Chrysler's new-model delays becoming a problem
Chrysler's inability to get new vehicles into production and on sale is becoming a concern. The auto market is experiencing a historic sales recovery, but Chrysler showrooms contain too many warmed-over versions of old vehicles while competitors pack their dealerships with all-new models.
“Everyone else is launching numerous new vehicles,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Edmunds.com.
Where's the flood of fuel-efficient new cars and crossovers that made Chrysler's alliance with Fiat look so promising? Four years into the companies' cooperation, as Fiat says it wants 100 percent ownership of Chrysler, it's a two-vehicle trickle. The 2013 Dodge Dart compact sedan got off to a slow start thanks to a partial model line. A string of delays have plagued the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. It was supposed to be shipped to dealers between July 1 and Sept. 30, but those shipments didn't start until this week.
Despite that, Chrysler has logged 42 consecutive months of sales growth, thanks to a few new vehicles and well-executed upgrades to others.
“Chrysler has come a long way” since it nearly collapsed during the Great Recession, said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with KBB.com. “How much better could it have done if the launches had gone right? This is really limiting Chrysler's success.”
Make no mistake: Chrysler would not exist today without its partnership with Fiat. The two automakers have done an exceptional job improving Chrysler's existing models, breathing life into the leftovers Daimler and Cerberus discarded. The all-new, all-Chrysler vehicles that have debuted in the past three years — Chrysler 300; Dodge Charger, Durango and Viper; Jeep Grand Cherokee; and Ram pickups — have mostly been excellent.
That's not enough, though. None of those vehicles addresses the heart of the market: the millions of people who buy family sedans and crossovers.
“Every delay becomes more obvious and critical,” Krebs said.
Four years into the five-year Chrysler-Fiat recovery plan announced in November 2009, most of the promised new models based on Fiat architectures have been delayed or canceled, including replacements for the 200 and Avenger midsize sedans, new compact and subcompact Jeeps, a midsize crossover from Chrysler and a Dodge subcompact car.
Chrysler remains overly dependent on pickups, minivans, SUVs and big sedans, just as it was before Fiat's driven and charismatic chief Sergio Marchionne took charge.
Chrysler achieved a lot in the first two years of Marchionne's leadership. The design and engineering teams breathed new life into weak vehicles such as the Chrysler Sebring/200 and Dodge Journey. The marketing group created brilliant ads that inspired employees and persuaded customers to take another look at Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep.
But progress has ground nearly to a halt since work turned to developing new models that tap into Fiat's expertise with small, fuel-efficient vehicles.
That makes flawless quality even more important when the 2014 Cherokee goes on sale.
Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Wolf tax proposal puts Beaver County Shell plant at risk, gas group head says
- Oil stocks drag on Dow, S&P 500; Nasdaq moves closer to record
- Giant Eagle to close all 8 Good Cents locations
- Pittsburgh Business Ethics Awards honors outstanding efforts
- First Niagara depositors’ money safe, bank says
- Apple’s foray into cars brings potential woes
- Affordable Care Act penalty can lessen amount of tax return
- Oil, gas industry abstractors research public records to report on lease sites
- Range Resources boosts 4Q earnings to $284 million
- Stocks close mixed; Dow ekes out 3rd straight record
- Jury orders Apple to pay $533M in patent infringement suit