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January 14, 2013 10:08 AM
NICK BUNKLEY

Chrysler, profitable again, still avoiding wild show stunts

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Chrysler had a faux blizzard for the Aspen in 2006. The company's near-death experience seems to have put an end to that kind of thing.
Nick Bunkley is an enterprise reporter for Automotive News.

DETROIT -- Chrysler Group used to always have the most over-the-top, can't-miss reveals at the Detroit auto show, whether it be crashing a Jeep Wrangler through a plate-glass window or driving cattle through the middle of downtown.

The company's near-death experience seems to have put an end to all that, even now that it is profitable again. On Monday, Chrysler stuck with a straightforward approach as it showed the 2014 versions of its Jeep Compass and Grand Cherokee and a performance version of the Grand Cherokee for its SRT brand.

Chrysler showed a brief video about "passion," had Jeep CEO Mike Manley give short introductions and then drove the SUVs onto the stage. Manley had a bit of a swagger as he noted that Jeep set a global sales record in 2012 and "regained its rightful place as the number-one SUV brand in America."

But it just doesn't feel like a real Chrysler reveal unless there's an hour or two of cleanup required afterward.

Of course, even a run-of-the-mill press conference marks a big step up from where Chrysler was a few years ago. Its stand in 2009 was so cheaply done that a large metal Pentastar logo fell from the ceiling, nearly taking out a journalist below, and it had no formal event at all the following year, because it had nothing new to talk up.

Chrysler's new strategy looks to be showing off by not showing off.

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