LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE

Why Consumer Reports' Ram review elicits mixed feelings at Chrysler

Larry P. Vellequette covers Chrysler for Automotive News.Larry P. Vellequette covers Chrysler for Automotive News.
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The folks at Chrysler Group must be a little conflicted about Consumer Reports and its recommendation of the 2013 Ram 1500 pickup.

On one hand, it's a tremendous recognition of how good a pickup the Ram 1500 is and a reminder of just how far the automaker has come from its inglorious past.

But, on the other hand, Consumer Reports has beaten up on Chrysler so unrelentingly for so long that it must feel like a bully complimenting you on the exquisite taste of your stolen lunch.

To appreciate the mixed emotions that Mopar enthusiasts must be feeling, one merely has to go back a couple of years.

These are just some of the adjectives that appeared in Consumer Reports in 2011 describing Chrysler Group products: "mediocre," "disappointment," "stiff," "unsettled," "clumsy," "noisy," "behind the times."

Go further back into the magazine's archives, and the language gets rougher still.

Granted, 2011 was halfway through the automaker's 18-product overhaul and at a time when most reviewers were only beginning to see the first glimpses of Chrysler's revival.

But the 2013 car-buying guide from Consumer Reports is only moderately more kind. Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge finished with three of the five lowest brand report cards, joined by Ford and Lincoln, and the magazine said most Chrysler and Dodge brand vehicles were unreliable.

The only Chrysler Group vehicles to make Consumer Reports list of "standout models" for 2013 were V-6 versions of the Chrysler 300 sedan and Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as the Dodge Durango.

A few years ago, a salesperson in a Chrysler showroom might have had an easier time finding snipe than spotting a customer walking in the door with a copy of Consumer Reports in hand.

Now, thanks to steadily improving product like the hugely profitable Ram 1500, the thought of seeing a customer with a rolled-up Consumer Reports shouldn't cause dyspepsia.

Because for the first time in a long while, Chrysler dealers and salespeople will be able to focus on selling pickups -- instead of trying to convince customers that what they have just read is wrong.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.

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