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DCX 2001: Thoughts on Chrysler's Direction

January, 2001 through the Day of the Downsizing

Sam Stanaitis

Who can make a merger,
Then take the company?
Drive out all the engineers, rip off the workers, see
The chairman can, Juergen Schrempp can
Juergen Schrempp can 'cause he runs Mercedes Benz
And Mopar just can't compete

Who can make a Charger?
Drive it to the ground,
Keep it so that Hotwheels makes the only one around,
The Chairman can, Juergen Schrempp can
Juergen Schrempp can 'cause he runs Mercedes Benz
An' won't let Mopar compete

Juergen Schrempp takes
All Mopar Makes
An' keeps it down below Mercedes
He can't stop the Dodge Intrepid (R/T)
Altho he thinks its Insipid (We'll See!)

Who can take the future,
And throw away the keys,
Leave it to Camaro's and the Mustang to compete,
The Chairman can? Juergen Schrempp can, Juergen Schrempp can
Juergen Schrempp can 'cos he's the Chairman of DChrysler
And thinks that Mopar's incomplete...

John Callahan - the quality is there, the future will be better

I can certainly see where some might be a bit concerned about Chrysler's direction, but as an owner of a new Caravan and Stratus, I'd like to say this is easily the best initial quality I've ever seen in new vehicles. I also have a new Ford Focus which is touted as the best of the world car / company mentality. Honestly, the Ford has more "features" for the money, but also has had 8 factory recalls on it. (not too great in my opinion). I'm well aware of Chrysler's problems of the past, but it also looks to me as if this company has made the commitment to building QUALITY vehicles.

Further, it would seem to me that a company that has been building quality German vehicles for decades, can only be a plus when it comes to engineering and actual build quality. I haven't heard too many complain about the Benz quality, at least not in this country.

Of course any new merger will have rough spots and things to get through. The weeding process can sometimes take a few years, but the results are usually favorable, especially when you're talking about two companies that are successful in their own right. Usually, the success of the venture comes down to the creativity and engineering of the companies involved, and it would seem there's no shortage in those departments from either company.

Josh Kovarna - focus more on muscle

DaimlerChrysler has the ability through the Chrysler portion to rebuild what once was a great name in automobile innovation, luxury, power, and quality. However, they get rid of Plymouth and water down Chrysler.

I thought with the return of the 300 series and with vehicles such as the Viper and Plymouth Prowler that Chrysler might be trying to regain what it once had. The oil crisis of the 70s is no longer here (for the most part). Technology seems to have caught up with the old emissions problem. Why doesn't Chryler try to get back to the "muscle car era" attitude? I don't mean they should put 440s into the Intrepid. However, they could revamp some of the attitude the car lovers and owner loved about Mopar.

I know that if they could somehow bring back an Anniversary edition of the Cuda or Roadrunner it would be a hit with younger drivers. I guess I will have to be a Mustang or a Camaro if I want that sort of ride. Dodge's return to NASCAR seems hopeful. Why doesn't the rest of the company seem hopeful? I am all prepared to buy the new Dodge Charger R/T with the new hemi if I ever get the chance. The company is missing out on a huge segment of buyers by what they're doing and not doing.

John Boyadjian - bring back the brands - intact

I completely agree with Jan's view. As with any car company, the flagship name holds the luxury cars. If people find out that the Chrysler badge is thrown on things like the Cruiser or the Voyager, then all the prestige is taken out of the name.

Plymouth needs to come back for the budget cars, Dodge has and should stay performance, and Chrysler should pose luxury, like it has in the past. This is so simple, any one of us sitting at our computers with roots growing outta our *** could run Chrysler. It's salesmanship and streetsmarts, and the Germans lack 100% of those two qualities.

Before my family bought our LHS, we seriously contemplated on a Dodge Stratus, the prices are too close. We figured for just 9,000 more, we could get a larger, more luxurious car. The Chrysler line is getting too cheap, the Dodge line is too expensive, and Plymouth is dead. The company has fallen apart, and if it doesn't go old-school soon with its original 3 brands, then it's gonna fall throught the toilet, and i would seriously be devastated if that happend.

