Can Chrysler hit jackpot again?

Can Chrysler hit jackpot again? http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070321/OPINION03/703210397/1148/AUTO01
W hen times get tough, Chrysler has always had a knack for producing a hit
vehicle that washes away the red ink and safeguards the company, at least temporarily.
The audacious Chrysler 300 sedan was the last timely stroke of brilliance in Auburn Hills. It could whisk you to the Fisher Theatre while beating every chump off the line along Woodward. Over the years, the quirky PT Cruiser, classic Jeep Grand Cherokee and innovative new minivans saved Chrysler's bacon.
The question is: Does Chrysler have enough mojo left to pull off another product-led comeback? Stabilizing health care costs or cutting jobs alone won't save the automaker. As parent DaimlerChrysler AG shops it to potential buyers, Chrysler may never have needed to prove its worth more.
Last year, Chrysler introduced a record 10 vehicles. Other than the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, which serves a relatively small niche, there were no unqualified hits. Eight more new models are coming this year.
"We just have to be competitive," said Steve Bartoli, Chrysler's vice president for global product planning, adding that the coming crop of new vehicles will pay dividends quickly.
"It's been a mixed mesh of new vehicles," Bartoli said, listing recent launches. "There haven't been any disasters."
No disasters is nice but it isn't enough. Chrysler needs to create an emotional connection with buyers. The automaker still designs and produces polarizing vehicles. In fact, many of its newest models, such as the boxy, aggressive Dodge Nitro, offer a distinctive look and unique features for their respective segment. But none has been an out-of-the-park home run."You don't get 300s every year," said Jim Sanfilippo, an automotive marketing expert with Team Detroit, which handles advertising for several brands. "They're going to do OK. Chrysler has a lot of solid doubles and all of them four-cylinder engines, which is going to be important when gas prices start to climb again."
Will new minivans prevail?
Chrysler's most important vehicle launch in 2007 is in the segment it invented in 1983, the minivan. Since then, Chrysler has since sold 11 million family haulers.
"If Chrysler has a home run, it's their new minivan," said Erich Merkle, director of forecasting at IRN, an automotive consulting company in Grand Rapids.
The fifth-generation 2008 Chrysler Town and Country minivan and top-selling Dodge Caravan, which roll into dealerships this fall, should boost the company's lagging sales, Merkle said.
While Chrysler still owns 28 percent of the segment, Town and Country's sales dropped 12 percent last year and Caravan sales fell 6.9 percent, according to Autodata.
"The competition doesn't have the ability to build more minivans," Merkle said. "And Chrysler is introducing an excellent product."
Indeed. The new pair of minivans will tout more than 35 improvements including a six-speed transmission, more head room, dual DVD players and crisp, clean, roof-mounted ambient lighting. Both debuted at the Detroit auto show and both look refined and well-crafted.
The Swivel 'n Go seats, a pair of second-row captain's chairs that turn to face the rear row, may not create as much buzz as the cool Stow 'n Go seats caused in 2005, but Chrysler will offer a superior vehicle with exclusive innovations. It's a recipe to bring in new customers.
With Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. abandoning minivans, Chrysler has a chance to grab even more customers as it fights with Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., who hold the No. 2 and No. 3 spots respectively.
