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Chrysler drops the ball

Posted by: David Welch on January 13, 2009


I’ll dispense with the pleasantries first. Chrysler’s 200C electric vehicle concept is one hot car. It’s exactly what the company needs to do with its Chrysler Sebring family car. Sleek and sophisticated, the car would usher out some of the company’s cartoonish designs from the past few years and get it the right kind of attention.

But when you’re borrowing government money to stay afloat, all anyone really wants to know is if you have some new cars that are greenlighted for production that will start generating revenue. Instead, the company showed three electric-vehicle concepts that might be built.

I understand the need to show that a company has new, advanced technology. And I get the need for better fuel economy and the electrification of the car. But where’s the beef? Even if Chrysler builds these cars, they will sell in tiny numbers. And they will probably lose money. Electric cars and hybrids almost always do.

I’d like to know what Chrysler will do to grow sales and make money. The 200C, Jeep Patriot EV and Dodge Circuit electric cars won’t do that. The company doesn’t have much new product this year, as Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli bemoaned in a round table interview with reporters on Monday.

But the company could have unveiled something. Company President and Vice Chairman James E. press said Chrysler has 24 new vehicles coming out over the next four yeas. Later this year, they will launch a new Jeep Grand Cherokee. A new Chrysler 300 sedan and Dodge Charger come after that. With 24 new models on the way, surely they could have picked one or two and pulled off the wraps. The old swaggering Chrysler would have cast a brighter light on its future. The company got $4 billion on Jan. 2 and may get a second check for $3 billion. I’d like to see what they will deliver after they get those loans. Instead, Chrysler whiffed at the opportunity to show that.

Reader Comments

Paul (Vw)

January 13, 2009 4:34 PM

I wish Dodge would have made the Razor.

Knowing that my tastes (ex: manual transmission) run contrary to the general public...what I'd love to see Chrysler do is release a version of the Jeep Wrangler along the same dimensions as the original Willys MB. Smaller, lighter, closer to the ground, smaller engine, etc. I suppose that will never happen (probably would not be able to pass safety tests and such...let alone there be a market for an even smaller, light, versatile, rugged, utilitarian 4x4). The Wrangler is just too big and high for me.

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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