By on January 4, 2011

Chrysler Group’s December sales were up some 16 percent compared to December 09, as the bailed-out automaker finished the year with 1,085,211 sales, a 17 percent increase over last year. But with the overall market steadily recovering, those year-over-year comparisons hardly tell the story, so Chrysler sales boss Fred “I Am Ram” Diaz brought it back to the firm’s five-year plan, saying

Chrysler Group 2010 sales of 1.1 million units are consistent with our sales objective that we presented in our Nov. 4, 2009 five-year business plan. We are extremely proud of the sales strides we made during this transition year. Chrysler Group launched 16 all-new or significantly improved models last year, most of them during the fourth quarter. We can now share our excitement with our customers as our new 2011 models arrive in dealerships in greater volumes over the coming months.

We’ll forgive Diaz the 15k unit “round-up” that gets him to 1.1m units, but with 2010 closing out an 11.5m unit year for the industry, Chrysler’s 1.085m units puts it behind the market-share projections trumpeted in the five year plan (closer to a 9.5 percent share, per slide above). And when you start looking at retail share, the situation looks even more grim. Chrysler may have gotten close to meeting its 2010 goals, but it pulled out the stops to get there. And things only get tougher next year.

Chrysler hasn’t released global deliveries for the year, and probably won’t until it announces its year-end financial results, but already we can see that 2010 did not go exactly as planned. Chrysler hasn’t announced the fleet breakout with its year-end numbers, but an industry tipster who wishes to remain anonymous informs us that Chrysler’s retail market share for 2010 was a mere 7.7 percent (a decline of .6 from last year). That would bring Chrysler to 800k-900k US-Market retail units (as predicted in the graph above) if the retail market (rather than the retail and fleet markets combined) were at 11.5m units. Assuming (conservatively) an industry-wide fleet sale rate of 20 percent, Chrysler’s 7.7 percent share of the retail market would give it just over 700k retail units last year. And with Chrysler’s fleet mix running as high as 40 percent this year, that’s a generous estimate. Mission not so accomplished.

Jeep was the only Chrysler Group brand to improve its retail market share last year, rising .1 to 2.5 percent, putting the SUV brand just barely over Subaru and Volkswagen’s retail shares. Wrangler was Jeep’s best-seller last year, at 94,310 units (+15%) but Grand Cherokee was the fastest grower, jumping 62 percent on the strength of a new model introduction, to 84,653 units. Commander died back to just over 8k units on the year, and Compass saw a 15 percent increase but still ended with a mere 15,894 units sold. Patriot enjoyed a 23 percent increase, ending the year at 38,620, and Liberty improved 14 percent to 49,564. Grand Cherokee showed how new product could help bring Chrysler back from the dead, single-handedly hoisting Jeep to a retail share gain, but it is also a best-case scenario as it was an actual new product (compared to, say the “new” Chrysler 200) and it didn’t face in-house competition from a cheaper platform-mate (like the 2011 Dodge Durango). And if gas prices spike again in 2011, Jeep could be back in trouble just as quickly. Still, this is where the good news ends.

According to our data, the Chrysler brand shed .3 market share points last year, falling to 1.2 percent. For comparison, that’s worse than Cadillac, Buick and Acura did last year. And no wonder: with the demise of the Aspen, Crossfire and Pacifica, Chrysler literally went to war with four models last year.  Of the four, Town & Country was the clear volume leader, up 33% to 112,275 units. But after a miserable 2009, the Sebring was the surprise fastest grower, jumping 41 percent to 38,585 units. The 300 ended the year down 4 percent, failing even to outsell the Sebring at 37,116 units, and PT Cruiser was the fastest dropper, sliding 47 percent to 9,440 units. With the updated Sebring/200 and T&C as well as a new 300 coming next year, Chrysler can expect some improvement in 2011… but how much? And more importantly than getting the overall numbers up, there’s a real question about Chrysler’s ability to win back retail share on the strength of one new car and two updates.

