By on February 11, 2008

“It’s a New Day.” Unless you’re terminally ill or the guest of a terrorist cell, this observation won’t come as much of a surprise or, in itself, cause much delight. And yet that’s the tagline for the [now] combined Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands. In an explanatory TV ad, an animated child tells viewers that the American automaker will [now] listen to YOU and build cars the cars YOU want. The ad is an excellent example of what Adolph Hitler called The Big Lie: a falsehood so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”. To wit: if any single automaker ISN’T building the cars YOU want, it’s Chrysler.

Ipso facto. Chrysler’s U.S. market share is swirling around the toilet bowl. Although they’re now a privately-held company exempt from full public financial disclosure, analysts reckon Auburn Hills accounts for just 14 percent of the America’s new car sales pie– and falling. Not to mention the bulk sales propping-up that share. And no wonder: Chrysler’s three brands are suffused with poorly-built, hugely discounted, high-depreciation product that YOU would be crazy to buy.

The timing of Chrysler’s new day new tagline adds to the cognitive dissonance. Why would Chrysler announce its newfound desire to build cars customers want (sounds crazy but it just might work) just as it’s about to decimate its entire model lineup? This forthcoming execution of ten or more Chrysler losers makes perfect sense: the first part of making the cars YOU want is shit-canning the cars YOU don’t want. But it’s a PR nightmare. Customers will [rightly] see the bloodletting as an abject admission that Chrysler isn’t clued-in to its customers’ need.

Don’t worry! It’s a New Day! (How Mein Kampf is that?) Yes, well, what about all those customers who helped keep Chrysler alive by buying all the models that the company is now killing? Unless these owners plan to take their lame duck car or truck to the grave (via their very own personal lifetime warranty), Chrysler’s producticide will add depreciation insult to depreciation injury. Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Guess so.

The discrepancy between Chrysler’s New Day sloganeering and its past and current predicament isn’t the only reason that their new tagline is a Big Lie. The automaker’s inability to implement this consumer-centric philosophy in the future also puts paid to their Napoleonic declaration that history begins… now.

Let’s set aside the fact that Chrysler’s new owners’ intention to sell the company to someone else (talk about commitment: we’re going to build the cars YOU want until we can get SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT). To bring meaning to Chrysler’s New Day promise to listen and respond to customers’ needs, they’ve got to change they way they do business.

Hence the tagline’s tagline: “you talk, we listen.” The evidence for this communications revolution is weak. The official website proclaims the New Day and invites customers to “see the difference” on 12 models. The majority of the enhancements are options (i.e. extra expense), rather than new “you asked for it, you got it” standard features. Are we really to believe that Charger customers clamored for “Cool Vanilla” paint? At best, these changes result from the same old focus group filtration. At worst, Chrysler’s spinning to create a false sense of consumer “empowerment.”

For evidence of Chrysler’s supposed desire to “get close to the customer,” we turn to their official blog. Not only is Chrysler leaving this electronic forum to rot on the [not Jason] vine, but even a cursory glance reveals that it’s nothing more than corporate propaganda written by insiders, hacks and Spinmeisters. “Yes a truck can be a family vehicle;” “A new day dawns at our dealerships;” “Unleashed.” In a web swimming with millions of car buyers and enthusiasts, most blog posts get single digit (including 0) responses. ‘Nuff said?

It’s too bad that Chrysler’s New Day is a Big Lie. They’ve missed a huge opportunity to make an enormous competitive leap. If Chrysler really wanted to revolutionize its business, to create a genuine new dawn, they could do so by throwing open the company to its customers, dealers and workers. They could use the net to destroy the walls separating “us” and “them,” and establish a sophisticated feedback loop where the company COULD listen to its customers— and act upon that information in a timely way.

Yeah right. Chrysler is owned by Cerberus, a private equity company known for its obsessive, Kremlin-like secrecy. Of all the automakers in the world, Chrysler is the LEAST likely to let its guard down. There will be no Glasnost in Auburn Hills. Chrysler’s New Day is nothing more than a false dawn for those gullible– or desperate– enough to believe that the sun will come out tomorrow for the product-challenged, financially troubled American automaker.

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35 Comments on “Chrysler Suicide Watch 31: False Dawn...”


