By on April 6, 2016

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit, Image: FCA

At Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, this much we know: 72 consecutive months of year-over-year U.S. growth, a market share increase in the United States from 9.4 percent to 12.8 percent between 2010 and 2015, routine record-setting U.S. sales performances at Jeep, and an overarching “light truck” division that now produces more than four out of every five U.S. sales for the automaker.

Chapter 11 reorganization was undoubtedly a painful process — bankruptcy isn’t supposed to tickle. And because of reliability woes, frequent Alfa Romeo delays, and poor passenger car demand, there are serious doubts about the automaker’s long-term plans.

Yet only a few quick glances at an FCA U.S. monthly sales report are necessary for observers to replace concerns with applause, at least in the here and now. The rate of growth is staggering. The U.S. auto industry grew its volume by 37 percent between 2011 and 2015, a period during which FCA — and formerly the Chrysler Group — grew 64 percent.

In order to truly see how the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles of today compares with the Chrysler Group of yesterday, we need to go back further than 2011. Think back prior to the automaker’s desperate state in 2009 in the midst of Chapter 11 and the proverbial global financial crisis. Examine instead the booming first-quarter of 2016 in light of the first-quarter of 2005.

Despite all the difficulties presented by Hurricane Katrina at the end of the year, 2005 marked a second consecutive year of growth at the Chrysler Group (before four consecutive years of decline) and the last time FCA/Chrysler Group sold more than 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. in a single year. Is 2016 on pace to be that good?

2016 Chrysler Town & Country Anniversary Edition, Image: FCA

Not quite as indelibly linked to Mercedes-Benz as we thought at the time, Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep produced 546,732 of DaimlerChrysler’s 590,556 new vehicle sales in the first three months of 2005. In the same period 11 years later, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Dodge’s Ram offspring contributed 541,925 of FCA’s 553,869 first-quarter sales in 2016, a figure only boosted above 550,000 by struggling Fiat and an extra 3,000 Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Maserati sales.

The degree to which the formation of those Chrysler Group sales has evolved is a lesson in the fast-changing nature of the auto industry. Come see what a decade hath wrought.

Chrysler
The Chrysler brand derived nearly 60 percent of its sales from cars in the first-quarter of 2005; largely three well-known products. (The discontinued Concorde and low-volume Crossfire were hardly factors.) The 300 and its 300M predecessor, the midsize Sebring, and the still-popular PT Cruiser helped propel the Chrysler division’s car sales up 29 percent in 2005’s first three months. But the big individual nameplate was the best-selling Town & Country minivan, which jumped 41 percent to 43,849 sales. There was also another recently revitalized nameplate: the Pacifica. Together, the crossover and minivan sold about as often in early 2005 as the Chrysler brand sells now.

The Chrysler division, on the whole, has lost importance over the last decade, with a 58-percent drop between the two periods being discussed. 28 percent of the Chrysler Group’s sales in Q1 2005 were Chrysler-derived; that figure stood at just 12 percent in 2016 Q1. The Chrysler brand’s share of the overall U.S. market grew to 4 percent in 2005 Q1 but tumbled to just 1.6 percent 11 years later.

2011 Dodge Caliber

Dodge
The Dodge of 2005 included two pickup truck lines and a commercial van division. Separating those nameplates from the results enables more direct comparison with 2016 figures now that Ram is a separate entity.

Then, as now, Dodge operated largely with three cars; the Neon, Stratus, and Magnum having been indirectly replaced by the Dart, Charger, and Challenger. Dodge sold 76,960 of the former in 2005’s first-quarter; 60,653 of the latter in 2016’s first-quarter. And while Dodge sold 92,141 Grand Caravans and Durangos in 2005 Q1, sales of the Grand Caravan, Durango, and Journey totalled only 79,718 units in 2016 Q1.

Year-over-year, Dodge volume is growing faster than the overall market in 2016, rising 14 percent on the strength of the minivan and crossovers. But after claiming 4.4 percent of the U.S. market (and 31 percent of Chrysler Group sales) in 2005 Q1, Dodge now owns 3.4 of the market and produces 26 percent of modern Chrysler Group sales.

2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel, Image: FCA

Ram
During the first three months of 2005, the brand now known as Ram (Dakota, Ram 1500/2500/3500, Ram Van, Dodge Sprinter) sold 117,531 vehicles, three-quarters of which were full-size Ram pickups. With sales of that truck line having grown 27 percent in the intervening period and a commercial van business that’s nearly quadrupled, the Ram division’s Dakota loss (25,130 sales in the first-quarter of 2005) is masked by improvements elsewhere, with 126,313 year-to-date sales in 2016.

