When Chrysler was being reborn in the 1990s, there were definite product plans for each division, starting with flagship cars and dreamy concepts, some of which became reality.
The most popular car of this era was the Dodge Viper, an ambitious goal given the reality of the day’s Dodges; but it set the tone of what Dodge would eventually be. Another was the Plymouth Prowler, which was to lead a new vision of the brand, followed by the PT Cruiser and a restyled Voyager (Plymouth was dropped too early, and the PT was shunted into Chrysler).
As time has marched on through the tumultuous years of DaimlerChrysler, Chrysler Group, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, three of the four brands still hold to those clear product plans. Dodge still produces performance oriented vehicles that take people back to the glory days of the muscle car era, and Jeep is clearly aimed at freedom, American spirit, and off-roading — even if most Dodges and Jeeps balance regular cars with high-performance variants (e.g., several normal Compass models and one Compass Trailhawk; or normal Chargers plus the 392 and Hellcat). Ram is clearly building trucks and vans with a broad brush of utility, luxury, and enthusiast-loved variants.
But what is the future of Chrysler?
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What Chrysler needs is Sergio or whoever will be I charge to give Chrysler brand a shot in the arm and put effort into it like they did with Alpha. 300 can be the flagship, Then they need some crossovers big time. Put tech into them and some awesome drop dead styling and quality. Bring back the Town & Country name on a big crossover. Put the Portal name on a stand out mid size hybrid crossover. Maybe a small crossover with the 200 name on it. Make an enouncement and show that they are serious !!!!!!
The name 700 was shot down as a replacement name when it quietly made a debut at NAIAS several years back. Polling groups all chose full names instead of numbers. Less confusing in the market place.
1998 Chrysler Pacifica Concept
Pacifica for example was not just a crossover from 2003 to 2007, the Chrysler California Pacifica design studios held the name (which brought us designs like the 1989 Dodge Viper R/T10 Concept, 1994 Plymouth Prowler Concept, 1995 Chrysler Atlantic Concept, and the 2006 Dodge Challenger R/T Concept to name a few) as well as the name of a 1998 Chrysler minivan concept, and trim levels from the 1987 model year on Dodge Daytona and Lancer.
2012 Chrysler 700C Concept
So there was a lot of meaning that went to the name. Not to mention, FCA US still had ownership over the name rights and so far it's been a giant success.
1988 Dodge Daytona Pacifica
I never thought the 200 should have been dropped. I still see many on the roads and think they are quite good looking, contemporary cars. I understand it's an extremely competitive segment but dropping out looks like another failure for the company. To most consumer it looks like they can't compete. And that looks bad. The Chrysler brand needs some product ASAP before it becomes extinct.
Good article Dave!
Here's what I think most people are hung up on with Chryslers brand identity; style. The term "mainstream" isn't an identity because the most mainstream vehicles in NA are pickup trucks and conservative (nee appliance) small sedans. Chrysler certainly won't have trucks and has already jettisoned the 200. Crossovers are will overtake sedans as the dominant vehicle sold so it is good that Chrysler will move into that market but as what? Mainstream? Again, what the heck does that mean? Bland, low end models that sell on volume? Unlikely since that's the antithesis of how FCA can operate as a smaller OEM. High end luxury? Nope, covered with Maserati. That leaves mid level and premium styled vehicles which, IMHO, is exactly where Chrysler has been with the T&C, 300, 200 and now Pacifica! So why all the confusion and consternation? Simply lack of new product. Pacifica has been a great addition, but it came on the heels of the 200 being unmercifully skewered than killed. Sales of the 300 keep humming along, but brothers Charger and Challenger are in the spotlight recreating an identity for Dodge. It's been rightly pointed out how Chrysler has been the only brand to get concept cars in recent years. While that's great, we all know how concepts are more likely to be dreams than reality. The upcoming crossovers in the pipeline are also great to hear, but again, FCA can and has delayed and/or cancelled products pretty far in development, so there is no guarantee at least until we see preproduction mules on the road. Chrysler and the debate on what it is and will be will continue until FCA shows, with real product, what it truly is. Till then, the void will be filled with speculation.