  • avatar
    guyincognito

    No, we do not make the parts your car needs to keep running anymore. I already told you, Its a NEW DAY!

  • avatar
    mel23

    Occasionally the thought pops into my head regarding what Jim Press got that enticed him to jump into this cesspool. It had better have been heavily loaded toward the front, as in a signing bonus. But what if it was tilted toward the back end like a huge hunk of stock or percentage of the take from an ultimate sale? In any case I can’t believe he isn’t regretting it.

    And what must LaSorda be thinking. His work has been trashed repeatedly, not to mention his status. This stuff is hardball.

  • avatar
    crackers

    mel23: “And what must LaSorda be thinking. His work has been trashed repeatedly, not to mention his status.”

    And deservedly so. He was at the helm during the development of most of Chrysler’s current lineup.

  • avatar
    AKM

    And deservedly so. He was at the helm during the development of most of Chrysler’s current lineup.

    Well, the worshipped Wolfgang Bernhard is the guy who authorized the VW Tour-humpf- while at the helm of VW…..

    Here’s an idea: why don’t the TTAC writers go invade Chrysler’s forums?

  • avatar
    mel23

    Regarding LaSorda, I’ve read on another forum that Chrysler was forced to ‘dumb down’ their products in order to provide some space between Chrysler and Mercedes products. I’m reading an excellent book at present about the history of the CIA (Legacy of Ashes). Hopefully we’ll be able to read some truthful accounts of what’s happening in the auto industry in the coming years.

  • avatar
    carm

    At least Chrysler is trying something, and talking about getting a serious reduction in their models and dealerships. Something I don’t see GM of Ford doing at this time.

  • avatar
    brianmack

    I want a flying car.

  • avatar
    ivorwilde

    LaSorda was not at the helm during the development of the latest crop. These were all blessed by the dynamic duo of Dr. Z and Wolfgang. Most had their exterior and interior designs already ‘frozen’ (approved and finalized )by mid-to late 2003: Caliber, Charger, Nitro, Sebring (sedan and convertible), Compass and Commander. I was part of the ‘Area 51’ meetings at the time.

  • avatar

    mel23: I can see having a gap between Chrysler and MB, but the execution was more like the Grand Canyon.

    Course, this all neglects the fact that Chrysler made the worst interiors in their price points for years, if not several decades.

  • avatar
    fallout11

    Ford already has too few (current, i.e. up to date) models. But at least most sold well at introduction. Neglect is killing them.
    GM doesn’t get it, and probably never will, but at least they had the stones to kill off (dead man walking) Oldsmobile.
    Chrysler? Please. No one wants their products (self evident from their market share), most are and have been dogs from day one (Sebring? Aspen? Compass? Avenger? Nitro? Durango? Commander? Plymouth anything?) or are old designs (PT Cruiser, 300, etc) already milked to death.

  • avatar
    motownr

    Ivorwilde: What happened to the New Yorker?

    Of all the mysteries surrounding Chrysler these days, the sudden disappearance of the production version of the NY is among the hardest to understand.

    I was personally told by a higher-up to see it in NY…of course, I go to the show, no car.

    Any insight?

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    It’s been gut-wrenching to watch Chrysler destroy itself with shoddy product over the past couple years. Back in 2004, the 300C and Magnum had me believing that the Daimler/Chrysler merger was going to spark this brand’s renaissance. Now I’m inclined to give it 10 years to live.

    Sadder still is to watch Chrysler’s strongest products (PT Cruiser, Pacifica) age into obsolescence and be quietly put down. These were the last Chryslers that people actually wanted to buy.

    And what happened to exterior design? Chrysler has sustained itself for decades, rough fit-and-finish notwithstanding, thanks to its leading-edge styling aesthetic. Yet everything post-Charger has been a scaled-down Ram turd.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    RF,

    A great piece, but one flaw. Lot’s of people do want a wrangler. Especially a 4 door one. There are a couple other bright spots as well. Still, on the whole you are correct. It’s going to be fun to watch. At first, I was really cheering for these guys. I thought some real changes could be made. Now I wonder if they will pack it in before they can really get it turned around. It’s gonna take years.