Products now attributed to Ram accounted for 21 percent of Chrysler Group sales in 2005 Q1 and 3 percent of the overall market. The first figure rose to 23 percent 11 years later; the second figure is unchanged.

Jeep
Jeep was not an unsuccessful auto brand in early 2005, but all three of the brand’s products — Grand Cherokee, Liberty, Wrangler — were in decline. Jeep sold 103,712 vehicles in America during the first-quarter of 2005, 19 percent of Chrysler Group volume and slightly less than 3 percent of the market overall.

If Dodge and Ram are relatively steady factors at the Chrysler Group over the last decade, if the Chrysler brand has seen major decline, and if the overarching Auburn Hills achievements now are largely similar to the successes of 2005, Jeep is the obvious crowning achievement. First-quarter U.S. sales in 2016 were almost precisely double the 2005 Q1 total, and it’s not all down to Jeep’s expanding lineup.

Collectively, in 2016’s first-quarter, the Cherokee (Liberty replacement), Grand Cherokee, and Wrangler (the lineup of which was greatly expanded by a four-door Unlimited model in late 2006) grew their sales by a third compared with the beginning of 2005. Added to their 138,325 2016 Q1 sales are 71,272 sales of Patriots, Compasses, and Renegades. The Patriot outsells FCA’s most popular car, the Charger, and the Compass and Renegade outsell every FCA product aside from the Charger.

So far this year, Jeep is responsible for nearly four out of every ten Chrysler Group sales and claimed a 5-percent slice of the overall industry’s pie.

Despite all the turmoil of 2009’s reorganization, the market quickly turned away from cars just as FCA professed great faith in the Dart and 200. Yet FCA’s original Chrysler Group brands are essentially back at pre-bankruptcy sales levels in America. Why?

It has plenty do with seven-slot grilles and Rubicon reputations.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, 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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66 Comments on “FCA’s Rapidly Rising Chrysler Group Sales Are Back At Pre-Bankruptcy Levels...”


  • avatar

    Thanks to ME!!!

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Mixed feelings. What happens when gas makes its inevitable bounce, and rising interest rates put a kibosh on FCA’s funny money financing?

    I was going to suggest that they make the Dart and 200 crossovers but somehow the Journey has seen double digit percentage sales growth every year since its 2008 or 2009 debut. So I don’t know. I think the auto market is due for a major contraction in the future anyway, so pretty much any big investments by weaker, “condition dependent” (i.e. cheap gas and credit) brands are probably for naught.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I don’t see anything here being affected by more expensive fuel, people aren’t going to make that same stupid mistake as last time. The person driving the Jeep that he loves getting 18-20MPG isn’t going to sell it to be in some POS getting 35 MPG that he hates. The math isn’t there.

      • 0 avatar

        Hot trucks, hot Jeeps, cars no one wants, and all for what? To flush money away on some phantom Alfa seven will buy.

        Such a shame.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’m starting to think the Italians didn’t bring as much to the table as was thought, and instead it was the folks at Auburn Hills who pioneered the success of the last half dozen years.

          • 0 avatar

            +11.

            Someone name beneficial contribution FIAT has made to Chrysler besides providing Fiat Studios with copious warranty work.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The silver lining is of course I know one dealer whose laughing all the way to the bank on used Wrangler sales.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            The Renegade wouldn’t have happened without Fiat. The Giulia is probably going to form the underpinnings for the next 300, Charger, and Challenger. And Chrysler’s engine tech was stone-age without Fiat.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “The Renegade wouldn’t have happened without Fiat”

            Jeep is *still* offering the Mitsu sourced Compass/Patriot in MY16. In CY 2015, the dated platform sold 250K units whereas the new GM/Fiat platform Renegade sold 158K units. I’m sure FCA is loathe to give up such a fine profit center but at the same time I’m sure they wonder if their Renegade can even sell the same amount, let alone more.

            2015 Patriot: 143,003
            2015 Compass: 108,626
            ———————
            251,629

            2015 Renegade: 158,351

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Compass
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Patriot
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Renegade_(BU)

            “The Giulia is probably going to form the underpinnings for the next 300, Charger, and Challenger”

            I personally see the LX living on well past its sell date, but am prepared to be wrong. I personally think the Alfa experiment is just an exercise in vanity and will fail.

            “Chrysler’s engine tech was stone-age without Fiat.”

