Chrysler Will Become the Next BMW or Mercedes?

By Brendan Moore

12.23.2008

We can’t make this stuff up.

Apparently, Jim Press, co-president of Chrysler LLC, stated in an interview last week that should Chrysler survive, it would survive as a small boutique manufacturer producing high-performance, high-quality cars much like German automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz do currently.

In fact, according to Automotive News, an industry weekly, Mr Press stated: “If there’s one company in America that can build high-craftsmanship, innovative vehicles, it’s Chrysler.”

Referring to the new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, Mr. Press opined that, “If Mercedes-Benz built a pickup truck, that’s what it would be”.

Jim, Jim, Jim.

There is nothing wrong with having a positive corporate self-image, but statements like that just boggle the mind.

Sure, it’s possible that Chrysler could transform itself into BMW or Mercedes-Benz. I mean, it could conceivably happen. But at this point it would be the equivalent of Pamela Anderson becoming a respected Shakespearean actor. Or Detroit becoming as much of a tourist destination as Paris, New York City or London.

Yeah, both those things could happen, but, you know, it’s not a good percentage bet.

Chrysler is at the bottom of the quality rankings among vehicle manufacturers. They have very few vehicles which could honestly be described as performance vehicles, and it would be a bit of a stretch to anoint any of the Chrysler vehicles currently produced as the clear-cut “best in class” in their respective segment. Chrysler does not produce vehicles noted for their beautiful design. They do not produce vehicles noted for their fuel-efficiency. To be frank, in every measurement, Chrysler is a very, very long way from equaling manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

And Mr. Press, previously with Toyota for 30 years before he arrived at Chrysler LLC in 2007, not only aimed high when talking about the future Chrysler, he hit low when talking about his Detroit competition. Press commented that while Chrysler is producing premium vehicles from the ground up, Ford and GM just take a basic car and use “gingerbreading’ to bring it up to premium status.

It’s understandable that Jim Press would want to talk up the future of Chrysler since that future is very tenuous at this point, but perhaps a more realistic view of Chrysler’s short-term prospects might be in order.

Additionally, I can’t see the value in trash-talking your competition when you’re the current Chrysler; it seems surreal that Chrysler should be proclaiming any sort of superiority, in the media, over anyone – even if they really do believe it themselves.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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10 Comments

  1. Is “boutique” the new buzzword for “sales in the crapper”?

  2. “If there’s one company in America that can build high-craftsmanship, innovative vehicles, it’s Chrysler.”

    What is this guy smoking?

    We’ll just get those same guys that brought us the Sebring to work on cranking out those high-craftmanship, innovative vehicles that will be just like Mercedes Benz cars.

  3. Since Chrysler and Mercedes make some of the least reliable vehicles sold in the USA, maybe they are not so dissimilar. I could see an advertising strategy born from this, “Get Mercedes reliability at one-third the price!” Hmmm, that would certainly fit with American automakers’ past logic.

  4. This guy could give “Baghdad Bob” (remember him?) a run for his money in the art of blustery self-delusion. I guess if you’re going to spin (i.e. lie), there’s no reason not to go big.

  5. As long as we’re talking about Bobs, just think if Iococca had turned over Chrysler to Bob Lutz instead of Bob Eaton. The history of Chrysler might be a lot different now. And the history of GM might be shorter.

    One thing’s for sure, we probably wouldn’t have Jim Press at Chrysler making statements right now.

    But we’ll never know about that, will we?

  6. Mr. Press has lost it! He needs to “get out of Dodge!”

  7. What Jim tried to communicate to you guys that if Chrysler becomes low volume car manufacturer (boutique as just a prettier term) then inevitably it must start making high margin luxury cars like MB, BMW. There is nothing wrong with that. They made Imperials in past – why not? BMW and MB are not high quality cars like Japanese cars (or even like Fords). They are just better engineered plus did not compromise their core values (until recently). Workmanship is obsolete term in era of automated production. Only things needed – better engineering (and better engineers), more sophisticated marketing, good management, consistency in staying to core values.

  8. ILO, I don’t think anyone was confused about what Jim Press was saying, or why he was saying it.

    We’re just wondering how Chrysler is going to get there (BMW, Merecedes) from where they are now, which is pretty far down the food chain. It’s one hell of a hill to climb.

    Saying something out loud doesn’t make it so.

    Take the example you give, the Imperial. Chrysler hasn’t a made a quality Imperial since the Sixties, which is forty years ago, when there was a lot less competition in the luxury car market in the United States and also, Chrysler was a force to be reckoned with, with great engineering and looks. BMW sold hardly any cars in America, and Mercedes also had tiny sales volumes, although more than BMW. Audi was virtually unknown, and Lexus, Infiniti, Acura and Hyundai didn’t exist. Saab and Volvo had only small economy cars. Jaguar sold almost all sports coupes.

    The world is different now, and so is Chrysler.

  9. It just proves the point. All you need is will, desire, focus and execution. Isn’t America about new opportunities or you guys just gave up to be a dumping ground for other countries? BMW was making motorcycles and subcompacts some time ago. It was not a luxury car maker. Or Audi – the same story. VW – same story- you can hardly consider VW beetle to be a premium car. Toyota was making cheap’n’crappy subcompacts 20 years ago.

    Unfortunately new generation of Americans were taught to believe that engineering, craftsmanship and even mass production (manufacturing) are relegated to foreign countries and America now can relax and be only consumer/service economy, financial machinations innovator and maintain military to protect those foreign countries (world policeman in other words). At least Jim Press can dream big and he also can execute. But that Americans lost can-do attitude – I totally agree. Even if Jim Press thinks big – most likely nothing will happen because people do not want bothering themselves with anything adventurous – they just want to consume and move papers in office. Well if Jim lived in China or Japan – he would get full support. BTW wasn’t Jim the guy who made Lexus possible – from dream to dominating luxury marque?

  10. Saying Jim Press was the guy who “made Lexus possible-from dream to dominating luxury marque” is like saying that the guy who washes the windshield of your car at the gas station made your cross-country trip possible.

    Get a grip, man. Jim Press was responsible for public relations and marketing of a brand that needed very little of either.

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