  • avatar
    Brendan

    Chrysler is done. This discontinuation of so many models a once is only the most obvious foreshadowing of the eventual dismantling of the entire company. The brands will survive, but who will own them? The Wrangler doesn’t have a tow rating high enough to pull three brands.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I want somebody to write a comparative / parallel history of Chrysler and Rover —

    how they got sick, got bought out by a foreign invader (Daimler / BMW), how the invader gave up after racking up horrendous losses, how the company got all optimistic / independent, how some members of the gullible / patriotic press believed them,

    how the new managers got huge pay and golden parachute packages, how the company presented some snazzy but not really competitive products, and how the company died.

    “It was a new day yesterday,
    but it’s an old day now”
    – Jethro Tull (1967)

  • avatar
    revjasper

    “Sadder still is to watch Chrysler’s strongest products (PT Cruiser, Pacifica) age into obsolescence and be quietly put down. These were the last Chryslers that people actually wanted to buy.”

    Aren’t those the last Chrysler products that were designed before the MB “merger”? The rental Pacifica of a few months ago had a very 1998 interior. That’s a good thing. I’ve rented many current Sebring/Avengers. The new interiors have the cheapness of a 1986 Hyundai but without the shiny.

    How sad is it that the strongest Chrysler products of the past ten years were all designs from over ten years ago? Nothing Chrysler done up in the past ten years has succeeded other than the 300. Nothing that I can think of…

  • avatar
    dean

    Management by sloganeering. Or is that marketing by sloganeering?

    If they do more than freshen up the lipstick on the proverbial pig it might stand a chance of working. Remember, the generally disinterested public is probably not aware of Chrysler’s problems and might be suckered by a clever campaign. What did P.T. Barnum say about that?

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    The difference being that someone wasn’t selling a demonstrably superior circus right across the street. :-)

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Dodge /Chrysler were ALWAYS the most interesting and visually stunning cars offered from an american manufacturer…and there were ALWAYS people who bought them..no,not in the numbers of the other Detriot manufactures ,but enough to keep the ‘doors open’ and some really neat cars out on the road.WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO US ENTHUSIASTS?????
    Is having a totally(not) reliable car that looks like everything else out there caused us to destroy any and all that cant’make the grade’.
    Too bad for us because the intersting cars will always find buyers………
    If they will only avoid the ‘AUTOMOTIVE PRESS
    they might find one..
    and not a chance of that…or really great cars ever being sold again in this country!
    Horray for the beancounters,Toyota,Goshen..and that_ _ _ _ _ _ _ ….BROCK YATES

  • avatar
    Kevin

    At least Chrysler is trying something, and talking about getting a serious reduction in their models and dealerships. Something I don’t see GM of Ford doing at this time.

    I agree with Carm, and I think Farrago’s being too negative. Seems to me their advertising campaign is saying “We fired the incompetent A-holes that ruined this company and we got rid of the freakin’ Germans and now we’re trying to salvage things.”

    I can respect that.

    You can’t expect too huge a change overnight in a big political bureaucracy and an industry that takes years to develope new product variants.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    agreed…if the timeline to sell off the brands was short, they wouldn’t be wasting the time/money on a huge new ad campaign. we wouldn’t be hearing anything from them at all. they would just quietly cut models out, right size the company. make it look like it could make money on paper…then sell it to the chinese. Im sure there will be causalities along the way (Jeep sold for cash) but i think “the three headed dog” has an interest in turning the company around. Im sure there is ALOT more money to be made from a profitable car company then there is in selling off a brand thats got one foot in the grave.

  • avatar

    I think Farrago’s being too negative. Seems to me their advertising campaign is saying “We fired the incompetent A-holes that ruined this company and we got rid of the freakin’ Germans and now we’re trying to salvage things.”

    I can respect that.

    I’d be inclined to agree were it not for one thing: The utterly disigenious way this is coming about. How do they know what kind of car “YOU” want if they don’t open up a proper channel for communication to come INTO Auburn Hills from customers and dealers, rather than out of it?

  • avatar
    ivorwilde

    Motownr: As to what happened to the New Yorker name:

    At the time, the Chrysler Executive Committee had decided that the New Yorker nameplate, like Fifth Avenue, was ‘old school’ and would not resonate with the younger demographics they wanted for the LX sedans vs. the first and second LH generation sedans. If you remember, the ’93 New Yorker was also spun off into the LHS as a “let’s hedge our bets just in case”
    move. LHS stood for either LH Sedan, Luxury Handling Sedan, or Lutz Has Spoken, depending on whom you listened to. Pacifica was originally to be called Vision but it (a) conjured up reminders of the Eagle brand and (b) Wolfgang B. objected, saying that the word Vision meant something that wass ultimately unreal or unattainable… a stretch goal.

