Are These The Last Days of Chrysler?

Posted by: David Kiley on January 9, 2009

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Is this the end of days for Chrysler…finally?
I don’t wish it so. But it has been coming on for some time. And it’s like watching a loved one who has had a disease that’s finally finally catching up.

The company has to show the U.S. government “financial viability” by March 31, and its has until mid February to gets its business plan done. I just don’t see how it will make its case. And I suspect that the car czar, whomever it might be, will come to that conclusion too.

For me, it hasn’t been love of Chrysler exactly. After all, I have never actually owned a Chrysler. The closest I came was the 1974 Dodge Duster my brother owned in college. But I have driven everything, sometimes as a press car and many times as rentals. You see, I often rent from Thrifty. And it’s tough not to wind up with a Chrysler when you go to Thrifty.

The company’s viable products are really down to minivans, 300 sedan and Jeep Wrangler/Grand Cherokee. Despite what many say about how the company has depleted Jeep brand equity, I still believe the brand is worth at least a few billion dollars to a company with the resources and desire to improve quality and design. Certainly $1 billion-$2 billion at mimimum.

But this money that the U.S. government has loaned Chrysler seems to me to be just a cork in the dike to keep the company from filing Chapter 11, and thus perhaps taking GM and Ford down with it. It’s not to prop the company up long term.

And so the company will likely be broken up this year in some fashion. GM still wants the minivan and Jeep business. Maybe it will get its wish. The Dodge truck business is of use to some automaker. After all, it is brand new and has a strong customer following that will keep at least one plant profitably cranking them out for the next five years. That truck would be a great way for an existing automaker like Nissan to buy into the truck category, or for one of the Chinese or Indian automakers to buy into the U.S. market.

The company this week at the North American International Auto Show will show the same electric vehicles we saw a few months ago—extended range electric versions of the minivan and Jeep Wrangler, and one all-electic sports car. It also has new designs of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Jeep Grand Cherokee in the wings, but we won’t see those until the Chicago and New York auto shows in the next few months. Perhaps the 300 and the factory that builds that and a Dodge sedan will be of interest to someone. But let’s face it. If the 300 disappeared now after a decent run, would we really miss it? I say let it go, and the Dodge, and decrease the surplus population of sedans.

In its most recent autos report, Consumer Reports couldn’t even find a single Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicle to recommend in Chrysler’s lineup of nearly 30 products. “Many of Chrysler’s vehicles rank at the bottom,” CR said. “Chrysler falls short,” it said.

I don’t wish Chrysler’s death. The people I know who still work there, and who make normal salaries, deserved better than what they have gotten from Daimler and now Cerberus. But in my business, I get asked to recommend vehicles all the time. And if Consumer Reports and J.D. Power can’t recommend any of their new vehicles, how can I?

Reader Comments

Moo

January 10, 2009 8:38 PM

"Are These The Last Days of Chrysler?" No.
You really need to look at their product line. I just bought a Challenger and love it.

Dave

January 10, 2009 9:33 PM

"And if Consumer Reports and J.D. Power can’t recommend any of their new vehicles, how can I?"

That's true. You are just a parrot like most auto reviewers. You know close to nothing about the auto industry and only drive beat-up basic models from the rental agencies, so your only option is to be a parrot with no cojones. You even admit to never owning a Chrysler brand, so you are as qualified to report on them as I am to report on feminine hygiene products.

Mike Shea

January 10, 2009 9:52 PM

To hell with you Kiley! You "don't wish it so?" but Chrysler is likely dead? Do you morons all share the same brain? For once I'd like to see the media and many citizens for that matter make informed decisions rather than continuously regurgitate the same tired script. Chrysler will live, albeit smaller and leaner, but they will survive. No thanks to the media and the countless buffoons who buy into the transplant hype. It is almost as if many enjoy to see their own hard-working countrymen fail, merely to prop up their own miserable lives. Stop slinging mud and do some realistic investigating. Chrysler is down but not out. Whatever happened about rooting for the underdog in this country. If Chrysler fails, we all fail. Sadly, most don't see it that way. Wake up!!

