By Andy Bannister
Suddenly, everyone in the UK is aware of the existence of the previously little-known Dodge Avenger. Unfortunately for Chrysler’s British importer, that’s because some dealers have apparently been so desperate to unload their stock of them that they have supplied a car sales website promoting a remarkable buy-one-get-one-free offer.
The sorry tale of the brand new half-price Avengers have been splashed all over the national press after the country’s Automobile Association described the offer as “almost unbelievable”, citing it as evidence of how much the economic slowdown is biting.
The Dodge brand only returned to the UK last year amid high hopes of growing sales with a sporty-but-tough image. All the investment in the nameplate seems headed straight down the plug hole, however, and owners of Dodge cars look set to see resale values plummet even further as the implications of the Avenger offer sink in.
The website in question, Broadspeed.com, has now sold out of its Avenger stock. Rumours suggest the dealers who supplied the cars did so without the consent of an angry Chrysler UK, which is currently expensively promoting another Dodge, the Journey, in prime-time TV commercials.
Car prices here are traditionally much higher than in the States, so the British list price of the fully-loaded Avenger 2.4 SXT, at £18,255 ($28,700) seems fairly reasonable to start with by comparison with European rivals. With the website offer, getting a new car in this segment at just over £9,000 ($14,200) looks like a steal.
Motoring journalists haven’t been kind to the Avenger here, with the quality of its interior and the refinement of its engines (particularly the 2.0-litre diesel) being badly panned, as has the car’s handling. But at the price, buyers are hardly likely to care providing they can use or sell-on their second Avenger (possibly depressing prices even futher).
One look at October’s UK sales figures reveal why dealerships might be anxious about high stock levels. It was a very bad month for the industry, with overall new car sales down a whopping 23% to 128,352 units. With sales in the last two months of the year traditionally low and buyers staying away from showrooms in droves, many manufacturers are looking extremely worried.
Chrysler, once an unlikely success story here, is suffering more than most, and is in danger of becoming a niche player despite seemingly offering one of the largest line up of different models to new car buyers. That is part of the problem – cars like the Avenger and Sebring have no image and seem too alike, while other traditional winners for the company like the Chrysler 300C and Jeep Grand Cherokee are suddenly too costly to run and tax.
In October, Jeep sales in Britain plunged 62.6% and cars with the Chrysler badge did even worse, down 75.8% to just 138 units.
Elsewhere, market leader Ford will be very pleased to have lost only 5.5% in October. The Focus is the country’s best selling car, with the new Fiesta just coming on stream. GM’s British brand, Vauxhall, had October’s best-seller, the small Corsa hatchback.
Land Rover had almost as catastrophic a month for sales as Jeep, dropping 57.9% – more evidence showing how suddenly buyer preferences have switched. At least sister company Jaguar was one of very few bright spots, bucking the trend with a 22.4% increase on the back of the new and very well-received XF.
The way things are looking, however, it won’t only be troubled Chrysler dealers feeling the pain in the coming months.
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