By on June 1, 2018

2018 Chrysler 300 Limited - Image: FCA

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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68 Comments on “Chrysler’s Not Dead, It’s Just Wounded...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “Tis only a flesh wound!”

  • avatar
    markmeup

    yea! my car lives on to see another day. and, I can order up one last new one in year or two before its gone/changed for good. thnx sergio!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “At last check, there’s two crossovers bound for the Chrysler stable (midsize and large)…”

    Oh, it’s TWO Chrysler crossovers now? Wasn’t one supposed to be coming out for 2019?

    Funny, no one seems to have a spy shot of that model yet, despite the fact that MY 2019 starts in what…five months?

    So, they’ve doubled the Chrysler CUV vapor story.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    My gut reaction is why not just give Chrysler some rebadged crossovers to plug some gaping holes in its lineup? However, when you think about it, Chrysler needs unique product. Most dealerships are going to sell Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep all in one stop. Any Jeeps rebadged as Chryslers are just going to cannibalize what are likely higher margin, more profitable Jeep sales.

    That isn’t to say they cannot use the same platform, but they really need to be unique products, not rebadges. Maintaining Jeep profits should and will take priority over saving Chrysler Brand’s meager sales. Even with the crossover craze in full swing, setting aside some development dollars for a midsize and large Chrysler badged crossover doesn’t seem all that promising considering there are already more than half a dozen SUV’s, Crossovers to choose from on the same dealer lot.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I think you just made a really good case for Chrysler’s eventual death.

      It’d have been easy to make some Chrysler CUVs, in sizes extra-small, small, medium and large. The company has the platforms. But they haven’t, and the reason, I think, is exactly what you speak to above – the Chrysler models would steal Jeep sales from the same dealership.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      If Chrysler can make more money per vehicle with fewer sales than Jeep crossovers, that would be ideal.

      Say, Jeep clears (totally random number, I have no clue what their margins are) $1400 on every Cherokee, but the higher equipped Chrysler makes $2200. The Jeep sells 150k units and Chrysler sells 75k. Win for all. The Chrysler can be the Acura or Lincoln or whatever you call it to the volume brand.

      I realize that Chrysler has even less perceived value than Lincoln or Acura, due to all the more mainstream models they’ve produced over the past decades (200, PT Cruiser, lesser equipped Town and Country along with Voyager for a period), but the only thing that can change that is product. Better product rights the ship. Only thing to do is to do it.

      No, I don’t think Chrysler needs a bunch of FWD cars. The 300 (current model) should be replaced with an equally large and RWD sedan. A Pacifica-based sedan would be fruitless, IMO. It would end up another fleet-heavy, money losing also-ran. Don’t waste the 300’s goodness on a Concorde remake.

      As far as another (smaller) car, I doubt it would actually work, but a slightly down-market Giulia would be nice. Standard Pentastar, for example. A Kia Stinger-like value sporty car. What the 200 shoulda been: A smaller 300 with more of a flair in driving dynamics.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Until I actually see new product on the showroom floor I’ll assume both Dodge and Chrysler are set to expire around 2022.

  • avatar
    Fred

    They have a Chrysler/Dodge/Ram/Jeep dealershp here, that looks like it’s in business, but actually it’s used as a storage lot for a Sacramento area dealer. All the signage is there, online comments complain that they don’t answer the phone and the doors are locked. Really they need to clean it up, because all it does is create animosity to the brand.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    So why nothing in this article about FCA’s now pretty robust new financials?

    The same news reports you cribbed the article from go into some depth on the financial side, but nary a mention here.

    Healey was going on about journalism yesterday, so how about giving us some? Practice what you preach. “Wounded”? How?

    Never owned any Chrysler or Fiat, don’t intend to, but fair is fair. This article reeks of FCA’s desperation from two years ago, rather than what the current situation is. Even the headline is the usual risible TTAC clickbait.

    http://europe.autonews.com/article/20180601/ANE/180609985?template=mobile02&X-IgnoreUserAgent=1

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    As yet, I haven’t seen the whole of their five-year plan; only clips of it. Even so, we must remember that the Chrysler brand itself was the luxury marque of the Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge group. As such, we cannot assume the Chrysler brand as such will be shut down. Rather, I expect they will develop new platform sharing with Maserati and maybe Alfa to offer up-scale models while Dodge becomes more the mass-market brand, as it always has.

