Chrysler Dealers: Life is Good
Even as Chrysler talks of cutting models, closing dealerships and ramming through a new contract with the United Auto Workers, their dealers claim they're hopeful about their future. This according to USA Today, whose reporter attended a no-holds-barred meeting in Las Vegas earlier this month between 75 percent of Chrysler's dealers and the automaker's top brass. Specifically, Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli and Toyota renegades VP Jim Press and Marketing Maven Deborah Wahl Meyer (Tom LaSorda must have been busy with union negotiations) held an open mic Q&A session with the front line troops. Dealers says they came away feeling that, for the first time in years, someone at headquarters is listening to them. Chrysler's dealer council member John Schenden was ecstatic. "As a dealer body, we are more optimistic than we've been in the last 20 years." Reflecting his newfound confidence, Schenden recently bought land to expand his dealership. I guess he hasn't seen TTAC's TWAT nominations yet.
I saw the new Grand Caravan after the Carmax auction today. It's a visually inoffensive vehicle with some VERY cheap plastics on the inside. Not a single part or panel effused a sense of luxury although the fit and finish was actually pretty well done. It was almost as if they decided to delegate all their chosen material components to one supplier... Rubbermaid. I think Chrysler missed the boat by not having a short wheelbase version of the Caravan. Most of the cheapies for the last 15 years were Caravan models and they actually were the leaders of this market since it's inception. The materials used for the current Grand Caravan are far better suited towards those lower end models. Few folks in their right mind will now be taking the GC over the Sienna or Odyssey. The feeling of richness and luxury is simply not there and minivan owners demand plenty of it once you go north of 25k. It's almost as if Chrysler thinks that a 'tough' minivan will outsell a luxurious one. In suburban America, I just don't see that happening. Overall, I think Chrysler will have effectively reduced their ouput by at least 100k per annum by not having a short wheelbase option and not matching the material quality with Toyota or Honda.
Life is Good? Does Cerberus also have a stake in LG? ;-) A coworker of mine just bought a Sebring andlikes the looks alot beter than the previous gen. I just HAD to ask her how she liked. Her response, "not bad..but it's got some problems..I think it has about five recalls on it". 'nuff said.
Steven Lang, I,too, think that Chrysler missed the boat by not having 4-cylinder and short-wheelbase versions of the new minivan. My first minivan was an '84 Voyager with an 84 hp 4 cylinder and a 5-speed stick. Despite its being just a few options up from bottom of the line, the interior had more of a "quality"look than the new ones'. I also hate the non-solid floors and the non-removable seats. I don't want to haul potentially leaky sand, cement mix or, pea gravel over upholstery and/or masonite doors with crappy, cheap hinges beneath which lies more upholstery. I don't want to put a washing machine, or car starter, or anything else heavy on a non-solid floor.
zenith - Maybe they'll offer solid floors and no seats for the cargo version they once sold to fleets. We still have a 1994 Caravan like that here.