I also strongly belive that no INFERIOR Mercedes parts should ever see their way into our cars. EVER! THAT'S RIGHT,YOU HEARD ME, MERCEDES IS INFERIOR. BMW is superior, if we merged with them, there would have been great synergies flying around. I personally would have and still will NEVER buy a Mercedes brand vehicle as long as i live. What also erks me is if Daimer-Benz follows through and sells Chrysler to Hyundai in 5 years. That would literally kill me and put me into imediate cardiac arrest. 

Mercedes-Benz is a leach, sucking the prosperity and ingenuity out of the United States and its most innovative automaker. Hopefully, Kerkorian will bust out of the raid since he's the only one taking action (even though it's for personal gain).

Bobby Arnold - restore the brand integrity

My hope is that they keep doing the great work on improving the Grand Caravan and 300M; by doing this it will keep Crysler what it was ment to be...Luxury at a great price.

They also need to keep the Neon what it was meant to be; a sporty, fun loving comuter car and throw in a few SRTs would only boost support for this car (I know I would love to have one myself).

If they take the time to get into the sport compact market while it is still raging it will only help the Dodge image of power and performace. The Viper - always make it the standard as to which every other sports car is measured...nothing for its price tag came close...or carried the aura.

Plymouth was always the "inexpensive economy" versions of cars. They where for the not so well off people. It was there so that the lower than average Joe could have a nice car. I always like to think of Plymoth as the "Good will of Chrysler" I felt it was a mistake to make the Prowler a Pymouth....It should have been a Dodge. As far as Mercedes is concerned they should take what Chrysler knows about affordable luxury and apply that to Mercedes and pocket the rest for profit.

A.J. Hughes - great potential

Look at the broader picture. DaimlerChrysler has great potential In some ways we Americans are letting our attitude towards DC be one of reaction. Are we whining and pouting? YES !! Face the facts, today's global market is tough, the Americans can learn from the Germans and yes if the Germans will set their own bias aside they could learn from us as well. Chrysler was very successful but also realized its own weakness, why else where they hoarding such large amounts of cash back when Kerkorian and Iaccoa tried to take over in 1996 . Deiter Zetsche should be given a fair chance and the media would do us all a favor if they were not waiting in the wings like buzzards on road kill.

DAIMLERCHRYSLER IS NOT DEAD ! Yes Mr. Zetsche is likely to make some choices we will not like but look at the ultimate good that could come from those tough decisions.

I didn't want to see the demise of Plymouth but it was a calculated decision, today's market requires very focused marketing. That is why you don't see a Dodge version of the PT. GM tried to be everything to all people and they to are now realizing that you can not stretch yourself so thin just to keep all the brands going.

I would also agree that Sprinter should be a Dodge. Much larger dealer network and on the level where people will see the van. Locally we have several Dodge dealerships which could give the Sprinter visibility and local service, Freightliner is a great division of Daimler Chrysler but not set up to distribute cargo and passenger vans, unless DC is only interested in the big fleets and city markets along the trucking corridors. DC would do good to bring its brands together a bit, not overlap but help the general public realize just who is DaimlerChrysler. Mercedes and Freightliner should not be afraid to admit they are DaimlerChrysler.

Elizabeth McGowan: a breakup is inevitable; and it was their own fault

Let me first state that I believe with all my heart that Chrysler will NOT be part of Daimler within five years. I do not believe this "merger" can last; all I think is necessary for a breakup is enough time to pass until the Germans also run out of patience, and demand that a parting of the ways takes place.

With that said, I believe the true question will be whether Chrysler can pull itself up from the ashes once again after the bloodletting is through. How many times can a company crash before it finally burns? An important factor concerning a comeback will be how a weak, reborn Chrysler could ask for Credit or a hypothetical Government rescue after the shameful sell-out of it's pride to a foreign company.

Concerning the next statement; consider:

his family has and always will drive AMC/Chrysler products. With
undying loyalty.

However; I believe that Chrysler's problems are it's own fault...

This company was on a fast track, we were way past the dark days of the 70s & 80s. Chrysler had to sell out, whether it was through greed, stupidity or just blind to it's own success - to be taken over. They weren't pushed; people, They willingly pulled the trigger, and now folks are suprised to see that the gun went off! To bad everybody but Chrysler could see it was aimed at their head.