    That said, it is my opinion that Fiat made its biggest US mistake by focusing on the 500 alone, along with the later derivatives, rather than offering a broader product line. Honestly, my wife wanted an on/off-roader patterned more on the Fiat Panda while I want a pickup patterned more on the Strada. After all, mass market is supposed to mean “affordable” as well as desirable and while the existing Fiat models are affordable, their style is too niche for the general American market. The Panda and Strada would have been better fits, especially for those who want smaller without being “cute”. The 500 and even the 500 Abarth are too “cutesy” for us “rough, tough, Americans.”

    This, I believe, is Sergio’s biggest mistake in bringing Fiat back to the States… he chose the image cars and effectively ignored the practical ones.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Chrysler stopped being seen as a true luxury marque sometime during the K car era (which saved the company but muddied the brands). It’s laughable to think they can realistically get to a point where they would be taken seriously as one. See the struggles of Cadillac and Lincoln, which despite their issues still have and had a more premium reputation than Chrysler for several decades now.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The K-car Imperial didn’t do it for you?

        • 0 avatar
          Mandalorian

          This. The Chrysler brand hasn’t been a luxury marque since the Carter Administration. At best, they’ve been in the same space as Mercury/Oldsmobile/Acura/Volvo.

          Having poverty-spec base models with cloth seats, manual climate controls, and 2-speaker audio systems didn’t do them any good over the last 2 decades either. They’re not Plymouth, after all.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Mandalorian, well put put man.

            Every time I see a Chrysler with wheel covers, its like pathetic. That should be a Plymouth or Dodge at the very least. Hell, Mercury was quite a bit more premium than Chrysler was at the time of its demise. Your average Milan was pretty well equipped compared to the 80 rental-spec Sebrings you saw everyday. A 2.7L in the 300? Terrible. Not just because of its reputation, but because it was specifically intended, and sold as, a rental fleet car. The 300’s reputation is decent now, they can build on it IMO, but just an example of past poisoning of the brand.

            Now that the FWD cars are gone, the old Town and Country is gone, the more premium Pacifica is successful, the 300 is doing decent despite its age, this is the time to try to claw back to something more than a mainstream/value brand. I say go for North America and China, they’re close enough in product that it can work. Screw the rest (for the Chrysler brand).

        • 0 avatar
          markmeup

          “The K-car Imperial didn’t do it for you?” < bwwahaha!

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            They probably lost the plot when their cars insisted upon telling you that a door was a jar! :-D

      • 0 avatar

        I recall my Grandfather had a Chrysler New Yorker, a massive brown barge with a 440. Real Leather, a/c stolen from a meat cooler (back when AC was a fancy option, not standard equipment in a Yaris). He bought this because “Imperials stopped being hand-built”. Nothing in the Chryco portfolio challenges Ze Chermans, Cadillac, or even Lincoln. FCA makes Jeeps, Trucks, Fiat 500’s and an endless variant of the 300’s, and that car’s been around since Damiler Benz….

  • avatar
    whynot

    I do like the spin that chrysler/fiat were omitted earlier because that announcement was focused on global brands and global goals. Just ignore the fact that Ram is not a global brand and that is unlikely to change all that much.

    • 0 avatar

      Looking at the slides the seem to indicate offering the RAM 1500 and the new metric ton truck in several world markets Have to see how that goes.

      • 0 avatar

        Looks like they will have Ram’s in South America, North America, Middle East parts of Europe and Austrailia.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          They do have Ram those places, I believe. No, it isn’t the Ram full size truck, its rebadged Fiat and Mitsubishi trucks. With more global products, they could do decently, but no, their market is limited to trucks/commercial vehicles. They can’t do SUVs because that’s Jeep.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            @Mopar4wd

            I wasn’t disputing what you said about offering the 1500 there in the future, just adding what it is as a brand there, currently. I realize it could be taken the other way by how I worded it, so I wanted to clarify.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I know that if you look for media stories during the 2-4 years before Plymouth, Mercury, and Oldsmobile were shut down you would find all kinds of statements from top management saying they had great plans to rebuild the brand and that rumors of its demise were fake news…

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      That’s true. The redesigned Milan (sold for 1 whole year) was to define the styling for future products for the brand. Yeah it did.

