Dramatic Product Changes May Be in Works for Chrysler

In the future, Chrysler LLC's Dodge brand could boast a bold, new youth-oriented minivan, while the auto maker's namesake marque would carry on with tried-and-true people-mover designs. Or vice-versa. So says Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Jim Press as he pulls back the curtain, ever so slightly, on the auto maker's evolving product plans. In wide-ranging remarks to the Automotive Press Assn.

In the future, Chrysler LLC's Dodge brand could boast a bold, new youth-oriented minivan, while the auto maker's namesake marque would carry on with tried-and-true people-mover designs. Or vice-versa.

So says Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Jim Press as he pulls back the curtain, ever so slightly, on the auto maker's evolving product plans.

In wide-ranging remarks to the Automotive Press Assn. in Detroit, Press defends the U.S. auto industry's pursuit of government aid, declares batteries to be the key technology of the future, clarifies Chrysler's business strategy and confirms the auto maker will introduce seven new vehicles in 2010.

Press is a key architect of Project Genesis, a product-pipeline reorganization designed to eliminate duplication by 2012. The Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, platform-mates and dominant offerings in the minivan segment, have been cited as one example.

In the future, Press suggests this scenario: “Instead of two vans that compete for the same customer, one alternative would be to have a lifestyle van that would have a much younger appeal.”

This would be dedicated to one brand.

“We could use one platform for the (conventional) van and we could use an SUV/crossover platform for another van,” he says, suggesting the alternative model could be similar to the Mazda5.

The goal is to make even those Chrysler vehicles that share platforms “less derivative,” Press says.

Add the Jeep Compass to the list of models facing harsh scrutiny at Chrysler headquarters.

Press suggests brand identity should be strengthened and all future Jeeps should carry the brand's rugged Trail-Rated badge. To date, only the Compass fails to.

Vehicles that are too similar drain resources, Press warns. Marketing money ends up being spent “so they can compete with each other.”

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