Tag Archives: Chrysler 200

Exiting the Chrysler Expressway

It's the long goodbye for the Dodge Dart as the model heads into the sunset.

It’s the long goodbye for the Dodge Dart as the model heads off into the sunset. (Image: FCA US LLC)

Just as General Motors is looking for a midsize sedan turnaround with its new Chevy Malibu, Fiat-Chrysler is looking to take its sole midsizer behind the barn.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne created waves last week when he announced the slow-selling Dodge Dart compact and Chrysler 200 midsize would have their futures cut short, as the company pursues a new truck-intensive sales strategy.

Apparently, the RAM and Jeep divisions are working overtime to get SUVs and trucks to a hungry public, while the Chrysler and Dodge divisions aren’t seeing anywhere near that demand. Pulling the plug on these two models will open up assembly line capacity that can be dedicated to more popular vehicles.

The curtains will close on the Chrysler 200 as parent FCA focuses on the Jeep and RAM brands.

The curtains will close on the Chrysler 200 as parent FCA focuses on the Jeep and RAM brands. (Image: FCA US LLC)

It seems the pragmatic thing for a company to do. I mean, buyers are increasingly choosing crossovers and SUVs over sedans, and you gotta go where the money is, but I can’t help but think…. huh?

The great, expansive (former) Chrysler Corporation – the creator of the (original) Dart, Valiant, Reliant, Aries and Neon – won’t have a compact car anywhere in its lineup? Or even a midsize?

The bottom end of Chrysler’s lineup has thinned in the past, but not to this degree.

After the death of the Dodge/Chrysler Neon (Dodge SX 2.0 in Canada) in 2005, the company’s compact shelf was left bare until the Fiat-based Dart appeared in 2013. The small and forgettable 5-door Dodge Caliber wagon/crossover entered the scene in 2007, so this gap could theoretically be narrowed to a single model year.

Following the end of the Dodge Stratus in 2006, the brand went the next two years without a midsize car before the Avenger name was resurrected in 2008. During that time, however, the midsize Chrysler Sebring was also being sold, along with the compact PT Cruiser retro wagon.

Weren’t the mid-to-late 2000s great?!

When the Dart and 200 stop rolling off the line, the only true passenger cars made by Chrysler will be the venerable 300, Charger and Challenger.

The compact and midsize slots might be filled again - if someone else builds 'em, (Image: FCA US LLC)

The compact and midsize slots might be filled again – if someone else builds ’em. (Image: FCA US LLC)

It’s hard to compete in the compact and midsize sedan categories, but GM and Ford manage reasonably well with models like the Cruze and Fushion. Sure, the Dart and 200 set few hearts on fire, but is the answer to pull out of the market altogether? Does anyone really expect gas prices to stay low forever?

According to the Detroit Free Press, the vanishing act might not be permanent – assuming FCA can line up a deal to have another automaker provide the vehicles. Yup, we could eventually see rebadged models filling in those gaps, not unlike the Mitsubishi-based Dodge Colt of the 1970s and 80s, or more recently, the Mazda 2-based Scion iM/Toyota Yaris.

The current Dart doesn’t hide its Fiat architecture very well, so it already feels like a rebadged import, albeit one that’s all in the family. If it returns with a different parent, things could get interesting. I never expected Mazda and Toyota to pair up for a swap job, so who knows what partner FCA might bring to the dance.

The big positive I’ve failed to mention is that we get a Jeep Wrangler pickup out of FCA’s new plan. I’ve been drooling over the possibility ever since the concept was shown a few years back, and now it’s a go.

Not only will the Wrangler get a pickup, but along with it will come a host of new drivetrains – diesel and hybrid included. A range-topping Grand Wagoneer is also part of the short-term plan.

Clearly it’s a great time to be Jeep. Not so much Chrysler or Dodge.




Hot 200?

The 2015 Chrysler 200 has little in common with its predecessor (photo: NetCarShow.com)

The 2015 Chrysler 200 has little in common with its predecessor (Image: Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles)

When it comes to refreshed car models, no American vehicle departs more drastically from its predecessor than the new Chrysler 200.

