Tuesday, Chrysler and General Motors submitted their strategic plans for revitalization to Congress, as required to received federal assistance. In scanning the 177-page document from Chrysler, there were several things that caught my attention.
Right on the cover, it claims “Chrysler is the quintessential American auto company.” Clearly, Chrysler knows its audience and is playing to their sensibilities. However, I can’t seem to shake the long-time product-sharing relationship with Mitsubishi, the recent memory of the German owners from Daimler, or the newfound Italian partner Fiat, who was recently given a 35-percent equity interest in Chrysler.
Or, to pick nits further, Chrysler LLC built (pdf) 36,000 cars in the United States, with 17,000 built in Canada. For trucks, 49,000 were built in the U.S., 16,000 in Canada, and 14,000 in Mexico. Perhaps they meant “quintessential North American auto company.”
The presentation page that stopped me in my tracks, however, was page 131, shown here revealing a sneak peek at the 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Understanding that statements made in this document are forward looking and created to inspire confidence, I just can’t get over the star burst that reads: “Consumer Reports Reliability 40% better than industry average.” Page 133 shows the same graphic, on a picture of the revised Chrysler 300. Maybe we should be flattered.
First off, Consumer Reports and its parent organization Consumers Union maintain a very strict non-commercialization policy forbidding the use of the brands in any marketing materials. It is part of how we work for consumers, without fear or favor. Admittedly, this was a requested submission to Congress, not used as a direct consumer marketing piece, so for now let’s look past that for this blog.
Chrysler may be known for many things, but reliability is not one of them.
In our 2008 Car Reliability Survey, based on our subscribers' experiences with 1.4 million vehicles, Chrysler is ranked 32nd of 34 brands. Dodge ranks 30th and Jeep 28th.
In our published report on Reliability, when referencing the performance for the domestic automakers, we wrote:
Chrysler trails the pack. Almost two-thirds of its products rate below average for reliability. The redesigned 2008 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans earned low scores, as did the Chrysler Sebring V6 and Dodge Avenger sedans and the Jeep Liberty SUV. The Sebring Convertible has the worst score: 283 percent worse than average. The only above-average models are the Dodge Caliber hatchback and Jeep Patriot SUV.
In reviewing the reliability data presented in our used-car verdicts on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, I found a series of black-colored “blobs” – marks that denote consistent below-average performance for the past decade. The Chrysler 300 has hovered around average for most of its lifespan, with clear ups and downs in reliability.
It would seem to me that boasting an imminent new product would be significantly better than current models is asking for a leap of faith--one Chrysler is measuring by the billions, based on their requests. Added to the challenge is that the Grand Cherokee isn’t a freshening, but a full redesign. First year reliability of redesigns, even by manufacturers with a reputation for quality, may suffer somewhat. So this “40% better than industry average” sounds more than a touch optimistic.
I can only imagine what other discoveries can be made in this novella-scale document…