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Chrysler SUVs appear destined to become roadkill

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MSNBC - Newsweek Business - commentary

Can Chrysler Turn Itself Around?

With a new management team in place, the automaker is primed for change. And some of its big-gulp SUVs appear destined to become roadkill.

WEB-EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY

By Keith Naughton

Sept. 12, 2007 - Bob Nardelli prowled the stage of the Detroit Athletic Club like a caged animal. Made famous by Michael Moore's documentary "Roger & Me," this was the same fusty, old venue that ejected Moore as he hunted down then GM chairman Roger Smith. But last Friday, all eyes were focused on Nardelli.

The new 59-year-old CEO of Chrysler was out to show that he'd brought some of the intensity he learned as a protégé of Jack Welch at General Electric before going on to become Home Depot's CEO. Speaking without cue cards to a room full of automotive reporters, he was heavy on GE-speak, waxing on about his "vertical learning curve" and "granularity." And his pacing presence on stage evoked Welch's "management by walking around" technique. But near the end of his performance, he threw some red meat to the crowd with a hint that Chrysler's product line is getting an overhaul. "We just can't have emotional attachments," he insisted, "to some of the brands and products that are out there."

That Chrysler's lineup needs a serious tuneup shouldn't come as a shock. After all, Chrysler is losing billions and has fallen to fifth place in sales in the U.S. market. Obviously, its big-gulp SUVs and pickups aren't exactly what America is after in these days of high gas prices and even higher anxiety. But here in Detroit, where the highways are still filled with American cars, denial runs deep. I recently brought up the 50th anniversary of the Edsel to a Ford exec and he started bragging about all the Edsel fan clubs that are still out there. Before the mercy killings of Oldsmobile and Plymouth earlier this decade, GM and Chrysler spent billions keeping those comatose brands on life support long after their vitals had flat-lined. For heaven's sake, Ford is still rationalizing the existence of Mercury. When's the last time Mercury came up with a must-have car?

So Nardelli's suggestion that he might euthanize brands and models at Chrysler got the assembled auto writers revved up. When he descended from the stage, he was mobbed in a scene that reminded me of the rushing reporters knocking over the phone booths in the movie "Airplane." Does Chrysler have too many SUVs? What brands are you going to kill? Nardelli backtracked—slightly. No, he's not doing away with the Dodge, Jeep or Chrysler brands. But it's time to get Darwinian about what's sitting on showroom floors. "We have to look very hard at some of the products within those brands," he told the throng of jostling journalists, "and make some tough choices."

Getting tough and getting real seems to be what Chrysler's new owner, Cerberus Capital Management, is all about. Stephen Feinberg, the brains and bucks behind Cerberus, quickly got down to business when he took over Chrysler on Aug. 3. Three days later, he brought in Nardelli to run the automaker and demoted CEO Tom LaSorda, despite earlier promises that the incumbent was his man with a plan. A few weeks later, Feinberg picked off Lexus's top marketer, Deborah Wall Meyer, to become Chrysler's chief marketing officer. And then the most stunning move of all: last week Feinberg lured away Toyota's top American executive, Jim Press, to become Chrysler's vice chairman. That was quickly followed by the hiring of GM's former top Asia executive, Phil Murtaugh. The conventional wisdom here in Detroit is that Feinberg and his $23.5 billion private equity firm are writing some mighty big checks to attract all this blue-chip talent. And the shadowy billionaire certainly doesn't expect his new crew to do business as usual. That's why Nardelli is signaling that he's breaking with the Detroit tradition of dithering over dying models.

Read more at link.

Gallery: Chrysler Models That May Be Killed

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Before the mercy killings of Oldsmobile and Plymouth earlier this decade, GM and Chrysler spent billions keeping those comatose brands on life support long after their vitals had flat-lined.

GM spent billions; Chrysler spent about $120.56 on Plymouth. And it showed.

Nardelli backtracked—slightly. No, he's not doing away with the Dodge, Jeep or Chrysler brands. But it's time to get Darwinian about what's sitting on showroom floors. "We have to look very hard at some of the products within those brands," he told the throng of jostling journalists, "and make some tough choices."

