Piston Slap: Neon Nightmare Foreshadows Future Fiatsco
I just thought I’d pass on an ongoing good/bad incident. First the bad: my wife’s 2003 Neon went into the dealer with a mysterious problem that they have determined requires replacement of the cylinder head. In a dramatic departure from my usual luck, the car is still under the 7/70 warranty so the expense will be small.
However the factory has informed them that they do not have a replacement. They are now checking with other dealers. Given that the Neon sold in numbers that Chrysler can only dream about attaining now, I cannot imagine this bodes well for anyone who bought a current Chrysler product.
Now the good news: the dealer loaned us a 2008 Versa to drive while we wait. This happens to be one of the vehicles on my list to replace my 1997 Escort mule when the time comes, so I welcomed the chance for a thorough test drive. So far, I’m favorably impressed. I would like to buy locally, so my options are limited to the domestics, Nissan and Toyota. This combined with my preference for a hatchback or small station wagon limits me to a Versa or a Vibe/Matrix (yes, I’m aware of the Caliber; see above). If the part search continues I may try to wrangle a Vibe for a test.
The implied question here: WTF is up with Chrysler’s supply chain? Neon head gasket failures are common; our very own Jack Baruth (a Neon ACR geek) confirmed the interweb’s numerous incidents. Considering the collateral damage from a poorly designed gasket, it’s no surprise that the cylinder head can crack or warp. But the Neon wasn’t a niche product with unique parts that’ll collect dust on the shelf.
To be fair, Mike’s query was written in mid-March. So I contacted a local Chrysler dealer yesterday. They did not stock the head nor did anyone else in Houston, but they could get it from the factory in three to four business days. So at least the cylinder head does exist outside of the salvage yard, at least on someone’s computer terminal. But is this a case of Chrysler’s supply chain strategically reducing inventory to minimize financial burdens?
And will Mike’s old Escort be superseded by a Versa or Vibe in the not too distant future?
Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom
Maybe the Neon should leave before the Escort. If inventory is this irregular for the massively-popular Neon, I shudder to think of the post bankruptcy backfires when the (proposed) federally-backed warranties come into play. Not to mention the entirely-theoretical warehousing nightmare of keeping FIAT parts in this system. Epic, epic fail.
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