• Nov 15th 2009 at 8:46AM
  • 58

It's said that certain cultures don't handle the concept of irony well. You know, irony – where the intended answer is the opposite of the actual answer. Case in point: Back when cab forward cars were all the rage and the once mighty Plymouth brand was put out to pasture, Chrysler looked as if it had a fighting chance at remaining solidly within the Big 3. The Dodge Ram was a gauntlet thrown, the V10 Viper had sports car fans atwitter and the Dodge Intrepid really was a smart, good looking car.

Chrysler, meet Daimler, your new "equal." And by equal we mean Daimler gets the all the profits and you get cast off, last-generation Mercedes platforms on which to underpin your new cars. In the case of the 300C/Charger/Magnum, this particular strategy worked, for a couple of years at least. In the case of the Crossfire, not even a little bit. And then under Daimler's watch – and specifically under the eyes of Dieter Zetsche, a.k.a. Dr. Z – Chrysler was piledriven through the mat. Have you driven a Dodge Journey lately?

Here's the irony – Dr. Z is handing out unsolicited advice to Fiat's Sergio Marchionne vis-a-vis Chrysler – and we just can't help but laugh. Zetsche claims, "I continue to be emotional about this company and am crossing my fingers for the very best future." And while we're 51% sure he's being sincere, where was that emotion when he green lit the Jeep Compass? Or the Chrysler Sebring? Or the Dodge Caliber? All cars that led directly to the bankruptcy of Chrysler. We could go on, but you get the idea. Our advice to Sergio? Do the opposite of whatever Zetsche is telling you.

[Source: USA Today | Source photo by TORSTEN SILZ/AFP/Getty Images]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      The suggestion that Caliber and Compass led directly to Chrysler's bankruptcy is just plain wrong. The Caliber is not great, but not a bad car for its price. It's solid, space-efficient, cleverly equipped and with a manual, gets very good mileage. (The interior materials are indefensibly hard,) The Compass is totally redundant, but along with the Patriot these cars have kept Belvidere running fairly steadily. The biggest problems are the lack of a true compact sedan that competes directly with Civic, Mazda3 etc., and the catastrophically uncompetitive Sebring/Avenger.

      Daimler never understood this marketplace. They simplified it to trucks and big v8's, and for the rest of the lineup created products without nuance.

      Then came Nardelli. His hiring destroyed any hope that the Cerberus purchase created.

      Fiat can do this. Really. They have the products in every category except big sedans and trucks, and Chrysler can handle those. This company has more lives than a cat!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Jim, I don't completely disagree with you, BUT:

        I have over 80,000 km on my Caliber SRT4. It's not perfect, but It's pretty good. Very fast, fuel efficient, practical. I know many people with CVT Calibers, (none of them enthusiasts) and they like them. I can't stand the CVT myself. I said myself that the interiors are crappy (although there is no molding flash to be seen in mine); that's the weakest part of the car, not counting the CVT, which is a subjective thing.

        As for keeping a plant running with substandard product, thousands of American workers kept their homes thanks to the direct and indirect jobs, and people DID buy the cars. Not a perfect system, and new product IS needed. Quickly!

        I think we can agree more than disagree, but the Belvidere triplets are not the primary cause of Chrysler's difficulties!
        • 5 Years Ago
        "The Caliber is not great, but not a bad car for its price"

        while I haven't seen the 2010 updates in person, I really think the Caliber *is* a bad car. I drove a 2007 SXT for a week, and these are the things that put me off:

        1) the tan interior was miserable. everything was the same shade, there was no visual interest at all.
        2) the interior plastics were miserable; they had that slightly too shiny, raw plastic look that just screams cheap
        3) there was an ungodly amount of molding flash on the parting lines of many of the trim pieces, especially the B-pillar trim
        4) the engine sound was horrible, made worse by the CVT keeping it screaming
        5) the power door locks made this loud, sharp *CLACK* when they locked
        6) the handling was mushy and miserable.

        So, the Caliber may be "competent" as a cheap car, there is certainly much better out there for the price.

        "The Compass is totally redundant, but along with the Patriot these cars have kept Belvidere running fairly steadily."

        that's not necessarily a good thing. Keeping a plant running by churning out substandard and/or undesirable products only works for a short time. It's the same mentality that Joe Eberhardt espoused by cranking out Rams and Dakotas that no one wanted, then forcing them down the dealers' throats. There was a time a few years ago where pretty much any large property in metro Detroit was full of Dodge trucks waiting for someone to grudgingly take them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hey, who better to offer advice on fixing Chrysler, than the people who wrecked it in the first place?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Marchionne is a genius, I am not saing that cause I am Italian, but you need to appreciate what he did for FIAT alone.

      In few years he changed FIAT philosophy from Fix It Again Tony to one of the most reliable carmaker (not the top one but not the bottom one any more), by focusing on quality.
      He also understand and embrace globalization, he knows that for a carmaker to survive you need to sell around 6 millions cars to be profitable, and that's what he is doing.

      Make no mistake, FIAT is not Daimler, FIAT needs Chrysler to succeed and help the company reach that 6 million mark that the FIAT group alone cannot reach.
      So expect solid cars with a touch of Italian style in the next few years.

