Chrysler 200 Isn't a Hit...Yet

2001
The Chrysler 200 furnished a good-news story for its Auburn Hills, Mich., and Turin, Italy, bosses last month.

Sales of the much talked about new sedan were up 78.4% over the model it replaces, the maligned Sebring's March 2010 numbers.

With 6,750 units — 7,725 including phased-out Sebrings — the midsize sedan was responsible for nearly one-third of Chrysler sales. It was also Chrysler Group’s second-best-selling passenger car.

200int
Much of the collective American car-buying community was introduced to the Chrysler 200 during Super Bowl XLV. The Eminem-driven 200 looked good on a dreary Detroit night in the commercial. It was shown in the right light from the right angles. Was this evidence of a proper midsize sedan rival from Chrysler?

We knew better. The 200 is a warmed-over Chrysler Sebring, a vehicle Cars.com labeled one of the worst of the decade. Although significantly revamped — most notably with a powerful V-6 engine and a completely redone interior we reviewed here — the 200 isn’t an all-new product. Yet advertising as strong as the Super Bowl commercial and friendly pricing have provided the 200 with a fair chance of finding success where the Sebring found little.

Even with the 200’s vastly improved sales, Chrysler’s market share in March remained unremarkable in contrast with its rivals.

For every 200 sold, Ford sold four Fusions. Chevrolet Malibu sales took a 12.4% tumble and still managed to more than double the 200’s sales numbers with 15,551 sales. The Honda Accord, March’s best-selling car, outsold the 200 by a 5-to-1 ratio.

Attempting to blame the 200’s newness for lackluster sales wouldn’t be fair. The same could be said of the Kia Optima, a fresh model with high-profile advertising of its own, but the Optima also sold at a greater rate than the 200, albeit by a slim 141-unit margin.

Avenger
Attractive options like the Mazda6 and Suzuki Kizashi were roundly crushed by Chrysler, however. Moreover, these numbers ignore profits the Chrysler Group receives from the 200’s fraternal twin, Dodge’s Avenger. It’s entirely possible that Chrysler could sell more 200s without familial competition. In March, 5,954 Avengers were sold, up 92.5%. Year-to-date, Chrysler and Dodge have sold 23,955 Avengers, 200s and Sebrings.

Like a middling C-list celebrity garnering attention over a wardrobe malfunction, the Chrysler 200 is accumulating controversies. The "Imported from Detroit" tagline has been controversial. Then came the Detroit News resignation and subsequent rehiring of auto critic Scott Burgess after a scathing review. Is all publicity good publicity?

Obviously, the Chrysler 200 isn’t a hit, despite the 104.2% increase. But it’s far from a failure at this early stage. After all, Chrysler still managed to double sales in America’s most fiercely competitive segment without a full redesign.

Tim Cain is a contributing writer for Cars.com and the editor-in-chief of Good Car Bad Car, a site that analyzes both U.S. and Canadian car sales.

Comments 

Ike G,

The Chrysler dealer held a show and tell of its top-tier Chrysler products at our mall this past weekend (only its Chrysler products, not its foreign brands). The new 200 is very nicely finished but did not draw many eye-balls. The 300 and RAM had the most lookers, as did the big Jeep GC. Re: the 200, it remains to be seen if, mechanically, it will be more reliable than the Sebring has been. The assembly looks to be better and the quality of the interior is much, much better. Then again what we got to see were not stripper models but high end trim models. It will be at least three to five model years before we'll know if the 200 is actually better, or just another old Sebring in new sheet metal cloaking.

More Gee

I test drove a 200 myself my jaded eye was impressed.

All the cheap plastic is gone and replaced with real painted black and chromed metal. The car was very well put together. If the convertible is the same way that would be another winner.

I'm just not wild about the Chrysler colors in general this year but am glad they are lightening up their interiors and not using so much black plastic on the insides.

The Avenger is a bit shovel nosed and is about as much money as a 200 now that they dropped the base model. That is especially apparent when you want the new V6. The V6 is smooth running and impressive too, but idles a bit high and the old transmissions aren't quite dialed in to the new engines.

cody

chrysler changed just as much on the 200 as ford did when they recently redesigned the fusion. what is the point of writing this negative article? trying to talk people out of liking the car?

