By on April 14, 2009

[The following is another contribution from our anonymous ChryCo contact] I worked for Chrysler for many years in Product Development as a Design Engineer though I no longer do. I saw comments on a recent post by another employee asking why, when Chrysler merged with Daimler, did they still share platforms with Mitsubishi?

There was always such hope in the platform sharing at the start of every project (JS – Sebring (Mitsubishi), PM – Caliber (Mitsubishi), WK – Grand Cherokee / WD – Durango (Daimler). By sharing the same platform we were supposed to achieve economies of scale, reducing the overall initial investment and engineering effort. Ultimately, those savings vanished during the development of the platform.

In truth, inter-company platform sharing—whether with Mistubishi or Daimler—created a power struggle, as the platform’s respective “owners” struggled to adapt their respective vehicle’s suitability to their local market. The inevitable end result: compromised design AND marginal cost savings.

The Caliber / Sebring are too narrow for the U.S. market (Japanese market cars are more narrow), the Caliber’s suspension system has too much drive shaft angle due to Mitsubishi inherited design optimized for their engines (allowing torque steer). I didn’t work on that platform. But I believe that Mitsubishi dropped out of co-development early after the decision was made to share, resulting in less savings. But I know for a fact that the cost savings initially planned were not fully realized.

I did, however, work on the new Grand Cherokee.

This product was co-developed with Mercedes alongside their next generation ML and GL vehicles. From Chrysler’s perspective this platform made a lot of sense. New crash regulations meant the current Jeep platform would have needed substantial upgrades to be viable. The new Mercedes platform also addressed other issues with the current Grand Cherokee platform: small rear door openings, uncomfortable rear seats, limited wheel size, larger engine box for future emissions/crash.

Mercedes wanted to spread their development costs over Chrysler’s volume to lower piece prices. Internally, we knew that Mercedes gained more than Chrysler from this co-development deal. Our costs were higher than if we had clean sheeted it from the beginning.

What initially started off with many common areas (brakes, suspension etc), eventually resulted in a few common parts and only some savings. The future Grand Cherokee has a small glovebox due to the straight crosscar beam Mercedes engineers use to enhance their vehicle’s crash/stiffness. The cross car beam was eventually cast in magnesium by Chrysler vs steel by Mercedes due to divergence of design goals. Steel is good for strength for side crash or anti-vibration stiffness for improved steering column shake, while cast magnesium normally results in great packaging (big glovebox), costs more, and is lighter. Because the airbag had already been packaged and it couldn’t be moved (its location affects crash performance), the glove box size for the Jeep was already compromised by the initial design.

Mercedes’ focus was their uncompromising design objectives. Chrysler’s was usually cost or off road performance. Mercedes would rarely yield to Chrysler desires for cost savings, and the two teams would go their separate ways. Mercedes wanted a saddle design fuel tank (one tank shaped like a saddle with two fuel pumps at the lowest points) for a large fuel capacity, and for packaging for dual exhaust on the six cylinder. Chrysler wanted a single fuel tank for cost savings, but with a smaller capacity and only one pump. Divergence.

Mercedes is willing to package a mini-spare on their vehicle. Chrysler requires a full size spare as optional for SUV’s. Result: divergence in the rear end of the vehicle. A common floorpan stamping suffered a similar fate. The stampings were supposed to be the same part number (i.e. identical). But differences in small holes or studs in the body for mounting things (e.g. electrical components) quickly separated these parts.

The overarching problem: there was never alignment between the philosophies of the teams developing the vehicle. Mirror that on the Daimler acquisition of Chrysler. Technology transfer could only occur from Mercedes to Chrysler. They could donate their high cost platform to Chrysler with impunity but if they jointly developed a program, they risked their lineage. Who wants a Mercedes designed by Chrysler?

Chrysler on the other hand had to significantly redesign / retool a Mercedes platform to lower cost. On the surface the merger made sense but in reality, the two weren’t reconcilable. Ipso facto.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

63 Comments on “Editorial: The Truth About DaimlerChrysler Product Development...”


  • avatar
    picard234

    This is an interesting editorial.

    The new 2011 Grand Cherokee looks great inside and out, but what’s with the cheap-as-hell interiors during the DCX years?

