Inside Chrysler's Sales Increase: 40 Percent Fleet Mix And Industry-High Incentives (And Climbing)

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
inside chrysler s sales increase 40 percent fleet mix and industry high incentives

To say that Chrysler’s 25 percent year-over-year sales increase last month came as a surprise would be pushing the boundaries of overstatement. Chrysler’s sales and market share have been in decline for a long time, but over the past several years, the tailspin seemed to have become terminal. So, how did the Pentastar (barely) make its 95k minimum volume level and increase sales by 25 percent over April 2009? Fleet sales, for one thing: according to The Freep, estimates that a full 40 percent of Chrysler’s April sales went to fleet customers.No wonder made a big deal about publicly finding Jesus on the fleet sales issue… at the end of the month (to say nothing of the conspicuous absence of retail sales numbers in its April report and massive increase in Sebring sales). And the bad news doesn’t end there. Not only did Chrysler top all automakers in per-vehicle incentives last month according to Edmunds’ monthly True Cost Of Incentives index with $3,374 on the average Mopar’s hood, they’re actually increasing incentives even further.

The Detroit News‘ Alisa Priddle spins the news hard, saying ChryCo is “sweetening sales” and justifying the incentive binge by arguing that it is necessary:

to remain competitive in an industry being pushed by uncharacteristically higher spending from Toyota Motor Corp

Interestingly, the DetN cites an Autodata figure of $3,664 for Chrysler’s April incentive spend, which is actually several hundred dollars more than Edmunds’ number. In any case, Toyota spent at least a thousand bucks less per vehicle than Chrysler ($2,498 according to Edmunds, $1,945 according to Autodata), so the Pentastar’s trouble moving product still comes down to the product itself.

So what are the Chrysler incentives? “Attractive financing” or $3,000 cash off Chrysler-brand products, $4,000 cash back for Jeep Liberty, Grand Cherokee or Commander (plus $1,000 for financing through GMAC), $500 in Mopar accessories for Wrangler buyers or $2,000 worth for Challenger buyers, $2,000 off Dodge Avenger, Nitro or Grand Caravan, $3,000 off a Charger or Ram, and much, much more.

Bizarrely, the DetN’s Priddle characterizes Chrysler’s incentive strategy as a

policy of restraint, as dictated by new CEO Sergio Marchionne

In reality, Sergio thinks that anything short of sending dealers $6k per vehicle counts as “restraint.” Given that falling Ram sales likely means Chrysler is failing to meet its sales mix goals even as it records its best results in half a decade, there are probably profit problems at Chrysler anyway. Sending nearly half of its bare-minimum volume to fleets and incentivizing the hell out of the rest of it is no way to turn improve the bottom line. And with costs already cut to the bone in order to record a Q1 “profit,” Chrysler’s Q2 results are going to be fugly. GM may be showing signs of moving its marketing efforts into a new era, but Chrysler remains firmly mired in the past. This turnaround is ready for a turnaround.

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  • IGB IGB on May 05, 2010

    I'd love to see each manufacturers breakdown of fleet sales. I think Nissan has been hitting the fleets more indulgently lately. I would think Hyundai/Kia's numbers would be in line or higher than Chryslers.

  • Juniper Juniper on May 05, 2010

    I would like to see those numbers too. My rental last week was an Altima. Before that a Forester.

  • Damon Thomas Adding to the POSITIVES... It's a pretty fun car to mod
  • GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.
  • Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
  • Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…
  • Mike978 Wow 700 days even with the recent car shortages.