            I don’t really know from experience but the major thing Fiat seems to have brought in powertrain were I4s used in unpopular products and problematic ZF transmissions. Auburn Hills developed the far more important 3.6 V6 and V8 motors. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Auburn Hills and not Fiat who developed the Pacifica minivan. The whole point of Fiat was it was supposed to bring small car technology along with responsible management. I’m not sure on the management part, but all of the Fiat small car technology has not sold well and I personally wonder about it long term. I could see many a prematurely clapped out Cherokee in the future.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            So in addition to leading it’s own segment, the Renegade outsold the Compass, and outsold the Patriot too? :) I know the Jeep Faithful don’t like it much, but face it, the Renegade is a success.

            And yeah, Chrysler’s powertrains were stone-age…didn’t they have the last of the four speed automatics still floating around, along with a crappy CVT? Fiat brought in a six speed DCT as well as the (questionable quality, granted) 9 speed automatic. And frankly, even things developed in Auburn Hills might not have come around without Fiat being around. Hellcat didn’t arrive until after Fiat too. And I wouldn’t mind seeing MultiAir make it to an I6 or V8 for the larger models.

            And yes, the LX needs replacement. Desperately. That’s why they’re working so hard on that Giulia. They can’t re-task a Maserati platform, it’ll cheapen it in the eyes of their current buyers. That’s why Alfa is so important right now, and why they’re throwing so much money at it. A lot more than the Giulia are dependent on it.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Fiat brought a lot to the table and still are. Just because you can’t let go of a 40-year-old reputation doesn’t mean the products are still as bad as that, despite what CR likes to claim. There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence to suggest CR is by no means as fair and balanced as they claim.

            “2015 Patriot: 143,003
            2015 Compass: 108,626
            ———————
            251,629

            2015 Renegade: 158,351”

            — First off, the Renegade hasn’t even been out for a full year yet. To have 158K sales in less than a year in its first year of production is amazing!

            Secondly, both the Patriot and the Compass were dying prior to 2015; the only reason they even saw a bump is that it’s in their last year of production AND a huge percentage of them are going into fleet sales. My next-door neighbor received one from his company fleet and while he likes it, he notes that it does NOT have AWD, so it was just about the cheapest model available.

            Without looking at the basis of that 251K sales the Compass/Patriot sales look exemplary but when you see where they’re going, all of a sudden you see why FCA is dropping them. Their replacement is likely to be a far better choice both economically and in capability.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’m not referencing Consumer Reports. I’m not sure what the problems are but people are not buying the Fiat sourced product in droves.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “I know the Jeep Faithful don’t like it much, but face it, the Renegade is a success.”

            I’m not sure if the the incoming model is meant to replace Patriot/Compass or not, but if the implication is replacement the Renegade needs to double its global sales in order to meet similar volume as to what the company sells now. The other thing to consider is of the 158K global sales only 60K were in the US. 66K Compass and 118K Patriot sales were in the USDM (184K total) for a nearly 3:1 ratio over Renegade. Even though the Compass/Patriot are not much larger than Renegade, three out of four more buyers chose the larger model in 2015.

            “Fiat brought in a six speed DCT as well as the (questionable quality, granted) 9 speed automatic. ”

            The 8 speed is a ZF unit as was the 6 speed from what I can tell. Fiat did not develop or manufacture these transmissions themselves, Chrysler could have sourced them on its own.

            “And frankly, even things developed in Auburn Hills might not have come around without Fiat being around. Hellcat didn’t arrive until after Fiat too.”

            True, as Chrysler had been in chaos for some time previously. Fiat provided financial stability and possibly management expertise which allowed for the development of things like the Hellcat. However the overall point I am making is Fiat sourced technology has not been the wonder it was initially sold to us as in the bailout.

            “First off, the Renegade hasn’t even been out for a full year yet. To have 158K sales in less than a year in its first year of production is amazing!”

            Production began in 2014 for MY15. 2016 will be more telling but this isn’t the slam dunk you think it is just yet.

            “Production 2014—present
            Model years 2015—present”

            “My next-door neighbor received one from his company fleet and while he likes it, he notes that it does NOT have AWD, so it was just about the cheapest model available.”

            We’re looking at total production numbers, not options packages. Omitting 4×4 in a Jeep defeats the purpose of a Jeep, but none of the three models cited are actually Jeeps as they are all JINOs.

            “Without looking at the basis of that 251K sales the Compass/Patriot sales look exemplary but when you see where they’re going, all of a sudden you see why FCA is dropping them. Their replacement is likely to be a far better choice both economically and in capability.”

