Issue: Jan 2005


The 300 Effect

by Ray Windecker

The popularity of Chryslerís new full-size sedan has raised sales numbers across the board.

Chrysler Groupís 300 sedans are given much and well-deserved credit for the Groupís growing stature within both the industry and media but there is considerably more to the story than just the 300. To give credit where credit is due, the 300 has accomplished two difficult objectives. The first is that the 300 sedan has been well received by most of the car-test media, a quite unusual feat for a Detroit-based sedan. Generally, Detroit-based sedans are at best suspect, or simply for being from Detroit, automatically downgraded by my car-testing compatriots. As an example, Toyota Division vehicles are often described as having ďbullet-proof quality,Ē though oddly, no automotive writer has, to my knowledge, applied that phrase to Buick or Mercury, both rated the equal of or better than Toyota in most quality surveys. The second benefit from the 300 is the perking up of the Groupís cars as a share of the total industry.

As shown in the accompanying data, in the April-November months of 2004, the time impacted by the 300, 2.71 percent of Chrysler Groupís share of the total industry came from cars, up from 2.60 percent in the comparable 2003 time period. Yet emotionally and statistically valuable as it is, the 300 is not the entire story, even for cars, as Crossfire and the Sebrings helped as Chrysler Divisionís cars more than offset Dodge Divisionís car losses. Unfortunately, as the car market continued to decline, and considering the minor weighting of cars against trucks within the Group, the 0.45 point gain in the car market (not shown in the data) earned only a 0.11 point gain in the total industry.

Cars Trucks Combined
April-November 2004 2.71% 9.99% 12.79%
April-November 2003 2.60% 9.75% 12.35%
Point Change +0.11pt. +0.24pt. +0.35pt.

Source: American Auto Datum

Chryslerís award-winning 300 sedan has also proved to be the companyís latest halo vehicle, boosting sales of all Chrysler products in 2004.
Gaining share of the total industry by increasing oneís share of the declining car market, particularly if your strength is in trucks, is akin to climbing a ladder that is sinking into quicksand. You have to continually climb the ladder to keep your feet out of the sand. But, the hard reality is that if a company is to protect their share of the total industry, they must keep climbing the car ladder.

While the Chrysler 300 (plus other cars) earned a 0.11 point gain, the Groupís share of the total industry came in at 12.70 percent for the April-November months, topping the 12.35 percent in the comparable 2003 months by 0.35 points. Trucks, of course, made up the difference. The up-tick in truck share was helped by the PT Cruiser, Sprinter, Durango, Caravan, Town and Country, and Pacifica, but the Dodge Magnum, as a new 2005 unit, did much of the heavy lifting.

Trends within trends can cause conflicting currents and movements; specifically, the Groupís trucks, although looking quite healthy, contain one of those bits of conflicting data in that the Groupís truck performance softened a bit as the year progressed, particularly in the Jeep Division, a condition that will be interesting to watch as it will take time to establish the eventual balance between the Groupís cars and trucks.

Overall, the Chrysler Groupís cars, gaining stature during the data period, increased their share of the car market, but due to the fallingoff of the car market and the low proportion of the Groupís cars to trucks, did not increase the Groupís share of the total industry in direct proportion. The Groupís trucks, though softening a bit over time against the year-ago levels, provided the larger part of the Groupís share again.

This rather short-term comparison does highlight the effect of the Chrysler Groupís skew toward trucks, as well as the need to push further into the car market as the truck market becomes more competitive. Also, the new or relatively new products, Magnum, Pacifica, Crossfire and Sprinter, each contributed to the statistics as did the 300, but more significantly, the 300 gave the Chrysler Group a strong emotional and reputational surge.

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