JerseyTechGuy

January 10, 2009 10:16 PM

It's Sad that Chrysler is in this position. I have only owned Chrysler Vehicles. Believe me, I've shopped around and never found vehicles as reliable as Chrysler. Most people I know who have Ford or GM have their trucks or cars in the shop all the time.

Bob

January 10, 2009 10:32 PM

I made the mistake of purchasing a Chrysler vehicle once, a new 1992 Jeep Grand Cherokee Ltd, which, at the time, was their most expensive & profitable vehicle. It was in the shop 15 times in 18 months, including out of service for 30 days with a broken tranny. The lease company finally acquiesced to letting me out without penalty; I got a dealer to buy it for $500 over the lease pay-off. I would never own a Chrysler product ever, and as far as I am concerned, Daimler & Cerebus have got the bucks to eat a complete shutdown of the brand. NO MORE TAX DOLLARS wasted on Chrysler junk!

andy

January 10, 2009 11:30 PM

David Kiley you are an idiot!!! What is you're experience in the auto industry ??
Can you please post some facts that pertain to the above article?>

From Kiley: Thanks for the comment buddy. 23 years covering the industry. Chrysler cued up for a government loan, and hired Chapter 111 lawyers. It has cut its workforce by a third in the last year. It has almost no new products in development. Cerberus LLC, the owner, doesn't want to be in the car business anymore. Daimler-Benz has written down the value of its 20% stake to zero. Cerberus desires a merger with GM. Not even the Chinese are interested in buying it. Consumer Reports doesn;t recommend any of its vehicles. What more do you need to hear?

A former Dodge buyer

January 10, 2009 11:45 PM

All I know is that I bought an 07 Dakota, brand new, and at 5,000 miles, it would no longer shift into 3rd and 4th gears, it was an automatic, so I'd be on the highway, going 50 mph at like very fast rpms. I like their stuff, but they left a lot of bad will around over the last 30 years. My dad's 77 Dodge Aspen would always stall in the middle of intersections, so nothing seems to have changed.

m.r.

January 11, 2009 4:58 AM

at last! a "print-head" writes that many Chrysler cars are sub-standard as reported by Consumers Reports!
I still think that Chrysler should join Nissan in some form that will give it access to good smaller platforms to allow it to stay alive. G.M. will destroy Chrysler, its plants, jobs, and name. mind you, Nissan could savage Chrysler,too. so...much of Chrysler is
history anyway it goes. pity!

Apocolypse Now

January 11, 2009 7:51 AM

Chrysler is gone, Cerebus picked one of the most evil, greedy, stupid person in the world to run it into the ground, the poster child for greed and arrogance narpiggi. He ruined HD and now it's time for him to destroy Chysler. May the greedy pig rot in hell, he is a destoyer who plays games to make fake short term results with long term damage. His type is why the US is going to hell and civil insurection.

mike from nyc, ny

January 11, 2009 8:27 AM

As mentioned, Chrysler products are usually at the bottom of reliability lists. They have so many different problems that it's hard to put them in any one category. I was at Watkins Glen racetrack when I heard that Cerberus bought Chrysler and I told a retired Chrysler employee that inevitably Cerberus would rue the day they made the purchase - Hubris, not talent or automotive know-how caused Cerberus to buy Chrysler. They installed Nardelli, former CEO of Home Depot as president, the same guy who ruined HD for the consumer - ever go in one and try to get knowledgeable help? A car company can't be run like HD. Cerberus' pockets weren't and aren't deep enough to support development of new cars or to fix the ones they have. Now Cerberus, realizing the huge mistake they made, are trying to bailout and have the US Taxpayer pay for new car development. Lithium battery powered cars? Does anyone know just how expensive lithium batteries are? Those cars will be unaffordable to anyone but the wealthy and why would the wealthy want a Chrysler? Chrysler should be allowed to fall as its turnaround program will fail - and all paid for by the US Taxpayer.

Bob Herrmann

January 11, 2009 8:28 AM

I rented a Chrysler minivan and and was impressed by the overall look, feel, and driving. The interior was more appealing than anything else on the market. Chrysler does have a few winners in it's line up and it would be a shame to see them go away.

