By on October 31, 2016

2016 Chrysler 200C

There is something sincerely wrong with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ math, although things are starting to add up for why some of its sales numbers were so inflated.

That, Ford decides to get a little less global at the expense of the small car, Hyundai pays the price for lying, and parts suppliers see doom and gloom on the horizon for the automotive industry… after the break!

2016 Chrysler 200 Side, Image: FCA

FCA sales numbers are a calculated mess

Automotive News reports that FCA’s sales recount came back with a massive discrepancy for the soon-to-be-dead Chrysler 200. Already under investigation by the SEC for the way it reports sales, this variance is suspect, as FCA had so much riding on the 200’s success.

According to Automotive News

With three months of restated monthly sales totals on the books and a fourth due this week, the totals show FCA’s midsize sedan was far less popular than originally reported. During the three-month period encompassing July, August and September 2015, FCA US originally reported that it sold 21 percent more Chrysler 200s (8,577 vehicles) than the restated numbers it now claims are accurate for the period show.

Of the 25 nameplates for which it reported sales in July, August and September of both 2015 and 2016, the automaker now says that it over-reported sales of 14 nameplates and underreported sales of 11. The total deviation for the period: 7,547 vehicles. That means FCA originally reported 7,547 more vehicles in its monthly sales reports in July, August and September 2015 but later disavowed those figures under its revised 2016 sales methodology.

Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific, explained to AN what made the 200’s numbers stand out. “There was a lot of pressure on the 200 to offset the loss of sales from discontinuing the Dodge Avenger,” Sullivan said, recalling the $1 billion FCA invested in the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant to build the sedan. “FCA was under pressure to deliver a midsize car that could compete with the Accord and Camry after they emerged from bankruptcy. They were vilified for not offering competitive cars after we saw gas spike to $4. The 200 was meant to show how FCA was committed to offering passenger cars that could compete.”

That pressure could be the key behind the large discrepancy between the original and restated Chrysler 200 sales numbers.

In August, company CEO Sergio Marchionne explained the ongoing sales assessment issue by claiming the automaker had inherited its reporting system (and subsequently failed to alter it) when Fiat took control of Chrysler in 2009. As for FCA’s promise to replace the 200 and Dodge Dart in dealer fleets after FCA stops building both, Marchionne said he had “nothing to announce.”

ford logo

Ford goes less global

Despite expressing continued faith in the One Ford policy last year, Ford’s global design chief Moray Callum told Autocar that the concept has “peaked.” Callum specified that the global method isn’t being abandoned, though future models will be tailored more to individual regions.

The company’s One Ford plan — consolidating dozens of platforms into a globally-friendly handful — always included the option for models to be tailored somewhat to individual markets. The future changes that Callum referred to will be more than just a few tweaks, especially for vehicles that receive less love in specific regions.

Callum says the next Focus will likely be different depending on the market. “It’s an entry-level model in the US, but not in Europe,” he said. “They will be visually similar but there will be less content for the US model.”

Autocar says that in addition to a reduced level of standard equipment, the upcoming U.S. Focus could also feature a “less sophisticated” suspension, given that the need for strong driving dynamics isn’t hugely important in that vehicle class. Ouch. While it may not make sense to pour money into a stalled segment, this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Whether this means we’ll eventually have more unique models by region is debatable. Most likely, we’ll see certain platforms receiving market-based favoritism. Ford knows that entirely abandoning its global stratagem would be a mistake. One Ford allowed the Mustang to become the world’s best selling sport coupe last year and many have attributed the program to keeping Ford competitive during the recession. It sounds as if Ford is simply unwilling to pump any additional money into small cars for the U.S. market.


Hyundai pays $41 million for fuel economy fibbing

Hyundai has announced it will pay $41.2 million to 33 states and the District of Columbia in a settlement related to the unrealistic fuel economy ratings initially provided for its 2011-13 model year lineup. According to The Detroit Newsthe settlement does not include any admission of wrongdoing or legal violation, just that the money will go to settle the states’ consumer protection claims and to cover investigative costs.

In November 2012 Hyundai issued a voluntary adjustment of fuel economy ratings for roughly a quarter of its 2011-13 model year vehicles. The adjustment decreased their combined fuel economy by roughly 2 miles per gallon. The company also offered a lifetime reimbursement program to compensate anyone who had purchased one of the affected models.

