What a year it’s been for Chrysler [sales release here]. With a bankruptcy and bailout on top of a aged and unloved product lineup, it’s almost a miracle the Pentastar boyz sold anything in 2009. Overall sales were down 36 percent over 2008, which saw sales 30 percent lower than 2007. But never fear Mopar fans, Chrysler swears that this downward momentum is a thing of the past, and that 2010 will see Chrysler’s first annual sales growth in years. But the question that comes to mind looking over these latest results is how? After all, only two Chrysler Group models actually sold better in 2009 than 2008. Can you guess which?
Dodge’s Journey was the closest thing to a success at ChryCo this year, improving sales 14 percent over 2008 with 47,097 units sold. Then again, the Journey didn’t go on sale until March of 2008, so the comparison is hardly indicative of true sales momentum. December Journey sales (6,872 units) did show a 61 percent improvement… over last December’s miserable showing. Similarly, the Challenger was up 48 percent over the previous year (2,536 units), but 2008 also didn’t see Challenger sales start until nearly halfway through the year.
Other than these two heavily-qualified “gainers,” the rest of the annual sales comparisons are the familiar Chrysler disaster. Because last December was one of the worst sales months on record, the year-over-year monthly comparisons seem favorable, but the volume tells the real story.
Take the Sebring (please). It saw a 24 percent improvement over December 2008, despite moving a mere 4,437 units. Annual sales were 27,460 units, some 62 percent off of 2008’s number. 300 was up 20 percent for the month (4,452), but down 38 percent on the year (38,606). PT Cruiser fell 60 percent to 736 units in December, capping a 65 percent annual decline to 12,941 units. Town and Country held steady with a 4 percent monthly increase (8,465) but fell 29 percent on the year (84,558). The Chrysler brand’s (especially) dead nameplates walking, Crossfire, Pacifica and Aspen shuddered to a halt this month, except for Aspen which sold 32 units. Over 2009, Aspen sold 5,996 units, Crossfire sold 499 units and Pacifica sold 1,955.
Dodge is a similar story, with the exception of the Journey and Challenger. Caliber improved on last December’s achingly bad performance by 83 percent, at 5,289 units, but fell 57 percent on the year to 36,098. Avenger saw a similar monthly increase to 3,799 but fell 37 percent over 2009, to 38,922. Charger improved 16 percent in December to 6,273 units, but fell 38 percent over the year to finish with 60,651. Caravan edged up 24 percent to 8,563 in December, falling 27 percent on the year to 90,666. Nitro is close to pulling a Durango (which dropped to 29 units last month, 3,521 on the year) with only 1,208 units sold in December, and a 52 percent annual decline to 17,443 units.
Even the Jeep brand, long thought to be the only part of Chrysler worth saving, is in the muck. Compass dropped below a thousand units in December, with annual volume down 54 percent to 11,739 units. Patriot managed a minor improvement in December, but the year end numbers are still a grim: -44 percent to 31,432. Liberty held nearly even last month with 4,609 sales, but fell 35 percent in 2009 to 43,503 units. Grand Cherokee, which is set to be replaced this year, sold 4,097 units in December, with annual sales down 32 percent to 50,328. Commander is headed for a bottom-out, with December falling to 1,634 and annual sales down 54 percent to 12,655.
There’s no happy ending for the new Ram brand either. Dakota has fallen 59 percent on the year to 10,690 units and only managed a meager 618 units in December. Sprinter is in chaos as it transitions to Mercedes dealers, but annual sales were half of their 2008 level at 7,154. Worst of all, Ram fell 28 percent in December and on the year, despite the release of a new model. 12,014 were sold in December, with annual volume of 177,268 down from 2008’s 245,840 unit performance.