The WSJ Buries The Lede: Chrysler 300 "Un-Delayed," Retail Sales Goals In Jeopardy

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
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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  • Texlovera Texlovera on Mar 29, 2010

    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.

  • Wheeljack Wheeljack on Mar 29, 2010

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

  • Wjtinfwb I see all three backing away quietly and slowly. Between political winds and corporate green mandates plus the previously mentioned mandates, automakers will have to thread a needle between public demand and acceptance, and the extremely loud voices of the minority screaming for fossil fuels to be abandoned by 2030, which of course won't happen. Ford jumped in early with the Lightning and Mach-E, but since has tempered their enthusiasm and probably spent less money as the Lightning shares a lot with the gas F-150. GM however has built some bespoke platforms out on the edge that will end up being a gigantic waste of money. The Hummer EV is a joke and the new Silverado EV while impressive is both expensive and less practical than an electric version of the current gas Silverado could have been. The Cadillac EVs are the dumbest move yet, especially their upcoming 400k model. Ford seems to have a leg up on GM in Hybrid which would seem like a better interim measure, I'd be surprised if a Hybrid Explorer isn't in the works and could see a Gas/Electric Expedition and Super Duty being successful as well. US energy policy and gas prices into the next administration will play a significant role in consumer demand, if prices stay high and supplies artificially constrained, demand will increase for more efficient cars and trucks. If we go back to a self-sufficient energy policy and prices drop, demand for Hybrid's and EVs will moderate even more.
  • Wjtinfwb Poor cousin to the Blazer & Bronco that dominated this segment. The 1st Gen Ramcharger was a much better and better looking truck, with the 440 available and without the AMC Pacer style real windows. The Bronco and Blazer felt and looked much more modern and cohesive than the Mopar's, and that's not saying very much. Probably attractive to the Mopar faithful but for the rest of us... No thanks at any price.
  • Not Ford will have a great reckoning with its EV production goals. Their EVs haven’t been as popular as initially anticipated and have been dealing quality issues (persistent recalls on Mach E) or disappointing performance (cold weather and towing greatly diminishing range on Lightning).Their top selling vehicle remains the ICE powered F-series. Consumers will only tolerate so much price increase as Ford tries to subsidize the massive losses it incurs with EV production. Being forced to eat profit off of 2-3 ICE F-series to offset losses from a single Lightning will quickly prove to be unsustainable business. This is the very same company that abandoned cars entirely to focus on more profitable trucks.
  • LYNN DELANEY Mine is a 2001 Pure White Miata. I bought it at Concord Mazda. I love it but Imay be about to get rid of it I guess. It's been in my garage for quite awhile. Why? 1. I don't have a lot of money (I'm a retired teacher) And I've had issues with it that require financing. For example when you insert the key and turn it nothing happens. Why? I got it at Concord Mazda and somehow. it came to my condo shared garage to die and has remained such to this day. If you want to experience it you put the key in the keyhole and turn it but silence ensues and you wonder why but you know it's because the key was "programmed and it worked when you brought it home but not since.I'm told it requires a new battery but I've not had the financial energy to deal with it. I love my Miata but will I keep it? I'm unsure. Next step? Install a new battery...When it came home from Concord Mazda it was perfect for a quick minute. I tested it. I drove it around my block in Oakland, California just one time. That was the end of it. Since them I'm told it needs a new battery. It's a 2001. Shall I go ahead and splurge?
  • Dusterdude @El scotto , I'm aware of the history, I have been in the "working world" for close to 40 years with many of them being in automotive. We have to look at situation in the "big picture". Did UAW make concessions in past ? - yes. Do they deserve an increase now ? -yes . Is their pay increase reasonable given their current compensation package ? Not at all ! By the way - are the automotive CEO's overpaid - definitely! (That is the case in many industries, and a separate topic). As the auto industry slowly but surely moves to EV's , the "big 3" will need to be producing top quality competitive vehicles or they will not survive.