    Did someone from Daimler REALLY sit in these things and give the go-ahead? I could sit in my cooler and be more comfortable than in an Avenger or Caliber.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    This global platform sharing concept never works between large companies. Aside from the engineering intricacies detailed in this great (too short) story, it’s just a diversion for incompetent management to keep their job another five years, to avoid addressing the real problem (them), and to delay/deflect blame for its ultimate failure.

    Nothing will beat a small, local, core team of experts who know what to do, who are empowered to make decisions, and who are working with local suppliers. Of course, the existence of such a ‘team’ has been shattered all to hell, dispersed, gone, thanks to said, incompetent management.

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    Mergers rarely work. Those doing the merger and those benefiting financially from the merger never acknowledge the obvious fact: the cultures from the two companies being smashed together never mesh. I have worked at companies that still played the “we and they” game ten years after the merger was done.

    Sad, really. In the end a few people get rich and everyone else gets screwed.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    ***They could donate their high cost platform to Chrysler with impunity but if they jointly developed a program, they risked their lineage. Who wants a Mercedes designed by Chrysler?***

    Would the merger have worked if Chrysler just badge-engineered old Merc. platforms across its entire line (ex. the minivans)?

    I wouldn’t mind driving a prior-gen. C-class repackaged as a Sebring….as long as the exterior wasn’t Crossfire-ified.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Twenty five or thirty years ago Chrysler built a central technical center that was supposed to bring together for the first time all the vehicle designers. The supposed benefits of this scrolled off the page. The cost of the facility was absolutely staggering.

    Anyone know what the place was called and whatever happened to it?

    Thanks.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    This isn’t just a problem of mergers. This is a systemic Detroit problem. My experience in Detroit showed the exact same issues sharing platforms between two vehicles under the same brand. I believe the problem is a total lack of change management, which stems from an out of control product development process. The targets initially set were not realistic or not clear and there wasn’t a concerted management effort to do the upfront design and proveout needed or to force compromises on both vehicles to maintain commonality.

  • avatar
    LXbuilder

    Twenty five or thirty years ago Chrysler built a central technical center that was supposed to bring together for the first time all the vehicle designers. The supposed benefits of this scrolled off the page. The cost of the facility was absolutely staggering.

    Anyone know what the place was called and whatever happened to it?

    Thanks.

    Would that be CTC in Auburn Hills? (Chrysler Tech Centre)
    It did until Dumbler came along.
    I don’t think the cost of the facility was all that staggering given what is there. I might be wrong but I never heard anything like that before.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    I would like to read more parts of this article.

    Also, being a fan of the Neon, I would like him to explain why in the hell they replaced that car with the craptastic Caliber. They could have engineered and improved and keep working on an already established model.

    Did the second gen Neon use a Chrysler platform or it was also shared with Mitsubishi?

    Why the cab forward design was discarded? The concept wasn’t bad… it’s so good in fact, that Honda ripped it with the current Civic.

    Why they choose to make such awful interiors?

    And… it would be nice a further explanation on this:

    Mercedes’ focus was their uncompromising design objectives.

  • avatar

    The only platform sharing that seems to be working pretty well is the Fusion/Mazda6 (CD3 and all it’s derivatives).

    The Malibu/Saab 9-3 (Epsilon) also suffer from a width disadvantage in the US.

  • avatar
    essen

    Supposedly the 300 and the E-Class shared platforms. I had a 300, it rode nothing like an E-Class. I wouldn’t expect the new GC to be an ML either.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    @ essen

    Shared platform is not the same as shared calibration.

    The suspension/steering calibration can make one car feel very different from another.

    Same goes for the engine.

  • avatar

    Excellent piece, I’d love to read more as well.

    Detroit-X is spot on. Everyone keeps focusing on the top of these organizations. What really matters, though, is what is happening at the level of the product team.

    Senior executives should not even be making the decisions that affect specific products beyond the need to coordinate between teams. And even most of this coordination could hopefully be done between the teams themselves.

    The link I always post when the topic of teams comes up…

    http://www.truedelta.com/exec_sum.php

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    What would be interesting to know is, what exactly does Chrysler have in pipeline right now, at this moment? I mean, bailout times and all? My notion is that they have exactly nothing, nothing at all. And if so, considering their viability plan, what are they counting on that is supposed to bring home the bacon, tomorrow?

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Wow.. after 25 years in IT, I see the same problems in my industry. Feature creep, incompatible apps, one party trying to cram new buggy systems down the throat of the other, even though the old system worked perfectly and was highly evolved to the needs of the bank.

