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A word to Chrysler, LLC

Thursday, 5 June, 2008

Chris Haak, despite his name, is right on the money. Chrysler alone cannot develop the vehicles for which the present North American market is salivating. They have neither the expertise in the boardroom or the fiscal resources. Therefore, they must import technology. My humbly presented recommendation does not include any exotic, untested or hybrid technology.

This has happened before. From the UK (1966-1979 MY) and Japan (1971-1998 MY) Chrysler imported entire vehicles. The original engine for the North American Horizon and Omni was designed and built by VW, albeit in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. It is a working strategy. Part of me would get a special tingle if Chrysler would develop something as appropriate for the times as was the K cars of 1980, but like the noble and fatally flawed American Motors Corp., the resources are not likely to become available.

The solution, implied by Mr. Haak, is for Chrysler, LLC license and build the Dacia Logan in the United States. I wholeheartedly concur. This would keep at least one plant open and operating. This would provide a line of vehicles of requisite size and dominate fleet sales due to the low price and readily interchangeable parts. If sold as an especially basic car, like the 1982 Ks which commenced selling in high numbers, and with a standardized mid-level package, Chrysler could produce, and more importantly sell, millions of these quite cheaply. This vehicle is being built or sold today by Renault, Dacia, Nissan (Aprio in Mexico), India’s Mahindra (the parent company of the folks known on this continent for excellent small tractors), and Pars Khodro and IKCO in Iran as the Tondar 90. In a compelling tradition, Brazil has developed their own variation. Specifically the hatchback which is called Renault Sandero. With this car already being built in seven plants on four continents (S. America, Africa, Europe and Asia) , why not one more?

Chrysler is presently tied with the Renault-Nissan Alliance in a deal to supply the full-size Ram pick-up truck to Nissan dealers in the United States. Nissan is providing a platform upon which a new small Chrysler will be built. Which platform shall be supplied by Nissan is not yet public knowledge. It may prove to be the B, which just happens to lie under both Nissan’s Versa, Cube and the Logan.

The cars should not deviate from the proven style or core function of the Logan, although it should probably carry a resurrected name, and possibly established Mopar engines if this keeps the cost of federalization down. Upon the assumption Dodge will become a truck-only marque, they get only the utility-body and possibly a sedan delivery. Chrysler gets the hatchback, sedan and estate. This formula adds up to a low-margin, but very high volume combination. While I do not have the kind of knowledge required for this kind of thing, I imagine the car, sold as “made in America”, would sell at a price similar to the Kia Rio.

The Logan in American form should start at fleet-level trim not unlike the Chevette Scooter or the Chevrolet 150 from the early 1950’s. That is, including nothing considered an option at all, neither carpet nor radio. All variations should probably have the complement of airbags required in Western Europe. The trim levels escalate to carpeted interior, ubiquitous air conditioning and radio. The top line would have the full complement of mid-level goodies. All three levels should be available to the general public, and all Chrysler-branded body styles. The Dodge body styles come in the two minimalist trim levels, at least in the first year. The only variations to the body would be two grilles, the Chrysler inspired by Plymouth styling and a Dodge “crosshair”, and of course the actual badges.

The fun part of this exercise is the naming. Chrysler has an amazing legacy of names from which to choose. Under consideration would be previous models from their existing lines, as well as Plymouth, DeSoto, AMC, Rambler, Nash, Hudson, Willys, Kaiser … and there are in fact quite a few others which have all coalesced into the contemporary company.

A few suggestions, my preferences in bold:

Dodge: Fargo, Dart

Chrysler: Rambler, Coronet, Wayfarer, Valiant

Potential evolution of the platform should take the form of expanding fuel options (a U.S.-sourced bio-compliant diesel, both E85-compliant and E85-native engines), and a U.S.-developed, Mustang-like variation on the body which could be called Javelin, Wasp, or Barracuda; all legacy nameplates. Unlike the oversize and overweight Camaro, Mustang and Charger, the coupe version could be sold as a true reinterpretation of the principle realized by the original versions of those cars. Throw a turbo on it.

Just getting this off my chest.

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