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February from a Chrysler perspective

by Bill Cawthon on

Jeep-Renegade-Sunrise
Chrysler was one of the stars in a challenging month for automakers. Extreme weather was blamed for another lackluster sales month but Chrysler customers helped the company post its 47th month of sales gains and put the Jeep and Ram brands in the top five for most improvement. Since it’s technically part of the family now, Maserati delivered the largest advance of any brand with a 426% leap in sales.

Jeep was a powerhouse, with the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee in the top 10% of the 275 light vehicle models with actual sales last month. Only Maserati delivered a larger gain. The Grand Cherokee was No. 6 among all SUV/CUV vehicles while the Cherokee was eighth.

The Ram brand was fifth on the hit parade as the Ram pickup reported the most growth of any full-size pickup.

The outgoing Chrysler 200 was also in the top 10%, ranking 14th among passenger cars in sales volume.

At the other end of the spectrum, Dodge was among the big losers for February, done in by a big drop in car sales. In light trucks, Dodge fared much better as the Durango, Grand Caravan and Journey all surpassed their February 2013 results. The Grand Caravan re-took the minivan crown, not just for the month but for the first two months of 2014. The Chrysler Town & Country came in third.

Trucks accounted for 71% of Chrysler Group sales compared to 62.1% last year. This mirrors a trend in the industry: last month, trucks claimed 51.2% of the total market, three full percentage points more than February 2013. Ford got two-thirds of its sales from trucks.

The Fiat 500, all by itself, outsold the entire MINI line. It also beat the Toyota Yaris, every Scion model and the Chevy Spark.

Chrysler picked up some serious market share going from 11.7% in February 2013 to 13.0% last month as it closed the gap between it and third-ranked Toyota to just 4,418 units.

Looking forward, there are some headwinds including a serious threat to Chrysler’s nearly four-year string of improved monthly sales. With the end of production of the current Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, there will be a gap as dwindling inventory limits sales and two cars are replaced by just one. This will make year-over-year comparisons increasingly unfavorable until the new 200 can pick up the slack. The last reported sales of the Jeep Liberty were in September 2013, so its legacy will also drag down the balance sheet. Of course, with any luck, strong Jeep and Ram sales will cover the losses.

Then there’s the Dart. There needs to be some serious soul-searching in Auburn Hills because the smallest Dodge isn’t cutting it in the marketplace. A look at the sales of the six vehicles suggested on the Dart Comparison page tells the story. So far this year, the Dart is generating barely half the volume of the Volkswagen Jetta sedan.

Brand & Model Feb-14 Feb-13 Change CYTD 2014 CYTD 2013 Change
Toyota Corolla 25,299 24,999 1.2% 48,052 48,821 -1.6%
Honda Civic 21,575 22,713 -5.0% 43,399 44,594 -2.7%
Chevrolet Cruze 21,836 17,947 21.7% 38,664 32,471 19.1%
Hyundai Elantra 16,393 16,219 1.1% 31,719 28,393 11.7%
Ford Focus 15,926 20,808 -23.5% 27,929 36,969 -24.5%
Volkswagen Jetta Sedan 10,597 10,398 1.9% 19,052 19,487 -2.2%
Dodge Dart 4,888 7,720 -36.7% 9,939 14,874 -33.2%

There have been glitches in the Dart’s history and there are some known issues, but the Dart is a good car; perhaps some corporate TLC can help it fulfill its promise.

In the February sales standings, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was the big gainer, moving up 17 spots, while the Dart was the big loser, falling 27 places.

CHRYSLER GROUP LIGHT VEHICLE RANKINGS BY SALES VOLUME: FEBRUARY 2014
Brand & Model Feb-14 Feb-13 Change CYTD 2014 CYTD 2013 Change
Ram Pickup & Chassis Cab 4 9 +5 3 10 +7
Jeep Grand Cherokee 22 39 +17 21 26 +5
Chrysler 200 25 26 +1 24 27 +3
Jeep Cherokee 27 N/A N/A 26 0 N/A
Jeep Wrangler 33 31 -2 33 32 -1
Dodge Grand Caravan 42 28 -14 37 46 +9
Chrysler Town & Country 43 44 +1 42 48 +6
Dodge Avenger 44 33 -11 55 28 -27
Dodge Journey 45 49 +4 49 44 -5
Dodge Charger 48 30 -18 48 41 -7
Jeep Patriot 58 58 0 59 61 +2
Dodge Durango 69 77 +8 70 79 +9
Dodge Dart 74 47 -27 69 49 -20
Chrysler 300 79 70 -9 84 65 -19
Jeep Compass 84 87 +3 81 91 +10
Dodge Challenger 91 74 -17 95 77 -18
Fiat 500 107 97 -10 107 99 -8
Fiat 500L 185 N/A N/A 186 N/A N/A
Ram ProMaster 198 N/A N/A 200 N/A N/A
Ram Cargo van 201 203 +2 208 203 -5
SRT Viper 261 276 +15 261 279 +18
Manufacturers reported sales for 292 light vehicles in February

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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