Chrysler’s Future: Weak Sister Or Comeback Kid?

May 16, 2011

Is the Chrysler brand positioned for a Ford-like recovery or a continued decline in sales? The recent past is worrisome. While most other carmakers posted a healthy increase in sales last month over the previous year, the Chrysler brand saw sales decline by 9 percent.

Initially, this looks bad; especially when compared to Chrysler Group LLC product lines that are doing well. Take a look at the numbers:

  • A 65-percent increase in sales for Jeep after introducing a redesigned Grand Cherokee.
  • The Ram truck division increased sales 29 percent.
  • Even Dodge posted a 14-percent gain.

However, a deeper look at Chrysler’s situation reveals the potential for a comeback that, if it happens, will put smiles on the faces of Chrysler dealers around the country.

Chrysler’s underperformance

A major reason for the Chrysler brand’s recent decline is the loss of discontinued models, including the PT Cruiser, Aspen, and Pacifica. A slowdown in minivan sales has also played a part in Chrysler’s weakened position.  

The Chrysler brand is now down to just three product lines:

  • The full-sized Chrysler 300. This redesigned luxury car has been late in getting to dealers, which helped to keep a lid on sales so far this year.
  • The Chrysler 200. It replaced the mid-sized Sebring.
  • The recently improved Town & Country minivan that’s recording less than stellar sales.

You may count the Chrysler 200 convertible as a fourth product line. The 200 convertible is hitting dealerships just in time for warmer weather.

On a positive note

What is working in Chrysler’s favor is a new and improved marketing campaign. “Imported from Detroit” began with a Super Bowl commercial featuring Eminem. The next phase of this campaign is underway with more heavyweights in front of the camera for Chrysler, including rapper Dr. Dre and Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.

Redesigned cars and a new and successful marketing pitch hold the potential for a turnaround for the Chrysler brand. Some Chrysler dealers around the country are already reporting increased traffic and are hopeful that summer sales will improve dramatically.

Time will tell if design and marketing changes translate into a reversal of the loss of market share that’s plagued the Chrysler brand in recent years.

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