It's go time for the smallest of the Big Three, will Chrysler come through?
Sales are up, and the corporation is now in good hands. This is what the people at Chrysler would have the general public believe. Perhaps this is true, but who are the people at Chrysler now anyway? We still see cars and trucks with the Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep names on the tailgate, trunk lid or grill, but who is it now that is building these cars. That’s a good question since the company has traded hands a few times in recent history, and now we ask the question: are the current chieftains of the Chrysler Corporation putting anything new out there that’s worthwhile?
Back in 1998 Daimler Benz, the people that build Mercedes, essentially bought out Chrysler and joined the companies together as two separate companies that were tied together so that two equal companies could market automobiles all over the world appealing to a wider audience of potential buyers than what they could appeal to individually.
Daimler could not make a go with Chrysler as an asset so the anchor was thrown over board in 2007. Chrysler was purchased by Cerberus Capital Management who tried to get things going but failed due to the latest recession and the essential crash of the US auto industry in 2008. As Chrysler emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009 they were bought out by the Fiat S.p.A. of Turin, Italy. Fiat now owns about 54% of Chrysler which is enough to call the shots. Their stake may go as high 70% at some point. This means that Fiat will be able to use Chrysler to help them make their way back into the U.S. market.
With all of the problems that Chrysler has had they have not been able to spend much money developing new models and redesigning old ones, but with their problems hopefully behind them, and with Fiat firmly in control, they are now rolling out several new models and redesigned models to the public here in the U.S. According to Fiat they will also be able to start selling several of these new models in Europe under the Fiat and Lancia name plates.
The hope is that these recently released cars and trucks can renew Chrysler’s product line in a way that will excite the auto buying public. With new logos and new sheet metal, these models really need to be successful in order to help Fiat get the Chrysler group going strong again. One of these models that I recently had a chance to drive for a few days was the new 2011 Chrysler 200.
Chrysler has had several models in the past that looked good from a distance but when you got close to them, the fit and finish was so poor that the plastic in the dash looked like it was formed in some kind of cheap blow molding process. You might say that Chrysler cars and trucks looked good from far, but far from good. The interiors on the upscale models looked just as cheap as the interiors on the entry-level models.
|The 200 is flex fuel and will run on ethanol, assuming you even know where a place is that sells the stuff.|
The interior in the 200 is really nice. Soft-touch plastics and chrome bits abound in the passenger cabin. The design looks good and has some nice details that give it a bit of flashy style. The buttons feel firm and connected rather than cheap and hollow. The gauges are easy to read and the overall ergonomics are well thought out.
The only problem with the exterior is that it still looks somewhat like the Sebring and this is probably because some of the chassis parts are the same. This kind of thing happens when designers are working with a limited budget. Some of the other new models and redesigned models from Chrysler show the same kind of thing. Because of the new powertrain and due to the fact that the exterior and interior are different enough from the Sebring, I don’t think any similarities between the new and the old matter much. The 200 is a nice looking car.
|An old service gargae in the historic village of Boston Mills, OH.|