    Now please don’t ask why other names survived when New Yorker and Fifth Avenue didn’t. There was always a turf battle going on between within brands, as well as with senior management. But in short, some nameplates had “good” heritage, like Charger and Challenger, and of course the 300. But Aspen? And on an after-thought SUV? That was after my time, so don’t ask me. And yes, PT did originally mean ‘Plymouth Truck.’ But it was quickly revised to ‘Personal Transportation’ before launch because the demise of Plymouth was already in the works.

  • avatar
    Dangerous Dave

    I know Chrysler can build the car I want, if what I want is:

    The same lame design with smiley face grill that Ive seen for the last 12 years.

    Panel gaps big enough to loose a small child in.

    Some nice cheap plastic for the dash with some fake wood or aluminum trim.

    A car I can relate to at Budget rent a car.

    Oh, and throw in some of those extra cheap parts that the customer doesn’t see, but pays through the nose for at the parts counter.

  • avatar
    kovachian

    younamegoeshere: I’d be hard pressed to disagree more with your assessment that Jeep will be a casulaty. If there was one Chrysler brand that could triumph through all this, it’s Jeep. This is not an opinion but fact, feel free to research this but Jeep is an icon with a model and history that are unique to the market – kinda like Hummer used to be, before GM decided to dilute it with continually smaller vehicles. The Wrangler (or CJ) has been around much longer, has traversed the nastiest terrains the world over, taken us anywhere the road ends, transported our grandparents to battle in WWII and so on. Unlike the Joe-Shmoe-Budweiser hick stigma of the iconic Mustang, the Jeep thrives on its reputation as a rock-solid off roader and on-roader, with virtually no social class baggage. Chrysler needs to shitcan all the Liberty/Compass/Commander garbage and stick to the Wrangler. Ok, MAYBE the Grand Cherokee for the upscale segment but I think they’d do fine with just 2 and 4 door Wranglers.

  • avatar

    I’m gonna wanna see some receipts for that “billion or three” that lets you “drive for forever, and do it ‘guilt free’.”

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    SexCpotatoes :
    February 11th, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    I’m gonna wanna see some receipts for that “billion or three” that lets you “drive for forever, and do it ‘guilt free’.”

    The biggest thing that’s resonated with me is that little line and its timing – the video is showing cartoon versions of the pie-in-the-sky, engine-less, badly-styled “green” concepts from Detroit 2008. I’ve seen them in person and they’re even worse – especially the unimaginative Dodge Zeo and fugly green Jeep Frog (I don’t remember the real name). The Eco Voyager was at least somewhat attractive – but it looked like it stepped out of the mid-1990s.

    Everytime I see the commercial, I can’t help but think, “Yeah, like those stylistically nightmarish mock-ups will ever see the light of a dealer lot (for months).”

  • avatar
    Kevin

    How do they know what kind of car “YOU” want if they don’t open up a proper channel for communication to come INTO Auburn Hills from customers and dealers, rather than out of it?

    Yeah, well, Homer Simpson ruined it for all of us…

  • avatar
    Rix

    Cutting half the model lineup won’t hurt. Nobody buys them anyways, at least not at retail.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    ivorwilde–

    PT is a chassis designation like Benz’ ‘w’ scheme, or BMW’s ‘e’ thing.

    The neon was the PL– it’s offspring?

    PT.

  • avatar
    Mj0lnir

    Is there a car company that allows you to provide feedback and then translates that into product?

    I’m actually curious.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    kovachian : i dont disagree with your assessment at all. which is why i think it will be sold. it still has value, some one out there will actually want to buy it. then they can use that cash to fund some new products.

    Mj0lnir- scion actually sent me a survey just yesterday asking me what features i would like to see in my next vehicle it was mostly electronic/infotainment kinda stuff. looked like they were trying to figure out if ppl wanted a toyota version of onstar and sync mashed up together.

