|Photo credit: BILL PUGLIANO/GETTY IMAGES/NEWSCOM|
First, make the dealers happy. Then call upon a proud design heritage, make some smart alliances and take some cues from the Japanese.
May 21, 2007 - 1:00 am
Cerberus will complete the acquisition of the Chrysler group in late June or early July. Here are terms of the deal.
An alliance with Chinese carmaker Chery already is in the works. Chrysler will get a new small car, perhaps the Hornet. But more friends would come in handy. Maybe Chrysler can borrow technology from companies such as Peugeot, which makes good diesel engines. Or Chrysler could line up with Fiat, a master of cool small cars.
This might sound obvious - even simple-minded - but Chrysler struggles with it. Chrysler is a "push" automaker that pressures dealers to take whatever it produces. When vehicle stocks pile up, bad things happen.
Mike Jackson, chairman of AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest dealership group, says Chrysler and other automakers should follow Toyota's example.
"Toyota is successful because it listens to customers and then gives them what they want," he says.
"Everybody benchmarks Toyota. But what they leave out is Toyota's retail muscle. It is an awesome machine."
Looking further back, Chrysler has a history of memorable products: the DeSoto Airflow, 1957 Chrysler 300C, 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird and Willys Jeep Overland. These designs led the industry.
Chrysler has some nice-looking products now, but some critics say the line as a whole looks rather piecemeal.
Chrysler bosses should all take a quick trip over to their own museum to see some of the glorious products on display. A resurrected Challenger is on the way. Why not bring back modern versions of other greats, such as the Dart, Valiant or Imperial?
Company founder Walter Chrysler once said Chrysler was all about luxury at an affordable price. Chrysler brand should stake out that territory. Mercedes-Benz did not allow Chrysler to intrude upon its luxury turf. Now those constraints are gone.
Says Karl Brauer, analyst for Edmunds.com: "Chrysler needs to decide what it is. Then they can tell everyone else what it is."