      Hindsight: go way back and give the original PT Cruiser to Plymouth as it was supposed to be, meanwhile design the Falcon as a replacement for Sable + Grand Marquis, later with Territory to replace Mountaineer. Just dreamin’ lol. Might’ve saved em all. Who knows.

  • avatar
    SixspeedSi

    I’ll believe it when I see Chrysler actually coming out with new vehicles besides the Pacifica and forever refreshed 300 (although both good products). I worked at a CDJR dealership a few months after college and do some consulting work currently and it’s hard to see a future for Chrysler. They see SUVs are coming, but is that true and actually a good idea? You could try to brush them off as “upscale”, but Jeep is already decent at doing that (i.e Overland). I just don’t see people coming in and buying a Chrysler SUV, when they’re sharing a showroom with Jeep products. Men and Women both love Jeep products from Renegade (sold a few to enthusiastic late 20’s men) to Wranglers.

    So really, where does that leave Chrysler if even SUVs will fail them? I mean you could certainly try selling them alongside Jeep, but why? As much as the Sweater wants to sell us that Chrysler has a future, I just don’t see it. It’s a damaged brand with nowhere else to go but down.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Marchionne doesn’t need to “kill” Chrysler formally. The free market is doing it for him.

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      I don’t see how you can come to that conclusion. The loss of volume coincides the loss of models, but in the two segments it still participates in Chrysler is at or near the top of the food chain.

      http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2018/04/minivan-sales-in-america-march-2018/

      http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2018/04/large-car-sales-in-america-march-2018/

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        ^this

        Not selling 200k rental Sebrings a year isn’t killing them, its what stopped the brand value from draining so fast. I believe they have nowhere to go but up, if they get the damn product.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      188,000 – not including the identical models sold with other badges on them – is a huge number by the standards of any auto market outside of USA.

  • avatar
    NoID

    My evil plan to kill the cheerleader (Fiat), save the world (Chrysler):

    Fiat 500 –> Dodge Omni (Abarth –> SRT)
    Fiat 124 Spider –> Dodge Razor (Abarth –> SRT)
    Fiat 500X –> Chrysler Alpine
    Fiat 500L/500L Wagon –> Chrysler Voyager / Grand Voyager

    Naturally they’d all need to be restyled, especially the 500L, which would need to become less of a rolling ectopic pregnancy and something more akin to the recent spate of CUV-in-name-only hatchbacks that have been popping up lately.) But given the national network and inevitable cross-shopping that true access to the JDCR dealer network would afford, I see these doing well enough to begin building an actual brand again. The Chrysler flavors of these cars would need more technology and luxury-lite, squares with Fiat’s upmarket aspirations anyways.

    The 500/Omni is probably the hardest sell, but if you’re building the car anyways for NAFTA consumption (Mexico) and LATAM production, why not keep it homologated for the USA and make a little extra money?

    Sergio…please make it happen!

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      I mixed myself up in the original reply. Should have been NAFTA production (currently built in Toluca, Mexico) and LATAM consumption (sells fairly well in South America.)

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      That’s really not a bad lineup!

      Maybe get a Montana pickup truck in there too, as the RAM(!) 50 or something similar…

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Montana is a Chevy, you mean the Ram 700?

        https://www.ram.com.mx/700/2018/

        I also like the rebadged Mitsubishi Triton as the Ram 1200 in the Middle East: http://www.mideast.ramtrucks.com/model/ram1200

        If Mitsubishi wasn’t gobbled up by Nissan, FCA and they could have collaborated on a next gen midsize truck for Ram and Mitsubishi brands, sold in the U.S. as well as globally.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      You could always add the Dodge Hornet to the mix.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Nice! Only changes I’d make:

      Nix Omni, just name it the GLH, make all turbos like now. Give it some inset round headlights, a deep crosshair grille, make it less cute and more “Challenger’s little brother,” but not over the top.

      500L/500X is combined, goes to Dodge.

      If the Chinese Jeep Grand Commander can be made suitable for the brand and market (I don’t know how roomy it is, or the quality of its interior), it could be the Grand Voyager to the rebadged-Cherokee (restyled, better-equipped) Chrysler Voyager.