    Then the managers realize the new software doesn’t do what the old software did, and they cluge it making it worse than ever.

  • avatar

    I own a Chrysler 300.

    I love the car for numerous reasons. Chrysler did one thing right: they made a huge interior in all their cars and then threw in a huge amount of power.

    That was enough to sell me.

    I sometimes hate the cheap look of the 300’s interior but on the opposite end of the spectrum, I have an S550 and its interior is ridiculously upscale. Thing i, the stuff in the 300 like the Navigation system and the electronic features are easier to use and the car is also more liked by women I meet than the Benz is.

    Chicks LOVE my 300.

    Its ironic.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    “Chicks LOVE my 300.”

    Not to put you down, but… Has ANY chick EVER really cared about what car a guy has? Didn’t that custom die out with the second generation Camaro? I mean, really? “Oh, that guy is so awesome! Look at those wheels! He must be a really great catch! What a guy!”

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Global platform sharing HAS worked in one general partnership: Ford + Mazda.

    Euro Focus/Mazda3
    Fusion/Mazda6
    Crossovers

    Why is Mazda/Ford such a success but everyone else a failure?

  • avatar
    holydonut

    It seems like RF is in contact with everyone that was on that WK program.

    IMO the author left out the best parts of the “sharing.” The most comical divergence was that common-axle program with Daimler opting to get cheaper/better axles from Untertürkheim/Mettingen. The HVAC debacle was entertaining as well.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Everyone keeps focusing on the top of these organizations. What really matters, though, is what is happening at the level of the product team.

    The top is still the problem, because command-and-control management methods ensure that these things will fail.

    The current method is for the bigwigs at the senior level to cut the deal from their bubbles, then toss it to the little people to make it work. Management does this without establishing whether the idea made sense in the first place, without an idea of how to execute the idea, and without fixing the cultural barriers that might prevent it from working.

    What should be done is that before these things are finalized, the design and engineering teams from each company should be put together to jointly create an overall program, with mutual objectives. Senior management should provide this team with a list of the company’s big picture goals, then leave it to the team to determine whether it’s a good idea, and if so, how they could make it happen. If that team concludes that the idea is workable and devises a way to make it work, that’s when the top-level deal should be inked and inplemented.

    When you see conflicts like this, it’s because there’s no buy-in from the middle management and their work teams. The effort turns into a tug of war, when it is supposed to be a cooperative effort, because nobody really likes it. They don’t see a purpose for working together, so they don’t.

    People need to take ownership of their work. When everything is imposed from above, with no leadership or shared vision, these things are inevitable. Good senior managers would understand that buy in matters, and make sure that they can get it from their people. If they can’t, then they aren’t really managing, and it’s possible that some of those ideas just aren’t any good.

  • avatar

    Nicholas Weaver — excellent question. No doubt there have been issues in the Ford/Mazda relationship as well, but it has clearly worked better than the others. Even then, it’s not clear how much was saved by basing the Fusion and Edge on Mazda platforms.

    Error on the link I posted earlier. Ought to have tested it. Correct link:

    http://www.truedelta.com/execsum.php

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    It’s great to hear from someone who actually knows engineering. It’s not great to know that these bright folks were consistently over ruled by MBAs and others capable of creating nothing. Sad.

    And, to make things even more frightening, as incompetent as the auto execs were, they were Rhodes scholars compared to the loons in our government.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    slateslate wrote, “They could donate their high cost platform to Chrysler with impunity but if they jointly developed a program, they risked their lineage. Who wants a Mercedes designed by Chrysler?” The Chrysler 300 and its Dodge clone are cheapened, Americanized versions of a discontinued Mercedes E-class sedan. The Mercedes sedan had aluminum suspension parts; the Chrysler and Dodge sedans used steel parts. The all-wheel-drive system is an old Mercedes design.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    The Sebring is 71.2″ wide, minimally narrower in the back seat than the current Toyota Camry, and an inch taller to boot. Not so sure you can blame the platform width-wise, but then again I’m not an engineer.

  • avatar

    Contrary to popular belief (more like myth) the Chrysler 300 and old Mercedes E-Class do not share their platform and are nothing alike underneath.

    Chrysler’s LX platform was already well underway in development prior to the merger with Daimler. Like someone else already pointed out in this thread, the two cars drive nothing and are really nothing alike. There’s no mistaking the big Chryslers for anything but American behind the wheel.