Is luck on sedans' side?
Chrysler Group may not be as lucky in the midsize sedan segment with its two new introductions: The all-new Dodge Avenger, which replaces the Stratus sedan, and the redesigned Chrysler Sebring.
Both vehicles offer distinctive designs, and the economical advantage of being built on the same platform in Sterling Heights. The Avenger is aggressive and mean-looking. The Sebring has a face made for the rental car fleet.
Sales for the Sebring sedan, which hit showrooms in December, remain sluggish, something Bartoli attributes to an end-of-year launch.
If the Sebring sedan's short deck and snubbed nose make it an ugly duckling, the convertible version of the sedan, which comes out later this year, is the swan. Somehow, dropping the top and removing two doors makes those hood strakes look good. America's best selling convertible should remain at the top.
The Avenger is rolling into dealerships now and offers a muscular alternative to a segment filled with hot-selling bland vehicles. It resembles a small Charger and its strong styling, unique features and good gas mileage should attract new customers. Dodge, a brand that appeals to men more than women, now has a car on its hands that could pull more drivers looking for something sporty but still need the utility of a sedan.
Another moderate success for Chrysler has been the Dodge Caliber. An inexpensive compact, the Caliber continues Chrysler's tradition of offering a distinct alternative to the traditional competitors.
While the interior feels spartan, it comes with clever features, like a cooler in the glove box and detachable cabin light. Chrysler sold more than 90,000 units since its introduction last year. By comparison, Toyota sold 387,000 Corollas, Honda sold 316,000 Civics and Chevrolet sold 211,000 Cobalts. A 300-horsepower high performance SRT version of the Caliber will come out later this year.
Are 8 vehicles too much?
Introducing so many new vehicles is a heavy burden for any automaker and confusing for consumers.
"It's tough to introduce a new nameplate," said Jack Nerad, executive market analysis for Kelly Blue Book, adding the plethora of new vehicles introduced by all manufacturers leaves many consumers overwhelmed.
Merkle said that many of the introductions may not generate incremental sales, instead stealing Chrysler customers from other vehicles.
"When Jeep introduced the Commander (in 2005), it didn't create new business, it stole Cherokee customers," Merkle said. "There is a danger of that happening again."
Bartoli disagrees. Bringing out new vehicles refreshes a lineup that was beginning to get long in the fan belt.
"I think all of these introductions are keeping our momentum going," Bartoli said. "Our lineup was starting to get old, and that's never a good thing."
Another factor that may help Chrysler in the long run, Nerad said, is the consumer trend that brand loyalty has gone the way of the three-speed transmission.
"They are more fickle now than ever before," Nerad said. "Even if they are totally satisfied with a vehicle they bought, that doesn't mean they'll return to that brand. What will take them somewhere else is the design."
And design is one area Chrysler has proven again and again that it can excel.
-- "The king of Israel answered, "Tell him: 'One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off."
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The Caliber has a good drive train but it's too ugly looking for most. I notice the PT Cruiser is still being sold? If I were a PT Cruiser owner the Caliper wouldn't turn me on.

