Chrysler: Just A Rough Patch?

O.K., CHRYSLER CORP. HAS A quality problem. Chairman Robert Eaton was already flogging his troops over quality control even before the April issue of Consumer Reports criticized Chrysler vehicles, knocking its stock down by 15/8, to less than 39. But this is probably a case where the market overreacted.

Even though the magazine says the reliability record of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, for example, "has been dismal," buyers are snapping up the Jeep and such stylish new products as the Cirrus sedan. Why? Let's go to the magazine. In the April issue, most Chrysler models score at or near the top of their class in performance and such things as roominess. "Chrysler comes out with probably the best functional cars going," says Robert Knoll, the magazine's director of auto testing. The magazine's beef is that the Grand Cherokee, Ram trucks, and Dodge Intrepid and other LH cars have to go in for repairs too often.

Such concerns are sure to sway some potential buyers, but history suggests that the effects are marginal. Sales of the company's minivans, which were removed from the Consumer Reports recommended list in 1991 (and since reinstated) because of transmission failures, never stumbled. Ditto the Ford Taurus, which dropped off the list in 1988. Meanwhile, Chrysler has fixed some problems, such as dim headlights on the Intrepid, and is redesigning doors to avoid occasional water leaks and wind noise.

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