Two years ago, I thought we were going to see Chrysler go away. Admittedly, I was surprised it lasted this long. But with all signs pointing to the company disappearing soon, I felt that it was worth revisiting this piece. Don’t just let the name fade away. Let that flame burn brightly one final time before you extinguish it forever. -McT
Ninety-three years of automotive production are about to slip under the waves, judging not by the rumor mill that is currently foaming at the mouth, but by the actions of the parent company. Chrysler, the brand that has been around since 1925, the root brand of the Chrysler Corporation that was formed after Maxwell and Chalmers were reorganized, the company that spawned DeSoto, Plymouth, Dodge, Imperial, and the company that bought out American Motors, took on Jeep, went through the worst partnership in the automotive world yet with Daimler-Benz, nearly died during the Great Recession before being brought back to life by (of all companies) Fiat, is reportedly on the chopping block, with many speculating that before he retires, Sergio Marchionne will dump the Chrysler brand, as well as remove Fiat from the U.S. market and potentially merging Alfa Romeo and Maserati.
I don’t care what happens with Alfa and Maserati, I truly don’t. One wants to be an Italian-speaking BMW and the other is a Ferrari for those who cannot stomach the idea of owning a Ferrari, but love the way those cars scream when pushed hard. Fiat should leave the U.S. market…the 500 didn’t catch on and the 500L is a dumpy, frumpy thing with a transmission that is always trying to please, even to a fault. Fiat didn’t happen. But to dump Chrysler is a bullshit call…and it’s completely on the hands of FCA.
Look at the model lineup right now. Semantics aside about the difference between the hybrid Pacifica and the “normal” Pacifica, there are two models: the still quite new van and the Chrysler 300. Which is two things: outside of a couple of visual refreshes, it’s the same car I own right now, the one introduced in 2005. And it’s been slowly decontented for the last four years at least. The Dodge Charger sells quite nicely, doesn’t it? You can find V8 powered versions of that car, can’t you? You can find SRT models, can’t you? If you hunt and are lucky, you MIGHT find a 5.7L powered 300 on a lot somewhere, but good luck. You won’t find an SRT model that’s newer than 2014 unless you live in Australia and the Middle East, and a lot of that is because you won’t find a Dodge there. And don’t even ask about the Hellcat Hemi…I still want to cram one into a brand-new, fully loaded 300S just to go to an engineer and say, “See? It works! There’s nothing stopping you…WHY AREN’T YOU DOING THIS YET?”
There are other problems, don’t get me wrong. The Chrysler 200 was a flop, there hasn’t been development on any real new project even though the rumor mill has coughed up names like Citadel and Atlantic, old concept car names that might become the next crossover SUV to wear the winged badge. But it has felt more and more like vaporware than anything else. Marchionne doesn’t give a damn about Chrysler…he wants Alfa Romeo to succeed and for Jeep to keep raking in the cash by the cargo ship load. Do we really need a Jeep crossover smaller than the Renegade? Do we really need FCA to go after Range Rover and Mercedes in the super-luxury SUV market with a born-again Grand Wagoneer? No and no.
If you are really going to kill off Chrysler, FCA, do one thing before you put Walter Chrysler’s name through the shredder: unleash a small run of 6.4 or Hellcat-powered 300s. Don’t do it like you did Plymouth and just say “It’s over.” Make it memorable. But that’s if you are going to pull the trigger. Chrysler used to be the banker’s hot rod, power and luxury. Remember that? New Yorkers that had torque for days. Imperials that could take a beating and dish out a worse one. Cordobas that proved that even in the company’s bottom-of-the-barrel 1970s era, that a miracle car could be made. Chrysler’s story for the last fifty years has been one of comeback and triumph. Cordoba. K-car. LH. Viper. LX. Time isn’t up yet. Few Americans are really going to buy a Maserati or an Alfa Romeo. Don’t kill off a nameplate with that much history just because you want more Jeeps.
Surprise me. Surprise the press. Surprise the world.