Ditching the tall, bulbous body left over from the 2007-2010 Sebring, the new 200 brought with it a flowing, Audi-like roofline and body, competitive drivetrains, a taught chassis (Fiat-Chrysler’s Compact U.S. Wide platform), and upgraded interior.

In short, the 2015 Chrysler 200 was designed to be everything the 2014 200 wasn’t.

With all these attributes, the refreshed sedan was sure to be a sales hit, right?

No, there’s never a guarantee of that. The 200 leapt into an ultra-competitive field of capable mid-size vehicles, starting at a price point much higher than its bargain basement priced predecessor.

Older, Sebring-based 200’s might have flown off dealer lots thanks to drastic markdowns and fleet sales, but that can help create a stigma around a vehicle. The new 200 had to sell itself on content, not cost.

Amid a strong marketing campaign emphasizing its class-leading technology and mileage (9 speeds, people!), the new 200 went on sale in spring of 2014, on the heels of the coldest winter in decades for most of North America.

Sales figures from March to June of this year show far fewer 200 purchases than in 2013. Then, something interesting happens as summer rolls around.

In June and July, in both the U.S. and Canada, sales top monthly figures from the previous year.

In July, in the U.S., the 200 managed 8,159 sales (compared to 8,122 in 2013), while in Canada the tally was 1,331, compared to the previous year’s 947.

In August, 10,810 units rolled off U.S. lots, compared to 10,139 the year before. In Canada, Chrysler moved 1,100 examples of the new model, up from 886 in 2013.

These numbers can’t tell us the reasons behind the surge in sales, nor can they (at this point, anyway) reveal whether the rise will be sustained over time. Still, looking at it from a distance, it would be easy to speculate that the new 200 has attracted the interest of discerning buyers (who are no longer simply looking for the cheapest mid-size on the market).





Imported from obscurity

Something non-generic this way comes...

Something non-generic this way comes…

Auto reviews in the New York Times can sometimes generate their own news stories, so I’ve started paying closer attention to the road-going scribes at that lofty publication.

(For evidence of my claim, please see Exhibit A: http://jalopnik.com/this-brutal-nyt-mirage-review-is-whats-wrong-with-cheap-1583123298)

Anyhoo, the Times has just come out with their take on the vastly-improved Chrysler 200, which replaces a forgettable car that couldn’t avoid being mentioned in the same sentence as ‘rental lot’.

And they like it!*

*with some quibbles

The 2015 model went on sale at the beginning of June with new everything, minus the top-level Pentastar engine (which everyone agrees was the only flawless element of the new 200’s flawed predecessor). Classy-looking on the outside (with vaguely Audi-inspired lines), the interior of the 200 wowed me when I first sat in one at a March auto show.

We’re talking comfort, luxury, and nice trim that was pleasing to both the eye and the touch.

Reviewer Lawrence Ulrich (I’m putting that name near the top of my alias list) was clearly smitten with the car’s interior, though I can’t agree that the 200 has a “distinctly American design.”

The car’s new 9-speed automatic – actuated via a novelty rotary shift knob – does get called out for gear-hunting and roughness (possibly an early production problem that can be corrected with a software tweak), as well as a soft suspension seemingly calibrated for comfort rather than handling.

Props are given to the vehicle’s design, materials, and the availability of both class-leading fuel efficiency and raw power.

(Read the full write-up here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/automobiles/autoreviews/2015-chrysler-200-review.html?_r=0)

"You will forget about the Sebring..... You will forget about the Sebring..."

“You will forget about the Sebring….. You will forget about the Sebring…”

At first, I didn’t know how to feel about the Chrysler’s new body, but it has grown on me since. Obviously, it’s better in every way than its bulbous, boring predecessor, with lines and curves that convey both length, strength and heft (hallmarks for any luxury sedan).

I wish to drive this alluring beast.

The old 200 sold in fairly good numbers in its last couple of years, thanks to a low, low starting price and upgrade packages that didn’t break the bank. It very well could have been the cheapest way to get into a midsize sedan with V-6 power.

Commercials aired in all mediums flogged the previous 200 to such a degree that Chrysler will have its work cut out for it as it tries to alert the buying public to the presence of this all-new vehicle with an old name.