QOTD: What Should Happen to Chrysler and Dodge?

qotd what should happen to chrysler and dodge

Stellantis leadership is going to have some tough decisions to make in regard to Chrysler and Dodge. While both brands are a shadow of their former selves, Fiat Chrysler viewed their rightsizing as more of a distillation process. Despite lacking the full complement of vehicles necessary to occupy every segment, the two have the oversized American sedan segment almost entirely to themselves. In fact, their more-is-more ethos is becoming increasingly rare within the overall industry and (allegedly) at odds with the coming age. We’ve been told the only way to continue playing is through powertrain downsizing and electrification. The V8 is becoming taboo, reserved for the incognito browser.

What will your neighbors think when they learned you bought a Hemi? The jokes about the size of your member for needing such a big car with such a big motor will perpetually have you on edge and peering over a shoulder. You’ll be a fugitive inside your own mind, forever teetering on the brink. What if your alarmingly massive penis is actually as demure as your bother’s wife suggested when you brought the car to the last family dinner? Wouldn’t it be easier if we all just drove bland crossovers with modestly sized motors? Why do you have to be so different?

These are the kinds of harrowing questions we wouldn’t need to ask ourselves in the aftermath of a midnight screaming fit if Dodge and Chrysler stopped existing. Stellantis has that power … and it may even be considering that possibility right now. But is that really what’s best?

Obviously, your author’s take is a flailing-and-frothing no. Dodge and Chrysler are two of the only brands still producing vehicles from some of my favorite segments. If you want a comfortable, tire-shredding, V8 powered coupe with a backseat that’s actually useful, you literally have to buy a Dodge. If you want an honest-to-god minivan, Chrysler has you covered. Interested in big, burly sedans or a grotesquely overpowered SUV? Your chariot awaits.

But the Pacifica, Challenger, Charger, and 300 weren’t FCA’s biggest sellers — even though they happen to be the models that define their respective brands — and the associated nameplates may not be viewed as essential. Stellantis came into being because Groupe PSA wanted to use the merger to gain direct access to Ram and Jeep. This was made abundantly clear when Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares explained the company’s future trajectory at the Auburn Hills Technology Center on Wednesday.

“We expect pickups and SUVs to be developed in the Auburn Hills,” Tavares said during a tour of the Michigan manufacturing complex. The Detroit Free Press noted that the focus on certain vehicle types came at the expense of others when it recounted the moment, however.

From Freep:

That’s the most important thing for the U.S. role in the newly created Stellantis. By engineering and building many of the company’s most profitable and best-selling vehicles, Auburn Hills, and thereby Detroit, is assured a significant voice in investment, management and corporate strategy for what just became the biggest car company in town.

Just as they did under FCA, DaimlerChrysler and when Chrysler was independent, sales of Jeeps and pickups will determine Auburn Hills’ fate, and the company’s role in Michigan and America’s economies.

That doesn’t make the 300, Pacifica, Charger and Challenger disposable, though.

It would be irresponsible not to play devil’s advocate against myself. As easy as it is to rationalize the comparative bargains offered through the purchase of a Chrysler 300 or Dodge Charger, they’re not going to be a great fit for everyone. Bland as it may be, the Honda Accord is a solid performer starting a few thousand lower. Its base engine may be 100 horsepower shy of a V6-equipped, vanilla Dodge but it’s an otherwise good vehicle, providing an excellent user experience for anyone in need of reliable transportation. But the Accord has loads of direct competition whereas formerly FCA products exist in a category that’s kind of their own and becomes truly unique once you start optioning them with their famously large powertrains — with V8 outputs ranging between 372 and 807 horsepower.

But that doesn’t make them sustainable products. Dodge and Chrysler are catering to a decidedly American niche that its new French owners might not appreciate. Meanwhile, regulatory issues will continue making large, powerful automobiles increasingly troublesome to manufacture. It’s kind of hard to envision either brand going unaltered in the years ahead.