Joey R.

I have to wonder how many of those sales were sales to their rent-a-car partners and not to the general public. Car manufacturers have been able to manipulate sales figures for years by timing their transfers to Budget, Avis, Hertz, Enterprise and others....

Troy S.

I like the looks of the 200 but I'm not very fond of rebadging. This tells me there's a lack of originality, engineering talent and a shoestring budget. When you try to get by cheap, it's often clearly visible to the customer. This certainly appears to be the case here. Reliability? Only time will tell. History hasn't been so kind to Chrysler so it's probably doomed to repeat itself.

Unexpected

It's a pig with lipstick. The cars residual value is so bad that you'd be better off burning $8,000 cash.

Paul

I like the looks of the Avenger better.Shouldnt have called it Avenger though,thats still to me a Mitsubishi-made coupe with a Dodge name.Maybe Spirit or Dart would have resonated more.

J

cody,

Because the Fusion was not lame to begin with.
Simple enough, right?
The 200 is mediocre at best.

cody

no J., it's not simple enough.

the fusion was passed off as a redesign by the automotive media inspite of being an obvious refresh. there is no reason the 200 should not get the same treatment.

Ike G,

I never got to drive any of the vehicles the Chrysler dealer had on display in our mall but I can't imagine that the 200 would be radically different in suspension and power train than that of the former Sebring. Aside from the old Sebring being a rental agency favorite thus killing off its residual value on the used car market, the old Sebring wasn't the most reliable car on the market either. Keeping them longer than the original factory warranty was hazardous to your financial well-being. It will be a long time before we actually know what the reliability factor of the 200 is in the real world.

J

cody,

Did they not, say the 200 is redesigned?

From what I caught, the writer said it did not receive a "full" redesign.

On Fusion's case, it is more than a refresh, but not a complete model changing redesign. Which is similar to the 200.

However, the point is that, the 200 is still LAME after all these work.

DodgeFan

I think the only way to stand out in packed market is to offer a superior product at reasonable prices. I think Chysler is getting there, obviously if Hyundai barely outsold them that by themselves is not enough. Generally Chryslers last 100K then its luck of draw. Stratus went almost 200K and 94 Intrepid about 109K. My hope is for the people who buy this that mechanical bits have been sorted out by now since this is only a redesign. I noticed an uplevel 30K milleage Avenger from Entreprise about 16K. So unless you get great trade in value better buy used.

cody

J,

my point is that they continue to throw in the 'sebring sucks' plug every time they talk about the 200. they 200 should be evaluated on its merits. when the refreshed fusion came out, these guys did not feel compelled to remind readers that all ford did was change the plastic parts...even though it's blaringly obvious.

I think the comments about the 200/fusion are very interesting. It is obvious there are some who will never have anything good to say about Chrysler regardless of the effort and that is fair - everyone has their opinion. Just saw the car at the NY Auto Show and while it is a vast improvement, I myself was not in love with it. However, to see what they are capable of shows they are committed. I can't wait to see what they do in the future with this car on a new platform. Maybe instead of continual digs, we should praise them for making a concerted effort.

Gilbert F Black

I bought a 200 2012 myself I was impressed.

All the cheap plastic is gone and replaced with real painted black and chromed metal. The car was very well put together. If the convertible is the same way that would be another winner.

I'm just not wild about the Chrysler colors in general this year but am glad they are lightening up their interiors and not using so much black plastic on the insides.

Have had the car 10 months and completely satisified

Ike G.

I finally got to drive one! And it is clearly the best car in this class ever put out by Chrysler.

Good, solid construction, smooth ride and competent handling. Plenty of power. Nice interior. Super satellite radio with great sound system!!!

But on the other side of the coin, it's no match for the 2012 Accord.

My wife's sister was shopping around and that's how I got to drive one, but she ended up trading her 2006 Accord (126K problem-free miles) for a 2012 EX V6.

I guess there just wasn't enough draw there for her to give up the old tried and true, reliable, problem-free Accord line of vehicles.

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