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Chrysler CEO: there is no luxury

by David Zatz on

Chrysler enthusiasts have been discussing the question of whether Chrysler is moving up to become a luxury brand for years. There were plans in the 1990s to produce high-end Chrysler cars, which ended in the Daimler takeover, as that became “Mercedes turf.” Under Fiat, though, there is much more space; Maserati begins far above where Chrysler ends, with the Quattroporte enjoying a standard twin-turbo V6 and other amenities.

Chrysler brand CEO Saad Chebad, however, appears to subscribe to Walter P. Chrysler’s view of his eponymous car as a premium mainstream vehicle, not a luxury car; while it offered luxury-car features and performance, it was priced well in the mainstream, and never had exotic features such as twelve cylinder engines (though it did have exotic features such as hydraulic brakes and high-compression engines).

Chrysler 300C Luxury

Saad Chebad told Allpar, “In my opinion, there’s no such thing as luxury. You can get… massaging seats in mainstream cars. Leathers and wheels and GPSs and everything you want. So why would I want [luxury-brand] cachet?”

He continued, on the same theme:

I call Chrysler the bridge between exotic to mainstream. That’s what we’ve always done. The first 300 was seen as an exotic look for $20,000 right? It’s always been that way. But now we’ve taken that into everything about this car: the fit and finish, the making, the power train, how many people know? How many people – how many people know that there’s a ZF transmission, 8-speed, that only existed [before] on BMW 7 series and a Rolls-Royce? … The luxury 300 has Poltrana Frau in it that exists on Ferraris, and so when you look at all these improvements in qualities, interior, exteriors, if you look underneath the 300 and you see all this carpet padding… that’s why we got to a quieter cabin than an LS 460 Lexus, no?

… We stand for something and then at the same time we are the… I’m trying to find my nice words here. The alternative to the imports that pretend to be luxurious.

While Chebad could wax enthusiastic about the 300, noting that they had increased residual values by eliminating cloth seats from the base model and providing better-optioned vehicles, he had a harder time answering the question of the current Chrysler 200, whose base model has a four-speed automatic and four-cylinder engine. It appears that base models of the 200 will continue, even with the next generation, as it will stand alone as Chrysler’s midsize car, covering the full range of buyers. Whether Chrysler can attain the volumes it needs while having a “premium” 200 is an open question that Chebad may be unable, rather than unwilling, to answer until the market speaks.

As for luxury brands and luxury Chryslers, the Maserati Quattroport and Ghibli are believed to be based on the Chrysler LA and LX platforms, sharing many components (other than engines), and the Levante is based on the Grand Cherokee; while Alfa Romeo and Dodge will share a midsized rear wheel drive car, at the least. It appears that, once again, Chrysler’s “luxury brand” will be that of its parent company — but this time, much more will be shared, both ways, and Chrysler should benefit. As Saad Chebad said, the luxury 300 uses the same upholstery as a Ferrari, and Viper’s seats come from Ferrari’s supplier.

Read the full Saad Chebad interview


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