Chrysler Group’s December sales were up some 16 percent compared to December 09, as the bailed-out automaker finished the year with 1,085,211 sales, a 17 percent increase over last year. But with the overall market steadily recovering, those year-over-year comparisons hardly tell the story, so Chrysler sales boss Fred “I Am Ram” Diaz brought it back to the firm’s five-year plan, saying
Chrysler Group 2010 sales of 1.1 million units are consistent with our sales objective that we presented in our Nov. 4, 2009 five-year business plan. We are extremely proud of the sales strides we made during this transition year. Chrysler Group launched 16 all-new or significantly improved models last year, most of them during the fourth quarter. We can now share our excitement with our customers as our new 2011 models arrive in dealerships in greater volumes over the coming months.
We’ll forgive Diaz the 15k unit “round-up” that gets him to 1.1m units, but with 2010 closing out an 11.5m unit year for the industry, Chrysler’s 1.085m units puts it behind the market-share projections trumpeted in the five year plan (closer to a 9.5 percent share, per slide above). And when you start looking at retail share, the situation looks even more grim. Chrysler may have gotten close to meeting its 2010 goals, but it pulled out the stops to get there. And things only get tougher next year.
Chrysler hasn’t released global deliveries for the year, and probably won’t until it announces its year-end financial results, but already we can see that 2010 did not go exactly as planned. Chrysler hasn’t announced the fleet breakout with its year-end numbers, but an industry tipster who wishes to remain anonymous informs us that Chrysler’s retail market share for 2010 was a mere 7.7 percent (a decline of .6 from last year). That would bring Chrysler to 800k-900k US-Market retail units (as predicted in the graph above) if the retail market (rather than the retail and fleet markets combined) were at 11.5m units. Assuming (conservatively) an industry-wide fleet sale rate of 20 percent, Chrysler’s 7.7 percent share of the retail market would give it just over 700k retail units last year. And with Chrysler’s fleet mix running as high as 40 percent this year, that’s a generous estimate. Mission not so accomplished.
Jeep was the only Chrysler Group brand to improve its retail market share last year, rising .1 to 2.5 percent, putting the SUV brand just barely over Subaru and Volkswagen’s retail shares. Wrangler was Jeep’s best-seller last year, at 94,310 units (+15%) but Grand Cherokee was the fastest grower, jumping 62 percent on the strength of a new model introduction, to 84,653 units. Commander died back to just over 8k units on the year, and Compass saw a 15 percent increase but still ended with a mere 15,894 units sold. Patriot enjoyed a 23 percent increase, ending the year at 38,620, and Liberty improved 14 percent to 49,564. Grand Cherokee showed how new product could help bring Chrysler back from the dead, single-handedly hoisting Jeep to a retail share gain, but it is also a best-case scenario as it was an actual new product (compared to, say the “new” Chrysler 200) and it didn’t face in-house competition from a cheaper platform-mate (like the 2011 Dodge Durango). And if gas prices spike again in 2011, Jeep could be back in trouble just as quickly. Still, this is where the good news ends.
According to our data, the Chrysler brand shed .3 market share points last year, falling to 1.2 percent. For comparison, that’s worse than Cadillac, Buick and Acura did last year. And no wonder: with the demise of the Aspen, Crossfire and Pacifica, Chrysler literally went to war with four models last year. Of the four, Town & Country was the clear volume leader, up 33% to 112,275 units. But after a miserable 2009, the Sebring was the surprise fastest grower, jumping 41 percent to 38,585 units. The 300 ended the year down 4 percent, failing even to outsell the Sebring at 37,116 units, and PT Cruiser was the fastest dropper, sliding 47 percent to 9,440 units. With the updated Sebring/200 and T&C as well as a new 300 coming next year, Chrysler can expect some improvement in 2011… but how much? And more importantly than getting the overall numbers up, there’s a real question about Chrysler’s ability to win back retail share on the strength of one new car and two updates.
But if Chrysler did poorly last year, Dodge did even worse. Retail share declined a whopping .4 points, the third-largest such decline in the industry (not counting discontinued brands), falling to 2.1 percent. That, for some context, is the same retail market share as BMW. And since the Dodge brand grew some 12 percent last year, we’re starting to get a good sense of where those fleet sales are coming from. Caravan was the volume king by a mile, moving 103,323 units for a 14 percent increase. On the other end of things, the biggest disappointment was the not-that-old Journey, which dropped 10% to 48,577 units. Avenger (+31%) and Charger (+24%) both massively outsold their Chrysler-branded counterparts, but due to fleet sales opacity, it’s not at all clear that this was due to consumer preference. Challenger took a distant third in the pony car wars, selling 36,791 units, or about half as many units as Camaro or Mustang, despite ending the year up 42 percent. Caliber was up 25% to 45,082 and Nitro was up 30 percent to 22,618.
On the truck front, Chrysler’s Ram brand didn’t go anywhere in terms of retail share, which held steady at 2 percent. Ram Pickup volume was up only 13 percent though, with year-end volume hitting 199,652 units. Dakota enjoyed a 22% increase, finishing 2010 with 13,047 sales.
All in all, Chrysler’s retail market share tells a grim tale, giving little room for optimism as we move into 2011. Though the Grand Cherokee shows how new product can change the firm’s fortunes, most of the products waiting in the wings aren’t as completely new, and have considerable overlap (300/Charger, Durango/Grand Cherokee). Meanwhile, Chrysler is either ignoring its problems or spinning desperately, touting its not-quite achievement of five-year-plan goals while concealing the fact that retail share is slipping away. And things aren’t getting any easier. Next year, Chrysler’s plan calls for some 1.2m US-market retail sales, a goal that seems all but impossible to reach unless the overall market roars back with a vengeance… and analysts are predicting a slight increase for 2012 to about 13m (on the low end of Chrysler’s projections). TTAC’s Mopar skepticism will live on for another year.