            If management were so keen to drop them, there would not be an MY16. The issue is these older models are profit centers and as long as they still sell a certain target it doesn’t make good business sense to drop them. If the new models cannot make up the volume, then the company loses market share when the older models are discontinued.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Not sure what new tech Fiat brought to the table. Fiat’s FIRE engine series is port injected with iron blocks (!!!!) across the range. They have a fancy little intake system but otherwise the FIRE engine series is about advanced as the engine out of a 25 year old E36 BMW. Fiat and Alfa’s European lineups are ancient and not competitive. As Tim pointed out it’s Jeep that’s doing the heavy lifting here.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Fiat’s MultiAIR system is an infinitely variable intake valve timing system that completely replaces the intake camshaft. Each valve can be controlled separately rather than being limited to a certain range or set of built in cam lobe profiles and timings in relation to shaft rotation. The idea is to expand this to the exhaust valves eventually too. Chrysler didn’t have anything like this before, I think they were barely into variable valve timing in general.

            Camless systems are relatively new, most manufacturers are settling for some sort of variability on an existing camshaft(s), using actuated lobes or multiple sets of lobes. The idea of individually actuating valves goes back to the Tucker Torpedo days, but it took until recently to get it working without one or more cams, so far only Fiat and BMW have done so.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            Jeep/Chrysler are doing the same miracle as in the US, but in Australia going in the reverse direction.A small niche is becoming pretty tiny.Quality issues are a big problem

          • 0 avatar
            smartascii

            I think that what the Italians brought to the table was a new mindset that allowed the talent in Auburn Hills to develop vehicles that were actually compelling. Daimler let the American products wither on the vine, and turned the German arm from an engineering firm into an accounting firm. Cerebus insisted on the kind of cost cutting that left Chrysler products with shockingly bad build quality. FCA has a ways to go in the reliability department, and it’s pretty clear that some of Sergio’s pet projects are a bad allocation of resources, but, hey, their increase in market share from 2005 is still merited.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Hummer, I agree. Certain vehicle lines of the company formerly known as Chrysler are truly outstanding, among them the Grand Cherokee, 300 and RAM. People who choose them, love them.

        The other offerings, like the 200, Cherokee and Renegade, are not in the same league as those mentioned above. IOW, they’re a POS.

        People will step away from those offerings and step into a Toyota or Honda product instead.

        Most buyers don’t give fuel economy a second thought. They never have. That’s why pickup trucks are America’s best sellers. They are not generally known for fuel economy, even when equipped with sissy engines instead of V8s.

        • 0 avatar
          Compaq Deskpro

          What’s wrong with the Renegade and Cherokee? From what I’ve heard the only issue is the 9 speed transaxle, which is a turd in every car its ever been in. Regardless, they have been selling like crazy, and are generally reliable within the warranty period.

          I don’t understand why the 200 and Dart don’t move, they’re great looking, good enough quality, and cheap. How did the Neon sell like crazy, when it was a much crappier car than than the 200 and Dart, while still coming out after Toyota and Honda had established their dominance in compact cars?

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            I get why the 200 and Dart don’t move, they’re literally at the bottom of their respective categories. But the Renegade is leading it’s segment in sales, and seems to be liked by reviewers as well.

        • 0 avatar
          MrIcky

          All anecdotal, but I have yet to meet a single Cherokee buyer who wasn’t happy with it. Not sure where you are getting that assumption.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            ” Not sure where you are getting that assumption.”

            From the people who service them. Buyers are initially happy campers but then the little niggly stuff keeps them coming back for adjustment or advise.

            Go to Jeep dot com and look at the issues that real owners are writing about.

            To be fair, as of late things have gotten better because of the improved pre-delivery preps and more extensive orientation of the buyer to their new vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “To be fair, as of late things have gotten better because of the improved pre-delivery preps and more extensive orientation of the buyer to their new vehicle.”

            Which shows that the problems aren’t with the cars but with the owners’ perception of them. Anybody who’s been following the new models will know that the transmission has to learn the owner’s driving style. It learns to create shift points based on whether the driver is performance oriented or economy oriented (or somewhere in between) and sets itself up to drive consistently for that owner. Personally, I think they should also include a “Sport” button like they do with the Fiat 500 six-speed auto but I would note that doing so would probably disrupt all the other driving modes for what is a surprisingly active AWD system.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            “Anybody who’s been following the new models will know that the transmission has to learn the owner’s driving style. It learns to create shift points based on whether the driver is performance oriented or economy oriented (or somewhere in between) and sets itself up to drive consistently for that owner.”

            Every automatic transmission these days is billed as “adaptive,” so that’s nothing special. The issue with the 9 speed automatic is that, in order to cram so many ratios into such a tiny 4-cyl oriented transaxle they had to make several compromises, including a relatively rough-shifting dog clutch between I think 4th and 5th gear. Rough compated to normal automatic operation anyway, but there’s no way to avoid it, and people notice it.

