Out of bankruptcy but not out of the woods, the automaker is struggling with a stale product line-up and not much new in sight
Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com senior writer
The carmaker may have been given a sleek and shiny new balance sheet, but the products on the showroom floor are the same stale cars and trucks from before and there’s not much new to look forward to.
In the hyper-competitive American car market, that empty product pipeline is potentially disastrous. Newly designed and engineered cars and trucks are what keep automakers in the game.
“It’s the most important thing,” industry analyst Jesse Toprak of Truecar.com said of new product offerings. “It’s the lifeline.”
Besides a new heavy-duty version of the well-regarded Dodge Ram pick-up going on sale soon, there’s nothing new coming from any of Chrysler Group’s brands before the middle of next year.
Chrysler needs to move fast to shore up its product plans, said Matt Stone, executive editor of Motor Trend magazine.
“I think they will run out of steam quickly,” said Stone. “How long could they prop it up with color changes and incentives? Another year or two, maybe.”
New car and truck models are important because consumers are always interested in the newest stuff, Toprak said, but all-new products with the latest engineering and the trendiest designs take years to develop — time which many experts say Chrysler does not have.
Chrysler is currently scrambling to gather the resources, including additional staff and suppliers, to quicken the process, according to media reports.
To try to turn its own situation around before it’s too late, Chrysler Group is expected to release a new revitalization plan in November. Interviews published recently by the industry newspaper Automotive News provide some insight into what Chrysler Group executives might be thinking.
Under the new plan, both the Chrysler and Dodge brands will undergo serious image makeovers.
Dodge will continue to be a performance-oriented brand but now focus more on fun-to-drive qualities than on raw engine power. Chrysler, meanwhile, will move upscale. Way upscale, setting its sights on competing with Cadillac, BMW and Mercedes.