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The rise and fall of the Chrysler 200

by Bill Cawthon on

After five years, FCA has announced that they will pull the plug on the Chrysler 200.

Long story short, the car that was the symbol of the “Imported From Detroit” era wasn’t profitable enough for the bean counters in London, Auburn Hills, and Turin.


From January 2011 through February 2016, Chrysler Group and FCA US sold 641,992 Chrysler 200s.

The 200 was certainly an improvement over its predecessor, the Chrysler Sebring. The second generation, which went into production in March 2014, was even better than the first: average monthly sales were more than 2,000 units higher than for the first generation and the 200 became one of the best-selling American-brand mid-size cars. Eight of the Chrysler 200’s ten best sales months were after the newer car went on sale.

The problem wasn’t so much the number of sales as it was the type of sales. The first chart shows a pattern with a significant spike in deliveries, usually in the first quarter. March is one of the best volume months of the year, but it’s not the only strong month.


The 200’s pattern is strikingly similar to the Dodge Avenger; and while FCA doesn’t break out retail and fleet sales, the Avenger was known to be rental fleet fodder. It’s just about certain the Chrysler 200 got a fair chunk of its sales from the rental companies, too.

Sales of the 200 and Avenger hit their peak in March 2013 with a total of 29,032 deliveries reported. By the time the next peak hit, in February 2014, the Avenger was at the end of its run and total mid-size volume was down more than 30%. Since the most recent peak in May 2015, deliveries have fallen for nine months, the longest slump without a significant spike since the 200 was introduced.


To be fair, Chrysler 200 sales in 2015, its first full “solo” year, were down less than 18% from 2013, the best year for the combined sales of the 200 and Avenger.

Rental fleet sales create two problems: the profit is low up front, and then sales of used cars by rental companies slam the value of used cars, making later new cars less attractive and killing lease profits.

In 2014, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said that the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart would be made in Mexico, moving from Michigan and Illinois, cutting labor costs. Still, FCA would still be saddled with engineering costs for refreshes and replacements, even as consumers switch to crossovers and SUVs.


Mr. Marchionne has spent months ranting about the amount of capital required by the automotive industry. In that light, it may be regrettable, but it’s not surprising that FCA decided to save billions of  dollars in future costs by outsourcing its future mid-size car needs.

In the meantime, the Sterling Heights plant, dedicated for now to the 200, is on a furlough that may well become the norm — with nearly six months of 200s in inventory across the United States.

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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