The World Without Chrysler As We Know It -- And the Road Kill Left BehindBy Michelle Krebs October 22, 2008
By Michelle Krebs
Talk of possible mergers between General Motors and Chrysler or Nissan-Renault and Chrysler are reaching a frenzied pitch. Word is a deal could happen at least by Election Day, Nov. 4.
So what automaker would benefit most from a partnership with Chrysler, or which would benefit most if ailing Chrysler simply went away? To which automaker would Chrysler buyers turn for their future purchases?
An analysis of consumer shopping trends by Edmunds.com, parent of AutoObserver.com, shows Chrysler buyers would likely go to GM vehicles if Chrysler simply went away, as GM vehicles are high on the shopping lists of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep shoppers.
Yet that also means if GM and Chrysler merge, the combined company would have the most model overlap. That undoubtedly would result in the massive slashing of duplicate vehicles, closure of plants that make those vehicles, elimination of the jobs of people who work in those operations and demise of dealers that sell them.
Likely Chrysler road kill under GM ownership would include full-size Ram pickup trucks, SUVs notably the Chrysler Aspen, Dodge Durango and Jeep Commander as well as other Jeep models, the midsize Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger sedans and Chrysler's sporty models, including the Dodge Viper. Surely the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chevrolet HHR could not co-exist in a single company.
Minivans may be a safe haven, since GM sells none. Chrysler's successful rear-drive car platform might be salvaged. Its smaller Dakota truck platform is a question mark.
What Else Do Chrysler Buyers Shop For?
Edmunds.com's analysis examined the behavior of visitors to the online car-shopping site in September who looked at Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models. The analysis listed each Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep model along with the top 25 vehicles those visitors cross-shopped.
The analysis showed that by far, Chrysler shoppers most heavily cross-shop other Chrysler models, suggesting Chrysler on its own needs to do more weeding of its product portfolio and any new owner would have to do some pruning.
Aside from Chrysler models, shoppers most frequently compared their Chrysler choice to a GM model; in part, that's because GM has more brands and models than any company - more than GM itself needs.
The Edmunds.com analysis also looked at what Chrysler and GM vehicles were most cross-shopped by those with competing vehicles at the top of their list. In almost every case, GM had a vehicle that is cross-shopped more than any Chrysler vehicle.
Ford, too, could benefit from the demise of Chrysler - Ford had the second-most number of models most often cross-shopped by Chrysler intenders.
Honda (including Acura) followed Ford in number of cross-shoppers (interestingly, Honda's Accord pops up on virtually every cross-shopping list from sports cars to pickup trucks).
Toyota (including Lexus and Scion) followed, with Nissan (including Infiniti) being the least cross-shopped by Chrysler shoppers of the largest automakers selling vehicles in the U.S. A smattering of other models rounded out the top 25 lists.
In contrast to GM, Nissan, less considered by Chrysler shoppers than any of the U.S.'s Big 6 automakers, would have the least overlap in models - implying Chrysler's customer base could well complement Nissan's. And, of course, Renault currently has no U.S. presence.
Media reports suggest Chrysler could join Nissan-Renault. Discussions between GM and Chrysler supposedly are continuing, though a sticking point apparently is GM's difficulty in obtaining financing for the deal so it can pay severance to the thousands of employees whose jobs undoubtedly would be eliminated.
Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, according to media reports, is discussing having Nissan, and possibly Renault, acquire a minority stake in Chrysler. Chrysler's majority owner, Cerberus Capital Management, is in a mad rush to get out of the auto business.
Model-by-Model Cross-Shopping Patterns
Here's what Edmunds.com's cross-shopping analysis showed on a model-by-model basis. Of all the shoppers considering the specific Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicle noted, the percentage indicates the amount that cross-shopped the other model.
CHRYSLER MINIVANS: LEADERS OF THE PACK
The Chrysler jewels that outsiders are said to envy are its industry-dominating minivans, the Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan.
