Chrysler brand chief wants more nameplates
Chrysler boss Saad Chehab: Brand must keep its lineup fresh.
DETROIT -- Chrysler brand head Saad Chehab says he would like more nameplates for the Chrysler brand, but for now he's concentrating on a redesigned Chrysler 200 sedan, due next year on a Fiat platform.
"There are obviously opportunities in utility vehicles. There are all types of varieties of people movers in a variety of sizes. There is still opportunity in the small segment vehicles as well," Chehab, 45, said in an interview at the Detroit auto show.
"But to me, if we don't capture the  correctly, honestly, I would rather be doing a couple things right and big than six things because they'd be nice to have."
Details are scarce, but a revised product plan released by Chrysler Group last week says that the Chrysler brand will add a fourth nameplate in 2015.
The redesigned 200 was shown in Las Vegas in September to dealers, who praised the design. The Town & Country minivan also is being redesigned, but Chrysler executives said they are debating what form its replacement vehicle would take -- whether it would keep its sliding side doors, for example. The brand also sells the 300 sedan.
Even though it has only three models, the Chrysler brand had the largest U.S. sales volume growth of any Chrysler Group brand in 2012. The three Chrysler models added 86,621 sales in 2012, a 39 percent increase over the previous year.
Chehab said that the brand's first priority is to "protect its turf" by keeping its current three-vehicle lineup fresh. "There's no way we're going to let any of those numbers go backward."
A revised long-range product plan issued by the company last week and comments by CEO Sergio Marchionne point to a redesigned Chrysler 200 sedan in 2014 and a redesigned Town & Country in 2015.
The plan also shows two other new or redesigned vehicles in 2015, one of which will be a redesigned Chrysler 300.
The fate of a previously discussed Chrysler 100 compact crossover, which would share a Fiat platform with the Dodge Dart and the replacement for the Jeep Liberty, was not discussed last week during a conference call with reporters to discuss the company's 2012 earnings.
Asked whether Chrysler needed a small entry-level vehicle to attract new buyers, Chehab said U.S. consumers prefer larger vehicles and only shop for smaller cars during economic downturns.
"As long as the economy is stable, the U.S. customer is going to feel less enticed to compromise in vehicle sizes," Chehab said. People will buy small cars during times of economic distress, "but then once the economy is stable, they start going up."
He said 2013 will be a quiet year for the Chrysler brand, but 2014 will not.
Said Chehab: "I just need to go through this year, so that hopefully, when the new stuff comes, I really believe that there will be a new sales spurt for the Chrysler brand."
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