US: Chrysler CEO seeks brand relevance image

Al Gardner, the Chrysler brand CEO, expressed his focus on the impending sales launch of the important mid-size sedan 200, while also pointing out the brand could later on introduce additional new models.

Although in 2013 the overall Chrysler Group US sales went up a good 9 % to 1.8 million units, Chrysler own namesake brand was actually on the fall, with a 2 % dip to only 302,000 cars. Currently, the automaker has only three models on the roster – Town & Country MPV, the 200 and the big 300.

“The reality is Chrysler brand needs to be relevant and relevant is not necessarily playing in midsize, large car and minivan (only),” Gardner said on the sidelines of the Chicago auto show referring to the three products. “Are there opportunities outside of that? There are always opportunities. (Future product) has to sit on the showroom floor and it cannot compete with Dodge, Jeep and Ram.”

Gardner said that for now its main priority is the launch of the 200 sedan. Chrysler will begin assembling the 200 in its Sterling Heights plant in the second quarter of 2014 and will then launch sales at the end of the same quarter.

“I’m Chrysler focused 100 percent. I’ve got sales targets and share targets and profit targets I’ve got to hit — and in simple terms, it’s going to keep me busy,” added Gardner.

The company had Ford’s Fusion as an inspiration in developing the 200, but adds that their new model will have the acclaimed nine-speed transmission opposing the six-speed in the Fusion and the Chrysler 200 all-wheel-drive system won’t have a negative impact on the fuel economy.