The vehicles against which Chrysler minivans are cross-shopped represent the usual suspects of traditional minivans, most notably the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna as well as the Nissan Quest. And GM no longer competes with a conventional minivan.
Indeed, minivans represent the strongest segment for Chrysler for purchase consideration from shoppers of competing vehicles. Edmunds.com's reverse cross-shopping analysis of September show shoppers considering the Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona and Mazda5 all look at the Dodge Grand Caravan. Shoppers of the Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna and Volkswagen Routan put the Chrysler Town & Country on their list of other vehicles to consider.
Were GM to acquire Chrysler, minivans could be one of the few models that would be complementary to GM's existing production portfolio and would require little paring.
Or would it? GM appears to be faring well without a traditional minivan via its highly successful Lambda-based crossovers. After the competing traditional minivans, the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave are among the vehicles most shopped against Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan. In fact, despite the absence of a traditional minivan, Chrysler minivan shoppers cross-shopped five GM models, more than any other manufacturer.
Meantime, the same data suggests were Nissan to acquire Chrysler, its Quest could be among the first vehicles to go from the merged product lines.
Top Most Cross-Shopped Against the Chrysler Town & Country
1. Honda Odyssey 43%
2. Dodge Grand Caravan 33%
3. Toyota Sienna 33%
4. Nissan Quest 12%
5. Hyundai Entourage 12%
6. Volkswagen Routan* 9%
*VW Routan is based on Chrysler minivan platform and is built by Chrysler.
Top Most Cross-Shopped Models Against the Dodge Grand Caravan
1. Honda Odyssey 50%
2. Chrysler Town & Country 31%
3. Toyota Sienna 26%
4. Hyundai Entourage 13%
5. Nissan Quest 11%
6. Kia Sedona 10%
JEEP: A CROWN JEWEL?
Chrysler's other supposed crown jewel is Jeep. But clearly Jeep has lost some of its glimmer.
Consumer preference has turned away from SUVs due to rising gas prices. And Chrysler undeniably has made development missteps with Jeep products, notably the recent "soft-roaders" that go against Jeep's rugged Trail-Rated mission and have devalued the brand.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Despite its declining sales and the general waning appeal of SUVs, the Grand Cherokee, often considered a granddaddy in the segment, performs better than other Jeeps in cross-shopping trends. Grand Cherokee shoppers look outside Chrysler for comparison more than they do for other Jeep models, although five of the top 25 models cross-shopped against Grand Cherokee are GM makes. Only two are Nissan models.
Grand Cherokee shoppers compare their selection most often against the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Toyota 4Runner and GMC Acadia.
Reverse cross-shopping data shows Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Nissan Pathfinder shoppers also consider the Grand Cherokee. A potential Chrysler-Nissan merger might not require both the Pathfinder and the Grand Cherokee.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Jeep Grand Cherokee
1. Honda Pilot 8%
2. Ford Explorer 8%
3. Toyota 4Runner, GMC Acadia 7% (each)
The unique and iconic Jeep Wrangler is a Chrysler strength. It is most cross-shopped against the Toyota FJ Cruiser.
But it is heavily cross-shopped against the Jeep Liberty, Grand Cherokee and Patriot as well, making all of those redundant Jeeps vulnerable to slashing.
As for Chrysler suitors, the Wrangler overlaps with GM's Hummer H3 - which will disappear from the line when GM rids itself of Hummer, if it does - and with Nissan's Xterra.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Jeep Wrangler
1. Toyota FJ Cruiser 11%
2. Hummer H3 8%
3. Jeep Liberty, Grand Cherokee, Patriot 7%
4. Nissan Xterra 6%
Kiss the Jeep Commander good-bye. The large and boxy Commander is frequently mentioned as yet-another model to get the axe even under Cerberus' ownership. GM ownership would result in the sure demise of the Commander.
Even for Chrysler, the Commander does little to attract buyers considering other brands. Four of Jeep's own models sit in the top spots for consideration by Commander shoppers.
