Opinion: Why I think Chrysler is headed the way of the dodo

With the Stellantis merger now completed, marking the marriage of PSA and FCA, I can't help but feel one of the 18 brands under this umbrella might not be long for this world.

5w ago

The months-long merger of Peugeot S.A. (Groupe PSA) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) into the newly-formed Stellantis was finalised today, and with the two companies becoming one, it’s brought a huge number of brands together under the one umbrella.

To be specific, 18 brands (16 of which are attached to vehicles) have been united in total – PSA bringing Peugeot, Citroën, DS Automobiles, Opel, Vauxhall, and Free2Move Lease to the table; while FCA’s huge roster includes Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Mopar, RAM, and SRT.

With a roster that big – almost excessively so, given it eclipses even the total number of brands under the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance and Volkswagen Group umbrellas – if there’s one thing I feel you can expect to see, it’s some of those brands going the way of the dodo. After all, downsizing has been a trend for some time now, and if VW has been looking to with its 12-brand portfolio, what do you think Stellantis will want to do with one 50 percent larger?

If there’s one among them I truly feel is squarely on the chopping block, though, it’s Chrysler. Sure, it might have been a titular part of FCA, but with it now having been absorbed into Stellantis, what I feel was effectively the sole reason for its continued existence is no more.

Even a casual observer should be able to see that the Chrysler brand is not in a particularly good place right now. Essentially just two models are sold under it currently – the Pacifica/Voyager/Grand Caravan, and the ancient 300 – meaning it’s not exactly the biggest operation as far as standalone brands within Stellantis go.

It’s also a lineup that feels confused – one is a minivan that fits the ‘Dad Brand’ commercial tagline to a tee, the other is a Hemi-powered muscle car favoured by the sort of people who want to look like a gangster but actually work at an accounting firm – while the brand name itself is plagued by slow sales of the past, as even some examples of the 200 were sold new in the US during 2020 despite it being pulled from production three years prior.

Given the 300 is now nine years old and was just recently pulled from sale here in Australia – where the car favoured by many chauffeur drivers was the only Chrysler model offered locally – it makes me wonder just how much more life there is left in it. And as for the minivan that already goes by many names, there’s no real reason why it couldn’t simply have a Dodge badge slapped onto the front of it.

With the bones of the 300 effectively dating back to the 1990s with the Mercedes W210, with closely-related versions of the same platform being used to underpin the Dodge Challenger and Charger, producing three different cars on this ageing platform seems extraneous, especially given the Charger already ticks the box for a four-door.

And so, with one car long in the tooth and the other having no reason it couldn’t be shifted to the lineup of another more successful Stellantis brand, it’s hard to see a reason as to why the Chrysler name should still hang around as it’s clearly not the competitor to Cadillac and Lincoln that it once was.

It’s worth noting on a slight tangent that I have my fears for Lancia as well. While the legendary Italian manufacturer previously offered a number of badge-engineered Chrysler models in its lineup during the past decade, it’s now down to just one single model with the Ypsilon, which is based on the Fiat 500/Panda platform. Were it not for its truly strong sales in Italy, I’d say there was no reason for it to hang around much longer either, although in fairness, there’s nothing the Ypsilon can do that a 500 or Panda can’t.

In saying all this, Stellantis could prove me wrong and start to offer some PSA models under the Chrysler name in the US, but I just feel like it’s a bit of a stretch to truly see that happening.

Would I be sad to see the Chrysler name go? To a point, it’s always disappointing to see a marque cease to be and I certainly wouldn’t wish it upon Chrysler, but unlike with a company such as Holden, I simply don’t feel this would tug on people’s heartstrings in the same way, or really, at all. Seeing what becomes of the Stellantis merger’s collective brands will certainly be something to watch, though.

This article originally appeared on drivesection.com on January 17, 2021.

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Comments (55)

  • I don't know what lies ahead for Stellantis but I do know what the two groups that formed Stellantis are leaving behind. PSA resurrected Opel and DS, and they've done a good job with Peugeot and Citroen, whereas with the exception of Jeep, the brands that formed FCA are in much worse shape than they were before FCA. Lancia is dead, Alfa is comatose, same as Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat have been selling nothing but washed up versions of their flagship vehicles and the Maserati MC20 is promising, but in today's market 'promising' just doesn't cut it, you need sales. Consider this: when news of the merger broke out, FCA stock rose 8.2% whereas PSA tanked, losing -12,86% in hours. Says it all. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      1 month ago
    • A good point very well made. Peugeot and co really have been putting out some good cars as of late, and although FCA certainly produces a number of impressive cars as well, so many of its brands really did seem to be struggling big time....

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        1 month ago
  • Chrysler as a company got lazy because they know no matter how stupid they act, the government will come to the rescue with a giant bag of money. The same ting happened to British Leyland years and years ago

      1 month ago
    • The government won’t do anything anymore because they’re Italian now.

        1 month ago
    • They might be Italian now, but they still provide a lot of American jobs and they have quite a few buddies in congress. So I think the government will still help them if shit hits the fan

        1 month ago
  • Problem is that a lot of FCA’s brands sold well - about 5-10 years ago. Fiat 500, Abarth 500, Alfa Mito, even the more recent Jeep Renegade etc. I don’t see many models from 2015 onwards on the roads which is a bit of a warning sign. Nothing even needs to be said about Lancia ☹️

      1 month ago
  • I’ve been saying that for a while.

      1 month ago
  • While I certainly can’t predict how the newly formed company will follow the previous plans for FCA brands, we can at least follow what they were trying to do.

    Dodge is transitioning to a performance brand, as they dropped the Caravan altogether (being replaced by the Chrysler Voyager), the Journey is the only vehicle they offer that’s not RWD, and doesn’t offer a hellcat and/or 392. (Did you think you’d live in a world where BMW offers more FWD vehicles than a mainstream American brand?)

    Jeep is just doing their thing, and doing it well.. same for Ram.

    Chrysler does seem a bit strange today, but the target was for Chrysler to be FCA’s “mainstream” brand. In today’s market, we expect that to mean 15 different sizes of crossover, but why distract from Jeep?

    The Pacifica is really nice, and properly optioned, is downright luxurious. The 300 is old, but still looks and performs great, why change the formula?

    They’re missing a good compact and midsize car, so pick a solid contender from one of the European brands and make it a Chrysler for North America.

    I do see a logic for dropping Chrysler outside of North America, but I think they have a place in our market.

      1 month ago
    • Agree! In this country we could sell psa compacts rebranded as Chryslers. Outside the US i don’t see Chrysler selling very well. But, China might have some nostalgia leftover from the 50’s that could breathe life into the brand. It all seems...

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        1 month ago