But if Chrysler did poorly last year, Dodge did even worse. Retail share declined a whopping .4 points, the third-largest such decline in the industry (not counting discontinued brands), falling to 2.1 percent. That, for some context, is the same retail market share as BMW. And since the Dodge brand grew some 12 percent last year, we’re starting to get a good sense of where those fleet sales are coming from. Caravan was the volume king by a mile, moving 103,323 units for a 14 percent increase. On the other end of things, the biggest disappointment was the not-that-old Journey, which dropped 10% to 48,577 units. Avenger (+31%) and Charger (+24%) both massively outsold their Chrysler-branded counterparts, but due to fleet sales opacity, it’s not at all clear that this was due to consumer preference. Challenger took a distant third in the pony car wars, selling 36,791 units, or about half as many units as Camaro or Mustang, despite ending the year up 42 percent. Caliber was up 25% to 45,082 and Nitro was up 30 percent to 22,618.

On the truck front, Chrysler’s Ram brand didn’t go anywhere in terms of retail share, which held steady at 2 percent. Ram Pickup volume was up only 13 percent though, with year-end volume hitting 199,652 units. Dakota enjoyed a 22% increase, finishing 2010 with 13,047 sales.

All in all, Chrysler’s retail market share tells a grim tale, giving little room for optimism as we move into 2011. Though the Grand Cherokee shows how new product can change the firm’s fortunes, most of the products waiting in the wings aren’t as completely new, and have considerable overlap (300/Charger, Durango/Grand Cherokee). Meanwhile, Chrysler is either ignoring its problems or spinning desperately, touting its not-quite achievement of five-year-plan goals while concealing the fact that retail share is slipping away. And things aren’t getting any easier. Next year, Chrysler’s plan calls for some 1.2m US-market retail sales, a goal that seems all but impossible to reach unless the overall market roars back with a vengeance… and analysts are predicting a slight increase for 2012 to about 13m (on the low end of Chrysler’s projections). TTAC’s Mopar skepticism will live on for another year.

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18 Comments on “Year-End Sales Report: Chrysler...”

  • avatar

    Chrysler’s 2011 models (just now hitting dealer lots) are VASTLY IMPROVED! To judge their future sales performance based on the lackluster 2010 Daimler influenced models is meaningless. Just saw a new Chrysler 200 at the dealer lot, the front/rear and interior are beautifully redone. If this is any indication, Chrysler will be a real player in segments that it currently is an also ran in.

  • avatar

    It is not surprising that Chrysler should have been the fleet kings of 2010.  Who else had such and elderly product mix (elderly and often unappealing).  When you have little but crap, you have to sell it on price.

    Everything I have read about Chrysler’s new products says that they are GREATLY improved.  The JGC has been the first test, and it has passed with flying colors.  The new GC is really appealing, and is selling in big numbers.  Just a guess, but I’ll bet that there are few if any fleet sales here.  The other new vehicles (Durango, 300 and Charger) have also gotten great early reviews, and should see big spikes in retail demand.  The new 200 will be an interesting case.  Its problems have been fixed, but it still bears a resemblance to the old one.  I am not going to predict on this one.

    Chrysler did what a lot of folks said couldn’t be done:  It kept the lights on and the plants running until the new models were ready.  The fact that there were a lot of fleet sales was an unavoidable side effect.  Ditto the fact that the Charger is becoming the new police car of choice.  If the fleet percentage stays high with new vehicles, now THIS will be a problem.  But I am betting that fleet will come down to a more traditional share when there are showrooms full of new, appealing cars and trucks.  I have said it here before, but I kinda like Chrysler’s trajectory over GM’s right now.  I find Chrysler’s new product much more exciting and appealing.  I think that others will too.

