Thursday, December 18, 2008

Auto-Future revisited: Chrysler 100C

This gigantic mess with the American car manufacturers has raised my interest for the American car market. Other than the usual perplexity of Europeans (why all the trucks?... what’s with the gigantic SUVs?... can’t they live with smaller cars?...), tempered with some moments of adoration (usually Corvette and Mustang related), I don’t usually pay much attention to American cars and their local market.

So last week I was checking a TV show at channel France 24 about the Detroit trio with great interest. They made a nice review on the current problems of Detroit, interviewed local people, car dealers and customers… all very unbiased and informative. Then they had this debate with a moderator and three commentators, one of which was a previous Peugeot-Citroen CEO. They added some good points to the discussion, but the whole thing was verging on hilarious and surrealism: because France 24 is a French news channel but they all speak in English… so we had four guys speaking in English, with a very strong French accent, in a French TV show and about the American car market. On top of that one of them was not very fluent in English so every now and then the other three had to help him in finding words… that made for some good laughs.

In that debate the Peugeot-Citroen guy was very bullish about the current shape of European manufacturers saying that we have fuel efficient cars so we won’t have the same problems of Detroit. Now I’m not so sure about that because car sales in November dropped 26% in the European market, in Spain alone it was a dramatic 50% loss… if this trend continues everyone will be in great trouble here. The credit freeze is a problem born outside the car market but it has a huge influence in the purchasing decisions on cars.

Other than the current economy status the manufacturers have to be blamed for not running their business properly, but one of the Detroit 3 had a little help from the notorious inability of Daimler in handling Chrysler. This made me think about a very old article (March 2006) here in auto-future in which I was requesting for a new Chrysler car… you can find the link here or read the whole thing below:

"This is future car request. I ask for vehicles to the manufacturers. But only cars that can be made… with success and profit. This time the Chrysler 100C (I also get to name it). The concept: a scaled down 300C using the platform of the current Mercedes C-class, and using the same engines, particularly diesel engines. Of course the design should be massive and “in your face” as is the case with the 300C, only smaller, because the 300C is just too big for European roads. Ah…European roads, that’s right a car made thinking of Europeans hence the diesel engines.Of course, cheaper than a C-class because it uses an “old” platform. You see (by you I mean you people at Mercedes),I would like to be able to drive a gangster look American saloon with tinted windows and huge wheels. Only I can’t drive that 300C thing in our roads. Scale it down please. It will do well in the USA, and in Europe too."

One can try to imagine if things would have been different had Daimler made such car instead of the Chrysler Sebring, or embraced a concept that I also written about later: the concept of “platform recycling”. It means that every “previous generation” RWD or SUV platform from Mercedes could be recycled as a new Chrysler car with very low development and tooling costs and the benefits of delivering RWD for the masses. Now it doesn’t really matter, I haven’t been following Chrysler much since that article and it seems I won’t be following Chrysler in the future.

No comments: