Eagle brand to get new Chrysler LH; but why?
Chrysler Corp. will roll out a brand new Eagle Vision sedan next spring, and we ask: Why?
Chrysler may simply be avoiding lawsuits while encouraging consolidation of Chrysler-Plymouth and Jeep-Eagle dealers.
Is Chrysler giving its comatose passenger-car division one last chance to shine? The time, the money - and the car itself - could be put to better use elsewhere in the Chrysler fleet. At Plymouth, perhaps.
Eagle appears to be too sick to save. Only 6,303 Eagles were sold in the first four months of this year. And 3,659 of them were Talons, which Chrysler buys from Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Only 2,644 Chrysler-built Eagles (the Vision) left dealers' lots in four months.
Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said recently that Eagle's future is 'really up to the Eagle retail distribution organization.' He added, 'We're not going to do anything to kill it, nor are we going to be putting hundreds of millions of new money into the brand.'
Not a ringing endorsement. The new Eagle will be on its own, without much advertising or promotion assistance. Good grief; you can't even sell Camrys without advertising and promotion.
Jeep dealers no longer need Eagle in order to have a car to sell. All but a handful of Jeep dealers have Eagle, but they sold only one Eagle per store per month last year. Two-thirds of the Jeep dealers handle Chrysler, Plymouth and/or Dodge cars.
So why a new Eagle? If Chrysler were to put Eagle mercifully to sleep, some dealers might get angry and sue. But if Eagle just drifts slowly into the sunset, the organic consolidation of Chrysler/Plymouth and Jeep/Eagle can continue peacefully.
Sign of the times
When the big political issue for America's car dealers is how best to protect their fortunes, both business and politics must be pretty good.
The recent convention of the American International Automobile Dealers Association was devoid of hot political issues. Those dealers of import nameplates usually meet in Washington to protect their interests from trade wars.
But this year, the market is good for everybody. And despite the cheaper yen and higher Japanese profits, there's no trade friction noticeable to anyone outside of the U.S. Big 3's lobbying group.
So the import dealers talked about another issue: how to kill the inheritance tax. The death tax does need eliminating - nobody should have to sell a dealership just to pay the inheritance taxes.
But it's still a sweet time to be in the car business.