GM has Hummer, which is on the auction block. Commander shoppers also consider the Hummer H3. The ranks of those buyers have been halved this year.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Jeep Commander
1. Jeep Grand Cherokee 22%
2. Jeep Liberty 13%
3. Jeep Wrangler 12%
4. Jeep Patriot 9%
Top Most Cross-shopped Non-Chrysler Models Against Jeep Commander
5. GMC Acadia 9%
6. Honda Pilot 8%
7. Chevrolet Tahoe 7%
The Jeep Compass suffers the same problem with eight of the top 25 vehicles (the most of any manufacturer): other Chrysler products being cross-shopped by Compass intenders. In fact, a whopping 35 percent of Compass shoppers look at the Jeep Patriot; 13 percent consider the Jeep Liberty.
GM has the next most, with three models that Patriot shoppers most often cross-shop. On the plus side, Compass as well as Patriot shoppers also heavily cross-shop the segment-leading Honda CR-V, and, to a lesser degree, the once segment-leading Ford Escape.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Jeep Compass
1. Jeep Patriot 35%
2. Honda CR-V 17%
3. Jeep Liberty 13%
4. Nissan Rogue 12%
5. Ford Escape 12%
Ditto for the Jeep Patriot. Seven of the top 25 most cross-shopped models by Patriot shoppers are Chryslers, notably the Compass and the Jeep Liberty.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Jeep Patriot
1. Honda CR-V 17%
2. Jeep Compass 15%
3. Jeep Liberty 13%
4. Ford Escape 12%
5. Saturn Vue, Toyota RAV4 11%
Clearly, there's no need for both the Jeep Liberty and Jeep Patriot - they are heavily cross-shopped against each other. Six of the top 25 most cross-shopped models by Liberty intenders are Chrysler models. Of all Liberty shoppers, 23 percent also consider the Patriot; that's a larger percentage than any other cross-shopped model. The Grand Cherokee also makes the top-most cross-shopped list.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Jeep Liberty
1. Jeep Patriot 23%
2. Honda CR-V, Jeep Grand Cherokee 14% (each)
3. Ford Escape 13%
4. Toyota RAV4, Jeep Compass, Jeep Wrangler 10% (each)
5. Dodge Nitro 9%
SUVS: CHRYSLER ASPEN, DODGE DURANGO
If GM and Chrysler merge, SUVs will be at the top of the list for massive slashing. If Chrysler merely disappears, GM likely would attract Chrysler's perspective SUV buyers, as would Ford.
Chrysler, more than any other manufacturer, is too heavily skewed towards truck-based vehicles such as the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango SUVs. Edmunds.com's analysis shows shoppers of the Aspen consider the Durango first for comparison, and vice versa.
And GM needs more SUVs in its line like it needs a hole in the head. Edmunds.com's data shows that after cross-shopping each other, GM vehicles are the most heavily cross-shopped by would-be Aspen and Durango buyers. Indeed, the most cross-shopped GM models for the Aspen and Durango are GM's traditional large SUVs, including the Chevrolet Tahoe, and its new crossovers, including the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia.
Moreover, the Aspen and Durango now can be ordered with the same 2-Mode hybrid system available on the Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade. All of the models with the hybrid are selling in extremely tiny volumes.
In contrast, Nissan's Armada and Pathfinder are far down the list of vehicles cross-shopped against Aspen and Durango. More consider Toyota and Ford SUVs than consider Nissans.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Chrysler Aspen
1. Dodge Durango 12%
2. Chevrolet Tahoe 12%
3. Buick Enclave 10%
4. GMC Acadia 9%
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Dodge Durango
1. Chrsyler Aspen 16%
2. Chevrolet Tahoe 13%
3. Ford Explorer 10%
DODGE TRUCKS: DUPLICATE EFFORT
Same story goes for Dodge trucks.
