We’re all used to bringing up our successes, but it can be harder to talk about our failures. The late Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne had to do just that when FCA made the decision back in 2017 to discontinue the Chrysler 200.
The five-passenger midsize sedan began production in 2010, but it never had its shining moment that vehicles need in order to become a mainstay for manufacturers. What was it that made the Chrysler 200 fail?
The Chrysler 200 was the “younger brother” of the Chrysler 300
The Chrysler 200 had a relatively short life, with model years only available from 2011 to 2017, and it was marketed as a midsize sedan falling between the Chrysler Sebring and the Chrysler 300 in the automaker’s car lineup. The first-generation Chrysler 200 was available as a 4-door sedan or a 2-door convertible. By naming it the 200, FCA was able to let the vehicle ride on the coattails of the successful 300; it was similar in style and features but was a midsize sedan versus the 300’s full-size category.
In 2015, the Chrysler 200 underwent its first and only redesign. FCA got rid of the convertible option and reclassified it as a compact 4-door sedan. It was outfitted with all of the latest infotainment equipment as well as advanced safety features like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and keyless entry. But with all of those improvements, where did the Chrysler 200 go wrong?
In 2017, FCA discontinued the Chrysler 200
In a press conference in 2017, Marchionne spoke about the reasoning behind discontinuing the Chrysler 200. Stating that it had “run its course,” the Chrysler 200 was simply not cost-effective for FCA moving forward. Sales had declined since 2015. Marchionne stated that the Chrysler 200 was one of the “least financially rewarding enterprises that we’ve carried out inside FCA in the last eight years.”
Coupled with the Dodge Dart, which was discontinued alongside the Chrysler 200, Marchionne said, “I don’t know one investment that was as bad as these two were.” Neither vehicle was ranked highest in their classes, making it hard to compete with others and possibly forced FCA to rethink their production.
What was the reasoning behind the Chrysler 200’s fate?
Marchionne also said that part of the company’s decision to discontinue both the Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Dart was based on predictions that consumers would be switching away from coupes and sedans in favor of SUVs and trucks. This prediction back in 2017 turned out to have some truth behind it. Several automakers, like Ford and BMW, have since lessened —or gotten rid of altogether—their production of cars and have put that money toward producing more SUVs and trucks.
When asked whether the decision to put more money into SUVs and trucks was a shortsighted move, Marchionne responded by bringing up the 200. He stated that the sedan market was oversaturated at the time and took a large investment that “might not pay off” in the long run. Combine that with the fact that way more and more car owners were trading in for SUVs, which made it the right call for FCA to discontinue one of their under-performing sedans.
Today, Chrysler focuses on vans and their remaining sedan, the Chrysler 300. While we may ultimately never know if it was the right decision to discontinue the Chrysler 200, it can be assumed that sales would have continued to decline like many other sedan models have over the past few years. Consumers are indeed favoring larger vehicles, like SUVs and trucks, and the market continues to change to reflect that.