Have you visited Chrysler’s website recently? It’s a strange experience. The brand currently has a range of four models, three of which are essentially the same minivan. The Voyager — a vehicle I wasn’t even aware of until a couple of weeks ago — is basically a way cheaper version of the Pacifica, which has been around for the last four years as it is. And then there’s the second-generation 300, which is celebrating a decade on the market this year.
Chrysler has seemingly no direction and hasn’t for a while, and yet David Kelleher, chairman of Stellantis’ National Dealer Council, told Automotive News in an interview published over the weekend that he still would rather see the marque stick around rather than disappear:
[Kelleher] said he’d feel “violated” if the Chrysler brand was dropped.
“This whole thing started with Chrysler,” Kelleher said. “I don’t want to get emotional about a brand, that’s not the case. But I don’t want to see a brand like that left at the sideline and just thrown out to pasture.”
Kelleher believes that Chrysler can be rejuvenated by PSA Group products and that this “could be done at reasonable expense” because the Chrysler side of the Stellantis operation wouldn’t have to develop all-new models by itself. That assessment seems fair enough to make, but I wouldn’t read Chrysler potentially being sent the way of Plymouth, Oldsmobile and Pontiac as being “thrown out to pasture.” Chrysler threw itself out to pasture a long time ago.
How else do you explain a dearth of new products or any willingness to cultivate an identity? Chrysler has always existed in this paradoxical space between pretending to be luxurious and not actually being luxurious at all, though at least it enjoyed a relatively stable footing in the latter part of the aughts thanks in large part to the 300's iconic mug. Heading into the FCA days, Chrysler appeared to be on an upward trajectory, delivering a new 300 and eventually replacing the tragic Sebring with the respectable, if not class-leading 200.
But FCA gave up on the 200 after only three model years due to dismal sales and just as it gave up on the Dart. (As a former Dart owner, I will go to bat for that car as being fine. Just fine.) Since then, the Pacifica has been the only new entry in the lineup, as the American side of what is now Stellantis has thrown increasingly more weight behind Jeep and Ram. Chrysler and Dodge are clearly afterthoughts, though at least Dodge can cling to its Hellcats and Demons for personality.
What reason does Chrysler have to exist anymore, then? Perhaps Stellantis could get to work badge engineering some Peugeots, like the 508 Sedan and 3008 and 5008 crossovers; that could offer Chrysler a path to electrification, too. But the whole reason FCA ditched the 200 was because it couldn’t figure out how to sell sedans to Americans, right? If Jeep really has crossovers and SUVs cornered, then maybe Chrysler is a problem that doesn’t need to be solved. Maybe Stellantis can finally let Chrysler go, rather than keeping it tethered to life support for nothing more than nostalgia.