Chrysler, among best scored car brands in USA

Chrysler brand occupied an important place among best scoring brands of 2012 T0tal Car Score’s list. Total Car Score is a website that aims to classify and compare cars with scores given by important car analysts. They rank cars according to an aggregate score based on the most trusted automotive authorities available. In their latest report, among premium and volume brands together, Chrysler passed from 18th place last year to 8th place in 2012 among the best qualified car makers. It had the second best growth after Kia, and is just few points after VW. In the report ther were only analyzed those car brands with more than 4 models available all over the States (not Fiat). Chrysler’s result can be an important indicator of how Americans are evaluating their cars, and how good all its products are being received by professional press and media. But the most important, it shows the new trend among Americans, who begin to believe again in the quality and final product of a company  like Chrysler, which was in bankruptcy 3 years ago.

Total Car Score, Top 10 Best Car Brands for 2012. Chrysler is above BMW and had the second best growth after Kia. Source: Total Car Score

 

More aerodynamics in future Chryslers

Chrysler 200C EV Concept Car

Aerodynamics will become a key factor for the performance of coming models of Chrysler Group. This important field is becoming by far one of the topics from which future cars will be able to have better fuel efficiency. It means that design or a specific shape can affect the way the car moves and therefore the quantity of gas required to do so. This principle has been understood by all car makers using their wind tunnels to evaluate their car forms. But now Chrysler wants to go ahead and spend more time in this process according to Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s design chief. “The wind is starting to sculpt these vehicles”, he said refering to Audi A7 or the redesigned Toyota Avalon in the US. He thinks mid sized sedans can have really aerodynamic shapes and not only sport cars. That’s why he says next Chrysler 200 and 300 will look much more sporty in that sense: “We’ll have no choice but to be some of the most wind-swept vehicles that you’ve ever seen”.

Future Chrysler 300 rendering by Alessandro Masera via autoblog.it

To achieve that requires more time evaluating the aerodynamics coefficient. Now designers are working together with engineers , somtehing that allows cooperation and enhances the ideas they can have. Normally, for a specific project, designers spend 100 hours in the wind tunnel. Gilles wants designers and engineers to spend 200-300 hours per project because he thinks there are lot of small parts in the outline of a car that can be improved in terms of aerodynamics. “It’s amazing the details, especially if you look at the back of a car,” Gilles said. “There are a lot of little flicks and bends that simulate aquatic animals almost.” Then it is just a matter of time to see next generation of Chrysler sedans to look more sporty and dynamic and see very small numbers of fuel consumption.

Source: Automotive News, Joseph Lichterman

Fiat-Chrysler begins its come back to China

After the presentation of Fiat Viaggio in Beijing Auto Show 2012, the Group is getting ready to enter the Chinese market with some of its brands. The Viaggio will be the, by the moment, the only product to be produced locally, but more products from Fiat brand as well as Dodge and Chrysler will soon join Jeep in world’s largest market. Fiat will be initially present with the C-segment sedan, and will import both, the 500 and Freemont from Mexico. The small one will be offered with some specific changes while the large MPV will be offered with the 173hp 2.4 engine. It is also expected the return of Chrysler with its big sedan, the 300C imported from Canada. After being produced in China during Daimlers era, this sedan will go back to China with its facelift and much better interiors to compete with of Germans in D-segment in large version configurations. Its launch will take place in June 26th and its price should be 500.000 yuans (US$79.000). Dodge is also getting ready. Some spy shots reveiled by the site CarNewsChina.com showed its Journey (is the Dodge version as the logo can be seen in the steering wheel). It means that China will be, as it is Brazil, another market to have both models available, Fiat Freemont and Dodge Journey. Nevertheless, it is expected the Journey to be more expensive as it will have a better engine of 283hp 3.6 V6. Its price is not expected to be far from Freemont which starts at $250.000 yuans (US$39.000). All of these models will join the only brand of the group that has not interrupted its presence in China, Jeep.

Dodge Journey/Fiat Freemont. Both models are available in Brazil and soon in China. Photo by autoesporte.com.br

Jeep models are available in China in 120 dealers. They are all imported from North America and it makes them really expensive SUVs. No matter its representation in the country has changed a lot during the last 30 years (its owners were always changing) the brand still has a good reputation among Chinese. Last year they sold 19.013 units, up 63% compared to 2010. Is a small number compared to competition but it can be seen as a good starting point for future sales with local production. In fact Fiat-Chrysler’s plan include the start of production in 2014. In the meantime, Jeeps will continue to be well recognized, and its sales will rise without reaching the big numbers local production means. It is because imported cars are highly taxed by Chinese authorities and it makes Jeep products really expensive: the Grand Cherokee starts at $576.000 yuans (US$91.000). All of that means that Fiat has a lot of potential but they need to start local production as soon as possible if they want a respectable place in this important car market.