    • 0 avatar

      Some people had Chrysler for dead immediately after they emerged from bankruptcy.   Since that prediction was wrong, it’s time to ratchet up the pessimism.  Eventually, they won’t hit a target and the naysayers can say, “AHA!  See I told you so.”
      Let’s give them some credit.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised Chrysler sells any cars at all.  For some reason my father-in-law wanted to replace his 2004 Camry with a 2010 Sebring which were still plentiful on the local dealer’s lot a week ago.  We test drove a 2010 Sebring, 2011 Journey and a 2009 demo 300. He quickly changed his mind.  These cars are garbage.  The 3 Chrysler dealers in my town have very little stock except for leftovers and odds and ends.  The dealerships give the impression that a bailiff is waiting around the corner to lock the doors and auction the remaining junk off.  The biggest laugh was the Challenger in the showroom with it’s orange peel paint job and misaligned panels.  Chrysler needs quality.  There is no sane person who would believe that their new products will have any quality after years of horrible cars that consistently rate at the bottom of reliability surveys and bankrupt their owners.

  • avatar

    I’m going to echo the optimism for Chrysler. They are, I believe, working to be profitable at realistic sales levels – and I think the new and/or improved vehicles will do just that.
    The real show will be when the next generation of products arrives. If they’re anything like the Jeep GC, and if people give them a chance, they’ll do well.

  • avatar

    Unfortunately, Chrysler can’t make big retail strides until it gets some volume C and D cars that people are willing to look at and buy.  The 200 and lightly warmed over Avenger aren’t enough.  New interiors that, while probably good, aren’t enough.  Nothing is class-leading about either car.  So, until Dodge gets a new “Neon” in 2012 and a new “Avenger” in 2013 Chrysler will keep making incremental gains lifted by slowly growing industry sales.  BTW, I’m not encouraged by either Fiat’s (nonexistent) nor Chrysler’s (the successful K cars were in another millennium) track record in the mid-sized market.  My expectations are low.

  • avatar

    I’m quite happy at the performance of Wrangler in 2010 – more spare parts in junkyards couple years down. I’m going to be a devotee of Murlee, in a different class of vehicles though.

  • avatar

    The new Grand Cherokee looks like a hit, but the thing is it’s just about the only hit in Chrysler’s lineup right now. Like getacargetacheck said, it’s the C and D segments that matter and Chrysler doesn’t have anything all-new lined up in that segment for a while. The 200 and refreshed Avenger will certainly help, they’re not enough to turn things around. Meanwhile the Caliber has next to no market presence; it sells worse than many subcompacts.
    Still, I’ll be very interested to see what Fiatsler does come up with when the new C and D cars do arrive. MultiAir and 8-speed gearboxes should certainly spice things up a bit.

  • avatar

    “We’ll forgive Diaz the 15k unit “round-up” that gets him to 1.1m units…” Well, since 15k is just .015 of a million I think you should.
    Chrysler will be the most improved automaker of 2011. They could vie for that title in 2010.

  • avatar

    Sheer stubborness has kept them in the game. That gains them points. Changes, anything to showcase on the floor will pay huge dividends. It should be interesting what the dealers do with the 500. If they can promote the piss out of it to get floor traffic they could do quite well for 2011.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I am going to go against the conventional wisdom here, and express the obvious.
    Chrysler is worth more dead than alive.

  • avatar

    I’ve taken the ramblings of Mr Niedermeyer wherever and whenever it dealt with the traditional D3 with a really big grain of salt; but, really c’mon now: the deathwatch/deathpool thing vis a vis Chrysler is really getting tired now and is a real strain on his credibility.

    Given the continued strength in their sales with consecutive month over month increases (8 so far) and how close their own overall projections are to what they have really achieved, Chrysler deserves at least a modicum of credit. They are achieving their milestones as promised. Methinks someone is frustrated that their deathpool bet has long since soured?
    Anyhow, with 16 new models coming out, only three of which have been on the market for any appreciable amount of time, I think it’s way too premature to assess Chrysler as amounting to a ‘grim tale’ in market share or otherwise. It’s really time to move on and update any misleading perceptions.

