It's official--Chrysler has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Now the long task of sorting out the good from the bad at the storied automaker, with the added task of joining hand in hand with Italy's Fiat Group to build a new Chrysler with a new range of small cars.
You might have questions about shopping for a new Chrysler today, and those are easy to answer. Yes, you're safe to buy--the government says it's going to back your warranty. Yes, Chrysler will be here in its current form for a while; Chapter 11 doesn't mean it will be going away overnight, though your local dealer may be having trouble sleeping at night as the company figures out which showrooms must close. The time is right to bargain hard for a new Chrysler, Dodge, or Jeep, with every expectation you'll get service and parts when needed.
But what does the future hold? By early 2011, the vehicle lineup at Chrysler will be dramatically different. If all goes as planned, the hallmark moneymakers at Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep will be joined by new small cars engineered by Fiat and built in the U.S. or abroad. Among them: sporty hatchbacks, cute city cars and maybe a convertible or two. A few models on the bubble may survive, too, though their future's a little more hazy.
The 2012 Chrysler lineup will be very familiar in some ways, and completely new in others. TheCarConnection predicts Chrysler's future lineup will look like this:
Jeep Grand Cherokee: The new version shown above just broke cover at the New York auto show. It's a new crossover body spun from Mercedes' M-Class, Chrysler says. The handsome shape is backed by a new V-6 engine and a very high-quality interior that surprised auto show attendees. It's a core product for Jeep and for Chrysler.
2009 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited XEnlarge Photo
Jeep Wrangler: Another essential for the Jeep lineup, the Wrangler's made the historic transition from military use to personality piece better than, say, the HUMMER H2. It's available in different body styles, and it's an anchor for the brand in the same way the Mustang is a Ford hallmark.
2009 Chrysler 200C ConceptEnlarge Photo
Chrysler 200C: This new Chrysler sedan emerged earlier this year at the Detroit auto show, with even skeptics agreeing on its shape while they wondered if Chrysler could build it. With Fiat's help, this vehicle could well take form as a replacement for today's forgettable Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring twins.
2011 Chrysler 300Enlarge Photo
Chrysler 300: The big rear-drive sedans from Chrysler have buffed its image and its flair for retro-modern styling. The 2011 Chrysler 300C has been shown in the company's official filings for government loans, so we suspect it's going to carry the Chrysler brand forward as planned, as the company's flagship model.
2009 Dodge RamEnlarge Photo
Dodge Ram: Big trucks may become a thing of the past in a 35-mpg world, but the Dodge Ram is a moneymaker, a crowd pleaser and a critical success. The latest version has one of the best truck interiors, one of the best towing setups, and it's guaranteed to stay in the lineup until the Feds pry it from Chrysler's cold, dead hands, to borrow a phrase.
2009 Dodge Grand CaravanEnlarge Photo
Dodge Grand Caravan: Chrysler's minivans are still the best sellers in their class--and though it's likely the Chrysler Town & Country may survive as well, the Grand Caravan is the focus for the new Chrysler. Expect updated versions with new drivetrains and a much better interior as soon as Chrysler can afford them.