Chrysler misses opportunities in smaller cars

The Chrysler logo is displayed on the service department at a Chrysler Jeep and Dodge dealership in Vallejo, Calif.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Consumer Reports is out today with its new reviews of Chrysler and the automaker gets mostly praise. Two years after it emerged from bankruptcy, Chrysler appears to've found new gas.

But as Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports, Chrysler is missing out on one growing market: small cars.

EVE TROEH: David Champion directs auto testing at Consumer Reports. He says it's no surprise Chrysler's vans, sedans and SUVs are selling well.

DAVID CHAMPION: The cars have become competitive. They're really quiet, comfortable, driving performance is much better.

But Chrysler hasn't overhauled all its cars. Its only compact car is the Caliber which has basically stayed the same since its launch six years ago. Champion says it wasn't popular then, and it's definitely not now.

CHAMPION: It's just unfortunate with timing that small cars are the vehicle of the moment. It's a tough situation for Chrysler.

Japanese automakers usually dominate the compact field. But as they face disaster at home and Americans want to use less gas, the competition's wide open. The Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze have moved in as top sellers.

David Champion says Chrysler has to wait it out. It can't design new, smaller cars now because its Detroit headquarters no longer calls the shots. Chrysler's new Italian owner, Fiat, wants to use its own models for compact cars. It could be two years before those are ready.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.


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