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This time, the “Chrysler” is not silent

by Bill Cawthon on

Back in the days of the DaimlerChrysler “merger of equals,” there was a joke: when one asked how to pronounce the company’s name, the answer was, “The ‘Chrysler’ is silent.”

In the hands of Cerberus Capital Management, Chrysler almost went  silent. Drained by Daimler and starved by Cerberus, the company didn’t have the human or financial resources needed for new product development and the Wall Street implosion dried up industrial credit. Of course, Cerberus really had been interested only in Chrysler Financial, a business that Stephen Feinberg actually understood.

Facing liquidation, Chrysler went through a government-structure bankruptcy and emerged as a subsidiary of Fiat S.p.A.

With a vision of a car company instead of a piggy bank, Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler has gone more smoothly. So well, in fact, that Chrysler is now the driving force in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

This isn’t just the result of the NAFTA region leading FCA growth while the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and LATAM (Latin America – basically the Western Hemisphere south of Mexico) regions have declined. APAC (Asia Pacific, which includes Australia, China, Japan and other Pacific Rim nations) also shows strong growth but in far lower volumes. Sales of Chrysler brands just  in the U.S. and Canada have grown from 42.1% of worldwide deliveries in 2011 to 52.1% in the first ten months of 2014.


Chrysler brand sales in the U.S. and Canada have dropped below a 50% share of FCA worldwide sales in only one month this year: January. In August, that Chrysler share reached 60.7% of worldwide turnover.


With Europe continuing to founder and the emerging markets that everyone thought would be the new driver of automotive sales in disarray, Chrysler brands are closing in on their historical highs in U.S. market share. Over the 53 years from 1961 to 2013, Chrysler’s average market share has been 12.70%. During that time, it hit its highest point in 1996, with a 15.86% share. It hit its lowest point, 8.93%, in 2009. Last month, Chrysler’s market share was 13.31%; it’s 12.59% for the first ten months of the year.

The days of silence are long gone: these days, thanks to good people from both sides of the house, as Marchionne likes to say, Chrysler’s roaring like a Hellcat HEMI.

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, 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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