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by Tim Beissmann

November’s sales figures have guaranteed that Chrysler will slip to fifth behind Honda in the US market for 2009.

Honda has sold 1.044 million vehicles in the first 11 months of 2009, leading Chrysler by an unassailable 200,000 units, but the American brand is confident it is on the right track.

“We are taking the steps that are necessary to have a good foundation and to build consumer confidence,” said a Chrysler spokeswoman.

“We are on the right path. There will be short-term pain to get to our long-term goals.”

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Last year Chrysler held off the Japanese manufacturer by 25,000 units and Honda America executive vice president, John Mendel, said everyone was finding the industry difficult at the moment.

“We are all in the same hospital, and some of us are more critical than others.

“Everyone is hurting. We cut Formula One. We cut 200,000 units of production. It was the right thing to do, but it was painful,” he said.

The news comes just days after Fiat-Chrysler CEO, Sergio Marchionne, hinted that the Chrysler brand name could replace Lancia in most European markets.

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“There is no doubt that, outside a limited number of markets in Europe, Chrysler is going to be the global brand,” he said.

But Marchionne insisted that the 103-year-old Lancia name would not disappear entirely.

“We need to be very careful that we don’t destroy Lancia’s roots, to find a way to preserve the identity of Lancia through an agreement that commonises as much of the portfolio as possible (with Chrysler).”

In its home in Italy, 93,000 Lancias were sold in 2008 while Belgium and France also recorded strong figures.

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Last year 29,000 Chryslers were sold in Europe compared to 103,000 Lancias.

Another possibility is to make the Lancia name an upscale derivative of Chrysler, like Abarth is to Fiat, but that is expected to be unpopular in Italy and result in a sales backlash.

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Marchionne said his company would be in a better position to make a decision after the introduction of the new 300C, Sebring and Voyager models in 2010.

“We need to see product, we need to see positioning and based on that we can make a decision,” he said.

A decision on the future of the Chrysler and Lancia names is expected by the end of next year.

 

(with Automotive News)




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