      You won't see any ugly looking cars like the Sebring in the new line up (Oh boy that car is really ugly, no wonder Chrysler went bust)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ciao Bolide. I have to agree. I have no idea who was smoking what when Chrysler green lit the Sebring, un bucco nel acqua. Chryslers and Dodge will now all look great. Most will be rebadged FIATs and Lancias in the future and that can only be a good thing. The days of Fix It Again Tony went out with the Uno, Regatta, Tipo etc.

        American auto buyers are in for a treat. The Japanese should be getting very worried. The Italian-Americans are starting the fight back.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Jim is correct about Eaton, who opened the door for Daimler. Iaccoca did admit that he regretted putting Eaton in charge.
        • 5 Years Ago
        IMO - Bob Eaton should be arrested for High treason along with Billie boy Clinton for even entertaining the sale to Daimler.

        Fiat makes sense, bring in partners when you need them, but don;t sell out your Mfg base, just look at Britain
      • 5 Years Ago
      Good grief. That's like getting healthy living tips from Dr. Kervorkian.

      The amazing thing about the final DaimlerChrysler years (aka: The Death Spiral), is that the company was still producing some decent looking concept vehicles while simultaneously excreting the turds that comprise most of the current lineup. Go figure.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Fair enough. Let me try again:

        If you were part of the team that was killing Chysler, it's hard to be taken seriously when you're dishing out advice on how to save them.

        Kervorkian's 'patients' were terminally ill. Do you see the analogy now?
      • 5 Years Ago
      So Marchionne should do the opposite to crossing his fingers and hoping for success for Chrysler and somehow that would work out better? I do wonder what Fiat wants with Chrysler though, because the way I see it Chrysler has zero future.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Your comment has no future.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If wasn't for Daimler Chrysler merger Chrysler would not have survived this long. The merger was poor dicision in part of Daimler Benz failing to see how poor Chrysler's product lineup was and the companies over bloated and over paid work force.

      Only reason Chrysler put up those profits were due to lending arm and SUV sales. Once the credit bubble burst, Japanese and Korean autos started cranking out their SUVs and gas prices started going up; Chrysler was good as dead.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The plane boss the plane.... Get off Fantasy Island buddy. You are just another "America Can't" hack, but Germany can? With the highest costs in the world? Give me a break.

        You are clueless. Chrysler prod dev cycle and costs were very low, cars were selling, Iaocca/Lutz had this company running on all 8 cylinders.

        $1B in profit a qtr before merger - in 1998, by 2008 before the crisis they'd have more cash than China,

        Eaton sold the company and country out and we paid the price, he and Clinton are Bendict Arnolds IMO
        • 5 Years Ago
        You are a liar, plain and simple. I really wish you'd stop posting here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You need to be open to criticism or offer counter argument rather than bash others for pointing out the obvious truth. As i said before it is doubtful Chrysler with its current lineup will survive till 2012.
        • 5 Years Ago
        $1B in profit a qtr before merger - in 1998, by 2008 before the crisis they'd have more cash than China, ."

        I do not think you understand most of those profits were the lending arm thanks in part to cheap credit. And the rest of profits came from mid/full truck and suv lineup. When the credit bubble burst and gas prices shot up so went Chrysler.

        Care to explain how you think Chrysler could have survived without daimler.
        • 5 Years Ago

        What planet are you from?
      • 5 Years Ago
      What about a new Dodge Neon based on a Fiat platform?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yes, I've driven a Dodge Journey lately. My sister owns one, It's a fine automobile. With the 3.5L it really moves, and has a really nice interior, especially when some other Chrysler vehicles designed at the time can have some pretty plain interiors.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe Marchionne and Dr. Z will simply form an automotive "axis" and attempt to dominate the european auto industry through force and coercion. Renault will probably just surrender...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Agreed. Through my advertising career, I've had the opportunity to see up close how the Detroit automotive community works. On the negative side, there was too much inbreeding and a lot of disdain for outsiders. We all knew they were in sole possession of the ability to f**k things up. But in the case of Chrysler in the 90's, they seemed to be making a lot of good decisions and the company was definitely on an upward trajectory. That is, until Daimler and the stifling culture that came with it entered the picture. Daimler wrecked Chrysler......no question about it....to characterize it any other way would be to lessen the severity of the crime. Good luck to Sergio. Chrysler needs an enormous amount of help.....let's hope that a dose of Italian creativity can bring about another Chrysler renaissance.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This post is so right on the money. It was a horrible crime committed by Daimler and Fiat IS the logical choice to turn things around. I think Ghrysler will succeed with Fiat's help
      • 5 Years Ago
      Chrysler was the most "modern" of Detroit's automakers back in the 90s... they seemed to have finally woken up from the typical mismanagement that had been ruining Detroit for decades. Their designs were fresh, their quality (most of it at least) was dramatically improving, and they even had money in the bank as a safety-net for the next down-turn.

      Then they got hit by a storm named Daimler-Benz and all hell broke loose. :(

      There was a time when I actually thought Chrysler would be the one Detroit carmaker with a bright future. Now, not so much.

      I'm really pulling for Fiat - product is king in the car world. If you build good cars, eventually people will come around again - hell, look at Hyundai. Or look at Nissan, they might not have been in as bad of shape as Chrysler is in now, but they were on the ropes before Renault saved them.
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