Chrysler Group’s sales have been on fire for over 4 years now, with May marking the automaker’s 50th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth. Much of Chrysler Group’s success can be attributed toward the continued success of Jeep and Ram brands.
In May, Jeep had its single best month of sales ever, while Ram and Dodge sales were the best they’ve been in the past nine and seven years, respectively. Even Fiat, a brand which has struggled to catch traction in the U.S. since its launch three years ago, managed to have its best sales month ever last month.
While sales have been great for Chrysler Group, things haven’t been nearly as good for the Chrysler brand. Over the past few years there has been a significant reduction in the number of models offered by Chrysler brand. As a result, there have only been a few stale models to choose from which have done little to spark consumer interest. Ten years ago Chrysler brand offered seven models, but fast forward to 2015 and the brand is set to offer only three models, the 200, 300 and Town & Country minivan.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to drive the completely redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200 at a Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) ride and drive, and I’m happy to report that things are finally starting to look better for Chrysler brand. The all-new 2015 200 marks the first full collaboration between Fiat and Chrysler in the midsize sedan segment and is Chrysler Group’s only midsize car in the marketplace (they’ll cease production of the Dodge Avenger later this year)..
With only three models offered for sale in 2015, the near-term success of Chrysler brand falls almost entirely on the shoulders of the all-new 2015 200. Expectations for the car are great; however, the new 200 will likely have a tough time shedding the tepid rental car image of the previous generation, especially considering that the midsize sedan segment is one of the most competitive in the industry. Even so, I think the 200 finally has what it takes to be a real competitor. Will it be the best in its class? No, probably not, but the gap between the 200 and segment heavyweights like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion has definitely narrowed.
While there’s no denying that the 2015 200 looks better, drives better and is more efficient than the outgoing model, I think that the brand will have an extremely tough uphill battle to entice consumers to jump ship from seasoned vets like the Camry, Accord, Altima and Fusion.
The all-new 2015 200 is available in four different trim levels, the base LX model starts at a very attractive $21,700 and stepping up to the Limited costs $23,255, while the top of the line 200S and 200C trims will run $24,495 and $25,995, respectively (not including a $995 destination charge). The 200S and 200C add extra tech and luxury features as well as the availability of an optional 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine and all-wheel drive.
Fuel economy has been improved by a new standard class-exclusive nine-speed automatic transmission which yields up to 36 mpg on the highway when paired to the standard 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir four-cylinder engine.
The 200 is the only car in the midsize sedan segment to offer a nine-speed automatic transmission in both the four and six-cylinder equipped versions. The transmission features a wide gear ratio that provides smooth transfer between gears and efficiency at all speeds. It operates electronically rather than manually using a rotary E-shift knob, which eliminates the need for a standard gear shift lever.
The bottom line: The new 2015 200 is a very nice midsize sedan with all of the right ingredients to be a contender in the ultra-competitive midsize sedan segment. Chrysler certainly has its work cut out trying to convincing consumers to forget about the rental grade 2010 – 2014 200, but the brand, and Chrysler Group as a whole, has come a long way in the last few years and shown great leaps in terms of product advancement and quality. The new 200 should help elevate awareness of the brand and hopefully show consumers that it’s much more than a simple rental car.