      The Grand Commander could also replace the Journey (in all but name) as a value version.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    With Fiat dying in the US, and Chrysler long dead in Europe, maybe rebadge them as each other for their respective markets? I can see a “Fiat Pacifica”, I think a “Fiat 300” (under some other name, lest it collide with the Fiat 500 moniker) might at least hurt car persons’ souls less than the previous effort to sell it as a Lancia (because we cared for Lancia, whereas Fiat is just … well … Fiat), and I don’t see how a “Chrysler Tipo” or even “Chrysler Panda” might hurt Chrysler — what little there is left to hurt.

    As for Fiat moving upmarket … yeah, right. Fiat in Europe is known for the 500, for cheap small-to-midsize cars, and above all for light commercials. In other words, the precise opposite of upmarket. Leave upmarket to Alfa and Maserati, I say. Nothing good can come of that idea.

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      Worked for Buick / Opel (right up until it didn’t anymore…)

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Renaming and rebranding solves marketing problems. At core however, I believe the real problem lies in the product itself, much less the marketing.

      The products offered by Fiat/Chrysler are viewed by many potential buyers as being inferior quality compared to their competitors. As such, they can only shift on price…which is NEVER a wise strategy when production is confined to high-cost nations.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Renaming and rebranding solves marketing problems. At core however, I believe the real problem lies in the product itself, much less the marketing.

      I believe the products offered by Fiat/Chrysler are viewed by many potential buyers as being of inferior quality compared to their competitors. As such, they can only be sold on the basis of a low price…which is NEVER a wise strategy when production is confined to high-cost nations.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I don’t know, I think Chrysler has a chance to be something better than a value brand.

      The Dodge Neon is already on sale in Mexico (rebadged Fiat Tipo). I think it would at least need a more suitable engine before being sold as a Dodge here. It might be too cheap even for (American) Dodge. It would be a cheap car to dump in fleets and for entry-level buyers who can’t get into a Renegade. It might would work as a Dodge.

      Chrysler needs to build on the Pacifica’s more upmarket appeal and as memories of Sebring/200 rentals fade, they can recover. They just need product, and not Turkish Fiats.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Some of the reviews of the Tipo I’ve seen give it fairly decent marks. However, just being a decent car won’t cut it in our market, although, I’d be happy with the spiritual successor to my K-car based Dodge Lancer.

        The whole idea of Fiat in the USDM was supposed to be the anti-MINI, or maybe the cut rate MINI? With that in mind, cars like the Tipo or the Panda (also because Jeep) weren’t going to be marketed here.

        I have to believe that there’s a group of people who would be happy to get into a relatively inexpensive car (and wagon) and don’t necessarily want a Japanese or Korean small car.

        But, they have few choices.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Keep in mind, the Tipo was probably being reviewed with other 3rd world competitors in mind. This is not a world class car like the VW Golf or Honda Civic.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    Okay, FIAT is dead. I have a serious question though: should I buy Fiata/124 before it’s gone forever? Because of it’s size, I cannot possibly heel-toe (not even with sides of the foot). So, I was thinking about an automatic, I heard some good things about it. I took one for a short drive at a car show, it seemed okay.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      If you have confidence in Fiat drivetrains, why not?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Having now owned two different Fiat drivetrains, I have confidence in them. Yes, you do need to learn them and with the automatic you need to give it time to learn YOU–or rather, your shifting habits. After that, there’s no problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      If it’s the same 6-speed automatic that they have in the Abarth, then you should be good to go. With the lever in Manual mode, you get shifting similar to (but not quite) true manual shifting, lacking only the third pedal. It won’t let you over-rev the engine when downshifting, however, and if you’re revved too low to upshift, it will refuse to shift. But as long as you work in the power band, it’s as sharp and nearly as controllable as you could ask for.

      Driving the automatic in some steep up-and-down country through southern PA, downshifting for the climb keeps you moving quite spritely and can help you control those descents without riding the brakes. In the 500, (and related) if you can get the revs below 2K, the engine can actually help keep your speed down.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        The cruise control in my parent’s Taurus does that (keeps your speed using lower gears on downgrades), go up and down a mountain at precise 70 MPH (as corners allow of course, but at some passes, no input was required). We’ve done it when my dad and I drove it out west (its made the trip several times but I only went once in it). Pass the slow Camry going up, let him zoom by (before stabbing the brakes for a corner) on the way down, with nary a touch of the pedal.

        Perhaps many, or maybe all, modern cruise systems can do that, I just thought it was pretty cool.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      markmeup

      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.

  • avatar
    Durask

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

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