    Chrysler did untilize Mercede’s five speed automatic transmission and AWD system, and that’s about it.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Twenty five or thirty years ago Chrysler built a central technical center that was supposed to bring together for the first time all the vehicle designers.

    Would that be CTC in Auburn Hills? (Chrysler Tech Centre)

    Thanks, that’s a start.

    In a few weeks when Chrysler is liquidated, is it worth anything other than the real estate or did Daimler gut it of talent?

  • avatar

    Having worked in telecom now for 16+ years now, I have been through a few mergers/acquisitions. The successful ones are where management declares firmly what the end goals are and what products they want to have in their business model. The unsuccessful ones are where management struggles to find one vision for the new company. Then you have power struggles and differeing priorities.

    Same thing with any of these products. If the company cannot decide priorities before going into product developement, it will never work out the way it could have. Instead you get a mongrel that pleases no one.

  • avatar

    TriShield:

    The LX development couldn’t have been too far along at the time of the merger. The cars appeared, what, six years later? Development cycles are long, but they’re not that long.

    My understanding is that the suspension designs of both the LX and the Pacifica were “inspired” by the E-Class suspension. Just marketing hype? Perhaps.

  • avatar
    windswords

    CTC in Auburn Hills:

    It has executive, marketing, engineering, design – all under one roof. It includes I believe a wind tunnel, a small pilot factory for testing out assembly techniques. Even a room with a lighting system to simulate sunlight so they can view concepts under “natural” lighting without risking them being spied on.

    Stingray:

    “Also, being a fan of the Neon, I would like him to explain why in the hell they replaced that car with the craptastic Caliber.”

    Some explanation is provided here in Bob Sheaves excellant article:
    http://www.allpar.com/neon/engineering.html

    “Did the second gen Neon use a Chrysler platform or it was also shared with Mitsubishi?”
    It was all Chrysler.

    “Why the cab forward design was discarded? ”
    Tom Gale left Chrysler after the Daimler takeover. He was the “father” of Cab Forward at Chrysler.

    “it’s so good in fact, that Honda ripped it with the current Civic.”
    That’s exactly what I thought the first time I saw the new Civic. Although Cab Forward was not invented by Chrysler, I remember the Ford Ghia Via concept in the 80’s had it, but Chrylser was the first to give it a catchy name and to implement it across their car lines.

    essen:

    “Supposedly the 300 and the E-Class shared platforms. I had a 300, it rode nothing like an E-Class. I wouldn’t expect the new GC to be an ML either.”

    That’s because your 300 and the E-class didn’t share platforms. They shared suspension pieces (that were modified), steering column, transmission, software, and not much else.

    Ingvar:

    “My notion is that they have exactly nothing, nothing at all.”

    http://www.allpar.com/model/upcoming.html

    http://www.allpar.com/mopar/phoenix-engines.html details of the new Pentastar (nee Phoenix) engines that have just been introduced.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Ingvar :
    April 14th, 2009 at 9:44 am

    …Has ANY chick EVER really cared about what car a guy has? Didn’t that custom die out with the second generation Camaro? I mean, really? “Oh, that guy is so awesome! Look at those wheels! He must be a really great catch! What a guy!”

    Quoted for truth! LOL

    Anyway, thanks to the writer for this editorial. Very educational.

  • avatar
    windswords

    Michael Karesh:

    “The LX development couldn’t have been too far along at the time of the merger.”

    According to the interview in C&D with Tom Gale, the 300 was quite far along, at least at the time Daimler started to meddle with it. Remember they were “merged” at the end of 98. Daimler didn’t start mucking up the works until at least 12 to 18 months later, especially after Bob Eaton retired. The original rwd 300 (to be called the 300N) was to be introduced in 2004. So a lot stuff is in play by 2000. When Daimler insisted on parts sharing, it pushed the program back and they didn’t intoduce the car till 2005.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    @Michael Karesh
    Even then, it’s not clear how much was saved by basing the Fusion and Edge on Mazda platforms

    I think this is innacurate. Fusion/6 share platform with the euro Mondeo AFAIK.

    The question should be the other way around…

    The big winner there is obviously Mazda, and Volvo who also uses Ford platforms.