Also manufacturing was another huge take. FCA US needed bigger production for Ram 1500 pickups, 200's home at SHAP was the key to solving this problem. SHAP should be able to build up to 25,000 more Crew Cab pickups than Warren Truck could. 1500 pickups are huge profit over the cars built at SHAP.AlfaCuda likes this.
Yep, Mike you beat me. Nothing wrong with the 200 IMO, still nice to look at on the road. Just a calculated sacrifice.
A lot of developed and cancelled vehicles were also i guess. Likely reason for many Chinese visitors, potentially buying cancelled projects.
I can't decide how Chrysler fits in the FCA portfolio. My head conflicts with my heart when determining direction.
Portal design language does nothing for me.
If dodge continues to carry base vehicles it could cover the mainstream market. FCA has luxury brands already.
It’s the cold hard truth, unfortunately. Chrysler is not going to be the brand it was during the times that I have loved it. Will I love it again in the future? Only time will tell...
The 300 sales are down because they haven't redesigned the vehicle for what seems like a century. I just drove through a Chrysler dealership lot and saw nothing but Jeeps and Vans. Not one 300! Don't tell me that people wont buy sedans, that is all many people want. You said it yourself, with the Charger sales increasing. Redesign the car. People (like me) do not want to spend 40k on a vehicle that looks like the one they already have just because the bumpers are different!
@redriderbob - you know this makes me want to look much closer at concept vehicles from FCA moving forward. It seems as though the designers are 5 years ahead of the production. The Portal, for instance, I had viewed as FCA just flexing their technology to the rest of the industry.
This information makes me want to take a closer look at the Portal.
Thank you for opening a conduit to vent on Chrysler.
I agree with @redriderbob about model names. Mercedes and BMW have the luxury --pun intended-- to name their vehicles whatever they want because for buyers, the equity resides predominantly with the brand much more than with their models. That's not the case with Chrysler --or Acura, Lincoln, and many others.
It is well recorded that I don't agree with the decision to drop 200. Not only in how horrible was the decision handled --or mishandled, but in that it was made predominantly on FCA manufacturing concerns, with little regard for what it did to the Chrysler brand, to its customers, to sedan buyers, and to broader marketing considerations like shopping behaviors, brand loyalty and retention, market perceptions, etc.
I am very skeptical that this repositioning of the Chrysler brand is going to work for a variety of reasons:
Firstly, the overall track record of brand repositionings is dismal, within or outside automotive. Companies that have undertaken the task of repositioning a brand normally underestimated the time, the expense and the effort required, and over-estimated its success. Chrysler doesn't stand for much in consumers minds these days, but the few things for which it continues to stand out are "luxurious", "prestigious" and "stylish". So @GasAxe is up to something when he brings up "style".
Secondly, the "vision" FCA claims to have "articulated" for Chrysler is murky at best. If consumers don't get it, from then on it is going to be an uphill battle for Chrysler.
Thirdly, FCA already has a well-established track record for screwing up re-launching brands, from the Fiat USA fiasco to the "jury is sill out" Alfa Romeo relaunch.
Knowing all this, I'd have to be an optimist fool to believe that this latest relaunch is going to work, especially under current management.
To me, the only viable options left at this point are three:
- Try to leverage those dormant brand perceptions, however real or imagined they are, and work to bring Chrysler back to its near-luxury past
- Put Chrysler out of its misery once and for all, and concentrate those resources of propping up Dodge
- Sell Chrysler to the Chinese or anyone else with vision and cash
Options 2 and 3 come with their own set of political land mines, given the strong associations of the Chrysler name with American manufacturing, and the fact that the name itself is on the building.
As a Mopar enthusiast, I'd love to see FCA attempt Option 1, but I am afraid we would be back at having this same conversation in another 15 years. After that, I like Option 3.
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