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Chrysler's 4 cylinder Cars Lagging Market

Posted by: David Kiley on August 13, 2008

There is a rush for smaller vehicles with four-cylinder engines. And Chrysler should be racking up big gains.

Bt when you look at July sales, the Dodge Caliber was down 4%, and is off 20% on the year. The Jeep Patriot was up 4% and is selling well. And the Compass was down 46% in July and down 20% on the year.

Some of this is due to a decline in fleet sales, and it doesn’t take into account Chrysler’s exports of these cars to other markets. But the group is still under-performing trend in the U.S., especially if you consider the interest people supposedly have now in smaller vehicles with lots of utility like these.

Vice chairman Tom Lasorda says the cars have lagged for lack of marketing support. “You should talk to [vice chairman] Jim Press about that,” Lasorda said with a laugh at the Center for Auto Research Management Seminar in Traverse City, MI today. Press is in charge of sales and marketing at Chrysler whereas Lasorda, the former COO, is in charge of the manufacturing side of things and forging global joint ventures.

Reader Comments


August 13, 2008 1:11 PM

Sad commentary on our times. That's a bad sign when a company is showing downward sales numbers for a 4 cylinder vehicle in face of $4.00/gal. gas. Other competitors are adding shifts to factories that make small cars, switching SUV factories into small car factories, and selling every small car they can make. It is practically shameful the way Chrysler Corp. was mishandled under Diamler (mis)leadership.

I have always rooted for Chrysler, but these days I worry more and more that the Chrysler triumvirate (Nardelli/Press/LaSorda) will not be able to save this sinking ship.

dusan maletic

August 13, 2008 3:03 PM

There is an interest in smaller cars but the customers have learned their lessons. We check the specs and the competition. Perfect example: PT Cruiser. Fun and utilitarian relatively small car. Public interested in the "Prius and friends" would find it very interesting. But for the engine: weak AND inefficient. How can you excuse 24mpg with 150hp on a such small car? (My much larger Subaru Outback beats it both in power and economy.) Where is at least efficient gasoline engine or better yet 45+mpg diesel or hybrid?


August 14, 2008 4:48 AM

Lasorda is laughing while Chrysler is dying. Perhaps he has golden parachutes and a big 7 digit big salary. But for the auto workers toiling away at Chrysler assembly plants, there's nothing to laugh about. With reduced wages, hours, and benefits, the new younger auto workers are under siege while the retired ones worry if their health package will expire. Chrysler has the greatest percentage of its product produced or assembled in Mexico than Ford or GM. For the average working American, that's nothing to laugh about. As to 4cyl engines, Chrysler has never been a champion of 4cyl engines. There was a span of at least 50 years where Chrysler's smallest engine was the venerable 183CID slant-6. During the 70's oil embargo, Chrysler had to re-badge 4cyl cars from Mitsubishi: Plymouth Arrow, a 4cyl with counter-silent shaft, about the size of a Honda Civic. Refusing to design newer engines, Chrysler merely piled on the smog mitigation devices on top of existing engines such as 318CID and 440CID until the burden destroyed engine reliability and car owners revolted. Under CEO Townsend, who knew how to count beans but not overhead cam, Chrysler met its fateful end. Even under Mr. Iaoca(sic)Chrysler failed to keep up with engine technology of its competitors. It is no wonder that until just recently while its competitors offered OHC, and DOHC with 3 or 4 valves per cylinder with variable cam and valve and computer engine controls, Chrysler had nothing even close to show for. In face of such embarassment, what is Chrysler to do? For years Chrysler's effort to save face involves pushing bigger displacement, ie CID, and touting the benefit of hemi engines which is nothing but an ancient OHV, push rod engine. If car buyers didn't see the real value of big engine Chrysler cars then will Mr. Nardelli's $2.99 gas scheme certainly turn the tide? Consumers didn't fall for the marketing ploy and Chrysler sales plummet. Who's the fool? The only free gas is from Nardelli's behind. And Lasorda is laughing. And Jim Press is expected to market old garbage. The clowns at Chrysler make those at GM look like geniuses with one exception: GM's Wellburn could not have designed the 300C if his job depended on it and Chrysler would not have designed the Aztek if Wellburn life depended on it.

Rob in Madrid

August 14, 2008 8:46 AM

Personally I'm currious to see if the trent to small cars will continue if oil prices continue to trend down. We won't see cheap gas again but we may see semi cheap oil for a few short years.


August 14, 2008 7:56 PM

Chrysler is making major imporvments on all their current models. Look for brand new interiors in the compass, Patroit, And caliber this fall. Also they are making more compacts, and increasing the fuel economy of all the models. Look at the Brand new Ram truck, it has a beautiful interior, new suspension, andmany new features that aren't offered on any other trucks. Also Chrysler dropped the price by 1000 dollars, and the fuel mileage is 20% better than the previous RAM. Chrysler is making the changes that need to be done. It takes some time, but the New Chrysler is on their way. Buy American, and support American workers!


August 14, 2008 10:00 PM

Unfortunately, a number of people who have owned Chrysler products with 4 cylinder engines have memories of how awful they have been, and aren't eager to repeat the experience. We had 1989, 1991, and 1997 4 cylinder Chrysler cars in our family, and each one blew its head gasket (the 1991 did it twice). The 1997 model also leaked oil so badly our garage floor had to be covered with cardboard to catch the drips when the engine was shut off. No more Chrysler products for us...


August 17, 2008 4:49 PM

Why don't the executives drive their small cars for a month. Then, drive the highest selling competitors car for a month.
Maybe this will help open their eyes to the difference.
After they drive em, they should take them apart one by one. Side by side comparison.


August 28, 2008 8:54 PM

To Mike, why weren't they doing it 20 years ago? or 2? Lazy, Greedy, Executives more concerned with paycheck than product. If they'd done a proper job on the caliber/compass/patriot in the first place, the stuff would be rolling out the door. I sympathize(to a point) with the troubles Daimler caused with its short term view of Chrysler, but it's been a year now, folks. How about some product announcements for the future and some real ideas for change in the business model. I would love to buy a chrysler/ dodge /jeep, but they killed everything I like.(Magnum, Pacifica, Crossfire)Try to find a good used Magnum, scarce as hens teeth up north! Maybe they should build a few more1


September 1, 2008 1:24 AM

I have driven the new Sebring and and Avenger with 4 cyls they seem run very nice with good pick-up and they get 28 mpgs average.

Allie .R.

September 18, 2008 8:59 PM

hello ,
my name is Allie and i am turning 16 in about a year and i am realy shopping for my first car =] and my mom says i can only have a 4 cylinder and it has to be used and made in the 2000-2008 and i was hopeing someone on here could help me find a dodge , chrystler , or a cute car and i would realy liek a pt cruser or a box and i would gladly apperciate it and if anyone can please give me any information on were i could find one please contact me by emailing me @


November 28, 2008 4:45 PM

To James: My friend you have good taste. The three models Magnum is a made on a previous Mercedes benz platform with Mopar parts. A Pacifica is a Mercedes Benz 500ML in American version. The Crossfire is actually shipped from Germany and it is the previous generation SLK. The Sebrings are a copy of the Misubishi or Hyundai sonata blueprint but made in the USA. Not a bad car for the price. That is my 2 cents.

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