Don't take your anger and dismay out at J. Schremp. He may or may not be all the terrible things people have called him. (yes, In my opinion, I have known stones warmer than him, and I've flushed toilet paper with more honesty and integrity than that person... I say person, because men tell the truth, and their actions follow what they say they will do). But in my opinion, he is just a plastic business man, a little fake with a lot of lying to do to keep his job. We all know the type. Instead; try blaming our own leaders. They got sucked into this polio of a "merger", and betrayed the trust of their workers, their shareholders, and their loyal customers. It was our own people that lost the dream, sold our pride for greed.

We should loudly applaud Mr. Kerkorian's lawsuit. He got screwed. Big time. If you had that kind of money tied to a pack of rancid corporate weasels, you'd scream and fight too.

Parting words: Watch what happens with the new Ram. If it even remotely resembles the PowerWagon, and has a HEMI ( I'll believe it when I see it )... Germany might hold on a little longer.

If Dodge just "refreshes" it like they have done with the neon and minivans, the truck will fail, and so will Dodge - quickly. Then Chrysler will be independent again so fast it will make their heads spin.

It's all about that truck folks.

Jan Newkirk: Resurrect Plymouth and re-luxurize Chrysler

I don't think that the current German ownership is a good thing for Chrysler. My family has had many wonderful Chrysler products over the years, along with a few dogs. My first car (in 1994) was a 1978 Dodge Diplomat, and even though it was not the BEST car on the road, it was comfortable and handled like a Chrysler product should.

Of late, however, Chrysler has lost its way. When I say that, I mean the time period from 1978 until 1990. Lee Iacocca, though I admire him for doing what he could to save Chrysler, relied too much on the K-car platform to turn the company around. The '88 Dynasty/New Yorker should have been a world-beater. Instead, it was too much like a revamped Diplomat with front-wheel drive. Not necessarily a bad thing, but for people my age (I'm 23), it's not that good, either.

The LH cars were and are wonderful; unfortunately they were too late. Had Chrysler improved the Eagle Premier, and put as much work into it as I know they could, that car would have been the driver's car that the LH's are. I don't see how Iacocca could have bought AMC and not follow through with a sure-fire winner as the Premier was. I still think that the Premier (and Monaco) is a stylish car. Given some more development, it would have been tremendous. As it turned out, however, it became another Volare. If anyone doesn't know how bad the early Volares were, my mother could tell stories that would curl your hair.

Back to the current situation. The American public was duped into thinking that this was a "merger of equals." BS!!! I knew from the get-go, or at least very soon thereafter, that it wasn't what it appeared to be. With the demise of Plymouth, Daimler is doing to Chrysler what Packard did to itself from 1948 to 1956. When you take a premium name such as Chrysler and water it down on less and less expensive machinery, you walk away from those who expect a luxury machine. For example: Would YOU equate a PT Cruiser with an Imperial? I know I don't.

Packard had the traditional luxury Packards, and then they introduced a nearly-identical and much cheaper car called the Clipper. What happened? Sales of the luxury line evaporated, and when people realized what was going on, even the Clipper line quit moving. Today you have, with Chrysler, the situation with the LHS and 300M at the top, with the PT Cruiser at the bottom. I know they are nowhere near identical, but with a $10,000 price gap, it doesn't take a genius to realize what is next. It may take a couple of years to see the results, but I assure you, the basics of the market today (public acceptance and demand) are the same as they were in 1956. If you can get a cheaper car with the prestige name, why buy the expensive one?

My advice to DaimlerChrysler is to resurrect the Plymouth quickly and put Chrysler back where it belongs. LUXURY. Plymouth should be the price leader, Dodge should stress performance, and Chrysler should be the image leader. I could even suggest a model lineup, but that would be dreaming. I don't want the coming events to happen that I am nearly certain will. If someone doesn't act quickly, the end is near. Hold on to your hats, it's going to be a rough ride.

