Was it Just Luck for Chrysler?

by : Lisa Ziegler

If there's one thing that Chrysler--- maker of Jeep vehicles and Jeep auto parts such as --- can boast of is its ability to produce a hit vehicle in times when everybody thought that all hopes are gone for the automaker.

There could never be a much perfect timing for the creation of the Chrysler 300 sedan. The production of the 300 sedan was a timely stroke of brilliance in Auburn Hills. It should be noted that in more years than anyone can remember the PT Cruiser, classic Jeep Grand Cherokee together with the range of innovative new minivans have saved Chrysler from near bankruptcy.

The only question now is: Does Chrysler has enough resources left to create another product-led comeback? The current cutting measures that the automaker is employing such as cutting jobs and stabilizing health care cost although it helps but is not enough to save the automaker from a possible buyout. It is also not a secret that DaimlerChrysler AG is looking for potential buyers for the Chrysler AG and if Chrysler will not exert effort to prove its worth to Daimler then it will have to find a new home.

Chrysler is not at all a bad company, as a fact, last year it was able to introduce a record of 10 vehicles of which there were no unqualified hits except for the four-door Wrangler Unlimited which is only a small part of the whole equation. And for this year, Chrysler will once again launch eight more new models. Not bad for a company that is on the brink of being torn to pieces.

Steve Bartoli, Chrysler's Vice-President for global product planning said, "We just have to be competitive," and further stated that the coming of new vehicles will help in paying dividends quickly. "It's been a mixed mesh of new vehicles. And fortunately there haven't been any disasters."

Most analysts' thinks that Chrysler needs to develop an emotional connection with its buyers. And at present Chrysler still designs and produces polarizing vehicles. As a fact, a great number of its newest models like the boxy and aggressive Dodge Nitro provide a distinctive look and one-of-a-kind features for its respective segment. According to Jim Sanfilippo, an automotive marketing expert with Team Detroit that handles advertising for several brands, "You don't get 300s every year. 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."

Chrysler and its Minivans
And what about the Minivans will they be able to help Chrysler? One of the most important vehicle launches that Chrysler has for 2007 is in the segment it invented way back in the year 1983 which is the minivan. Starting from the time that Chrysler has introduced the minivans in the market it has been able to sell at least 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 will hit dealerships this fall should be able to boost the lagging sales of Chrysler, according to Merkle. He also added, "The competition doesn't have the ability to build more minivans. And Chrysler is introducing an excellent product."

Despite the fact that Chrysler owns 28 percent of the segment, the sales for the Town and Country minivans still dropped by 12 percent last year while the Caravan sales decline by 6.9 percent that is according to Autodata. Fortunately for Chrysler, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. are now abandoning minivans which make Chrysler as the strongest producer in this segment and will be competing only against Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.-holding No.2 and No.3 spots respectively.

Chrysler and its Sedan
Although Chrysler may not be as lucky in the midsize sedan segment with its two introductions-the all new Dodge Avenger and the redesigned Sebring--- but both of these vehicles possess distinctive designs and economical advantage since both were built on the same platform in Sterling Heights. The Avenger was given an aggressive and meaner look while the Sebring was given a face that is made for rental car fleet.

The Sebring sedan is scheduled to hit showrooms in December but sales remain sluggish which Bartoli blames to an end-of-year launch. The Sebring sedan with its short deck and snubbed nose makes it an ugly duckling in the range but wait till you see the convertible version of the sedan which is scheduled to come out later this year. The dropping of the top and the removal of the two doors makes the convertible Sebring sedan a standout.

The Avenger on the other hand is already available in dealerships and offers an attractive alternative to a segment that is filled with hot-selling bland vehicles. It resembles a small Charger and its unique features, strong styling, and good gas mileage is expected to attract new customers.

Dodge which is a brand that appeals to more men than women has a car on its hands that could pull more drivers who are looking for vehicles that have a sporty look and utility that is similar to that of the sedan.

The Dodge Caliber which has given Chrysler with a moderate success has continued the tradition of the automaker when it comes to offering a distinct alternative to the traditional competitors. Although the interior may seem simple but it comes with clever features such as a cooler in the glove box and a detachable cabin light. More than 90,000 units of Dodge Caliber were sold since its launching last year. Also a 300 horsepower high performance SRT version of the Caliber is scheduled for release later this year.