            “Personally, I think they should also include a “Sport” button like they do with the Fiat 500 six-speed auto but I would note that doing so would probably disrupt all the other driving modes for what is a surprisingly active AWD system.”

            Fiat includes Sport mode on the 500x as well, along with Traction+, which is close to Jeep’s “snow” setting, I think. It’s not a matter of technical limitation, it’s a matter of market targeting. Jeeps aren’t supposed to be “sporty” like that. Unfortunately, unlike with the Renegade and 500x, the Cherokee has no Chrysler or Fiat equivalent that someone can go to that’s less “off-roady” so to speak. Frankly, Chrysler should make one as an effective replacement for the 200.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “The issue with the 9 speed automatic is that, in order to cram so many ratios into such a tiny 4-cyl oriented transaxle they had to make several compromises, including a relatively rough-shifting dog clutch between I think 4th and 5th gear. Rough compated to normal automatic operation anyway, but there’s no way to avoid it, and people notice it.”

            Do more research. The dog-tooth clutches are in the three differentials for the AWD/4WD locks.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            I hate to be snarky (well, no, not really) but maybe YOU need to do more research. I suggest as a starting point this article from some car site that I hear is pretty good. ;)

            https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/zfs-9-speed-9hp-transmission-puts-dog-clutches-on-the-leash/

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “The other offerings, like the 200, Cherokee and Renegade, are not in the same league as those mentioned above. IOW, they’re a POS.”

          They must not be POS since the Cherokee and Renegade are selling so strongly. The Dart/200 are suffering more from a serious misperception as well, caused, unfortunately, by the US Government demanding a 40mpg car out of the Fiat/Chrysler pairing before they would complete the sale. You try putting a 101hp engine into a car that weighs nearly 1000 pounds more than a Fiat 500. Aerodynamics and transmission was just about all they could play with and that meant poor performance. Later Darts are far better than that first, economy-only model.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I agree. They’re working to improve.

            But sometimes, stupid is as stupid does. Did you hear about the new, improved, better than ever gear-shift selector in the 2014-2015 Grand Cherokee?

            P!ssed off a lot of buyers. So Jeep went back to the old gear shift selector in the 2016. Sometimes it is better to leave well enough alone.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “But sometimes, stupid is as stupid does. Did you hear about the new, improved, better than ever gear-shift selector in the 2014-2015 Grand Cherokee?”

            I suggest you look back at the Pontiac Fiero to see what happened to the Dart and 200.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        People have been buying more trucks and CUVs…. sales of cars like the Prius are down. We are definitely making the same mistakes. And when gas prices go back up, resales will tank, putting anyone buying FCA’s stuff underwater overnight and torpedoing anybody who was foolhardy enough to lease any of these things. If you think an extra ~$100-200 a month on gas won’t be painful to somebody in one of FCA’s extra long funny money loans or leases you’re not being realistic. And unlike last time, there won’t be the political will to bail them out.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve seen this cycle now happen three times in my adult life. Now’s the time to be buying fuel-efficient cars, folks, especially used.

          As far as political will? If there’s one thing “cash for clunkers” taught us, it’s never doubt that a politician won’t happily drive through the intersection at the corner of satisfying multiple voting bases and delivering lip service to conservationists.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “Now’s the time to be buying fuel-efficient cars”

            They do not suit the lifestyles of the vast majority of Americans. That’s why Americans buy much more capable trucks, SUVs and CUVs.

            The idea of fuel-efficient cars has been around for awhile now, but each time a class is downsized or discontinued, buyers step up to a larger variant.

            When sedans like the CrownVic class was discontinued, many people stepped up to the four-door pickup truck, like the F150.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          That argument ignores the fact that the Jeeps and trucks are getting better gas mileage than ever. I do agree the big-engined models will be hitting the used-car lots but that Eco-diesel for one will keep on going, as will most of the new Jeeps as they’re offering up to 50% better economy than their predecessors.

          Personally I’m waiting to see what Jeep does with their new Wrangler-based pickup. It’s clear it’s going to be based on an upgraded platform in more ways than one so we could see a surprising bump in fuel economy from a Wrangler, though probably not in the 30mpg range unless it goes diesel. If it’s as good as I hope, I’ll be selling a like-new ’97 Ranger (only 22k miles on it right now) and trading my Wrangler. If not, I’ll keep the truck and buy a Renegade (or maybe whatever replaces the Compass/Patriot.)

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “What happens when gas makes its inevitable bounce…”

      I read this a lot on TTAC, but I don’t see how FCA is worse off with a gas spike than any other automaker.

