UPDATED: 2/9/17 1:15 pm ET – adds details
CHICAGO — Is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles thinking about adding the Fiat Toro — a small lifestyle pickup on sale in Latin America — to its U.S. Fiat lineup?
Ralph Gilles, global head of design for FCA, sent mixed signals on Thursday.
Speaking at the Chicago Auto Show, Gilles showed an image of the new Fiat Toro pickup, and promised: “You’re going to be seeing more from Fiat on the truck side, especially.”
But a few hours later, he sent out a tweet saying: “I must clear something up from this morning #MAMA “I meant I Love the new 2017 #Fiat Toro sold in Latin America, no plans to sell in the U.S.”
The midsize pickup segment has become a bonafide battleground in the U.S. again, growing 26 percent last year, easily outpacing the light-truck and overall markets. New entries from Chevrolet and GMC and a redesigned Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline have stoked demand for smaller, less expensive pickups. The segment will also soon be joined by the Ford Ranger, among the top sellers in the segment for years and which Ford plans to resurrect late this decade.
The Toro is a unibody metric-ton pickup that replaced the Fiat Strada in Latin America in 2016. Based on the same global platform that launched the Jeep Renegade and new Jeep Compass, it has two rows of seating and a compact pickup bed, and a tailgate that is split in the center.
Fiat’s current U.S. lineup has just four vehicles: the 500 minicar, the 500X crossover, the 500L five-door hatchback, and the Mazda-built 124 Spider roadster. Since 2014, FCA executives have said that the four-vehicle lineup would be it for a car-heavy brand that has struggled to counter a consumer shift toward crossovers, SUVs and trucks.
Speaking of FCA’s other brands, Gilles hinted at new vehicles for Maserati and an expansion of the “buzz model” strategy for the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
“We’re doing a lot with Maserati right now. There’s a whole lot of news coming on that,” Gilles said.
He said there had been “zero decay” in Wrangler sales over its 10-year run in part because of frequent hot-selling buzz models the brand develops for Wrangler, and that “we’re learning the same trick on Grand Cherokee.”