  • avatar

    “Chrysler is worth more dead than alive”…
    It is indeed! That is why we auto enthusiasts should be happy that things turn out as they were. Even if you dislike their current products, the auto market will be worse off with such a big chunk of choice disappeared forever. Plus they got potential. Who knows what great product they’ll have in the future, now that they’re allowed to survive?
    Chrysler for now can only afford to survive, with such an uncompetitive product range. Sure some of the brand new ones are full-on competitive (like the new Grand Cherokee) which bodes well for the future and shows what they’re capable of. But the rest, including the somewhat new ones (200?) are still barely competitive, just less uncompetitive than before. The proof will be 2013 or so when the completely new vehicles started appearing.

  • avatar

    I agree that Chrysler has had a tough year, and things will get tougher, but they have a product plan in place, they have weathered the worst of the storm, and new or refreshed product is beginning to show up  on the lots. Regarding fleet vs. retail, they had a lot of old product to move, and move it they did. Thats a win in my book, they’re ready for the new stuff to arrive. While I have never agreed with the popular perception of Chrysler’s poor quality, the new vehicles should go a long way to repair that situation. I also believe there is some pent up demand for Chrysler product as many have waited for the new vehicles. Lets come back to this column next January; by then we’ll know whether chrysler will make it or not.

  • avatar

    Did Chrysler not sell 200k minivans this year, and is that figure not 50% higher than both their ‘superior’ competing manufacturers?
    I like when you cite the bankruptcy. Still. Again. “Bailed-out Chrysler has….” Can we not stop with the under-handed keep-them-down-with-words Bull$hit? It’s really no different than continually talking about someone in a negative context to lead others impressions to agree with your own. She’s just Chrysler. I’ve never referred to persons as “this week, my black/jewish/indian/asian friend did ____.” Usually, I just say: “This week, Harold and Kumar went to White Castle.”
    Chrysler deserves your respect for having made it through what she has recently. She, apparently, has a fan base that is loyal enough and wishes to continue purchasing her wares. Stop puupuuing that. It makes you look like a bunch of sissified haters that can’t admit they were wrong. Your own positive reviews of new product were the first steps, I thought– but it appears that TTAC cannot function as a positive entity.
    If you ain’t got haters– you’re not doing it right. So, go on with your bad self, Chrysler– keep doing it right.

    • 0 avatar

      iNeon: I agree 100% about haters, whether GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Ford, (your other hated car co. here). It serves no purpose than to parrot someone else. Wait and let the market decide. I will say this about Chrysler, though: My last Chrysler product was a brand new 1999 Stratus. Good car, not a single issue. Kept it only 3 years, though, as my wife wanted something else with more room (CUV) and I couldn’t afford getting rid of my 1996 Ranger to keep the Stratus and having two car payments at the same time, so I sold it. I never bought another one as I was afraid of their Ultradrive problems and didn’t even know about the 2.7L sludging, yet.

  • avatar

    The whole death watch thing is really getting old, but its not nearly as bad as the “King of the b.s.” Mr. Auto extremist Peter the King DeLorenzo. Now thats some deep b.s. over there.

    Chrysler has made great progress given how badly damaged they were after nearly ten years of inept Teutonic rule followed by the naive bunch from the three headed dog show.
    Yes they may not have hit the targets set in “the plan”, and hell ya they have a long long way to go, but why is it Americans would sooner cheer for the failure of an old American company rather than cheer for them. This Canuck will never get that one, but hey we love Chrysler up here and American cars in general.

  • avatar

    There is an article about chrysler in motor trend this month, and the whole article shows nothing but enthusiasm towards chrysler. Considering the shape they were in just last year I think they have accomplished alot so far.
    The new grand cherokee and ram trucks show the capabilities within the company now that they don’t have the germans holding them back.
    Marchionne himself said after referring to the meeting of their goal of 1.1 million units this year “this is just step one of our five year turnaround plan, we still have alot of work ahead of us.”

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