You've likely heard a lot about Toyota's woes over the past several months and there's one automaker who couldn't be happier to be out of the hot-seat – Chrysler. While sales are only down three percent so far this year, over half of Chrysler's sales have been to fleets, which is never a positive sign and simply kills a car's resale value.
A member of the Big Three, Chrysler isn't so big any more, slipping to 7th place in the U.S., when you examine just sales to customers. Edmunds.com says consumer sales have dropped 44 percent. Comparatively, Toyota's consumer sales have dipped just 14 percent, even with a still struggling economy and massive recalls that have smeared the Japanese automaker's once-good name.
Chrysler representatives are very much aware of their company's problems but even with new Fiat ownership and leadership, new and updated models will take time to come to market. "We have to rebuild consumers' confidence in the company," said a comany spokeswoman to CNN Money. "The fact that large companies are willing to buy our vehicles helps rebuild that confidence, so fleet is part our businesses strategy."
Fleet sales will help sustain Chrysler in the short term, but improved consumer sales are the only viable long-term solution.
The problem appears to be with the brand image, as according to Erich Merkle, president of Autoconomy.com, even highly-acclaimed vehicles like the new Dodge Ram are suffering, despite winning this year's Motor Trend Truck of the Year award.
For Chrysler to change its perception, it will take many long years and quality products, the first of which is expected this year in the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. After that, Chrysler will roll out several updated versions of its most popular models, while a longer-term strategy will have new, possibly Fiat-based, compact and mid-size models hit the market.
More: Report: Chrysler, Not Toyota, Off to Worst Start in 2010