  • avatar
    nikita

    Mergers of US aerospace companies work better because each product line remains separate. I have been through a couple of them. Cost savings do come from getting rid of duplicate payroll systems, etc., but not messing with the core products and pissing off customers. Dont get me wrong, there are power struggles at the top and culture clashes. They just to a much better job at leaving marketing and engineering at a local level.

  • avatar
    Cole Trickle

    I’m sorry, I’m still stuck on our friend who allegedly owns both a 300 and and an E class, and cruises for chicks in the 300. Where to start..

  • avatar
    slateslate

    ***Ingvar :
    April 14th, 2009 at 9:44 am

    …Has ANY chick EVER really cared about what car a guy has? Didn’t that custom die out with the second generation Camaro? I mean, really? “Oh, that guy is so awesome! Look at those wheels! He must be a really great catch! What a guy!”

    Quoted for truth! LOL***

    this thread is off-topic…..

    IMHO except for the shallowest of ladies with the flashiest of cars….women already like you (or not) before seeing the car. And your car only reinforces whatever judgment that they already had. (eg. if you’re deemed as a d****bag, then you’re another BMW-driving a@*hole, but if you’re deemed a successful gentleman then that same BMW is icing on the cake. naturally the same can go with a 10-year Civic….you’re either labeled money-saavy or cheap.)

    lol, human behavior. YMMV.

  • avatar
    windswords

    In case anyone is interested in looking at the Ghia Via concept and Fords version of cab forward:

    http://www.carbodydesign.com/gallery/2009/04/12-moray-callum-ford-americas-design/2/

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Great insight… thanks to whoever you are for the read!

    It’s all about culture, ain’t it. Mergers rarely work because stated goals like ‘synergy’ or ‘cost sharing’ really aren’t the goals. The goals are make more money for execs, increase stock price and get bigger… oh, and increase stock price some more.

    @Ingvar, when I met my wife, her initial impression was that I was a poser and an a-hole for driving a ’94 530i. It was a 6 year old car when we met. Women DO notice what you drive, and trust me, they’re more picky than we are. They just won’t volunteer the info.

    One of my wife’s friends was dating a guy driving an Evo VIII. No, it’s not an age appropriate car for a 30 year old guy, but he liked it. She hated it. I think it was the wing.

  • avatar

    Stingray:

    My understanding is that the Mazda6/Fusion/Edge share virtually nothing with European Fords. The Mazda6 is the core product.

    windswords:

    Yeah, that makes sense. The cars came out in spring 2004 as it was. Long enough after the merger for Daimler to have had a major impact, but not so long after the merger that the program couldn’t have been going on for a year or two before Daimler had delaying input.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    @windswords

    I check allpar regularly (and to think I was seeing first valiant.org)… and checked that same link about a week ago.

    Still, doesn’t explain why it was decided to dump one modestly successful car for that utter POS.

    Haven’t went into the forums to search one neat topic about what is mentioned in your link.

    Really, they went back with that thing.

    Edit: that Ford is freakin awesome… the 2nd gen Intrepid looks like a straight ripoff.

  • avatar
    BDB

    “Why the cab forward design was discarded? The concept wasn’t bad”

    I loved the looks of the LH and other cab forward cars of the time, but my God, the style has NOT aged well. Especially the second generation LH cars. Time has not been kind to them.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    These ‘insider’ articles are always interesting. I’d definitely love to see more

    To comment on the tangent that’s been going on, a lot of girls definitely care about your car. Just ask the 3 Boston University girls I met in front of a bus stop while I was waiting for a red light to turn green. After I rolled the window down to ask one of them for their number, she commented that she wanted a ride in “my Porsche” (I don’t even drive a Porsche) and was willing to put her friend in the trunk to ride with me in the Vette. This is not the first time something like this has happened either

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    @Ingvar, when I met my wife, her initial impression was that I was a poser and an a-hole for driving a ‘94 530i. It was a 6 year old car when we met. Women DO notice what you drive, and trust me, they’re more picky than we are. They just won’t volunteer the info.