I agree, pray for rising gasoline prices. With growth in Asia gasoline has no where to go but up.

Partly, but it doesn't impress me. Not a car I'd replace my wife's 2001 Sebring with. The channels on the hood are enough to turn me off.

It could be a big seller if there was a better 2.7L V6 and auto transmission. A 3.5L V6 in this car is silly. IMO Chrysler needs to upgrade the 2.7L V6 to VVT and a better transmission of 5/6 speeds or a CVT.
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Have any of you rode in a vehicle with the new 4 bangers? My PT's old 2.4L 4 is smoother and quieter than the 2.0 and 2.4 world engines. I've driven a Caliber, Compass and Sebring with the new "world" 2.0 and 2.4 engines. They were loud and very unrefined. The CVT made them worse. The Sebring was laugable- I swear I was in a John Deer. I have a 2006 PT with the old 2.4 4cy and it is smooth and quiet compared to the Sebring's 2.4 world engine. Even the salesman admitted it was extremely loud. How can Chrysler come up with this kind of crap and expect to compete? Don't they even pay attention to the Civics and Corrolas? It is going to be the downfall of Chrysler- people want smaller cars with better gas mileage. They're small and midsize cars are no where near what they should be to even have a chance.
wrote:

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Yes I've been testing all these cars over the past 6 months, and I have a very different impression. The Caliber and Compass I drove were, I thought, not whisper quiet but certainly acceptable. The PT I drove sounded different but not quieter, and I found the ride much tippier.
As to the CVT I don't see how it could have possibly "made them worse". It allows the engines to run considerably slower at highway speed (2100 rpm vs. maybe 2600) and reduces cycling between gears. Maybe you got that impression because upon hard prolonged acceleration it raises the revs and holds them there rather than revs up and down. Personally I feel the CVT is the most valuable selling point for those cars.
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Is it the engine or mounts or soundproofing causing this problem?
I'll be renting one of them for a few days to compare to my LH car, but I won't be comparing to the PT Cruiser as I'm not interested in it.
Had an '86 LeBaron 2.5L, it was acceptably quiet and smooth, but not as good as the LH's 3.3L V6.
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Well, on the CVT, it's an "everybody is doing it" thing. It gets results on paper. I think the CVT is going to bow out as the most hated auto technology ever.
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Huh? Some people think it's sluggish (which is an illusion) but "most hated"? For what? Being smooth?
It's different unless one is familiar with snowmobiles, scooters or ATVs. I live in an area filled with snowmobilers, and have never heard anyone say they hate the CVT. Quite the contrary, I've heard a number of comments over the years "why don't they put those in cars?".
The reason it's becoming popular for cars now is not fashion, it's that only recently have technological developments given a transmission that could be durable at sufficient torque output.
I suspect it may take over most of the small-medium vehicle market within a decade, both for automatics and with autostick, manuals as well. (The exception will probably be heavy-duty and performance applications). The reasons are simplicity, speedy and smooth shifting and above all ratio range.
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wrote:

I've not driven one, but it is sounding very good. The design has been improved many times over the years and is now used in a wide variety of cars. Initially it was only in small low power cars. The only negative I've heard recently is the lack of adequate shift points. I does improve mileage, makes a lot of sense having a much simpler transmission and if it's reliable I'll be interested for my next car.
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Any particular reason?

Negative? That's the point! Artificially adding shift points strikes me as idiotic. I've read that the dealer can reflash them to behave like a CVT; if I were to buy a vehicle so equipped, that reflash would happen before I took delivery.

Exactly.
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Exactly. Now you're getting somewhere. Why would anyone couple an advanced technology with idiocy? The answer is because PEOPLE HATE IT. That's what I said above. You have to remember that everybody feels, but not everybody thinks.
We live in a world where a $70,000 car was engineered with a pipe from the intake manifold into the passenger compartment to generate noise. That's reality. Stupid, yes, but they did it. They did it because they thought their rich customers would like it.
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So... it's going to go down as the most hated automotive technology in history (somehow beating out such gems as seat belt interlocks and talking dashboards) because people are too ignorant to understand it and too stupid to be educated?

Well, I like to hear what my engine is doing... sounds like it wasn't a terribly cost-effective way to do it (just using less insulation would have done it at less cost), but it isn't like they had a little speaker making vroom-vroom noises. That would be an analogous decision.
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wrote:

If you pay a bit more you get very wide low profile tires with no side wall depth that ride like shit. I saw 25 profile tires on a Mercedes sedan the other day, UGH! Those with lots of money base their buying more on emotion, particularly if they want to make an impression.
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Right, and if you're real lucky, you might get to run over a bump and bend the rim. Then you'll know you've really made the big time.
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Oddly, I took one look at the PT and concluded there was no way I'd ever own one. If I were in the market for a new car, I'd be looking very seriously at the Caliber.
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Maybe Chrysler should consider launching a low-priced brand. They could just add a new brand at the Chrysler dealers. That would leave Dodge to concentrate on performance, and then Chrysler wouldn't be diluted as the luxury brand. Hmmmm....

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070321/OPINION03/703210397/1148/AUTO01
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They have one, it's called Plymouth. Time to bring it back.
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It ruins jokes when you try to explain them, hoss. You should have just kept quiet there.
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Like Plymouth?
Joe wrote:

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I don't know, what do you think?

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I've not heard of the lack of CVT engine braking. That's very important for my driving in the mountains and it would be unacceptable.
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