Chrysler Corporation has been beat up the last decade in so many ways it’s almost wrong. The merger with Daimler did not go as planned for either company and then right before the economic tsunami hit, Chrysler is purchased by equity firm Cerberus. Most people outside of the auto industry had no idea who Cerberus was and they still don’t have any idea who they are today. Cerberus knew very little about running an automaker and it showed, so when they bailed on Chrysler and her employees it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Almost everyone knows that Chrysler went through bankruptcy in 2009 and were on the brink of extinction when an agreement to take over the company was reached with Fiat. Heck, they basically shut down all production in December 2008, which had many in the industry pondering whether Chrysler could ever recover! Fast forward to December 2010 and now things have turned around for the Pentastar.
Chrysler is now run by Sergio Marchionne, who orchestrated a turnaround at Italian car maker Fiat and is now in the midst of doing the same with Chrysler but on a larger scale. We say “larger” because this turnaround will also include Fiat, as Mr. Marchionne is not finished his work in Turin either. There is new and consistent process and leadership with the Fiat World Class Manufacturing System working it’s way into all aspects of Chrysler’s facilities with a real focus on quality, which translates into “a new day has arrived.” On the design side, hopefully there are no more redesigns like the weak Sebring and no more allowing well-built and designed vehicles wither on the vine with shabby updates using cheap materials. Enter Fiat’s multi-air engines, which are reliable and fuel efficient. There’s reason for optimism in the halls of Chrysler. The culture is surely going through some changes at breakneck speed, but when you hear about what Italian export Mauro Pino is accomplishing at Chryslers Toledo, OH plants you can understand that real progress is taking place at all levels of the “New Chrysler”.
Chrysler sales in 2010 are up almost 20 percent from 2009 and with eleven all-new or seriously refreshed Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat vehicles to be launched during the fourth quarter of 2010 and first quarter of 2011, the march is on for a larger slice of the market. Also in the mix is the venerable Fiat 500, which will add some flair to the Chrysler/Fiat stable and don’t be surprised if that little 500 becomes a cult hit. Many thought the days were numbered for Chrysler and it wasn’t easy to change perceptions but in the auto world, many are taking notice of what Chrysler and all of her brands are building and selling.
The Dodge brand has seen sales steadily climb and has new product that could seriously put them on a roll with the gorgeous 2011 Dodge Durango, the stylish and tough-looking 2011 Dodge Charger, the sharp crossover 2011 Dodge Journey, the new 2011 Dodge Avenger, the upgraded 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan, and the badass Dodge Challenger SRT8 392. We had a chance to drive some of these cars and were very impressed. The 2011 Dodge Charger is the flagship of the Dodge brand and appears to be ready to rock and roll in the sales department, with a re-design that looks awesome.
The big daddy of them all at Chrysler is the 300 and we’re going to have a bird’s eye view of the new machine at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 10th, 2011. Some of the photos that have been released show a very sleek 2011 Chrysler 300, with a grille that features seven horizontal liquid chrome blades and a new Chrysler wing badge and a stunning totally new interior that is garnering plenty of praise early on in the 300’s unveiling. Look for plenty of coverage of the Chrysler 300 on Bullz-Eye.com during the Detroit Auto Show in January 2011.
There is no longer just a bunch of folks crossing their fingers hoping that the U.S. Auto Industry can recover, but rather we are witnessing a real strengthening in sales with Chrysler/Fiat positioning themselves for a renaissance that is truly American and amazing! The competition is fierce and we know this firsthand, as we continue to drive, test and review many makes and models from top flight auto producers. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Chrysler/Fiat is building something for the long term and they have an edge right now that they can’t lose if they want to be stronger than they’ve been in decades.