Chrysler Group LLC has tapped Canada’s Reid Bigland to head up the crucial revival of the Alfa Romeo brand in North America, the company announced Monday.
Bigland, 47, will continue to be president and chief executive officer of Chrysler Canada and head of Chrysler’s U.S. sales, the U.S.-based auto maker said in a statement.
Bigland’s job as head of the fast-growing Ram truck brand will go to Robert Hegbloom, the company also announced.
The changes are effective immediately, the company said.
“Reid has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills in managing Chrysler’s consistent rise in sales and market share in both Canada and the U.S.,” Sergio Marchionne, chairman and chief executive officer of Chrysler Group and chief executive of Fiat S.p.A., said in a statement.
“The addition of Alfa Romeo to his portfolio of responsibilities is an indication of how committed we are to the establishment of this brand in the North American market, a process that has already started with the introduction of the Alfa Romeo 4C,” Marchionne added.
The 4C, a small, lightweight, rear wheel drive luxury sports car, is expected to hit Canadian showrooms this fall, with a hefty $75,995 price tag. Dustin Hoffman first made the brand popular in 1967 in the movie The Graduate.
“Much more is expected from this brand in the next few years . . . and Reid’s seniority and experience are ideal for the significant task that is now getting underway,” Marchionne said.
Boosting sales of its Alfa Romeo brands is part of Marchionne’s vision for growing the newly combined Fiat Chrysler, a marriage of Italian and U.S. automakers, into a global powerhouse with 7.7 million in vehicles sales by 2018. That’s a 60 per cent increase over last year’s 4.4 million in sales.
To reach this lofty goal, Marchionne said in May as he outlined the five-year plan, the combined company would launch new vehicles in segments where it is absent, notably compact cars and crossover vehicles.
The company would also enter new global markets, boosting its popular Jeep sales in fast-growing China, and take on Europe’s luxury brands with its Ferrari and Maserati nameplates, while reintroducing the sporty Alfa Romeo to North America, investors were told.
Within North America, the Chrysler brand becomes the mass-market player, while Dodge specializes in performance cars like the Charger.
The plan spells the end of the Dodge Grand Caravan, a popular minivan made in Chrysler’s assembly plant in Windsor. The company said it would continue to produce the pricier Town & Country minivan, also made in Windsor.
Chrysler Group became a wholly owned subsidiary of Fiat on Jan. 21, 2014.
Seen as rising star, Bigland joined the automaker in 2006 as chairman, chief executive officer and president of Chrysler Canada, after stints with Freightliner, Western Trucks and Canadian Airlines International. Bigland, who has Canadian-U.S. citizenship, is a graduate of the University of British Columbia.
Bigland will also continue as a member of the NAFTA leadership team and the Fiat Chrysler Group executive council, the statement said.
Hegbloom will succeed Bigland as head of Ram truck brand. Hegbloom will also become a member of the NAFTA leadership team.
“Reid has been working intensely with Bob in the establishment of the Ram Truck Brand after separation from Dodge, and it is appropriate that Bob now be given the opportunity to continue and intensify the work started by Reid,” Marchionne said.
Hegbloom, who joined Chrysler in 1986, had been the director of the Ram truck brand.
Chrysler also makes the Chrysler 300 and Town & Country, Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, Dodge Challenger and Viper SRT, Ram 1500 and Fiat 500.
The merger with Fiat allows Chrysler to offer an expanded product line, including small and mid-sized vehicles.