By on July 30, 2008

The beginning of the end of the end?Nothing in Chrysler's dated portfolio needs attention more than its Camcord-fighting D-segment offerings, the Avenger/Sebring. The March departure of the lead on the Avengbring replacement didn't bode well. Motor Trend now reports that Project D is heading for disaster, gobbling-up huge engineering and design resources. Chrysler's in crisis mode. Option one: an all-new platform. No money. No way. Option two: deploy an existing chassis (e.g.  Nissan's Altima) and wrap it in new sheetmetal. Option C: rip off another automaker's work wholesale, a la VW Routan. Needless to say, these cop-out options will do nothing to improve Chrysler's rep for mediocre products. Then again a badge-engineered Altima might be better than what Chrysler can cobble together on a shoestring. Either way, with Project D seemingly doomed to mediocrity, what else can keep Chrysler alive? Hybrid minivans? Cherys? Government bailouts? Not good. 

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22 Comments on “The Devil In Project D...”


  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Whoa! I thought Project D was going to be a major refreshing, not a “new” car. I guess it wasn’t worth trying to fix. Ouch.

    The Avenger/Sebring debacle is going to go down in history as one of the royal srew-ups, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    My office replaced a previous generation Sebring with the new model this spring and while I wouldn’t buy it for myself it is a much better vehicle than the one it replaced. The old one had seriously scary steering where you didn’t get any response before a quarter turn. This one handles and rides better and has decent fit and finish other than the acres of hard plastic. Fuel economy is so-so but I don’t pay for the gas, it also has decent pick-up.
    Chrysler is too broke to start from scratch, this is not a bad car, fix the interior and touch up the outside and you have a decent car. Don’t know how it will age but the old one was a beater after 3 years and 40K despite regular maintenance.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Why do they even bother? I figured by now that all of their employees are completely demoralized, and see work as an exercise in futility.

    When you “sell” this POS, how could you think otherwise?

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Hmmm, it looks like they’re considering sending in the Ghosn Squad – first a future Versa platform sharing and now an Altima.

  • avatar
    sellfone

    Nothing can keep them alive now, but a badge engineered Altima sounds interesting. Especially if it would carry with it the “buyer incentives” that seem to go hand in hand with “American” cars.

    On a related note (the keeping Chrysler alive one), I passed a final generation Neon on the road yesterday. I thought to myself that if Chrysler still had that car in its current lineup (maybe somewhat updated interior), it would sell in big numbers in today’s frugal economic climate. What a massive mistake it was to replace the Neon with the Caliber…

  • avatar
    Scottie

    And that is where the Chrysler of Today is different from the Chrysler of the 80’s that received a bail out. In the 80’s Chrysler had something.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Best deal you can could ever get on a WRX was the Saab 9-2x from the employee pricing. So why not get an Altima at 50% off!

  • avatar
    motownr

    If they are serious about the C brand, why not a SWB LY? The Challenger is already on it.

    CLLC is never going to be on the shopping lists for ‘me too!’ import buyers, so why not carve out their own little niche as they did with the 300?

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    I saw one recently with a nice set of wheels and lightly tinted windows and it looked really good. I agree it would look alot better with just some tweaking.

  • avatar
    morbo

    The Avenger looks fine, with it’s mini-me Charger look. The Sebring is a polished turd. Both are a generation behind the current Fusion and Malibu, which themselves are a 1/2 generation behind the Camcordima, which are on an accelerating developement schedule.

    While the Nissan angle is probably driven by Ghosns ego/shark-sense and Chrysler’s need, wouldn’t it be quicker and easier to rebadge either a Sonata or Galant as the new LeBaron/Stratus/Cirrus/Avenger/Sebring. I thought Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and Chrlysler already had some kind of co-op engine plant (I want to say the 3.5L V6, but I might be wrong). Given Chrysler’s historical relation with Mitsubishi and relatively complementary lineups (Galant & down for Mitsu, LX/LH/LY, vans,& trucks for Chrysler), they would seem to mesh well.

    Granted two struggling companies merging into one really struggling company doesn’t have a good track record, but who knows?

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Why would Ghosn be willing to cannibalize Altima sales by badging it for another company? Hell, why would anyone want to do that? If they want to sell more cars, add some incentives to it.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Here’s a thought: They could import the new Volga Siber:

    http://www.autoblog.com/2008/07/30/its-not-a-sebring-volga-begins-production-of-siber-sedan/

  • avatar
    gforce2002

    I didn’t read anywhere in the Motor Trend article that said the project is “headed for disaster”, just that it was taking up a huge amount of resources, which is what one would expect from such a major undertaking. The disaster part seems like kind of a leap to me. From my understanding, Project D’s task is to develop a platform not just for four door sedans, but for a range of different vehicles like crossovers, etc.

