So you want your next car to be a cheap drop top that seats four? If you live in America, your options are strangely limited. By my count, only five convertibles are available on our shores that seat four and cost under $30,000. If you cross the “convertible hatchbacks” (Cooper and 500c) off the list you’re left with three options. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Ford Mustang and the former king of the convertible sales chart: the Chrysler
Sebring 200. Does this re-skinned front driver have what it takes to win back the “best-selling convertible in America” crown?
I have always rooted for the underdog, except when (for no apparent reason) the guy decides to start punching himself in the face. And so it was with Chrysler’s final Sebring. When the Cirrus burst forth along with the LH sedans almost 20 years ago, they were extremely competitive in style and price. While reliability hasn’t been Chrysler’s forte, you could always justify buying a Cirrus on the basis of America-first-ism, or style, or something. By the time the end drew near for the old Chrysler the Sebring was just a bruised mess from years of self-abuse.
TTAC’s personal window into the CAW, mikey writes:
Sajeev, as spring approached our frozen north, I couldn’t face another summer sans convertible. As a proud, retired UAW and CAW member, my choice was limited to domestics. What to buy?
The Sebring? No way. New is out of my reach, so rule out a 5th gen Camaro. Having owned a 4th gen F-body…one was enough. Did I really say that? A Solstice or Sky, maybe? Can a 50 something couple pack up and go for two days? I couldn’t find a place to store a cell phone, never mind two suit cases, and a Beer cooler.
I looked at a used “Pontiac G6″ hardtop convertible. Wow! all that mechanical stuff that runs the retract? Hmmmm, lets put it this way: too many years on the assembly floor, tells me to give that baby a wide berth. Draw your own conclusions.
So today we find ourselves the proud owners of a 2008 Mustang convertible. In my way of thinking, knowedge rules, and I have zero experience with Fords, except a 1969 Marquis that was a POS when I bought it, 35 years ago. So I need to update. So I’m asking the B&B to help me out.
I wasn’t planning to review the Chrysler 200. Renaming a lightly revised car to escape a well-deserved bad reputation always strikes me as a lame tactic. And the Sebring, on which the 200 is based, was so far off in so many ways that I didn’t see the point. We don’t just review cars to trash them around here. But then I drove the revised minivan, and was very pleasantly surprised. Perhaps Chrysler had similarly transformed the Sebring when creating the 200? With a Buick Regal for the week, and a need for some reference points, the time had come to find out.
Chrysler has taken advantage of the kerfluffle over GM’s Volt to release the first full images of its most important car to date: the Chrysler 200, or the artist formerly known as the Sebring. As with the Volt, we’re not entirely convinced it’s as revolutionary as Chrysler’s making it out to be, but we’ll obviously wait for a test drive to reach a definitive conclusion. Meanwhile, the 200′s design has more than a few hints of Sebring about it (and that’s without a proper side-on view), although the overall effect is of a much-cleaned-up car. It’s not distinctive in a way that’s going to instantly win over skeptics, and Chrysler’s midsize sales probably won’t improve until reliability and resale data shows real signs of improving, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Given what Chrysler was working with, namely the least competitive car in its segment, this 200 is shaping out quite nicely as a first, tentative step towards viability.
We’ve mentioned that Beijing Auto (BAIC) showed a Saab 9-3 rebadge at the Beijing Auto Show, but we have thus far failed to highlight another re-style of a Western also-ran by the Chinese automaker. This C70 sedan is ostensibly an electric vehicle prototype, but under the skin it’s all Chrysler Sebring. BAIC built the unloved sedan for several years in China, and numerous reports indicate that this prototype has several Sebring attributes, including that rear door cutline and the transmission. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that the C70 somehow previews the look for the new Sebring-replacing Nassau, but that’s not likely. Still, it gives you an idea of what could be done with the Sebring… even by a relatively new Chinese firm.
Chrysler won’t officially confirm it, but the Detroit Free Press cites Chrysler dealers who say that the tarnished-to-death Sebring nameplate will be replaced with the name “Nassau,” when Chrysler brings out a Fiat-facelifted version of the midsized sedan later this year. The Nassau name first entered Mopar history with the 1955 Windsor Nassau, a a two-door coupe advertised as having “the 100 million dollar look.” After a mere two model years as the Windsor Coupe nameplate, the Nassau name lay dormant for decades before returning as a 2000 styling buck for the Chrysler 300, and again as a midsized sedan/wagon concept in 2007.
Chrysler Group LLC has some serious faith in its planned Sebring “intervention,” as it has purchased the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant back from the estate of its bankrupt predecessor for $20m. According to the Detroit News, the move was necessary to secure $8.2m in local tax abatements, and as a result, the Sebring and Avenger will continue to be built there until 2012. But, warn ChryCo spokesfolks, “There is no commitment on the future of SHAP beyond 2012,” when the refreshed Sebring will finally be replaced by a new midsize sedan based on a Fiat platform.
Well, the death of the Sebring name anyway. The Detroit Free Press reveals some of the first details about Chrysler’s all-important refresh of the Sebring/Avenger, a vehicle that CEO Sergio Marchionne recently admitted (in what was surely a Lutzie-award-worthy understatement) is “not the most loved car by car enthusiasts.” The biggest detail: it won’t be named Sebring. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering that the Sebring’s issues are less related to a tepid reaction from the enthusiast market, and have more to do with the fact that even the least car-literate Americans recognize the Sebring name as a symbol for all that is wrong with America’s auto industry.
Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne was supposed to give a speech in conjunction with the Chicago Auto Show today, but backed out at the last minute, sending Dodge honcho Ralph Gilles in his place. The Chicago Sun Times was able to snag an interview with the globetrotting CEO though, and it features some of Sergio’s more candid (if confusing) comments on the state of new product development at the New New Chrysler. Of particular interest is his very apt criticism of Cerberus’s mismanagement of new product development, specifically the decision to replace the 300 before the Sebring.
The biggest market segments in the United States are the C [midsize cars] and D [large luxury vehicles] segments. If you only have a dollar to spend that’s where you go spend it, especially if you’ve got products that are structurally not working.
The decision was made to invest elsewhere. So we developed a brand-new platform for the 300, a decision that took capital that may have been required elsewhere to go play in a different sandbox. Until you’re clear about where you need the money, where the money needs to be spent to ensure longterm survival – that part of it was substantially missing.