Editorial: Chrysler Suicide Watch 44: Will the Last One Out of the Building…

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
editorial chrysler suicide watch 44 will the last one out of the building

A TTAC reader writes: “Did you read the Wards AutoWorld article about how full Chrysler’s product pipeline is? So inaccurate. I had to throw away the magazine because of it. As a former product planner for Chrysler up until April of last year (on the Jeep WK (Grand Cherokee)), I can tell you the state of the business that I knew.

There was plenty of pinching on the interiors of the cars. We called it the “thousand dollar challenge;” which included reducing the amount of leather in the car seats (think lower back and where your butt is, but not the back of your thighs; all else vinyl). At the same time, unrealistic volumes were driving business decisions, with calculations for how JNAP [Jefferson North Assembly Plant] will be filled on three shifts for WK, endless management reviews and preparation for management reviews—leading up to a canceled product (CT, WC).

Chrysler tried to make product lines profitable by figuring out how to maximize profit by take rates and bundling. Eliminating an engine on the vehicle ultimately makes sense for reduction of complexity, but from a business case perspective, it is almost always negative (upcharge on the optional motor).

Now working in a different industry altogether, I get a sense of just how management-focused Chrysler had become. That is something the Germans can take credit for. There’s much more structure in the product development process, with the resultant inability to make a decision and endless preparation for meetings.

The “dream team” that Cerberus built was not. Specifically, the two Toyota execs were remedial. Jim Press was well liked internally, but Debra Meyer was not overly bright. She spoke and presented well, but she didn’t know cars.

I hear now that if you discuss the understaffing of ENVI relative to their proposed task you face retribution. I’ve also heard that the Jeep Patriot concept car/electric vehicle was nothing more than an interior (with cool cluster), Viper style wheels, and some other minor stuff. Nothing electric about it. Good PR tho.

They actually lost almost 35-40% of their staff in the Nov 26 buyout of white collars, not including the additional 10% they retired early (totaling then almost 50%). Of my product planning department, exactly none were left.

Brand Management and Product Planning have since been merged, an event that took until January to announce. They lost a month because they didn’t know who was going to be left, they didn’t tell people before they made a decision what was to be their future etc.

Look what happened to Mopar guys. They were mostly contract guys working for a 93 grade band supervisor. They outsourced all of the jobs to suppliers and transferred some of the contract guys over there.

XXXXXX XXXXXXX was one of the suppliers (plastic injection stuff among others). They told their guys that they were not able to work them the full 40 hours a week due to financial limitations (payments from Chrysler?) and that they’d get one day off a week (in addition to the 10% pay cut). THEN they said you need to work five days a week and simply book those comp days for the future (where you’ll never get to use them).

They really don’t have any idea of how to approach their business. They are building a WK (2- row only), a WD (3-row Dodge), an LX that the dealers council said needs to look more different than the existing model (the one that they showed in the filing to the government to get more dollars was the revamped one, the one before was even more vanilla but not much different), and no other product that I am aware of.

I heard (was not directly involved) that the D-segment quotes from Nissan were within single digit dollars of their projected internal costs to do it inside. With only 100 people on that platform working previously, they were definitely going outside. Now virtually all of those people are gone (retired or bought out). Normally 600–700 are required on a platform.

Internally, a platform’s profitability depends on how much overhead is assigned to it. The WK was over-assigned overhead, to the point where it was always negative. Usually it was based on sales + an arbitrary amount decided by management. The WK was always under water with the fully accounted system we used (DCAV). But I think it was an attempt to make the platform stretch for profitability (hence the unrealistic volumes).”

Join the conversation
2 of 55 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on Apr 11, 2009

    Davey - You mean, Hondas have had...GASP...reliability issues? Couldn't be...we know the Japanese build nothing but perfect cars.

  • CPTG CPTG on Apr 12, 2009

    Second stupid Question (see my LI-on stupid question #1): Chrysler is, hands down, the worst made, worst reliable car manufacturer on America's highways today (doubt me? Anyone up for a 500 mile road trip in a Sebring?!!!). FIAT (Fix it Again Tomorrow) was chased out of America in 1988 because of its poor build quality (Fiat Stradda, Anyone?!!!). Before we all pass the White Lightning Jug on this Shotgun Wedding of Chrysler-Fiat, has anyone considered what the kids will look like? I mean Worst made American Car (Bride) verses Formerly Worst made Car in America (Groom). Chrysler is unsaveable with or without FIAT, hence C-7. Problem is...what happens WHEN Chrysler finally does go tits up? 1. ALL American Parts manufactures will be impacted---even BMW, Honda, Toyota. Take Windshields, for example---they're North American MFG'd. No chrysler orders, no glass plants=Shortages for everyone 2. A Mortibund Chrysler will push GM over the edge--not just C-11; C-7 3. GM in bankruptcy/liquidation will drag Ford under (Remember---the reason Ford is not wooching money like GM/Chrysler has nothing to do with superior vision or products. Ford simply started cutting costs and hording capital and were plush when Black September 2008 hit. They will need a loan cum JUL/AUG. Like it or not, America has become a Service Economy and not a MFG Economy. The thing about Service Economies---a service can always be done better and cheaper elsewhere (Think of your girlfriend going to JiffyLube to change her oil vrs you doing it for a six pack and a roll in the hey). There will always be a need for superior products and countries which maintain their mfg base will always dominate service economy countries

  • Inside Looking Out The next 4Runner will be BEV.
  • The Oracle This is a proper Italian red sauce turd.
  • Carson D This isn't a notice of a wait time for 4Runner fans. This is a deadline for the opportunity to buy one new before they're gone. Whatever comes next, there is no possible way that it will be as good at doing 4Runner things as what is available today.
  • Bkojote There's a lot "just right" with the current 4Runner, and having spent time in more contemporary equivalents for road trips, I completely understand why they sell a ton of these.Here's some topics that aren't super common among 4runner owners - excessive carbon buildup in the engine after 40,000 miles (Audi/VW), bent valves (Bronco) , failed oil coolers (Jeep), cracked engine blocks (Jeep), dead vehicles from OTA updates (Chevy Colorado), being stranded due to opening the door too many times (Defender), malfunctioning engine sensors (Defender, VW), dead batteries due to electrical system malfunctions (Jeep), unusable defoggers (Jeep), waiting for seat heaters to boot up (Subaru), randomly catching fire (Kia/Hyundai), crappy build quality (Ford, Tesla).The interior feels solid and rattle free, and everything feels substantial in the way a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Kia Telluride does not. 14 year run means accessories are plentiful and well sorted. The control inputs from the radio to heated seats to climate control work better than 99% of the cars you can buy new at this point and are dead simple and ergonomically satisfying. Even dynamically (I drove a model with the KDSS system to be fair) it is a surprisingly composed vehicle on mountain roads- it's far more civilized than a Bronco or Wrangler, and hell, it was far more pleasant than the past two peastant-grade Benz crapmobiles I've been in.So I get it- car journalist rags whine about how overly complicated and tech-heavy modern vehicles are while their substance is cost cut, but here's the literal definition of 'don't fix it if it aint broken.' . It's a trusty Ford Econoline in a world of craptastic Ram ProMasters.
  • Frank Sounds like they dont want to debut it at the same time as the new Land Cruiser, which is probably smart. The new 'runner is ready to go I am told, so there's a reason for this delay.