California Autos Examiner

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chrysler slips on some Corinthian leather Italian loafers

It’s done. Finalized. In the books. Chrysler is now in the hands of a veritable mélange of owners: Fiat, United Auto Workers and the federal government. It’s also shorn 789 dealers from its ranks and has reworked its management team. Now what? In the short term there will be few visible changes for the consumer and that could be a problem. Whereas General Motors still has a considerable arsenal of vehicles in its pipeline, Chrysler doesn’t have much to show the world in the way of new product until reinforcements can arrive. That would probably be okay if the existing lineup was performing, but of course that isn’t the case.

Minivans, full size pickup trucks, a new Grand Cherokee and a reworked 300C aren’t going be able to stake the corporate tent securely. Throwing in a few Fiat 500s late next year might bring a few folks, but the 500 will always be a niche model. What to do? While under Cerberus ownership, Chrysler would crow to the press that they had approved X number of “line item” improvements for its models. This practice must continue! Chrysler must find what is lacking and as soon as it can implement improvements, do it! To hell with waiting for model year changeovers. The 2010s are already baked, but let’s see some 2010.5 models out there. I like the direction that the Jeep Patriot/Compass took with their second stab at creating a believable interior. I presume the Caliber will see these changes as well? While they are at it, spruce up the Dodge Journey. The Journey is a decent product, but my gripe was with the use of cheap interior plastics. Start adding extra content to all models. Every vehicle should have iPod/USB, Bluetooth connectivity options to compete with Ford’s SYNC system. These might be little things, but they add up in a hurry when you start layering them. Making a silk purse out of a pig’s ear? Maybe, but it’s worth a shot.

Chrysler HAS to find innovative ways to stay relevant in the short-term so that its dealers can hang on until a product revival. Speaking of dealers, Chrysler must bend over backwards to help these small businesses in a time of extreme need. Chrysler must use innovative sales and service campaigns to attract new customers and keep existing buyers happy.

I don’t think that this is impossible, but Chrysler must act with extreme urgency. I wish them well and hope they succeed.

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