Tough? Aspen, Commander, Liberty, Compass or Patriot need to die. Pacifica and Durango need to be revamped as Lambda-style crossovers. The Sebring and Avenger need to be replaced by vehicles worth a damn. Dodge needs a compelling small car and I still highly doubt the viability of any product made in collaboration with the Great Chinese Xerox Machine.

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I'd keep the Nitro, Magnum <class by itself>, and .... I've changed my mind on the Commander. Done right, and with better marketing, it could be a great Jeep product to go up against the Land Cruiser and Land Rover.

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Nitro is not going....it is the one SUV the Dodge is selling in Europe.

This is a market that Dodge really wants to make gains at.

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PLEASE!!

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Not too bad. The only thing that sucks is that it'll look like the new Liberty.

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I've never seen that version. MUCH better than the most recent one, still kinda.... meh.

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I don't mind the Compass. Not for me but I don't mind.

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Heck No! The Commander rules! That and apparently people buy and love them, I see them all the time.

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Better. Much better.

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Well that is interesting. I am not so sure I agree. If nothing else, keep one SUV and definitely the Magnum. The Magnum is a very unique model and now that is has been redesigned it looks MUCH MUCH better.

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I think there is still a market for one BOF SUV and the Durango fits that bill...but it needs to be better in every possible way.

The Magnum is a unique niche vehicle that can probably afford low sales volume since the plats that makes it will soon have 3 other models to keep them busy

I like the Commander...it's a real Jeep...but I don't know if there is room in the market for it

Kill the Compass, kill the Aspen...both were mistakes

Nitro's styling is nice but everything else about it needs an overhaul

Dakota could be so much better

Edited by Dodgefan
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The new style Dakota and Durango were "restyle" mistakes. BOTH looked better before their current versions came out.

The Nitro isn't terrible, but reminds me a bit of an H3 "wanna be" type truck. I wouldn't cut it until slaes fell off obviously.

The Aspen I would keep over the Durango, they are nice trucks, just need some SRT versions and more economical driver versions IMO.

The Commander isn't great to look at IMO either, but the Jeeps are Jeeps. A facelift would end the looks drawback for me, and there is a Jeep under the skin. :wink:

The compass is like a "compact SUV", and it should be the way of the future- LIGHTER and SMALLER SUVs. Not big gas guzzling useless monsters.

The Magnum isn't an "SUV", not sure why it's in this thread. As long as the LX platform is made (or LY) it won't need to go anywhere.

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i really like the magnum after i had one as a rental but in no way would i buy one; the interior is that terrible and depressing.

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http://www.autofieldguide.com/columns/0807profile.html

What he took away from this—and his other concept—projects is the need for a complete understanding of the problem, and a group dedicated to finding the right solution. “You create a vocabulary in your head, a brand philosophy for aesthetics, that you apply to the techniques and technologies you see,” he says before ticking off the things necessary to make this happen. “You have to understand the process and what goes on behind the outer surface, and for this you need to work with engineers who can relate to that because you don’t want to have to do their jobs, too.” Together, they must push the boundaries of what’s possible until, “you’re told why it can’t be done, but what is possible.” It is a drive Zimmerman says he can’t help but follow, and one he’s in the midst of applying to his next project, the interior of the 2011 Dodge Charger. “We’ve tried to do more with less,” he says of Chrysler’s current interior offerings, “but now we have management’s total buy-in to really hang it out there.” And it’s the mischievous smile that lets you know he’s not kidding as he says: “The gloves are off.”

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the commander and aspen are sooo dead! magnum and nitro could be next. compass will be killed after a year or two.

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Um...why kill the Magnum? Are they crazy? If anything needs to go its the Aspen, Compass. The Patriot fills the spot better. The Commander can stay. Good idea, bad styling and marketing. The current Dakota looks like a wet dream design compared to the refresh, but I would keep it. To tell you the truth, I would return the Durango to the 1st gen. size and keep the HEMI. The damn thing is too big to have such little interior room.