    One of my wife’s friends was dating a guy driving an Evo VIII. No, it’s not an age appropriate car for a 30 year old guy, but he liked it. She hated it. I think it was the wing.…

    Interesting sub topic here. Judging a new date by what they drive sounds shallow, and it is, but when you are very early into dating somebody, you are on the lookout for information on who you are with. Since the “keepers” are not usually the ones inviting you back to their place on the first date, you look at things like clothes, car, job, etc. I always checked out my date’s car. Not for what it is, but for what condition it is in. Is it dirty? Smelly? If the car is filthy, it is likely the house is the same way. A quick scan through the radio presets is a good way to check musical taste. Full of dents? Bad sign. Is she always with 1/4 tank of gas or less? That typically indicates “hand to mouth” spending habits. How people take care of their things says a lot about them.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Not to put you down, but… Has ANY chick EVER really cared about what car a guy has?

    Are you kidding me? You are obviously not familiar with the in ‘concubine in all but name’ Canadian women. Wave enough bling under their noses in the form of cash, a big home, a suitable title, or an expensive car and they won’t even notice your age or appearance.

    Anyway, the 300 does NOT share an old MB platform. It has a few suspension bits, that’s it.

    If ever there was an organization that shouldn’t have been platform sharing, it was Dumbler and Chrysler. Very different objectives and markets and a huge cultural mismatch.

    Chrysler and Mitsubishi had worked in the past though, hadn’t it? Was it Dumbler’s involvement that screwed it up?

  • avatar
    ivorwilde

    @picard234:
    I worked at C and DCX for many years (94-03) and yes, Dieter Zetsche and Wolfgang Bernhard both made it a habit to sit in the mock-ups at the design dome in Auburn Hills and “bless” the product. Problem was, very often the dreaded MCM (material cost management, or squeeze some more cost out) process happened after that, and things got dramatically more plastic-y and cheap feeling right before production, exasperating the designers, product platform heads and engineers alike. Pacifica was great example. The ‘design-intent’ mockup had a high quality interior, great material from the carpets to the headliner, and great surfaces everywhere – even thicker glass for a quieter ride. Then someone started a drive to get a 2-seat version out for under $29K or $30K, and it was cheap plastic time, unfinished carpet edges, etc.
    @lxbuilder, carperson: Remember that the Chrysler Tech Center in Auburn Hills was originally designed to be an indoor shopping mall in case C was unable to keep operating back in the 90s. Not that another mall would be the answer for the Michigan economy today.

  • avatar
    BDB

    Double post.

  • avatar

    An excellent insight into car design. More! More! (Please!) — Aaron

  • avatar

    @Stingray: Also, being a fan of the Neon, I would like him to explain why in the hell they replaced that car with the craptastic Caliber. They could have engineered and improved and keep working on an already established model.

    I don’t think the Neon was a great car, but neither was the original Camry; each was a start. Stingray’s point that refinement of the Neon would have brought Chrysler a winner is on the money. This is the only reason that the modern-day Accord is considered a decent ride; it is refined with each succeeding model.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    It’s clearly a management issue.

    Renault/Nissan shares platforms and has produced class leading vehicles.

    Ford/Mazda/Volvo all share platforms and again, produce class leading vehicles.

    So my guess is, Chrysler was told to “play along” with two other companies, neither of whom really wanted to play with Chrysler. It should offer a good deal of insight as to how Mercedes likes to engineer cars, and why I’d never buy one.

    Also, the Neon was never a good car.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    @ NickR:

    Works the same way down here in the States.

    Heck, my colleagues and I were walking back from lunch today and we spotted a trophy wife in her H2 with her purse dog. We immediately began speculating on the per annum cost to keep her under one’s roof.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Thank you. A very interesting article.

  • avatar
    davey49

    I’ve never seen a woman in an H2, trophy wife or not. Lexus or MB is prevalent here.
    Is the Sebring itself the thing that is too narrow or is it just the seats? The seats are ridiculously narrow for modern(fat) Americans.
    “Also, the Neon was never a good car.”
    It was good enough, plus it sold well.
    The real story of this article is that these auto companies do best when working for themselves and their customers and that car customers from different parts of the world are just too different to design one car for.

  • avatar
    RNader

    “Chicks LOVE my 300.”

    And what mobile home parks are you able to lure these “chicks” from.

  • avatar
    paul_y

    Great editorial, but I refuse to believe that Chrysler “develops” products, in the strictest sense of the word. In my industry (juice), I develop products that are far simpler, but apparently have much more thought and effort behind them than most Chrysler products.