Mike

January 11, 2009 2:06 PM

I am never fond of Chrysler. It's about time to let go a dying brand.

Paul (Vw)

January 11, 2009 2:35 PM

>>> But in my business, I get asked to recommend vehicles all the time. And if Consumer Reports and J.D. Power can’t recommend any of their new vehicles, how can I?

My first car bought new in the fall of 1987. I was a college student and I purchased a 1988 Dode Omni. Manual transmission of course. At the time, I think the Ford and Toyota and VW models were better offerings, but more expensive.

I put 170,000 miles on that car. It was the first year it came with the fuel injected 2.2 I think. I got in the low 40's MPG on the highway. It had a stainless steel exhaust which was never replaced...a noteworthy achievement in the Syracuse area. I never had to replace the clutch. It failed me just once, when the rotor shaft broke. That was it.

At the time, if my memory serves me right, Consumer Reports was none too kind to the Omni. Perhaps rightly so based on evaluation criteria. But to me the '88 Dodge Omni presented me with a much better value proposition.

The way I finally decided on the Omni was by the research I did on my own. I see journalistic reviews as insightful, but never the final word. I approached everyone I saw in a parking lot who was getting into a Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon how they felt about their car. Some loved it, and others hated it. The ones who hated it (strangely enough) seemed to always have purchased the car used. But still a majority were very happy. And I figured that if I bought new and took care of it, I had a decent chance (that it was not a lemon off the line) with being satisfied. To me, it was the best car I ever owned because it fit my needs and far exceeded my expectations.

Just be honest with your reviews--be objective and call them as you see them. In the end the market will decide anyway. Don't be afraid if you want to call it differently than other establishments if you reach different results. And never base a car review on a single taxi cab ride.

From Kiley: I'd never put my reviews forth as a last word. CR and JDP ratings are based on a lot of data from a lot of owners. Everyone has anecdotal examples of cars that didn't fail them. I like your Omni stories. But I can't say that I much liked vehicles like the Dodge Nitro, Chrysler Sebring or Grand Cherokee....and the statistical ratings support my initial reviews.

Jeff B.

January 11, 2009 3:30 PM

Chrysler "concept cars"? Two words: Vapor Ware.
Ah, what's another $4B down the toilet?

daniel campbell

January 13, 2009 2:36 AM

as a jeep owner i say that you must work for g m as you are more one eyed than a jeep owner mate ,what about what merecdes did to Chrysler when they owned them ,they gutted them so dont blame Chrysler blame them mate.

From Kiley: I agree that Daimler did a lot to ruin Chrysler.....mate.

antonio311

January 13, 2009 3:20 AM

amazing......Businessweek is owned by:
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., (NYSE: MHP) is a publicly traded corporation headquartered in Rockefeller Center in New York City. Its primary areas of business are education, publishing, broadcasting, and financial and business services. It publishes numerous textbooks and magazines, including BusinessWeek and Aviation Week, and is the parent company of Standard & Poor's and J.D. Power and Associates.

The same company who constantly reviews automakers cars, and gets paid off by the japanses auto manufacturers to give them better ratings!!!

Weren't you all curious why they keep bashing Chrysler, trying to make them go out of business???? businessweek will get more $$$ from the Japanese auto companies when the American Manufacturers are out of business!!!

Don't believe it when Businessweek say's Chrysler is going out of business, they HATE Chrysler and the domestic auto manufacturers!!!!!

From Kiley: I can tell you that I personally havent had a conversation or e-mail with a single person from Standard & Poors in over a year. To suggest that my analysis has anything whatever to do with anything except my own job as a reporter is simply wrong.

Paul (Vw)

January 13, 2009 12:03 PM

>>> From Kiley: I'd never put my reviews forth as a last word. CR and JDP ratings are based on a lot of data from a lot of owners. Everyone has anecdotal examples of cars that didn't fail them. I like your Omni stories. But I canlt day that I much liked vehicles like the Dodge Nitro, Chrysler Sebring or Grand Cherokee....and the statistical ratings support my initial reviews.