On a positive note for Mopar fans, Freep at least seemed to understand that FCA’s “lesser” brands held some innate spiritual value. Tavares has likewise hinted that Stellantis had an appetite for marques that weren’t exactly catering to mainstream tastes. He has even spoken kindly about Chrysler and noted the company is “very keen on supporting a Chrysler brand rebound.” Earlier rumors suggested Stellantis might attempt to take Chrysler upmarket, possibly as a way to funnel European luxury vehicles into North America. But there hasn’t been much talk about retaining Dodge’s focus on value, performance, and attitude — making us think it’s the brand we’re most likely to lose.

Is that hunky-dory or would you rather see the new automotive conglomerate take a different approach to the former FCA properties? What would you have done as CEO?

[Images: FCA/Stellantis]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 14, 2021

    The only way Dodge survives is to expanded their lineup to crossovers and suvs.

  • Rw33 Rw33 on Feb 16, 2021

    My opinion... For Dodge, move the Charger and Challenger to a new platform. It needs to be lighter and adaptable for batteries. The Alfa platform would be appropriate but not for huge V8s as has been said. Sadly the V8 is on the way out and I think they're milking it as long as they can with the current platform. Next, a 2row crossover that directly goes against the Chevy Blazer and Ford's "Mustang" electric cuv. I don't know if it's worth having a new Durango with the Grand Cherokee L. Lastly, bring back the Caravan (not grand). Euro platform, battery capable and foreign market friendly. Plenty of ways to make a minivan sporty for those who have to bite the bullet and get one. For Chrysler, stay the course with the Pacifica. Drop the Voyager but apply the name to a 3row crossover. The 300 either can be a new version on the platform for the new Charger. Or it comes back as Chrysler's electric flagship with the same buzz it had in 2005. Finally, bring the Portal concept to reality. Those are my hopes but we'll see what actually happens.

  • Master Baiter The D-bag elites like Al Gore demanding that we all switch to EVs are the type of people who don't actually drive. They get chauffeured around in black Yukon Denalis. Tesla does have a good charging network--maybe someday they will produce a car that doesn't suck.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird As a Challenger GT awd owner I lIke it’s heritage inspired styling a lot. There’s a lot of 66-67 as well as 68-70 Charger in there. It’s refreshing that it doesn’t look like a blob like Tesla, Volt/Bolt, Mach-e BMW I whatever etc. The fact that it’s a hatch makes it even better as a everyday driver thus eliminating the need for a CUV. If it’s well built and has a reliable track record I can see trading up to it in a few years.
  • Jbawden I thought sedans were dead? Coupes even more so. The core Charger/Challenger buyer is in it for the Hemi. To whom is this and the presumed EV Camaro marketed to? The ICE versions of these cars have a LOT of shortcomings, but rear drive, a V8, and a Tremec 6 speed made all that disappear. If you're forcing me into a 1,000hp appliance, then give me some visibility and practicality while your at it. And for the love of all things holy, please allow me to maintain a little dignity by leaving off the ridiculous space jam sound effects. What out of touch focus group think approved that? It's almost as embarrassing as the guy who signed off on the Pontiac Aztec.
  • Jalop1991 The simple fact is, America and Americans excel at building complex things (bridges, for example) but absolutely SUCK at maintaining them. We're too busy moving on to the next new shiny thing that a politician can get good airtime for. Fixing the bridge? Not sexy. Cutting the ribbon at a new EV charge site? Photo-op worthy. Demanding that the owner of said charging site be accountable and not let his site become the EV equivalent of a slum? Hard and not a newsworthy event.I have a PHEV and once tried some sort of public charging, just to see what happens. Failed miserably. We'd all be riding horses today if gas stations performed like EV charge stations do.
  • SCE to AUX Apps like PlugShare prove a few points:[list][*]Tesla's charging network is the best, almost always earning a 10/10.[/*][*]Dealer chargers are the worst, often blocked (ICE'd) or inaccessible behind a locked gate.[/*][*]Electrify America chargers aren't bad; my few experiences with them have been quite good. But they are also very new.[/*][*]Calling the help line is nearly useless.[/*][*]There are still charging gaps in high-travel flyover areas, which coincidentally have a lot of "Trump" flags waving in them.[/*][/list]As an EV driver and engineer, I don't understand how public chargers get so screwed up. They are simple devices. My home charger is 10 years old and has never missed a beat, but it only gets one cycle a day and lives indoors.