FCA's Rapidly Rising Chrysler Group Sales Are Back At Pre-Bankruptcy Levels

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
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fca s rapidly rising chrysler group sales are back at pre bankruptcy levels

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?

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.


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.


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.


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 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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  • John Horner John Horner on Apr 07, 2016

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Apr 07, 2016

      @laserwizard "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.

  • Laserwizard Laserwizard on Apr 07, 2016

    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.

  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.
  • Marky S. I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD as in this article, but in Barcelona Red with the black roof. I love my car for its size, packaging, and the fact that it offers both AWD and Hybrid technology together. Visibility is impressive, as is its small turning circle. I consider the C.C. more of a "station wagon" by proportion, rather than an “SUV.” It is fun to drive, with zippy response and perky pick-up. It is a pleasant car to drive and ride in. It is not trying to be a “Butch Off-Roader”, or a cosseting “Luxury Cruiser.” Those are not its goals or purpose. The Corolla Cross XSE Hybrid AWD is a wonderful All-Purpose Car (O.K. – “SUV” if you must hear me say it!) with a combination of all the features it has at a reasonable price.
  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
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