After the introduction of a class action lawsuit in 2013, Hyundai began offering a lump sum cash payment to customers who didn’t want to go to dealerships to get their mileage verified for the reimbursement program.

By Siyuwj Geely_assembly_line

Parts suppliers see trouble ahead

According to a recent survey conducted by the Original Equipment Suppliers Association, automotive parts suppliers are growing increasingly worried about a possible industry downturn. Automotive News reports that many suppliers think that U.S. consumers are holding back on their spending. Some suppliers are concerned with lower than anticipated sales of specific vehicle models and slowed growth of certain segments. There are even those who have expressed apprehension about November’s U.S. presidential election and the impact it may have.

Automotive News writes:

The OESA Supplier Barometer Index has provided a pulse-check on the business outlook of the organization’s 430 member companies every quarter since 2006. The index gauges their outlook on industry health and asks what specific concerns they have. Suppliers are often an early indicator of market conditions since they are on the advanced edge of automaker planning.

The October query put the North American supply base at a score of 48 out of 100 on the index — down from a 50 in July. Charles Chesbrough, OESA chief economist, said the seemingly small drop puts the industry sector into a “pessimistic” category.

“A score below 50 suggests suppliers have a negative view on their company’s business outlook,” Chesbrough told Automotive News. The index level of 48 is the gloomiest outlook the supplier industry has evinced since 2012, when global production disruptions followed the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

[Images: FCA; Ford Motor Company; Hyundai; By Siyuwj/WikimediaCommons (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

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33 Comments on “TTAC News Round-up: The Chrysler 200 Was More Unpopular than Anyone Imagined...”

  • avatar

    Only a 21% variation on a single model?

    Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and auto sales.

    (pssss editors, delete that first one, it was some kind of computer hiccup. )

  • avatar

    A “less sophisticated” suspension for the Focus? Because that strategy worked so well for the Jetta?

    • 0 avatar

      It seems like automakers see a global model doing particularly well in the US, then they say “well the things in the car now are the things Americans don’t care about.”

      *Strips goodness from model.*

      “Here, don’t you like this thing which is not as good as the thing everyone else gets, Americans?”

      Don’t Jetta-sen the Focus.

    • 0 avatar

      It *did* work. Jetta sales increased quite a bit, despite the squealing of enthusiasts. the average car buyer couldn’t care less whether there was IRS or a twist beam back there so long as they like how the car rides.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I don’t know why they would get rid of the “Control Blade” rear suspension. It’s not a particularly expensive suspension set up.

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed; when folks brought their $50/mo Jetta S leases back, the #1 complaint was inadequate rear suspension NVH and wheel location control


      Nobody is buying the regular Focus for its multilink rear suspension. The people who care about that kind of stuff will buy the ST.

      That said, I had a diesel Focus wagon rental in France, and it was really nice. Loaded to the gills with navigation and various driving aids. Suspension dynamics were really good too… it really liked to rotate. But it would have been better with the right engine, which is why the ST exists.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t believe anyone was complaining about the price of the Focus. Everyone I know who has considered one eventually decided against it after a quick google of all the transmission issues with the DCT. The handling and quiet interior were the two things that everyone liked about the car!

    • 0 avatar

      Most people don’t know or car about rear suspension design. I want to like the current Focus, but I just don’t (I have an old one). The design wastes a lot of space, it’s just not as roomy as competitors. And, that herky jerky transmission needs to go. I don’t know why they didn’t ditch it at the latest refresh.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        They didn’t ditch the DCT because they already spent money on the project with Getrag. They aren’t going to throw more cash at a vehicle with declining sales that is going to be moving to a new plant by the end of the decade.

        • 0 avatar

          Ah the sunk cost fallacy.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            I agree with you that the transmission sucks. I even owned one.

            However, I can simplify my statement; Ford doesn’t care about small cars in the US.

            They didn’t replace the DCT with a different transmission because they don’t have one that’s cheap enough to build and they don’t care enough about small cars. They don’t have the complaints about the DCT in other markets. Ford decided to spend money on other things.

          • 0 avatar

            I’m not up on FoMoCo as much as most, but why is it that I keep hearing about FIST and FOST like they’re the second coming if their transmissions suck?

