The WSJ Buries The Lede: Chrysler 300 "Un-Delayed," Retail Sales Goals In Jeopardy
If you believed Chrysler’s bailout “viability plan” [paging Commissar Orwell…], you knew the new Chrysler 300 would be released in 2010. It’s a bit cut off at the top of the image above, but you can clearly see the words “…and the New Chrysler 300 in 2010.” And if you believed Chrysler’s five year plan, released last November, you knew the refreshed 300 would go on sale in 2010. That’s why there’s a little refresh icon by the 300 in 2010. But if you believe the latest word from the Wall Street Journal [sub], you now know that the 2011 Chrysler 300 will be released in… 2010. And that’s news how?
According to the WSJ:
In hopes of spurring sales later in the year, Chrysler also is making plans to move up the U.S. launch of the restyled Chrysler 300 sedan by three to four months, to November from the first quarter of 2011, these people said.
In other words, the headline should be “Chrysler 300 Delayed Months Ago, Chrysler Now Denying Delay.” But of course that misses the point of the exercise entirely. The WSJ couches the 300 announcement in terms of Chrysler’s sales problems, as in the launch is being pushed up to address Chrysler’s sliding sales. Let’s take a look:
Chrysler is making the moves as it nears the one-year anniversary of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on April 30. As part of a strategy worked out by the U.S. government, Chrysler formed an alliance with Italy’s Fiat. In November, Sergio Marchionne, who serves as chief executive of both auto makers, outlined a turnaround plan that envisions Chrysler breaking even this year and generating profits in 2011.
The plan is based on a forecast that Chrysler’s U.S. sales will rise 18% this year, from 931,402 cars and light trucks in 2009 to 1.1 million in 2010. But in the year’s first two months, sales fell 3.2%, and analysts expect another decline when March sales are reported Thursday.
Chrysler sales this year through February fell to 141,592 vehicles, the lowest for the company in 30 years, according to Ward’s Automotive Group.
To hit its target, Chrysler must now sell at least 95,000 vehicles per month for the rest of the year. It has reached that level only once in the last 14 months.
So, it turns out that the real headline is “Chrysler Must Sell 95k Units Per Month To Survive.” Way to bury the lede, WSJ. Meanwhile, there are sales and there are sales, and though the news couldn’t be any worse, the WSJ just keeps on soft-pedaling:
half or more of the vehicles Chrysler sold in January and February were purchased by rental-car companies and other fleet customers, said people familiar with the matter. That suggests Chrysler is having some trouble winning over individuals who buy cars through dealerships… Mr. Marchionne’s plan envisions such retail sales making up more than 70% of the total, and lower-margin fleet sales less than 30%… A Chrysler spokesman, Gualberto Ranieri, said the company is sticking with its U.S. sales target. “The goal is for 1.1 million and Mr. Marchionne has never missed a target,” he said.
Well then, everything must be ginger-peachy. Sales will go up, retail share will go up, and the new 300 will be released early. Because Marchionne says so, and because a bunch of Vice Presidents made Powerpoint presentations that say so. Don’t question it.
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