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    BDB

    Although, at the same time I’d say that the Cloud Cars (Stratus/Cirrus/Breeze/Sebring) have aged quite well. The 1st generation ones, anyway. Most people seem surprised when they ask how old my Breeze is and I say it’s a 98. Now, granted, in some trims they do look old, but others they are perfectly fine.

    mikeolan

    You’re right, the Neon wasn’t a great car, but it was a great design. It was very roomy on the inside for a compact, handled very well, and got good fuel economy. The Neon engine also was, at the time, a slap in the face to the industry’s I4 offerings.

    But, we don’t remember any of that because the Neon also embodies everything that is wrong with cost cutting. Shoddy build quality, cheap parts, I could go on, but you all know this story.

  • avatar
    dzwax

    WOW,
    I’ve been searching for the concise explanation for why our economy and nation are in such bad shape.

    Pch101 has nailed it!

    “Management does this without establishing whether the idea made sense in the first place”

    Maybe “does the idea make sense in the first place” should be the first thing they teach in Harvard business school.

    Does anybody remember Deming?

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    @Commanderfish

    That is true… actually, just about every Chrysler design prior to the DCX merger was excellent. You had cars such as the Stratus which were marvels of efficient packaging. There really wasn’t a single ugly car they made, but time hasn’t been kind on the designs due to the mental association of beater Dodge Intrepids and Neons.

    I remember sitting inside the 1996 Chrysler Minivans and they were worlds ahead of anything else. The rest of Chrysler’s lineup was the same story- just compare the last-gen Dakota to the S10 or Ranger.

  • avatar
    happy-cynic

    Nice article. I have been through a couple of mergers.
    The corporate babble is “synergy” and cost savings, but it is really “we win, you lost” and the real talents walks. Shame to see the end results of the merger.

    Looks like things have not changed much, my dad first job out of school was with GM, and he got tired of creating something that got cheapened to death by the bean counters.

    In most cases, the woman like the money,cars even though they pretend not too. There are some exceptions, my brother was elected by by ladies in his class as most dateable for the whole school (there was 600 classmates total). He did not have a car, and our family car’s where old beat up wagons. As for me,I pulled all the dorkyness genes out of the family pool.

    Don’t get me started on Harvard MBA grads, they the ones driving good companies into wall. My former CEO said we “had a fully funded business plan” right up to we went chap 11.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Daimler clearly made a lot of mistakes in its reign of error at Chrysler. But one thing they deserve credit for is improving the safety of Chrysler vehicles.

    To the best of my knowledge every vehicle Chrysler has launched since the Daimler gating process was introduced has had solid safety scores.

    Those of you pining for an old Neon should look at the video of one doing an impression of an accordian as it hit a wall on the IIHS website.

    Yes, the interiors suck. But fewer people die in them. Treade-offs.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    There’s an easy solution to that as well. Don’t crash your Neon into a cement wall.

  • avatar
    tom

    Successful aquisitions work when the company that’s doing the taking-over completely destroy the structure of the company that has been aquired and fully integrate it into their own structure. Daimler’s mistake was that they didn’t do just that. They kept Chrysler intact, so the result was basically two seperate companies under one big roof. Of course this results into all kinds of problems. Each company has their own design teams and their own objectives.

    There should only have been one person for each task, not two. Mercedes should have been fully responsible for passenger car design, while Chrysler should have been responsible for trucks and minivans. It would have been easy: Simply re-skin previous generation Mercedes and sell them as Chryslers. All the development costs would have been amortized by then anyway, so the cars could have been offered a lot cheaper.

    In retrospect though, Daimler was lucky do make those mistakes as this made it easy for them to get a divorce. If we’re honest, then we have to admit that Chrysler was probably already beyond redemption by 1998, even though it didn’t look like that back then thanks to massive margins on trucks and SUVs. Legacy costs and high gas prices would have cought up with Chrysler no matter what, although a horrible product like the Sebring surely didn’t help either.

  • avatar
    windswords

    Stingray:

    [On the Caliber being replaced by the Neon] “Still, doesn’t explain why it was decided to dump one modestly successful car for that utter POS.”

    If you read between the lines of the story you will see that after Dumbler got thru with Chrysler, there was no one left on the small car development team. They left out of disgust or they were replaced for bucking the the new system. They didn’t have the manpower or more importantly, the know-how to develop the next Neon. So Dumbler told them to use Mitsu’s platform which wasn’t bad in and of itself. But as someone said before all the Chrysler’s get good crash ratings. That was an edict of Dumbler. Everything had to be 5 star. Problem was they weren’t designing the Mitsu platform from scratch, they were inheriting it. That’s one reason why the Caliber is so damned heavy, to pass the crash tests. But that’s not good for an “economy” car.