    Still something about the Motor Trend article doesn’t make sense, anyway. If they haven’t even decided which direction to take on the project yet, how can it already be taking up a huge amount of engineering and design resources? Those resources would start to be used after that decision was made, I would think. I could understand if it said “planning” resources, but not really the others.

  • avatar
    mxfive4

    I say drop the entire line up for now.

    First you won’t be able to compete with Accord/Camry so volume is out the door.

    Spend those resources on getting truly compelling concepts like the Hornet to market.

    I don’t care if it is a reskinned Versa – but those lines were intriguing.

    Next make a hybrid Wrangler.

    Everyone still love the styling they just can’t digest to consumption.

    After that – add a minivan hybrid – you have no chance of keeping up with Oddy/Sienna without a gimmick.

  • avatar
    windswords

    gforce2002 is right. Somethings not right about this MT article, not to mention TTAC’s leap of logic. Anyway after all the crap that MT has done in the past, why should we believe them now?

    Project D would be a major project if it does what its original charter called for: a D segment car, a minivan, and a CUV. The current models are do for a refresh – hopefully they can get the folks who worked on the new RAM interior to do something with them.

    cdnsfan27:

    “My office replaced a previous generation Sebring with the new model this spring and while I wouldn’t buy it for myself it is a much better vehicle than the one it replaced…
    Don’t know how it will age but the old one was a beater after 3 years and 40K despite regular maintenance.”

    It’s really a shame because the 1st generation Stratus/Cirrus were very nice cars. They compared favorably to their competitors and were developed for a lot less money than Ford’s Mondeo/Contour/Mystique, thanks to Chrysler’s new development methodology they learned from studying Honda. I had a 1st gen Stratus ES and put over 50k miles on it. It was still like new. Only work done on it was brakes and some loose weather stripping on the door replaced. As soon as the 2nd generation came out I knew something was wrong. You could see and feel how Dumbler was already cheapening everything.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    This is an easy fix. Just substitute higher quality materials in the interior and gussy up that ridiculous C pillar. When the new V6 and DSG come on line, put them in every Sebring/Avenger you make. Reduce complex on the assembly line to take out cost.

    Then call Carlos and ask him to make you a couple versions of the new Altima when it comes out in 4 years.

    Any engineering resources Chrysler has left should be devoted to product categories where Chrysler has a reasonable chance of success (minivans, Jeep, LY).

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Interesting…

    They’ve already split from Mitsubishi so that’s not an option and I doubt Carlos Ghosn wants to sully the Altima’s image by tacking on a Chrysler badge to it ( bet he can barely stifle a Nissan badge going on a Ram pickup but at least that platform is competitive). I like the look of the Avenger but the Sebring was failed the first time I saw it. If they can reengineer the platform I’m sure they can find a way to make the Avenger more competitive. I mean, do like the Chinese do, buy your competitor’s car and reverse-engineer it so you can learn how to make yours better.

    Oh wait…

  • avatar
    cleek

    why did they kill that Chevy nomad looking wagon if this is what they had to fall back on?

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    They should go dig up Dodge Aries, as is, with the 2.2 and stick. Frugal and roomy. They haven’t made anything better in 20 years. Kinda sad, really.

  • avatar
    Ryan

    ???”mediocre products”???

    Come on! KIA puts out a better product. Chrysler is the junk line of the United States.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Come on! KIA puts out a better product. Chrysler is the junk line of the United States.…

    A bit of a stretch…had you said “Chrysler interiors are the worst of most any car” I would agree with that. But the 300 series cars and all their iterations are not junk, nor is much of the Jeep line. The minivans are market competitive. The HEMI is not junk, even if it is a basic design.

    The Sebring, Compass, Caliber, etc, well yeah they are kind of Kia-ish…

  • avatar
    Stingray

    I thought this was related to the japanese Initial D anime, maybe one new season :rolleyes:

    I read this yesterday… it sounded like bad news to me.

    I saw a Sebring here 2 days ago… it doesn’t look that bad seeing its side. Proportions are similar to the Caliber… just with a trunk.

    Maybe a GOOD facelift, interior improvement and calibration change may take this car from “turd” to “acceptable”.

    Don’t get the point of doing an entirely new platform.

    Also, never got why they replaced the Neon with the Caliber.

    And why they abandoned the cab-forward design? Honda copied it in the Civic, and it was ok.

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