By on March 29, 2010

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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14 Comments on “The WSJ Buries The Lede: Chrysler 300 “Un-Delayed,” Retail Sales Goals In Jeopardy...”

  • avatar

    Vi è una prima volta per tutto, Signore Ranieri.

  • avatar

    Sadly, another item buried under a gleeful headline in a different paper is the acknowledgment that FIAT-Chrysler fleet sales in February were up 171 percent versus a year ago – but retail sales were down 44% versus a year ago.

    The Ram versus Dodge fiasco is also mentioned.

  • avatar

    Let’s follow the timeline here,
    DiamlerChrysler was in charge until 2007. Cerebus was in charge from 2007 until 2009. And then Fiat.
    Since auto timelines are in the range of 2 years (at best), this puts Diamler somewhat responsible and Cerebus very responsible for the Chrysler 300 “refresh”. Fiat are the new guys with less than a year of management.
    With this timeline, is anyone surprised that it is late?, delayed?, early?

  • avatar

    I’m eager to see how this train wreck is going to end.

    • 0 avatar

      @lpdexter: me too, but many people that had the same wish back in the early ’60’s, and then again in the late ’70’s, have turned stone cold in the waiting…

  • avatar

    I’ve long felt that Chrysler can’t survive based upon one word “Product”. Their offerings are so lean that the PT Cruiser, which was to be discontinued, is a mainstay. The “refreshed” 300 is obsolete and large. I don’t know if it is still being sold with the 2.7 engine, but this engine really cost them in reputation. The Jeep line is long in the tooth and the newer offerings, Compass and Patriot, are not impressive. The newer Journey looks pretty good, but isn’t flying out of the dealerships. P.S….the fewer dealers you have, the harder it is to push the iron out. If GMAC continues to loan $$$ on Chrysler products, it will probably go under when Chrysler tanks because the residual values will plummet. Thus we get to lose taxpayers money in two ways!!!

    • 0 avatar

      There’s really been no one *in charge* that has a clue for any reasonable auto timeframe. DiamlerChrysler had some moments but basically ran Chrysler down. Cerebus is (was) a group of financial wizards (?) and didn’t have a clue about the auto business. The verdict is still out on the Fiat folks; they haven’t been *in charge* long enough (in auto years) to have made a real difference.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I agree that the lack of new product development at Chrysler suggests that the end is near. On the other hand, the Chrysler 300 isn’t a bad car and the new Pentastar V6 is a major improvement for the non-Hemi version. Not enough to prevent the end, but a refreshed 300 with Pentastar will probably help a little with retail sales when it comes out.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I don’t envy those folks at Chrysler. The 300 has such a bold sense of proportion that I can’t imagine how one can “refresh” it. Let’s just hope they don’t rush the refresh so much that they don’t have enough time to sort out how the new pieces fit on the products.

  • avatar

    Chrysler is a good life lesson for all of us…

    Without a living will your comatose body could remain on life support for months even years enduring all kinds or pain and agony before someone mercifully pulls the plug.

    In a month when all most every car manufacture saw double digit increases in sales… Chrysler in on track to lose another 10% of its sales… Leaving it behind just about everyone in terms of North America marketshare.

    Someone needs to step up and recognize that their is no hope for a recovery and its time to turn off the life support.

    Chrysler needs to join Pontiac, Saturn, Studebaker, Oldsmobile, AMC and Plymouth at that great parking lot in the sky.

  • avatar

    I think Chrysler is done. No new product or inovations while other makers like Ford seem to really be putting out product people want. How much longer can they go on? Giving the 300 a few cosmetic changes isn’t going to help in the long term.

  • avatar

    OK, I understand that the 300 refresh “timeline” was established under Cereberus’ watch. But did Fiat just take everything Cerberus said at face value when they bought Chrysler? If they did, well, then they deserve what they get.

    And the fleet sales percentage is devastating. I just don’t see how they can keep the ship from sinking.

  • avatar

    What are you guys going to do if they actually suceed? I predict a shortage of professional psychiatric services.

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