Bill Cawthon: take a global view

I knew the Sprinter was coming to the U.S. in 2002 early last year, but I first thought it would be as a Mercedes light truck built in Europe, Mexico or South America. Then when DCAG was talkng about retiring the B-Series, I figured, "Okay, it'll be re-badged as a Dodge." I think what sewed it up was the decision to build U.S.-bound Sprinters in the Freightliner plant in South Carolina. It seems that DaimlerChrysler is determined to shift all commercial vehicles to the Freightliner badge, leaving Chrysler/Mitsubishi for passenger and light trucks that can be used either as personal or commercial vehicles and Mercedes as the luxury line (is this beginning to sound familiar?). It seems they are determined not to bring any non-luxury Mercedes vehicle into the U.S. The A-Class has been cancelled as has the plan to produce the V-Series "Vito" minivan. The original purpose of the expansion at the Tuscaloosa plant was to build Vitos. The only possibility right now is a ultra-small four door being developed by Smart and Mitsubishi.

I'm sure this all makes sense to someone in Stuttgart, but it sure looks weird to me. Freightliner doesn't have the dealer/service network that Dodge does. This is bound to limit sales of products like the Sprinter. The A-Class is not only reasonably popular, it's profitable. As of the end of 1999, over 200,000 had been registered in the European Community. Mercedes just built a huge plant in Minas Gerais, Brazil, to build them. People in the U.S. have been clamoring for the A-Class to be exported to American since they were introduced and they are already designed to meet EPA specs. On the other hand, the Smart is Juergen Schrempp's baby. He is under tremendous pressure from the DCAG supervisory board to show a profit from the line. His current hope is that Micro Car Corporation (that makes the Smart) will be profitable by 2004. Perhaps by adding American distribution under the Smart name (or perhaps even "Neon"), he can reach profitability that much sooner.

People concerned about Chrysler need to expand their focus to include the worldwide operations and goals of DaimlerChrysler. Daimler-Benz was not doing well with their other ventures into rail and aerospace, but was doing well with automobiles and trucks. However, Daimler-Benz needed another brand so they could expand out of the luxury market without diluting the Mercedes name. Mercedes could never have bought General Motors or Ford, but needed a brand with legs that they could sell around the world. Mitsubishi has a mountain of debt, which is why DaimlerChrysler has so far avoided a complete takeover. Hyundai gives them an entry into the Korean market which is essentially closed to non-Korean cars, but has financial problems of its own. Chrysler was small enough, yet profitable and had a small European sales presence through the vehicles built by a joint venture with Steyr-Daimler-Puch Fahrzeugtechnik in Graz, Austria. Jeep Cherokees and Chrysler Voyagers were built there (Voyagers are fairly popular in Europe, especially in Switzerland). So Chrysler became a natural fit.

So far, it hasn't been a comfortable fit for anyone. How the companies will ultimately handle their combined strengths and weaknesses is anybody's guess at the moment. Failure to turn around Chrysler will certainly mean the end of Schrempp and, most likely, Zetsche. However, it is hard to imagine the merger/acquisition being undone or Chrysler being spun off. This isn't like BMW and the Rover Group, where the Quandt family was rumored to be ready to sell the whole mess to Volkswagen. Chrysler was profitable and will be again. Schrempp knows this, and more importantly, DaimlerChrysler's German supervisory board knows this. The U.S. will remain a hugely-important auto market for a long time to come and Mercedes will have difficulty penetrating emerging new markets like China, South America, and some Pacific Rim nations without a credible volume brand. Chrysler and Mitsubishi have already worked together and can produce a viable product for those markets, leaving Mercedes to remain the car of choice for the wealthy.

Mercedes cannot afford to dilute its brand with a cheap car. Lexus and BMW stand ready to pounce if they do. In just two years, BMW will introduce a new Rolls-Royce and VW is already looking to develop a higher production model for Bentley. VW has also developed plans for an ultra-luxury Audi called the Horch to compete with Mercedes' upcoming Maybach. The competition for the top end of the market is about to become even more fierce.

So Chrysler remains crucial. Whether it will be a Chrysler as we know it, I don't know. My guess would be yes. If the new joint operation can help erase lingering doubts about Chrysler build quality and develop well-engineered cars, it will do well. At the moment, I can see no other barrier than a bunch of personalities who need to learn to get along and be honest with each other. Overcoming that barrier is the key to Chrysler's future.

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