Chrysler: the sweet ... and the bitter

Chrysler smashes just about every corporate record in 1994, and it is sweet indeed. Among the now benchmarks: Record fourth-quarter and full-year earnings reaching $1.68 billion and $3.7 billion, respectively, and all-time high revenues of $14.32 billion during the final three months and $52.2 billion for the year. Ford and General Motors Corp. also are expected to report records and/or hefty gains

Chrysler smashes just about every corporate record in 1994, and it is sweet indeed. Among the now benchmarks: Record fourth-quarter and full-year earnings reaching $1.68 billion and $3.7 billion, respectively, and all-time high revenues of $14.32 billion during the final three months and $52.2 billion for the year. Ford and General Motors Corp. also are expected to report records and/or hefty gains when their 1994 results are revealed this month. "It was a terrific year for Chrysler any way you look at it," beams Chairman Robert J. Eaton. But within days comes the bitter: Consumer Reports drops its "buy" recommendation on Chrysler LH midsize sedans and Grand Cherokee sport/utility vehicles, two of its best-selling vehicles. CR says both lines have more problems (electrical, squeaks, rattles and the like) than others in their classes. Chrysler says most of the problems underscored by CR already have been addressed and resolved. Bob Knoll, a former Chrysler engineer and long-time leader of CR's automotive testing division, is apologetic about the decision. "No one could be more disappointed than we are," he tells The Detroit Free Press. "We've gone out and told people (in the past) that these are really good cars to buy ... now we have to say they're just as good as they ever were, but data from real owners says they rate below average for trouble."

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