      The have a new transverse hybrid system coming out, they have the ability to drop a diesel V6 into all their larger vehicles, and the 500e was well reviewed (I’m guessing the tech could be applied to other small cars).

      With current offerings, they generally aren’t any worse than their competition. The Charger V6 is right in line with the Impala, Avalon, and Azera. The RAM is around the same as the Silverado and F-150. The Durango and JGC are competitive with the Edge, Explorer, Pilot, Sorento, and Acadia.

      Yea, they do make the HELLCAT, but it isn’t like that is 30% of their sales.

      • 0 avatar
        VCplayer

        I think the big issue is that when gas prices go up, dealers need to have something to sell when people come in to trade in their trucks and SUVs. A Ford dealer can give you a Focus or a Fusion hybrid for your F-150 that you really only bought for the looks in the first place. A Chevy dealer can give you a Malibu or Cruze for your Tahoe.

        I have a hard time seeing a dealer being able to sell a customer on a Dart in place of their Ram or Jeep.

        Ford and GM just seem better prepared for buying habits changing than Chrysler does. They probably all lose out to the Japanese in this regard, but gas price spikes for automakers is about weathering storms in the short term. I just don’t think Chrysler is adequately prepared for this. That said, I doubt we get a massive spike any time soon, so they’ve got time to turn things around in that regard.

        • 0 avatar
          MrIcky

          Ya, I disagree with this completely.

          People didn’t trade in pickups in droves in 2009. People sacrificed to keep their trucks. Also, new trucks have better MPG. If anything, the ecodiesel has a good chance of jumping disproportiately in sales.

          People traded in big SUVs for smaller CUVs. Between the new Pacifica as an alternative for a Suburban spacewise and the Cherokee, I don’t think they’re that badly positioned.

          I can’t find it now, but there was an article discussing what people were trading to get into Priuses. It turned out it wasn’t V8s, it was other economical cars. People who’s favorite metric is mileage will trade out their moderately good mileage cars for better mileage cars.

          Ford and GM have more money in the bank so they can weather a storm better, but I don’t really see them as having the lineup that will save them when the gas price goes up.

          • 0 avatar
            VCplayer

            Interesting, I wasn’t aware that trade in patterns had gone that way.

            I personally think that drivers panicking about short-term gas price spikes and trading in their vehicle is pretty flimsy decision making, but car buying is a pretty emotional thing to begin with.

            I still think it’s helpful to have fuel efficient, desirable cars in your lineup. If nothing else it gives you experience with the technologies for the long-term when $5 gas is the norm.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        “Yea, they do make the HELLCAT, but it isn’t like that is 30% of their sales.”

        Yet. When they finally get around to making the inevitable Abarth 500 Hellcat that might change. :)

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        FCA’s gas problem is two fold.

        One, most obviously, their mainstream car lineup is pretty much nonexistent. And I don’t know that they will ever be able to make one legitimate, as I think the current 200 is competitive and easily their best effort in its segment.

        Two, less obviously, its CUVs are a lot less fuel efficient than the competition. Cherokee is down ~2-3 MPG to its competition. When gas is $4-5/gallon again, CUVs like the CR-V and RAV4 will cement their sales dominance and leave FCA’s offerings in the cold. Charger, Durango, JGC are not huge volume sellers, and their segments tank when gas prices spike.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “Two, less obviously, its CUVs are a lot less fuel efficient than the competition. Cherokee is down ~2-3 MPG to its competition.”

          Is this a like-for-like comparison? 2WD vs 2WD of similar performance and capacity? AWD vs AWD of similar performance and capacity? Does that competition even have one equivalent to the Trailhawk version?

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        “The have a new transverse hybrid system coming out, they have the ability to drop a diesel V6 into all their larger vehicles, and the 500e was well reviewed (I’m guessing the tech could be applied to other small cars).”

        The 500e was completely developed for Fiat by Bosch. It has zero Fiat/FCA technology in it.

        The hybrid system looks solid, but it’s also only mated with a V6 engine that’s too big for most vehicles that would benefit in a higher fuel price situation.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “The hybrid system looks solid, but it’s also only mated with a V6 engine that’s too big for most vehicles that would benefit in a higher fuel price situation.”

          The tech is being filtered down to other applications. Look for a very high penetration rate over the next 6 years.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          Not *zero* FCA technology in the Fiat 500e. The vehicle control software that produces a Christmas tree of impending-doom warning lights as often it produces a cheerful “Ready” message? That’s FCA!

          I contacted the former lead software developer for the car, who–after a string of choice invective about FCA’s numbskullery–explained that the solution is simple: wait 3 seconds until the battery contactors make an audible clunk before you start, lock, or charge the car. Yay, problems magically banished! FCA could have fixed this in the software, but they’re FCA.