What comes for Lancia/Chrysler

Graphic by highmotor.com

Graphic by highmotor.com

Two brands and two continents. That’s how they work together and will be even closer as future models arrive. At the beginning only Lancia got the mission to adapt Chrysler brand models to its European range of models. But in the coming years they will develop common models exclusively for their targets. Meanwhile the situation of them is becoming really different.

The 2011 Lancia Ypsilon, an instant hit in Italy and Greece but no where else

The 2011 Lancia Ypsilon, an instant hit in Italy and Greece but no where else

Lancia has been always the brand of championship’s success of Italians. They all remember the best years of this historical brand and some of them keep their old cars as a treasure. Unfortunatelly those good years are quite far from today as Lancia is trying to survive in a complex European context. First it was a problem of quality of its products (from early 90’s to mid 00’s) and then came the European crisis that has affected more those small brands without a distinctive image. Anyway the position of Lancia is now very complicated as it depends a lot on the Italian market: about 85% of total sales* come from Italy and it’s a brand with no presence outside Europe. This big concentration of sales in only one country has made of Lancia one of the most threatened brands of Fiat Group. In term of models the situation is less concentrated: the popular Ypsilon (launched in 2011) counts for 62% of its sales (90% of them are sold in Italy though), and then comes the beauty Delta with 18% (81% sold in Italy) and 17% for the Musa (93% of them sold in Italy). And according to recent data it seems the rebadged Lancia Thema (aka Chrysler 300) and Lancia Voyager (aka Chrysler Town & Country) have not gained a good position within their segments (especially the Thema). On the other hand, Lancia has lost its identity and Europeans do not recognize it as a major car brand.

Chrysler 200: 120% of sales growth in Jan-Apr/12 in USA. Photo by netcarshow.com

Chrysler 200: 120% of sales growth in Jan-Apr/12 in USA. Photo by netcarshow.com

In the other shore of the Atlantic ocean, Chrysler brand is now going through a rebirth after its death in 2009. When things went really bad, its market share was extremely small and its products were identified as low quality ones, Marchionne and his team began a tough work to redefine its position in the market and gain people’s trust. That’s how Chrysler is now one of the few car brands to have 10 months in a row of growth sales although it has not launched any all new model since many years ago. The restyling of 200 and 300 has been enough to get the attention from customers in the US and Canada, while the popular Town & Country minivan continues its success. Its presence is clearly concentrated in North America (Nafta market, 98%) but the name is also known in the UK, Japan and Brazil, and soon in China.

A Lancia render exercise. Graphic by eurocarblog.com

A Lancia render exercise. Graphic by eurocarblog.com

After taking into account the current position of both brands, it is clearly urgent to change some things about them. First, Lancia must acelerate its change image campaign in Europe in order to have better market share outside Italy. They have been doing pretty well in the first quarter of 2012, but there is still a long path to go. In terms of models, they should conceive future models as more global ones rather than Italian image. It is true that are really different style and original (especially the Delta) but this kind of design is not the one Europeans are looking for. Besides, the quality perception must be equal to its competitors in order to combat its terrible low quality image. And finally, they should work on repositioning brand’s mission which should be as stated: “to become Europe’s best mid-luxury C and D segment offer” that should complement Fiat’s model range as higher class mid size cars with a ‘unique’ Italian style.

The Chrysler 700C concept to anticipate possible future lines of the next Town & Country. Photo by autoguide.com

The Chrysler 700C concept to anticipate possible future lines of the next Town & Country. Photo by autoguide.com

Chrysler must replace as soon as possible its sedans as they are getting old and then it could keep its sales growth. The 200 and 300 can be working now but the competition is getting difficult as the total market keeps its recovery path. In terms of geographic position certainly the US market will continue to be its main arena, but it can gain some market share in other interesting markets such as China (they love large sedans), Russia (they love luxury cars), and the Middle East (they love big American cars). Therefore the model range should be complemented by larger sedans (E segment) with special versions for extreme luxury. Chrysler should become the best option when thinking of a C, D and E segment mid-luxury sedan in America, and ofcourse think of a great sucesor for the great Town & Country with several body type options.

*According to FGW data basis