Fiat Chrysler Automobiles wants to grow its dealer network by 380 new stores in a bid to improve its dwindling market share. The plan isn’t going over so well with the company’s existing dealers, however. As the strategy could potentially threaten their present businesses, some of those dealerships are putting up a fight over the issue.
The choice to expand comes at a difficult time. Sales locations aren’t doing the best and suffering through a diluted and unpopular product lineup while the automaker shifts its focus away from cars to the more-popular SUVS and trucks. FCA sales have been on the decline for almost six months and the company’s slice of the U.S. market fell to 12 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared to 13.6 percent in the same period of 2015. The expansion decision also goes against the advice of FCA’s dealership location consultant, Urban Science.
At Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, this much we know: 72 consecutive months of year-over-year U.S. growth, a market share increase in the United States from 9.4 percent to 12.8 percent between 2010 and 2015, routine record-setting U.S. sales performances at Jeep, and an overarching “light truck” division that now produces more than four out of every five U.S. sales for the automaker.
Chapter 11 reorganization was undoubtedly a painful process — bankruptcy isn’t supposed to tickle. And because of reliability woes, frequent Alfa Romeo delays, and poor passenger car demand, there are serious doubts about the automaker’s long-term plans.
Yet only a few quick glances at an FCA U.S. monthly sales report are necessary for observers to replace concerns with applause, at least in the here and now. The rate of growth is staggering. The U.S. auto industry grew its volume by 37 percent between 2011 and 2015, a period during which FCA — and formerly the Chrysler Group — grew 64 percent.
Not surprisingly, one of only a couple automakers with an SUV-only auto brand is enjoying record sales at that SUV brand in an era of booming utility vehicle sales.
At this stage in 2013, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles/Chrysler Group was selling more cars in the United States than SUVs and crossovers. Those figures flipped one year later and became even more disparate in the first-quarter of 2015.
What do 58 consecutive months of year-over-year U.S. sales improvement look like? The accompanying chart is one way of looking at it. Ever since May 2010, Ram P/U sales have been on the rise. Most recently, this translated to a 24% year-over-year increase in calendar year 2014, a 14% jump in January 2015, and a 7% improvement last month.
Often criticized for its poor performance in North American markets, the Dodge Dart has performed significantly better over the last five months, a period in which its midsize sibling, Dodge’s Avenger, gradually disappeared.
After generating nearly 50,000 U.S. sales in the first three-quarters of 2014, the discontinued Avenger dried up at the end of the year, generating only 2342 sales in the fourth-quarter and 461 in the first two months of 2015. The clear-out of deeply discounted, V6-engined, midsize cars from the Dodge portfolio opened up an opportunity for the Dart.
The Chrysler Group reported the Dodge Dart’s best-ever sales month in November 2014 as year-over-year volume jumped 39% to 9012 units.
This was the first time Dart volume climbed beyond 9000 units in a single month. The previous top month for this modern incarnation of the Dart was May of this year, when 8644 were sold.
Yet at best, a best-ever month from the Dart still represents nothing more than a mid-pack performance.
In each of the last three months, the Cherokee has been the best-selling model at America’s fastest-growing volume brand. Jeep sales are up 44% in the United States through the first eleven months of 2014, an improvement of 191,895 units.
Excluding the Cherokee, which wasn’t on sale until the fourth-quarter of 2013, Jeep sales are still up 10% in 2014 and 15% in November. Those Cherokee-less increases still far outpace the auto industry as a whole, which is up a little more than 5% this year; a little less than 5% in November.
Yet even before Jeep once again broadens its lineup with the subcompact Renegade, the Cherokee helped power the brand to new heights. The Jeep brand last topped the 500,000 mark in calendar year 1999. Jeep sold 629,074 utility vehicles during the first eleven months of 2014.
Were you hoping to have a red Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT or Dodge Durango Ron Burgundy Edition in your driveway in time for Christmas? You may have to try your luck on the lot, as new orders will be painted black, white, gray and silver all over for the next few months.
In October 2014, for the first time since March of this year, the Chrysler Group outsold all other automobile manufacturers in Canada.
The margins were slim: only 259 units separated Chrysler Group’s five brands from the Ford Motor Compan y; only 301 stood between the Chrysler Group and General Motors. But these are celebratory moments for an automaker which owns 15.6% of the Canadian market. Chrysler Group’s market share in its “home” U.S. market stands at 12.6% through the first ten months of 2014.
Canada’s best-selling midsize car? The Chrysler 200.
At least, that was the case in October 2014, a month in which sales of the 200 jumped 120% to 1800 units. Even with the near-disappearance of the Dodge Avenger, the fraternal twin of the new 200’s predecessor, Chrysler Canada midsize car sales grew 64% last month.
Odd as this may sound for U.S. observers, it’s not completely out of the blue in Canada. Nor did we arrive at this point without an explanation.
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- Dusterdude @SCE to AUX , agree CEO pay would equate to a nominal amount if split amongst all UAW members . My point was optics are bad , both total compensation and % increases . IE for example if Mary Barra was paid $10 million including merit bonuses , is that really underpaid ?
- ToolGuy "At risk of oversimplification, a heat pump takes ambient air, compresses it, and then uses the condenser’s heat to warm up the air it just grabbed from outside."• This description seems fairly dramatically wrong to me.
- SCE to AUX The UAW may win the battle, but it will lose the war.The mfrs will never agree to job protections, and production outsourcing will match any pay increases won by the union.With most US market cars not produced by Detroit, how many people really care about this strike?
- El scotto My iPhone gets too hot while using the wireless charging in my BMW. One more line on why someone is a dumbazz list?
- Buickman yeah, get Ron Fellows each time I get a Vette. screw Caddy.