    NickR:

    “Chrysler and Mitsubishi had worked in the past though, hadn’t it? Was it Dumbler’s involvement that screwed it up?”

    Yes. Although I don’t have the details. Dumbler promised some things to Mitsu and then pulled out leaving them hi-n-dry.

    tom:

    That is revisionist history. If Chrysler had stood on it’s own in 1998, it would have kept developing *cars*. Between 1993 and 1995 it introduced three different car platforms in small, medium and large sizes – all the while creating a full and mid-size trucks, and a mid-size SUV. Unless mgt totally tanked they would have kept on doing what they were doing, all the while expanding international sales (after the Dumbler takeover, international sales actually dropped). So you would have had more cars better suited to market conditions (higher fuel prices), international sales, and 10+ billion in the bank to fund new product development when the economy turned sour and sales fell. And what if they had decided to improve reliability the way Ford has? What if they had purchased another automaker themselves instead of being aquired? We’ll never know.

  • avatar
    geeber

    tom: If we’re honest, then we have to admit that Chrysler was probably already beyond redemption by 1998, even though it didn’t look like that back then thanks to massive margins on trucks and SUVs.

    Can’t buy it. Chrysler was profitable, its new cars had been well received and it had a very low cost structure. Quality was improving – the second-generation LH cars were a huge improvement over the first generation. Same with the second-generation Neon.

    Unfortunately, Daimler thoroughly mismanaged the merger, and its quality was heading for the toilet at this time. It had to raid Chrysler’s cash bin in order to survive.

    tom: Legacy costs and high gas prices would have cought up with Chrysler no matter what, although a horrible product like the Sebring surely didn’t help either.

    The new Sebring and Avenger were designed when Daimler had complete control. It deserves the credit…or blame.

  • avatar

    My impression is that Chrysler’s design and engineering teams in the pre-merger era were excellent, and their biggest problem was Eaton, who fostered a climate where the accountants would try to “de-cost” things after they were already designed, in order to save a few bucks. (According to Bob Sheaves, this was the direct origin of notorious problems like the Neon’s exhaust ‘donut’ and head gasket failures and the original LH cars’ inadequate HVAC.) This strikes me as a management problem, because while you obviously have to keep costs in line, the cost controls were never implemented with any kind of holistic view of the goals for the product or their long-term impact on warranty costs, etc.

    Sheaves suggests that the problem at the time of the merger was that Daimler management saw some legitimate problems — like high warranty costs — but the platform-team philosophy on which Chrysler operated at that point (designed, I believe, by François Castaing) was so anathema to Daimler’s culture that they didn’t even try to fix it. Rather than seeing a basically strong system that had some glitches that needed fixing, the Germans saw the platform-team approach (which, among other things, gave lower-level managers and engineers an unusual level of authority over their product) as anarchy, a sign that the Americans just didn’t know what the @%&( they were doing. When engineers and designers tried to exert the authority that they had previously been given, the Daimler managers saw it as gross insubordination. Before long, anyone who said “No” to a German was being escorted out of the building.

    The Neon strikes me as a tragic but typical case. Like the original Saturn SL, it was a rare attempt to actually compete with the Japanese imports on their own terms (which Chrysler hadn’t done since the original Horizon), and in some respects, it came really close, only to be undone by flaws largely attributable to short-sighted cost cutting. (The reliability problems are the obvious ones, but there are also oddities like the elderly 3-speed autobox, and the fact that you could have power front windows, but not rear ones.) If they hadn’t let it languish, they could have made it into a very competitive product.

    We must say this for the Neon, though. Whatever its other virtues (which it has) and faults (which it also has), it is one of the only American cars in its class to actually be profitable. Despite its lowball pricing, despite the warranty costs they ended up incurring, Chrysler actually made money on the Neon. By comparison, GM and Ford’s longstanding resistance to decent small cars was (and is) attributable to their conviction that they can’t make money at it — even though the Erika-platform Ford Escort was the best-selling model in America for many years, Ford’s profits on it were minimal. The bitch of it is that Chrysler could have fixed the Neon’s major weaknesses and still made a profit on it; they just chose not to, for which we may thank Bob Eaton, as well as Daimler-Benz.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States