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Before the mercy killings of Oldsmobile and Plymouth earlier this decade, GM and Chrysler spent billions keeping those comatose brands on life support long after their vitals had flat-lined. For heaven's sake, Ford is still rationalizing the existence of Mercury. When's the last time Mercury came up with a must-have car?

Umm.... Last time I checked, pulling over 200,000 sales the year that you're phased out doesn't exactly qualify as life support. (Olds)

Mercury's last must-have (GOTTA HAVE, except in pansy-assed journalist terminology) was the Milan... It sells well and is very desirable.

So Nardelli's suggestion that he might euthanize brands

Umm... Exactly what brand would you euthanize at Chrysler?!?! You'd be dumb to get rid of any of them.

**And of course the media came running; domestic brand euthanization is what they specialize in!

Looks like things are turning around at GM and now Chrysler. The verdict is still out on Ford IMO, they're making progress, but is it enough?

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how ironic how these things happen. 3 years ago the automotive media lovvved Chrysler, the company could do no wrong! "Why can't other companies have products like the 300C", "other companies should take note how corporate synergy can work", "bet GM wishes they had a hot product like the 300C", etc.

too funny. i'd say everything they've made since then has been wrong.

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Ahhh, kill them all and keep the GC and Magnum. I'd like to see...

Dodge:

  • Dakota (redesigned based on last generation.. the one with the 5.7 R/T)
  • Ram (Umm, beef this baby up, it's way past needing a new generation)
  • Durango (redesigned based on first generation)
  • Crossover
  • Magnum
Jeep:
  • Wrangler
  • Wrangler Unlimited (little bigger than the Wrangler)
  • Cherokee (size between the Unlimited and GC)
  • Grand Cherokee (make it a little bigger)
Chrysler:
  • Crossover (vs. Enclave)
  • SUV (Durango platform, different skin inside and out)
  • PT Cruiser
I think this generation and the crossover will tell us whether the van lives or dies.
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If it were up to me, Chrysler's SUV lineup would be cut back to Jeep Patriot, Grand Cherokee, and Wrangler; Dodge Journey and Durango (sharing the Grand Cherokee platform); and a Chrysler version of the Journey. I would definitely keep the Magnum, but make it more of a traditional wagon. I'd drop the Compass, Liberty/Nitro, and the body on frame SUV's.

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That article is nothing but assumptions and journalistic misconduct. Nardelli didn't say anything about SUVs, that was the writer's assumption. In fact, he didn't mention any specific class of vehicle let alone individual models.

The piece is pure fluff, irresponsible and full of the latest "slant" in auto-journalism (kill the SUV).

Should some of these products be dumped? Hell yes! But the rest is just speculative crap.

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Why do I have a feeling that the product portfolio reshuffling will end up with Chrysler offering the juicier/luxurious stuff and Dodge becoming Chrysler's "Chevy"?

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Why do I have a feeling that the product portfolio reshuffling will end up with Chrysler offering the juicier/luxurious stuff and Dodge becoming Chrysler's "Chevy"?

What does that mean???? Isn't that how it is now???

_________________________

Anyway, got some info....

Magnum stays. Chrysler likes it but it could be transformed into a 300 series model.... a la Europe.

Durango dead. See it in 2010 off of the Grand Cherokee platform (think Trailhawk for the GC vehicle).

Aspen, Pacifica, PT Cruiser all dead. Will be replace by JZ49 or the Chrysler version of the Journey. Also a new vehicle called "Alpine" (not a typo) will also find its way into the Chrysler brand a la next gen. Grand Cherokee platform.

Commander dead. Next gen. Grand Cherokee will take its place.

If sales for the Compass doesn't pick up by 2010...it will be killed with the next gen. PT taking its place. (Not sure about the PT part.....really too early to tell).

Crossfire dead.

SWB TandC dead (well that is obvious now).

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Are you guys serious that they should kill the Liberty?! Yes, it's not exactly competitive, but Chrysler does sell hoards of them. As long as they're still bringing in cash from there, there's no reason they should eliminate that model.

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What does that mean???? Isn't that how it is now???

No, right now it looks more like Pontiac: RWD offering aside, it wants to be exciting, but really isn't.
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