Chrysler's Identity Crisis Means Uncertain Future

Industry News / Comments

It can't rely on sedans and minivans forever.

Unlike its closest brand relative Dodge, Chrysler sells only two vehicles. Three if you count the newly launched Chrysler Voyager, a less expensive version of the Chrysler Pacific minivan. They differ in name and feature content only. The Chrysler 300, a corporate cousin to the Dodge Charger, is the iconic brand's only other current model. The recently announced FCA-PSA merger supposedly will not eliminate any brands, at least for now. Chrysler's problem is that it lacks a brand identity and it's uncertain whether or not the merger will help resolve the issue.

The Detroit News reports that despite company officials' claims Chrysler is here to stay, the sales figures and lack of a product paint a different picture. In 2019, Chrysler sales fell by 23 percent. A little under 30,000 Chrysler 300s were sold marking a 37 percent drop, while 98,000 Pacificas left dealership lots, which represents a 17 percent decrease.

2015-2020 Chrysler 300 Sedan Front View Chrysler
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2015-2020 Chrysler 300 Sedan Front Seating Chrysler

However, the Pacifica did outsell the Dodge Durango, Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger, and Jeep Renegade. Expanding the minivan lineup with the more affordable Voyager thus makes absolute sense. But can Chrysler solely rely on minivan and muscle sedan sales forever? That's the big unknown. Prior to the proposed merger, FCA had a "house of brands" philosophy, meaning each brand is aimed to fulfill a specific market segment. Even though US minivan sales are less than 3 percent market share, the Pacifica and bargain-focused Dodge Grand Caravan bring thousands of customers into showrooms.

Rivals such as the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, and Kia Sedona are not a huge concern because FCA's minivan sales totaled more than half of all minivans sold in the US last year. The Pacifica is also the only minivan with a plug-in hybrid option.

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2017-2020 Chrysler Pacifica Minivan Front View Chrysler
2017-2020 Chrysler Pacifica Minivan Left Side View Doors Opened Chrysler
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Despite this sales success, the head of PSA, Carlos Tavares, who will also hold the same position of the still-unnamed combined automaker, has never outright said the Chrysler brand is finished, but rather "Every brand has its own chance." The question going forward is whether or not Chrysler will be given that chance. It may currently survive because it's the best-selling minivan brand in America, but the large car market where the 300 is placed, dropped to only 1.9 percent market share last year. In 2010 it was at a healthier 4.9 percent. Chrysler's history of building great and innovative vehicles for decades shouldn't be ignored.

What are some possible revival opportunities? PSA's Citroen and Peugeot brands, neither of which are sold in the US, are a couple of potential sources for new product. In the meantime, Chrysler's status as a minivan brand with a cool, but fairly slow-selling muscle sedan remains unchanged. This probably cannot last forever.

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2020 Chrysler Voyager Front Angle View Chrysler
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