          • 0 avatar

            The praise those receive is as manuals, isn’t it?

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            The FiST and FoST do not have sucky transmissions because they are manual only. The problem is the dual clutch automatic that is the only automatic transmission option on the regular Fiesta and Focus.

          • 0 avatar

            It seems the death of the manual transaxle was greatly exaggerated :D

    • 0 avatar

      The GLI retained IRS. The change in other Jetta Models can be couched as way under the prospective consumers radar.

    • 0 avatar

      actually that POS Jetta sold very well. just goes too show what the American consumer is attuned to.

  • avatar

    Will the SEC enforce a fine on FCA for their stats fibbing? What’s the end result there?

  • avatar

    It sure appears the corporations capable of telling the truth are rapidly disappearing!

    Who thought that the Avenger, of all cars, would be missed? I will say one thing in its favor: The interior room wasn’t bad – a perfect rental car, and it bespoke of the squarish Dodge Darts of long ago.

  • avatar

    I wish Ford would cut costs in the Focus by replacing that godawful DCT with a conventional automatic. I would have bought one if that was possible; that mess of a transmission was a complete deal breaker for me.

    I would have also liked to buy a Mazda 3, but I see way too many late-model rustbuckets. They supposedly fixed that, but it’ll be a few more years before I trust them. Sucks that the two most fun-to-drive cars in the segment have fatal flaws.

  • avatar
    formula m

    Sergio’s first question when he took over in 2009 was “okay, so how do we fix/manipulate sh%t around here?”.
    Then he exploits what ever loopholes he can find and claims it was a problem that was inherited when they get caught.
    Standard operating procedure, second chapter in Sergio’s business book

  • avatar

    We got a call from the dealership we bought our Avenger from. They would give us way above KBB n the car if we traded on a new car. I told them they have no car we were interested in. The 200 isn’t sporty and the Dart is too small and we want to stay in a roughly mid-sized sedan. He then asked if we were maybe interested in a Jeep. Seriously?

    The guy did admit he was just marketing and didn’t really know what the lineup was. He didn’t even know what a sedan is. I would think that is part of their job to know what they are selling and what they are classed as.

    This is probably why the 200 doesn’t sell if the marketing guys lump them in the same class as with Jeeps.

    • 0 avatar

      Call him back and ask his specials on a V-4 200.

      Yes, I am lol, but there is this dealer that is SO damn ignorant, he uses “V-4” in all his compact/midsize sedan car ads, as well as claiming the rear-drive Infiniti crossover is the “performance and off-road” version of the (FWD) Murano.

  • avatar

    My Focus was a great car—except of course the PowerShud-d-d-er transmission. After renting a Mazda 3 for a week, I thought the Focus handled just as well. The Mazda did have a better transmission, for sure. I always thought 200 was a very handsome car. I wish it had sold better. American styling is to me much better than that of Japanese. My next car will probably be a Civic, but it still looks a little weird to me.

    • 0 avatar

      I too thought the 200 was/is a good looking car, too bad its a terrible one underneath.

      A friend (woman in her 80s) bought a new Focus hatch last year. I asked he how she liked it. She said she loved it over her previous Chevy Sonic sedan, but had nothing else to say. Yes, its an automatic, but she evidently had no complaints.

  • avatar

    Haven’t we been here before? In 2000 Ford gave Americans their great-driving (if unreliable) Euro Focus. In 2004 Europe got a new improved Focus, but Americans did not. In 2007 Europe got a newer improveder Focus, and Americans got a terrible re-hash of the existing car, appallingly cost-cut and execrably restyled. Oops, turns out people don’t just buy on price, not when Asian competitors exist!…so in 2011 Americans got the good “new” Euro Focus. (Which, as before, drove great and wasn’t reliable.)

    But at least the regrettable 2007 US model kept the original Euro chassis. If Ford is going to ditch the road manners to save a few bucks, they are going to have some unhappy customers. Whether they realize it or not, Ford is the new VW: people are paying a little more for their products than they would for the competition, and buying them even though Consumer Reports warns they’re going to break, *because they drive nicer.*

    Leave it to an American CEO to be totally oblivious to his own company’s competitive advantage, and eliminate it in a short-sighted attempt to cut costs.

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