What is Chrysler?

What is Chrysler? What makes it unique?

These are questions I have asked heads-of-the-Chrysler-brand, without getting particularly useful answers, much less consistent ones. They can hardly be blamed. Nobody seems to have known what Chrysler is, what makes it unique, perhaps since Walter P. Chrysler was in charge. After all, it was Walter—or WPC—who decided that the four-cylinder Maxwell would be better off as the Chrysler Four. That decision didn’t last long (it became the Plymouth after a year), but it shows that even its creator didn’t always have a consistent feel for the brand.

Chrysler badge (on 300G)

Chrysler vet Al Gardner, when he ran the brand, pointed to the 90 years of history and called it “a mainstream brand built on design, craftsmanship, technology, performance, and value.” This may be the best definition we’ll get. He pointed out that Chrysler has run the gamut, “through near premium, premium, back to mainstream. And every time we come back to mainstream…”

Get updates

Free: Get an email when we post a new article!

He pointed to 2005-06, with the PT Cruiser, Town & Country, Sebring, 300, Pacifica, and Aspen in the lineup, selling around 800,000 cars a year; “That’s what this brand is supposed to be.” However, while Chrysler might be mainstream in his view, there should be a difference: “design, craftsmanship, and technology as the key pillars.” He pointed to the 300: “It’s priced mainstream, but it does not look mainstream.”

Saad Chebad talked about the pillars of the brand when he took over as its chief. His pillars were being truthful—it’s a Detroit brand, not a luxury brand, but it “gives you style, gives you power, gives you the amenities.” The cars are “not just flashy for stunt purposes,” with timeless styling. Overall, he said, “we have to maintain the truthfulness of who we are as an American, non-compromise premium brand…. Chrysler brand is about humble beginnings with success stories…we want to do the best of the best with no compromise whatsoever from a convenient content luxuries.”

What does Chrysler mean to people, according to Chebad back in 2013? People “graduate from another brand called a Dodge. They say I want a little bit more now. They have a Chrysler brand to look at, but I don’t want to blind my neighbor because I’m not coming out of my neighborhood. I’m staying here, I’m proud of where I’m at, where I’m from. Chrysler is the answer. … I stand for something powerful. I stand for something actually cool.”

The question of what Chrysler really is, becomes more urgent when we consider that Stellantis is, at this very moment, figuring out what cars will go with each brand. Drawing from Peugeot, Citroën, Opel, and DS—which share quite a bit—Stellantis is planning to repower Dodge, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, and Lancia. One or two PSA cars could be brought to North America without much modification, other than restyling; others are likely to serve as the basis for heavily worked cars. For that matter, Stellantis may choose to alter Jeeps so they would work for the other American brands. The positioning of Dodge, Chrysler, and Alfa Romeo will play a major role in what shows up with their nameplates—and how it is powered, engineered, and “trimmed.”

David Zatz started what was to become the world’s biggest, most comprehensive Mopar site in 1994 as he pursued a career in organizational research and change. After a chemo-induced break, during which he wrote car books covering Vipers, minivans, and Jeeps, he returned with some friends to create StellPower.com, which is intended to end up as an enduring partnership. Contact him at (973) 925-6058 or check out the new junkyard/slant six book he edited.

5 thoughts on “What is Chrysler?”

  1. I particularly love cars more than SUV’s or crossovers. I think Chrysler could make an all electric sedan (which I would buy) maybe call it the 300-E

    Reply
  2. I grew up in a Chrysler family, my dad worked for Chrysler Corp. for some twenty years (60’s-90’s). In that time and beyond Ive seen the company through many variations. Having looked through that prism, Chryslers identity has changed throughout the years as the article correctly points out. I think the way forward for the company is quality, engineering, value and panache. The move away from cars to the ubiquitous SUV/Crossover has changed the landscape of the automotive world. Now add in the coming move to electric and we see a change perhaps like no other. There still needs to be a choice for cars, but these have to be well focused and limited. Fuel prices are going to play a role in how things progress as we have seen in the past. The market (i.e. consumers) are fickle and can change on a dime do to this factor. Unfortunately, the other part of the market, manufacturers, cannot react as quickly. Another factor to consider is performance. We are definitely in another golden era of performance and people throughout are looking for this in a vehicle no matter what type it is. Chrysler will be a North America company, but that does not mean it needs to be bland and gutless. I believe there is way more to the story, but I also believe that if they focus on quality, engineering, value and style many of the issues of identity will fade.

    Reply
  3. The problem with Chrysler is the same one that the BOP dealers faced, no one is buying cars, they’re all buying SUV’s and pickups. Add to that brand engineering and Chrysler as a brand has a tough road to hoe. Buick is a good example….how many cars do they have in their lineup? None, they’re all SUVs, mostly Chevy derived, and if it wasn’t for the GMC line, Buick dealers would be dead in the water. The same problem affects Dodge to a lesser extent, but at least they have the Durango.

    Reply

Reply and be heard