          Adjust to that, and you can delight in the sensation only a 500e can deliver: that of being a profoundly deaf person driving a 500 Abarth that’s permanently stuck in second gear. (Ho-hum, hoOH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHo-hum.) It’s absurdly fun.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The SUV/CUVs of today are different than those of 10 years ago. Now, they’re mostly car based and get much better, more tolerable fuel economy. The last fuel crisis in fact fueled the popularity of the modern CUV, people wanted SUVs but didn’t want to pay the gas bill. Like Sergio said, people aren’t going to be running away from SUVs/CUVs in case of a gas price spike, they’re just going to look at more fuel efficient versions. A couple MPG in the high 20s/low 30s won’t matter much if the customer generally prefers one vehicle over another.

      If anything takes a hit with a fuel price spike, it will be pickups. But even then, sales are more tied to the strength of the economy in general rather than solely the price of fuel. Even while fuel prices were still very high, truck sales were exploding as the economy recovered.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “The SUV/CUVs of today are different than those of 10 years ago. Now, they’re mostly car based and get much better, more tolerable fuel economy. ”

        They should also be classed as cars because they’re not body on frame or have the load carrying capacities as predecessors, either.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Car companies and video game companies share one similarity, they both feel they need to spend huge money on platform overhauls, that don’t really effect the sales of the actual product. Whether its brand new game engines with copious graphics effects (Lara Croft’s floaty hair that made the game run like crap is a good example), or new platforms for perfectly fine cars (Caddy CTS, Chrysler 200), they’d be better off just riding the wave as long as possible, especially for lower margin, popular rental fleet cars. GM is gonna do it again with the big crossovers, replace their long paid off, highly competent large crossovers for something closely resembling a midsize while leaving nothing to replace it and a huge bill for the R&D and tooling. What are they thinking?

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      There’s some truth to that, but there’s risk in putting off new platforms for too long as well. Imagine of GM had done, well, ANYTHING useful with the Cavalier during the early 2000s. New platforms are expensive, but they allow you to do upgrades to the overall vehicle that otherwise would be impossible or impractical. I think large platforms have some advantage in this regard—Ford kept the Panther platform alive for around 30 years—but eventually you run into problems. New safety features can’t be properly implemented, suspension systems become obsolete, you can’t fit new engine tech into the vehicle, etc.

      Plus, over time you are going to run into a much tougher time being able to use compatible parts and technology across your entire vehicle line. What’s the point of my new transmission I’m developing if I can’t put it into one of my major platforms?

      Tooling wears out over time too, it’s not like the machines last forever. The Panther platform died when it did because Ford was going to have to replace the tooling if they were going to keep the vehicle. The numbers didn’t make sense, so coupled with the above mentioned problems, the Panther was put out to pasture.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I think it can work on a case by case basis. LX, Camry, Corolla and Nissan FM platforms are relatively ancient (~10+ years), and they are still OK. The previous 200 was downright awful. But if FCA was smart, I could see the Compact Wide platform going for a while. Key for them will be to lower weight and reduce overhang.

  • avatar
    zip89105

    I tried to help, but the dealer liked the Charger & 300 more than I did, so I let them keep it.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      That’s one of the best comments of the day!

      It reminds me of when I was 16, and my friend (who worked at Mr. Steak with me at the time) and I went to the Dodge/Plymouth dealer to look at the (K-car based) Charger, which was new at the time. The salesman took us kids on a test drive and struggled to convince my friend to buy an entry-level model, despite his paltry income as a part-time busboy earning minimum wage. Needless to say, the dealership kept their Charger. I learned at a young age to stay away from car dealerships, which are populated by rather pushy salesmen.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “First-quarter U.S. sales in 2016 were almost precisely double the 2005 Q1 total, and it’s not all down to Jeep’s expanding lineup.”

    Subaru’s 2015 US sales were TRIPLE their 2005 sales.

    The belief that AWD will prevent your death is a powerful sales motivator. Marketing efforts with this message have been very effective.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    And people wonder why I’m so down on Daimler when it comes to Chrysler products…

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I am in the middle of a Patriot rental for a week now and to be honest its in the top two of the worst cars I have every driven. (HHS being number one) I actually hate it so much that I schedule my work from home so that I dont have to drive it. Since i drive about 500 miles per week thats saying something.

    Anyone that bought this car should ask for their money back. Even my kids hate it and they even like the Hyundai Veloster that I rented about 6 months ago for a week. If this is what Jeep has become you can keep it.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “Anyone that bought this car should ask for their money back. Even my kids hate it and they even like the Hyundai Veloster that I rented about 6 months ago for a week. If this is what Jeep has become you can keep it.”