No argument on that! Like I said in my comment, "Consumer Reports was none too kind to the Omni. Perhaps rightly so based on evaluation criteria."

I loved that car (the Omni).

I can't argue with your assessment of current Chrystler models. I switched from Dodges to VW/Audis starting in 2001. I was hoping that Dodge would make the Razor. I think that could have been a fun car.

As an aside, one thing I'd like to have explained to me is what does "refined" mean when talking about an engine. I see it in automobile reviews in the media and I'm not sure what that means.

antonio311

January 13, 2009 5:00 PM

"From Kiley: I can tell you that I personally havent had a conversation or e-mail with a single person from Standard & Poors in over a year. To suggest that my analysis has anything whatever to do with anything except my own job as a reporter is simply wrong."

And I can tell that you as a reporter haven't been asking or acknowledge the progress that Chrysler has made over the last 18 months since they have become independent from Daimler! As a Chrysler customer advisory board member I have been seeing all the Changes taking place.
30% less initial quality defects within the 1st 90 days of ownership...means more reliable cars....why didn't your uligy of this "Report" state this???
73% of their vehicle for 2009 have better fuel mileage...again no mention...? They sold 2 million vehicles in 2008 and had the lowest recalls in the industry....you again omitted this. Improved updated interiors on many vehicles...not mentioned! The new Ram has gotten rave reviews and many awards.. not mentioned! Chrysler still owns the minivan market....no mentioned!
You report is biased....and you should be ashamed. How about a balanced report that can actually help the company, instead of shake public opinion!

From Kiley: The problem with your comparisons is that you are comparing what new management has been doing with the old Chrysler, not with its competition.
Second...I realize that these are tough times at Chrysler, and emotions are running high. It looks like Narelli, Press and company have been making a lot of improvements, which you listed. But the financials are the financials. And I have no doubt in my mind that owner Cerberus simply doesn't want to be in the auto manufacturing business any longer than it has to be.

james

January 14, 2009 5:53 PM

Re; You're an idiot - ...facts. Firstly, you state as a FACT that Chrysler has no new product, wrong (24X's). Second you state as fact that Cereberus wants out of the car business; is your name Feinberg? Third, if daimler has written down the value of their stake to zero, why haven't they handed it off to Cereberus? Fourth, you state that Cereberus wants a merger with GM, again not fact. What they want, and need is a strategic alliance with someone, and Cereberus is correct in exploring every option available to them. Your reporting is sloppy and based on inaccurate info, after 23 years you should be better at your job, or at least less willing to buy into others bias'. P.S. It is also a fact that Consumer Reports has a built in bias against domestic manufacturers in their reporting. Go get a Minivan or 300C or 09 Ram and actually DRIVE it . You might be surprised!

From Kiley: I'll stand by what i said.

garnett

January 19, 2009 10:20 AM

I have never owned a Chrysler product in my life and never even considered the cheap pieces of junk they have represented for over 50 years. Poor quality, poor sub-standard reliability, poor service and one of the worst resale values on the market for over 50 years. Why would anyone except the misinformed or just plain cheap would consider buying one. You get what you pay for.

Trygve (Tom) Madsen

April 25, 2009 11:18 AM

I have a Chrysler 300C and have put about 20 thousand miles on it since I bought it last year. The car is great, the best car I have ever owned (I have owned many). I wish I could say the same about the dealer.

ps

April 26, 2009 2:05 PM

Okay, so people that "buy into transplants" don't make informed decisions? That's right, invoke the flag motherhood and apple pie too. People DO make informed decisions on the second most expensive and important purchase that they will make in their lifetimes. The past Detroit horror shows that were sold to the public leaving a lasting memory to many. I'm also curious if these buffoon posters don't think twice about shopping at Wal Mart, talking about misplaced skilled workers. Oh yeah, to the buffoon, I deal with my own miserable life behind the wheel of a Cadillac. So, buffoon, instead of blasting people for exercising their freedom of choice, think about what drove them to their evil unamerican decision to begin with. It's probably the spawn of a union assembly line product.

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