Things are bad at GM — sales down almost 20 percent — and open talk about the possible amputation of under-performing/overlapping brands such as Pontiac, GMC and maybe Saturn and Buick, too.
But the diagnosis is much worse for Chrysler Corp. Some analysts believe that unless a transfusion of money and other resources can be found via a buyout or partnership with a healthy automaker such as Nissan/Renault (or even the Chinese), Cerberus — the private company that currently owns the sickly husk of Chrysler Corp — will cut its losses and dump the whole shebang.
Time frame? A year, at the most. Maybe less than six months.
Unlike GM and Ford, which are still publicly traded corporations, Chrysler is little more than an asset (a liability, actually) held by Cerberus — which can decide tomorrow night if it wants to that it’s time to cut bait. And given the awful condition of Chrysler — and worse, its equally awful prospects — that decision may come sooner rather than later.
Ford and GM, though they have problems, also have their bright spots. Both have reasonably successful overseas operations, for one. Chrysler does not. GM and Ford also have reasonably diverse product portfolios with at least a few successful cars. Chrysler has an aging, not-right-for-the-times lineup that includes overweight gas guzzlers like the 300 series sedan, decrepit '90s-era holdovers such as the PT Cruiser, and rental car specials like the Sebring. It invested heavily in badge-engineered failures like the Jeep Compass and Patriot — and massive gas hog SUVs like the Commander and Aspen that are as popular right now as Hummers are for GM.
But GM at least has a few decent small cars like the Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Astra — and also some excellent mid-sized models like the Chevy Malibu and Saturn Aura.
Chrysler doesn’t even have the Neon anymore.
For some inexplicable reason, Chrysler did not invest in a replacement for this once big-selling economy compact. So it has absolutely nothing right now in the way of a 30 mpg or better small car — at a time when such cars are as hot-selling as V-8 SUVs were five years back.
It has already announced the cancellation of several models, including the slow-selling Pacifica/Magnum wagons, some versions of the PT Cruiser, the Crossfire coupe, and very possibly, the recently launched Aspen SUV.
What does that leave?
There’s the Town & Country minivan — but traditional minivans are being supplanted in the market by the new breed of crossovers, those wagon-like vehicles that look sort of like SUVs but ride and handle like cars. People increasingly prefer them over minivans because they have at least some style and personality yet are equally good at carting kids around.
GM recently introduced a whole family of new mid-large crossovers — the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia. Ford has the Taurus X and Edge and the new Flex.
Chrysler does not have even one comparable crossover.
TO PUT A FINER POINT on it, Chrysler doesn’t have a single big-selling model in its entire inventory of passenger cars. The only profitable asset the company still has is its Jeep brand (a small miracle, that, given the Patriot/Compass/Commander albatross hanging around its neck).