Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is known to make about as many good decisions as Italian prime ministers make bad decisions, but Marchionne's announcement earlier this year that Fiat will sell a rebadged version of the Dodge Journey in Europe was certainly met with trepidation from outsiders.
The Journey, which has never really found a strong following in North America despite a heavy refresh for 2011, is apparently doing so well overseas as the Fiat Freemont that the Italian automaker has upped its order from 3,000 crossovers a month to 4,000.
Fiat initially planned on selling about 33,000 Freemonts annually, but the automaker says it has already received orders for nearly 16,000 vehicles. And those orders have come in for only Freemonts equipped with Fiat's MultiJet turbodiesel four-cylinders mated to manual transmissions since a V6-powered, all-wheel-drive model with an automatic is still yet-to-come.
Most of the orders have been in the automaker's home market of Italy, but Fiat says that 80 percent of buyers are new to the brand. Fiat has had a difficult time nabbing families away from the Renault Espace, but it never had the ability to design its own competitive small MPV. While Chrysler did sell the Journey in Europe, it struggled to find buyers thanks to a miniscule dealership network. Fiat's much larger retail base means it can reach more potential buyers.
Chrysler says it has had to pay assembly line workers overtime in Toluca, Mexico, where the Freemont is assembled in order to meet Fiat's demand.
1.'Fiat asks Chrysler...' view