Chrysler drops the ball

I’ll dispense with the pleasantries first. Chrysler’s 200C electric vehicle concept is one hot car. It’s exactly what the company needs to do with its Chrysler Sebring family car. Sleek and sophisticated, the car would usher out some of the company’s cartoonish designs from the past few years and get it the right kind of attention.

But when you’re borrowing government money to stay afloat, all anyone really wants to know is if you have some new cars that are greenlighted for production that will start generating revenue. Instead, the company showed three electric-vehicle concepts that might be built.

I understand the need to show that a company has new, advanced technology. And I get the need for better fuel economy and the electrification of the car. But where’s the beef? Even if Chrysler builds these cars, they will sell in tiny numbers. And they will probably lose money. Electric cars and hybrids almost always do.

I’d like to know what Chrysler will do to grow sales and make money. The 200C, Jeep Patriot EV and Dodge Circuit electric cars won’t do that. The company doesn’t have much new product this year, as Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli bemoaned in a round table interview with reporters on Monday.

But the company could have unveiled something. Company President and Vice Chairman James E. Press said Chrysler has 24 new vehicles coming out over the next four yeas. Later this year, they will launch a new Jeep Grand Cherokee. A new Chrysler 300 sedan and Dodge Charger come after that. With 24 new models on the way, surely they could have picked one or two and pulled off the wraps. Even if Chrysler owner Cerberus plans to sell the company, what better way to flog its wares than show the cars of tomorrow?

The old swaggering Chrysler would have cast a brighter light on its future. The company got $4 billion on Jan. 2 and may get a second check for $3 billion. I’d like to see what they will deliver after they get those loans. Instead, Chrysler whiffed at the opportunity to show that.

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