Ghosts, sleek, gawkiness and the Audi A7: What people think of new Chrysler 200

Al Gardner, the newly installed head of the Chrysler brand, helped introduce the 2015 Chrysler 200 today. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

UPDATED: 1/15/14 3:56 pm ET

A roundup of what analysts, journalists and others are saying about the redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200, which debuted today at the 2014 Detroit auto show:

"It may not push the segment in a new direction, but it at least gets Chrysler to the level of where things are now. It should be highly competitive in the segment. Chrysler is coming out with what looks to be a much more competitive product just as the competition is aging. There's opportunity in the segment if they're able to hit it."

-- Jeff Schuster, an analyst with LMC Automotive, via Bloomberg

"The 200 was not even in the ballpark in the super-competitive midsized sedan category. We expect this new model can only be better. It was a bit of a head-scratcher when company officials referred to the 200's 'performance DNA,' since the old model had little performance capability at all. Likely they were talking about the Alfa Romeo-based chassis that underpins the new car. So committed to rid itself of the sins of the past 200 it seems, Chrysler spent $1 billion upgrading the car's Sterling Heights assembly plant. How this eventually translates into better or worse Consumer Reports reliability is too early to tell."

-- Consumer Reports

"The most conspicuous change to the 200 is its design. Inside and out, Chrysler put considerable time and money into modernizing the car. ... Whether this will be enough to challenge the industry's fiercest competitors remains to be seen, but the 200 has several factors working in its favor. The new model will probably have better resale value, enabling Chrysler to offer competitive lease deals now. With Chrysler's 200 the latest to join the party, it has a competitive advantage in its freshness. California will be crucial to the 200's success. Buyers in the state traditionally favor imports more than other parts of the country. Chrysler is keenly aware of that marketing challenge."

"It looks nothing like its predecessor and that's widely viewed as a positive. Constrained by scarce resources when it exited bankruptcy in 2009, Chrysler gave a quick facelift to the much-maligned Sebring in 2010 and rebadged it as a 200. But for all of the resourceful upgrades, the Chrysler 200 was only a stopgap measure until a new-from-the-ground-up replacement was ready. The styling of the 2015 Chrysler 200 reminds one of the best-selling competitors without breaking through the utilitarian limits that define the segment. Its side profile has a beltline crease similar to the Hyundai Sonata while its fast-back rear glass and deck lid reflect the Ford Fusion."

-- Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press

"The latest in a long line of heretofore unsuccessful Chrysler midsize sedans. Chrysler’s midsize sedans have had a mortality rate akin to that of a Spinal Tap drummer. Forgettable predecessors that now rust in peace include the LeBaron, Cirrus and Sebring. A casualty of this latest redesign is the 200 convertible, which is also being consigned to the auto graveyard. If you've seen the fastback Audi A7, you've seen the 200."

-- Jerry Garrett in The New York Times
"The new look is shockingly minimal for Chrysler, without a retro cue in sight and barely a hint of chrome. It's particularly weird to see Chrysler's winged emblem in that small mesh grille, and not some showier prow like the 300′s."
-- Stephen Edelstein, Digital Trends
"This car will kick some butt in a very difficult segment. And we can't have a failure right now. No one can have a failure right now. The competition is just too stout."
Chuck Eddy, who has been a Chrysler dealer in Ohio for 45 years

"The 200 is likely to be one of the most talked-about debuts at the North American International Auto Show for its sophisticated beauty and surprisingly sumptuous interior. ... The 200 includes more than 60 safety and security features. My favorite feature is the innovative center console, which offers pass-through storage space for driver and passengers, a covered charging station and sliding cupholders for even more storage space when needed. It sounds strange to be gushing about a center console, but the look and feel of the materials on the console blew me away. It was like touching a fine piece of furniture -- totally exceeding my expectations."

-- Joanne Muller, Forbes.com

"The 2015 Chrysler 200 has lost all the gawkiness of the 2007-14 Sebring/200."

-- Todd Lassa, Automobile

"Mid-size sedans are like smartphones: Two companies dominate, and the margin for error is incredibly low (see: BlackBerry, Saturn, etc.). Chrysler's version has done fine but never well enough to threaten the category leaders. Last year it slipped behind the Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu, while Honda's Accord and Toyota's Camry continued to dominate the space. Even Kia Motors' Optima sold better in the U.S. last year. Does Chrysler play it safe with a mild-looking car or does it go for an edgier, love-it-or-hate-it offering?

-- Kyle Stock, Bloomberg

"It's got some ghosts in its past. They're going to have to chase those away in order to get consumers to warm up to it."

-- AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan, in The Wall Street Journal

You can reach David Phillips at dphillips@crain.com

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