maserati, Alfa Romeo SUVs could use Jeep Grand Cherokee platform

Mon, 08 Nov 2010

Chrysler and Fiat are exploring additional models, including Maserati and Alfa Romeo SUVs, derived from the new Jeep Grand Cherokee platform, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said Monday.

The Grand Cherokee “architecture has legs. It's important for us to tap all of the hard work that has gone on inside Chrysler on the new Grand Cherokee,” Marchionne said during a conference call to discuss Chrysler's third-quarter earnings. “It has a level of solidity and resilience that we have underestimated.”

The latest Grand Cherokee platform--developed with Mercedes-Benz, which is owned by former Chrysler parent Daimler AG--can handle more powerful powertrains, Marchionne added.

The new models could debut in 12 to 18 months and most likely would be assembled at Chrysler's Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit, he said.

It's unclear what additional Chrysler Group models are being considered.

The redesigned 2011 Dodge Durango also shares the same platform as the new Grand Cherokee. The Durango features three rows of seating and goes on sale later this year.

The previous-generation Durango shared the same platform as the short-lived Chrysler Aspen SUV. And a stretched version of the previous Grand Cherokee platform was used to underpin the Jeep Commander SUV, which featured three rows of seating.

Marchionne said a large Maserati SUV based on the Grand Cherokee architecture could be powered with a Ferrari-built engine. Ferrari assembles the 4.2-liter and 4.7-liter V8 engines used in current Maserati passenger cars.

Alfa Romeo and Maserati have never sold an SUV before. As part of its alliance with Chrysler, Fiat is preparing to reintroduce the Fiat brand in the U.S. market late this year, followed by the return of Alfa Romeo.

Fiat's business plan, unveiled in April, called for Alfa to add two all-wheel-drive crossovers: a compact-sized model in 2012 and a mid-sized model in 2014. Both of the vehicles will be built by Chrysler in the United States and sold worldwide by Alfa.

A Fiat spokesman said Monday that the Grand Cherokee-based SUV could be an additional model in the Alfa range.

Maserati's latest business plan, also unveiled in April, did not include an SUV. A Maserati spokesman confirmed the project is in the works and could be launched in 12 to 18 months.

By David Phillips and Luca Ciferri- Automotive News