The Chrysler 200 Is Truly, Officially Dead - FCA Has No Midsize Car
Consider the bucket kicked, the farm sold, the dust bitten. We have long been aware Sergio Marchionne was preparing a Chrysler 200-shaped coffin for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ remaining midsize sedan. On Friday, December 2, 2016, the lid of that coffin was slammed shut at FCA’s Sterling Heights, Michigan, assembly plant.
The Detroit News reported last week the Chrysler 200 is officially dead. Fortunately, the Sterling Heights plant lives on.
The 200’s Sebring predecessor was a 15-year-old nameplate with Mitsubishi connections before the third-generation Sebring took on numerical nomenclature in late 2010. Although the Sebring nameplate, weighted down by a dreadful reliability reputation and horrendous resale values, was left behind, the first 200 was very obviously a facelifted Sebring, which meant the new name wasn’t as clearly distinguished from the old name as Chrysler would have liked.
By the time Fiat Chrysler Automobiles launched an all-new midsize car, killing off the Dodge Avenger in the process, the leap forward from Sebring to 200 was wonderfully obvious. This was not the Chrysler Sebring you knew and didn’t love. This was an altogether different kind of effort.
But that didn’t matter to owners of Camrys, Accords, Altimas, Fusions, Malibus, and Sonatas. Those owners didn’t care if the new Chrysler 200 was better than the facelifted Sebring of 2011. They needed to know if the new 200, good-looking or not, was better than the car they already owned; better than the replacement for the car they owned.
In the new 200, rear seat comfort wasn’t up to par, limited by poor headroom and poor ingress. (Even FCA boss Sergio Marchionne has admitted to this fault, calling his own designers “dummies.”)
Concerns about the 200’s nine-speed automatic evident in early reviews carried through to poor real-world performance. The nine-speed, Consumer Reports says, “has proven to be a reliability albatross.”
Early sales results suggested those concerns were overmatched by the 200’s bright spots. To many eyes, the 2015 Chrysler 200’s exterior styling ranked among the class leaders. The interior design is attractive, UConnect is intuitive, there’s available all-wheel drive, and the optional engine is a beastly 295-horsepower V6. In the third-quarter of 2014, the arrival of the new 200 resulted in a 115-percent year-over-year U.S. sales improvement. In calendar year 2015, Chrysler 200 sales jumped 52 percent to 177,889 units.
That exceeded the total achieved by two FCA midsize cars in 2014, but it was well below previous Sebring/200/Avenger totals. Moreover, it was evident that in order to create such volume, FCA had to resort to significant incentivization. True demand for the 200 was made more apparent when FCA pulled back on those incentives at the tail end of 2015 and in early 2016. Over a three-month period between December of last year and February of this year, Chrysler reported only 20,376 sales of the 200, a massive 56-percent downturn.
After increasing 200 volume in 16 consecutive months beginning in July 2014, FCA’s U.S. dealers began a streak — now at 13 months — of year-over-year decline. At the end of January, it was reported that the Sterling Heights assembly plant would be shut down for six weeks. But the inventory backlog refused to be cleared out. And the plant shutdown was extended.
FCA has said in the past that it wants its dealers to have a compact and midsize car. (The 200’s demise, you’ll recall, goes hand in hand with the disappearance of the Dodge Dart, production of which ended in September.) We’ve showed you how FCA could get together with Mazda on a rebadged Mazda 3.
For the time being, dealers do have Chrysler 200s to sell. Cars.com shows 15,000 new 200s in stock, including 5,634 MY2017 models. Automotive News said there were nearly 19,000 200s in stock heading into November — Chrysler reported only 2,849 U.S. 200 sales in November.
The Dodge Dart’s death enables a move of the Jeep Cherokee to the Dart’s Belvidere, Illinois, assembly plant. The Cherokee’s departure from Toledo, Ohio, will open up space for more Jeep Wrangler capacity. The Chrysler 200’s discontinuation means the next Ram pickup’s production can move to the Sterling Heights, Michigan, factory while the outgoing model can continue at the current Warren, Michigan, plant prior to a Jeep incursion there, as well.
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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More will join it in the automotive has been graveyard. The midsized sedan market is shrinking fast, and marginal entrants will die first. How much longer can the Mazda 6 and Buick Regal carry on? Both are better vehicles than the 200, but their sales volumes are hardly worth the effort.
Chrysler is now the only major car maker without a midsize and small car lineup. Heck, even Kia has its own midsize and compact cars. Does this mean Chrysler is the world's worst carmaker? We all know their quality is just about the worst. Sergio is a fool. It is not going to end well for this guy.