Chrysler's Not Dead, It's Just Wounded

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
chryslers not dead its just wounded

Rampant speculation on the Chrysler brand’s demise was premature. During a Q&A session in Italy on Friday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne announced that the brand has a future, but it won’t be as big as it once was.

Already, the brand pales in comparison to even the recent past. In 2005, Chrysler sales in the United States topped 600,000 vehicles (we all remember those Sebrings), and the brand plateaued above 300,000 annual sales in the period spanning 2012 to 2015. Last year’s tally? Just over 188,000 sales — not surprising, given its lineup now consists of a single, aging large sedan and a modern minivan. U.S. sales are down 9 percent over the first five months of 2018.

Marchionne’s remarks proved an earlier Bloomberg report true: Chrysler will become a North American brand. And Fiat? Sorry, it doesn’t look like it’s going to work.

Speaking from the company’s Balocca proving grounds, Marchionne called rumors of Chrysler’s demise “nonsense.” The company’s five-year product plan, released earlier Friday morning, omitted any mention of Fiat, Chrysler, and Dodge because the company wants to focus on global brands and global goals, he said.

Given the public’s shift towards larger vehicles, Marchionne said the Fiat brand would get a makeover, positioning it closer to the higher end of the market, especially in Europe. It’s hard to make profits off mass-market small cars, Marchionne said, adding that the company needs to identify places “where Fiat can play best.” Those places include Latin America, where the brand has a long history. As for North America, Marchionne said he doesn’t think the brand can “make it.”

“The numbers won’t be big enough,” he added. Consider that a confirmation of Fiat’s eventual demise in North America. (Buyers are already helping it reach that goal.)

When and how the brand disappears remains to be seen.

“Chrysler is a different story,” Marchionne said. “Chrysler is going to continue to be relevant in the United States.” He referenced the Pacifica, which remains the only hybrid minivan on the domestic market, as one of the reasons why the brand has a future. At last check, there’s two crossovers bound for the Chrysler stable (midsize and large), but Friday’s plan revealed no updates on those vehicles.

In its bid for greater profitability, FCA’s global focus lies on Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati. That relegates Chrysler and Dodge (which garnered nary a mention on Friday, at least thus far) to North America. “I don’t expect, in my view, for Chrysler to become a global brand,” Marchionne said.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • MoparRocker74 MoparRocker74 on Jun 01, 2018

    I sure hope the 300 gets a second generation off the upcoming Charger/Challenger platform. These things are still selling 50K-ish each year steadily with virtually no marketing whatsoever, and theyre total profit generators. If FCA beancounters think that 300 buyers will move to the Charger or whatever CUV is close then theyd better think again. Ive spent time in all the LX cars. For a sedan that is good at being a big comfy freeway bomber with brawny style, presence, and performance you cant beat the 300. Back seat of those is workable for my 6'1 250lb frame. The Charger with its roofline...NOPE. The 300's best year of sales was larger than any other LX cars peak year. Chrysler should be hawking these with every bit as much enthusiasm as the Dodge variants. 14 year old platform or not...the LX's are the best cars for the money you can buy...PERIOD. Nothing else remotely compares. Theres a reason its a success and has only needed evolutionary updates.

    • Markmeup Markmeup on Jun 04, 2018

      Just wanted to chime in on what you had to say here on the 300... I think you are spot-on with your comments. As a 300S owner, when I was ready for my next new car and the 300 was gone, I absolutely would not move over to the Charger (in any form). Nor would I convert to a CUV or SUV. If not so impractical for me, I would consider a decked out Challenger. But, I still need to be able to load large things with the seats down, have rear doors and a use-able back seat & trunk. On those points, the Challenger cannot fill the shoes of the 300 in it's current form. And, although one might say, then you are describing a Charger... maybe so, but personally, I have several reasons why I would not buy/drive a Charger. Don't know where I would go from there, but hope that I don't have to face that decision because in 2/3 years, I'd like to order another new 300S.

  • Durask Durask on Jun 02, 2018

    Just keep it as a minivan brand, the new Chrysler hybrid minivan is excellent.

    • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Jun 03, 2018

      So an entire brand for just a single, somewhat niche product.

  • FreedMike It's not cheap, but 45 grand for a car with this kind of performance, equipment level and practicality isn't a bad deal at all. @Tim - I think you have the wrong transmission listed in the box above. The DSG is a seven-speed, not a six-speed.
  • FreedMike During my second year of college, I took my first French class, where I discovered that if you remove the "e" from "Citroen," you get the French word for "lemon." My family had a Citroen - an SM, no less. Completely appropriate. Nice logo or not, Stellantis is going to have an uphill battle reintroducing this brand - or any French brand, for that matter.
  • IBx1 It works better as an oval than a circle as it appears in the headline photo, but I generally dislike the 2D logos everyone in the industry is adopting and think badge looked great since '09.
  • Pbxtech I like it, but it's not an improvement. Lateral move at best.
  • Cprescott It is not a disaster like the 2024 Ford Mustake.
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