      That’s pretty much why the Patriot and Compass are being shut down; they have never had the kind of sales they’re seeing this year and I can only attribute those sales to fleet buyers after a deal than any private individual buying for their personal use.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      That’s what Daimler and Cerberus tried to turn Jeep into. And you are keenly aware of why it failed. The models are being axed soon, to be replaced by a FIAT platform. Given how well the new Cherokee and Renegade are doing, that shouldn’t be a bad thing. I don’t think they need another BOF in that class, not with the Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited around.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      It’s the cheapest product Jeep makes and is the cheapest SUV you can buy. So no, it’s not exactly representative.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Thanks to Jeep, and RAM, right?

  • avatar
    Vetteman

    As a lifelong GM truck and car buyer , my wifes car is a Lexus GS and my truck is a 2014 Ram 2500 with the cummins. I have purchased new 9 chevy trucks and 3 3/4 ton sububans and my new Ram Diesel so far is the most awesome truck I have ever owned . It may disappoint me in the future but right now I am thrilled with it . I bought it partly because many of my RV friends have switched to Ram after the disasters they have had with Ford powerstrokes and the many mechanical issues with some years of the GM Duramaxes There is nothing at a GM store that would interest me at this time .

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      This is really where Ram has it, in the 3/4+ section. GM has let go with a very poor product in the 3/4 section, it’s certainly not anything someone working would want, GM has clearly positioned their 1/2-1ton trucks to people that don’t actually use their trucks to work. The Ram 3/4 is a solid truck that was designed to do work.

  • avatar
    Vetteman

    Hummer you brought up a great point . My last truck was a 2004 3/4 ton Silverado 4X4 short bed crew cab Duramax Allison . I pulled my Trailer with it an d used it as a multipurpose vehicle . I really enjoyed the truck and it gave me very good service , pulled my Trailer very well , got very good fuel mileage but when it broke it cost a fortune for repairs so when It hit 100K I sold it and bought the 3/4 ton Ram What I am getting at is my 3/4 ton Ram is built and feels like a one ton and my 3/4 ton Silverado felt more like a heavy duty half ton. The silverado had a soft suspension and I could feel frame twisting when towing on undulating highways . On certain roads i would feel the right front bucket seat shake probably from the floor flexing . My new Ram is was , way stiffer . It is built and feels like it is one solid piece . I am very impressed with it

  • avatar
    John Horner

    This article is an excellent piece of analysis worthy of the TTAC name.

    FCA has been investing in their products in many segments. Yes, some investments have worked better than others, but they at least have significant chips down on all the important spots on the table.

    RAM trucks have become something other than a cheaper alternative to Ford or GM, which is great. Jeep happens to be ideally positioned to take advantage of the current SUV/CUV market trend. After all these years, the brand which created the category with the Wagoneer and later the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee still has huge brand equity with customers.

    Yes, the future is uncertain, but objectively speaking Fiat has done far more with the former Chrysler corporation than Daimler or Cerberus were ever able to do. Yes there is much still to be done, but the progress to date is praise worthy.

    • 0 avatar
      laserwizard

      RAM trucks are defacto cheaper because they are behind the times without significant premium editions. That is changing, but clearly Ford understands the market far better than even the clowns at Total Recall Motors which are very late to the premium segment. Ford keeps pushing the boundary upwards and is selling everything in those high price ranges that they can build. I’m surprised that the bailout queens of Ram and Total Recall Motors still lag in this area, but they didn’t save themselves so they aren’t intuitive about what sells and what doesn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “RAM trucks are defacto cheaper because they are behind the times without significant premium editions.”
        — That’s prejudice talking.

        However, while Ford may have a lot of premium editions, people are going broke buying them… unless instead they are leasing them? Very rarely do I see any premium edition Fords or GMs where I live…which has a population of roughly 40% pickup trucks of all ages and which are typically mid-range models far less expensive than the Platinum and other $45K+ models.

        But that’s also why Ram trucks are seeing such a significant growth in sales; they’re comfortable to ride in, more economical on average and less expensive even with their premium models.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    I have continued to say that despite the spin, Chrysler has had no sales increases because all they were doing was improving on a horrific baseline from their bankruptcy days.

    It should be noted that Ford’s two divisions outsold GM’s 4 divisions last month. There is something to a company that saved itself and the one who is underperforming is the one that made off with $30 billion in tax and interest free money who has continued to miss having the right product in the right segment and who builds over 70% of its saved butt elsewhere.

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