Chrysler 200 Sales In Freefall, No Wonder Sergio Shut Down Production

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
chrysler 200 sales in freefall no wonder sergio shut down production

News that 200 production would instantly end, albeit temporarily, was overshadowed by news that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles would, sooner than later, farm out the design and production of their small and intermediate cars to a rival automaker.

The Chrysler 200’s plant in Sterling, Michigan will undergo a six-week shutdown due to an inventory glut at dealers nationwide. Over the last three months, U.S. sales of the 200, FCA’s best-selling car in the United States in 2015, tumbled 46 percent to only 24,111 units, or about the number of Camrys Toyota sells every 18 days.

The rapid decline began in November, when 200 volume took a 28-percent dive. Only 10,332 200s were sold in November 2015, placing the 200 eighth in its category, down from sixth one year earlier.

200 sales in December then plunged 47 percent, a year-over-year loss of 7,650 sales during a month in which U.S. midsize car sales dropped by less than 1 percent.

The beginning of 2016 brought even worse results for the 200, as sales in January slid 63 percent in the U.S. Eleven different FCA products, including the Dodge Charger and soon-to-depart Town & Country, generated greater January sales. Not since the 200 was transitioning out of post-Sebring form into its current generation have sales of the 200 been this low. The new car peaked at more than 20,000 sales last May, when more than 8 percent of the midsize cars sold in America were Chryslers. Last month, the 200 claimed just 3.5 percent market share as midsize car volume slid nearly 7 percent in the U.S.

The current 200 met success quickly, though that success was overstated by year-over-year comparisons which took into account the oft-loathed old Sebring/200’s poor sales achievements late in its lifecycle. Bargain pricing on the current 200 early in its lifecycle also strengthened the collective consumer notion that Chrysler isn’t a serious midsize player. If even Chrysler didn’t think it was worth as much when brand new, why should the consumer consider it a worthy alternative for the Camry and Accord?

Moreover, though FCA was able to overcome the loss of the 200’s Dodge Avenger partner with ease at first, the midsize gains accomplished by the automaker weren’t quite as impressive as the 200’s own figures made them seem. In October of last year, for instance, prior to the sharp decline of the last three months, total sales of the 200 rose 2 percent, but combined sales of the 200 and Avenger were actually down 8 percent. Indeed, one month earlier, 200/Avenger volume was down 10 percent.

Yes, the Chrysler 200’s 2015 tally revealed a massive 52-percent year-over-year improvement. Yet compared with 2013, U.S. sales of FCA’s midsize duo were down 17 percent in calendar year 2015.

Now, Fiat Chrysler is looking out a winter window in which thousands of 200s need to be offloaded from dealers before production can be kickstarted again. As of New Year’s Day, Automotive News estimates FCA’s U.S. dealers had more than 45,000 200s in stock. Approximately 12 percent of those cars left dealers in January.

Making the clear-out more challenging is a general move away from passenger cars into SUVs and crossovers, a trend made most obvious by FCA’s own Jeep division. January sales at Jeep jumped 15 percent. The Cherokee outsold the 200 by more than three to one. The Dodge Journey outsold the 200 by a 3,256-unit margin. Poor reviews of the 200 from Consumer Reports and general criticism of the 200’s 9-speed automatic transmission do the car no favours, either.

After successive generations of small and midsize car failures, it’s no wonder that FCA boss Sergio Marchionne has no intention of funding the development of more such cars in the near future. Fewer than one in five FCA U.S. sales in January were car-derived. The 200 and Dart, the latter having fallen 42 percent to only 4,748 sales last month, produced only 8 percent of the automaker’s sales. Despite competing in the two largest passenger car sectors in the country, the 200 and Dart generated only one-third of the company’s car sales last month.

Do numbers lie? In this case, the numbers simply make a solitary request of FCA: Give up.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Akear Akear on Feb 06, 2016

    I would not call Iacocca a true car guy, but a brilliant marketing person. He was given limited resources with the K-car and somehow made the company profitable. Of course he is mostly known for Mustang and Minivan, which are two niche markets he created. Iacocca stated a few years ago that the 500 would not fly in America.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 07, 2016

    Maybe so but Iaccoca is more of a car guy than Sergio. Iaccoca was the right person at the right time for Chrysler. Lee was a master marketer and could read the pulse of the car buyer much better than Sergio. The number of competitive midsize and compact cars on the market is comparable with the number of Republican candidates running for President, not everyone will survive. I do agree with Sergio that if Chrysler and Dodge brands are going to continue selling cars then they should outsource the production of them. I believe that FCA would be better off phasing the Chrysler and Dodge division out similar to what Chrysler did with Plymouth. FCA will have a much harder time finding a merger candidate with Chrysler and Dodge. Again the value in FCA is Jeep and Ram.

  • Chuck Norton And guys are having wide spread issues with the 10 speed transmission with the HP numbers out of the factory......
  • Zerofoo "Hyundais just got better and better during the 1990s, though, and memories of those shoddy Excels faded."Never. A friend had an early 90s Hyundai Excel as his college beater. One day he decided that the last tank of gas he bought was worth more than the car. He drove it to empty and then he and his fraternity brothers pushed it into the woods and left it there.
  • Kwik_Shift There are no new Renegades for sale within my geographic circle of up to 85 kms. Looks like the artificial shortage game. They bring one in, 10 buyers line up for it, $10,000 over MSRP. Yeah. Like with a lot of new cars.
  • Ribbedroof In Oklahoma, no less!
  • Ribbedroof Have one in the shop for minor front collision repairs right now,I've seen more of these in the comments than in the 30 years I've been in collision repair.