  • avatar
    jamesfletcher2

    I am surprised at the author’s and reader shock at Chrysler’s disingenuous move. Jim Press has made it really clear that his and Chrysler’s ‘real customers’ are the dealers not the ultimate retail consumer.

    He is famous for picking some suburban city and using the local dealers name to comment that that dealer is the only actual customer they have in the aforementioned town. This attitude also goes a long way to explain why they want only one local dealer selling all of their brands.

  • avatar
    moto

    Many people here have missed Chrysler’s major error. Sadly, it happens to be one that many other manufacturers are making today.

    Chrysler started to throw away its in-house product development & detail design experience over 15 years ago. Today they can’t make a cohesive, high quality product.

    The decision looked great on the accounting books. A bunch of young guys on CATIA workstations can determine how Supplier 1 part A bolts to Supplier 2 part B, and the Chrysler design center can crinkle the sheetmetal differently every 5 years very cost effectively. But the R&D, the constant advancement of technology, the true engineering got axed back to a fraction of what it should be.

    Those gearheads who tinkered with cars on weekends, wore out tires at SCCA events, slaved for hours optimizing minute design details because they knew from real experience what a solid product needed to offer, and waged passionate battles against the beancounters to ensure that cost-cutting didn’t undermine quality — these guys don’t work at Chrysler anymore. Many of the best left before the DCX days. Chryser accelerated offloading major systems development to low-bid suppliers (the suppliers that have every incentive to slash quality that doesn’t immediately show itself to the customer). Chrysler thought they were saving money, and the stylish vehicles in the showroom sold well for a while. Feature count and price targets trumped solid engineering.

    Unfortunately, we now see where inattention to engineering detail has led Chrysler. Its products, for the most part are:

    – lowest in their classes in fuel economy
    – lowest in their classes in resale value
    – rated poorly in initial quality
    – rated poorly in reliability
    – amongst the least respected for interior design and material quality
    – consistently outperformed in objective performance measures by competitors
    – least-liked by professional automotive reviewers

    …and so on.

    Don’t get me wrong — they had their hits, and i give them full credit for getting some cars right.
    – The Viper has been refined into a truly competitive car that doesn’t leak through all the door seals anymore. It has staying power.
    – The PT was a styling hit and actually a decent budget mobile — better than its successors.
    – Dollar-per-horsepower on SRT models has always been decent.
    – The choice of Cummins diesels have earned a solid reputation.

    Mr. Farago is spot on: Chryserberus is dying a slow but inevitable death. Pieces will be parceled off to other companies — Jeep will probably become the “tough” brand for Toyota or Honda, and other Asian manufacturers might be interested in picking up a few manufacturing sites for another decade of truck & ute production (unless fuel becomes truly expensive and the oversize vehicle fad abruptly ends).

    … which brings us to the most glaring point of all. Since fuel is becoming an increasing percantage of the average American family budget, consumers certainly will embrace smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Chrysler has little — almost nothing — to offer them. No serious product development in over a decade means no small diesels, no electric hybrids, no competitive compact chassis, no respected marketable name in economical cars whatsoever. What’s the best they can do? a 1.8 liter Caliber that offers 24/29mpg and 148 hp? For goodness’ sake, a Jetta Sportwagen offers 30hp more with equal fuel economy, and VW’s 40+ mpg diesels are on the way.

    So sad you’re going out in a wimper, Chrysler.

  • avatar
    sadjeepdlr

    Just found this site, very interesting.

    This company has changed so much in the last 8-10 years. We used to have customers that would NEVER even think of buying a GM Ford or god forbid a import. It started with axles and brakes on 99 grand cherokees. In all my years as a dealer I have never seen so many pissed off people! Jeep was not the reliable vehicle we had sold for so many years, and our customers were not afraid to tell people that. Now we have the Compass/Patriot a car in Jeeps clothing. Actually would be a nice add to the line if it got good fuel economy. I have customers that look at the EPA and laugh because the old LeSabre with a 3.8 gets better.

    The Wrangler is nice but not enough with good equipment were built! When you have to wait 7 months for a Rubicon sold order to be built, something is wrong. And as long as I’m complaining how about a Jeep pickup? Like the old days. A real truck 1/2 ton 3/4 ton and 1 ton not a wrangler with a box. Remember the Scrambler? we couldn’t give those away.

    Enough bitching for now.

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