Please welcome Juan Barnett to TTAC.
While sitting in a Mossy Oak Ram, a very-real and very-camouflaged version of Ram’s 1500, I watched the all-new Chrysler 200 roll on to the stage in Detroit. After crowning the 200 as Chrysler’s flagship sedan (Sorry 300!) in his speech, the Chrysler executive went on to tell the crowd that they were likely familiar with the 200’s platform, because of cars like the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
What about the Dodge Dart or Jeep Cherokee? They too share the same platform and are American offerings. Even though Chrysler made it a point to refrain from mentioning the Dodge Dart during the reveal, the 200 can’t hide its similarities to its C-segment sibling thanks to their shared CUSW platform.
Unlike the very bold, dare I say striking, Jeep Cherokee, the 200 shares many design elements found on other vehicles today. While this homogeneous design is more attractive than the previous 200, I don’t believe aesthetics will be the major factor for buyers. Instead they be more keen to look at total brand, price, driving dyanmics and fuel economy, not in any particular order.
Rather than provide a critique of the 200 based on objective measures, like design, which amounts to a circular debate of vanilla-vs-chocolate, I want to delve into the data. We’ll look at previous volume for the 200, see where it sits in the terms of competitor volume and fuel economy.
What does success look like for the 200? – It’s a question many people at the show were discussing. If the 200 moves one more car than it did before the redesign, is that success? Is Chrysler shooting for 20% volume growth, with goals of stealing market from its American rivals, Malibu and Fusion? Now that the car is part of a larger shared platform, can volumes be lower?
The 200: 2010-2013
This graph represents sales of the 200 from 2010-2013. Spring is either the season for peak car buying, incentive spending, or fleet turnover as 200 sales, especially 2012 and 2013, spike between March-June.
In 2013 Chrysler sold 124,493 200s , which is impressive seeing that the automaker only moved 40,495 units in 2010.
The Midsize Picture
Camry, Accord and Altima dominate the U.S. midsize sedan market. Based on this graph, the 200 should take aim at models like Optima, Fusion, Sonata and Malibu – but is that what Chrysler intends to do?
During the show I overheard someone on the floor say that with the addition of all wheel drive and improved looks the 200 could rival the Audi A4. I pray executives don’t have or ever get similar ideas. The 200 is not a luxury car. All that glows (LED) does not glitter (luxury).
The nine-speed automatic is standard in the 200 and when combined with the 2.4L I-4 the car is expected to achieve an EPA-estimated 35 MPG on the highway while the 3.5 V6 will get closer to 31MPG on the highway. The all-wheel-drive system is only available on V6-equipped cars. I expected a larger gain in fuel efficiency from the nine-speed transmission and based on comments by Sergio, so did he.
Chrysler tells me 35MPG is “very competitive” for the midsized sedan segment. According to the graph above the most fuel-efficient 200 will compete well against a Subaru Legacy or Dodge Avenger.
Plenty of unknowns remain for the 200 such as driving dynamics, appearance of base model, fleet volume and fuel economy. But the new 200 is a leap forward from the previous car in terms of technology and interior materials. Having just spent 3 days in a base model 200 I can say with certainty the new 200 is better and Chrysler raised the bar. Then again the bar was so low it was lying in a puddle of mud at the local car rental lot.