If the Dodge Ram went away tomorrow, buyers likely would turn to GM and Ford as they have in the past. And they already cross-shop the Ram against GM and Ford models. GM's Silverado and Sierra, with their enormous sales numbers, would prevail. As for Nissan, Chrysler already has a deal to build a Ram-based pickup to replace Nissan's Titan.
Nearly a third of Dodge Ram shoppers consider the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and the Ford F-150. The same is true of Ram 2500/3500 shoppers - they look at the Ford F-Series as well as GM's heavy-duty models in the same general percentages.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Dodge Ram 1500
1. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 32%
2. Ford F-150 30%
3. Toyota Tundra 21%
4. GMC Sierra 1500 15%
5. Nissan Titan 10%
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Dodge Ram 2500/3500
1. Ford F-250/F-350 35%
2. Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 31%
3. Dodge Ram 1500 24%
4. GMC Sierra 2500/3500 16%
Dodge Dakota cross-shopping data implies that either a GM-Chrysler or Nissan-Chrysler affiliation would mean a sorting out of these smaller trucks, which have seen drastic sales slide. Eight of the top 25 most cross-shopped vehicles against the Dakota are Chrysler models; of all Dakota shoppers, 20 percent also consider the Ram.
A significant 44 percent of Dakota shoppers also consider the Toyota Tacoma.
Conversely, the Dakota is the No. 1 most cross-shopped truck against the Mitsubishi Raider, which is built by Chrysler on the Dakota platform.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models For Dodge Dakota
1. Toyota Tacoma 44%
2. Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet Colorado 22% (each)
3. Dodge Ram 1500 19%
It appears would-be buyers of the Dodge Sprinter would have their heart set on this rather unique delivery truck - based on a Daimler model - because there's nothing else like it to shop against. However, nearly a quarter of Sprinter shoppers also look at the aged and traditional Chevrolet Express and Ford Econoline vans.
And soon the Sprinter gets more competition. Ford plans to bring from Europe's its Transit Connect delivery van. Nissan has announced plans to introduce a new line of commercial vehicles to the U.S., building them at its Mississippi plant.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Dodge Sprinter
1. Chevrolet Express 25%
2. Ford Econoline 23%
3. GMC Savana 13%
DODGE SPORTY CARS: BYGONE GLORY DAYS
Another area requiring heavy sorting if GM were to merge with Chrysler would be in the sporty car segments, as tremendous overlap of models and customer bases exists.
Uniquely Chrysler, the Dodge Charger and Challenger are heavily cross-shopped against each other and with GM models, suggesting significant overlap in the muscle-car category should the two makers merge.
The No. 1 most cross-shopped vehicle against the Challenger is the Ford Mustang, but the new-age Chevrolet Camaro, coming next spring, certainly will be high on the list. Edmunds' reverse cross-shopping data shows the Challenger is the No. 1 cross-shopped model by shoppers considering the Ford Mustang and Shelby GT500, not to mention the Mitsubishi Eclipse.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Challenger
1. Ford Mustang 17%
2. Dodge Charger 15%
3. Chevrolet Corvette 11%
4. Pontiac G8 10%
The list of vehicles Charger shoppers also consider is comprised of an intriguing array of BMWs, the new Mazda6 and the Hyundai Genesis. Still, it is most heavily cross-shopped against its brethren, the Challenger and Chrysler 300, with which it shares its underpinnings.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Dodge Charger
1. Dodge Challenger 24%
2. Chrysler 300 13%
3. Pontiac G8 10%
4. Ford Mustang 10%
Chrysler is trying to sell the Viper brand. The semi-exotic roadster absolutely would be axed under GM ownership, with the Corvette filling in the void.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models
1. Chevrolet Corvette 33%
2. Dodge Challenger 17%
3. Ford Shelby GT500 16%
CHRYSLER 300: SALVAGING RWD PLATFORM?
Aside from being cross-shopped against its own platform-mates, shoppers for the long-in-the-tooth 300 also considered five GM models - the most of any manufacturer. They included the Cadillac CTS, Buick Lucerne, Chevrolet Malibu and Impala and Pontiac G8.
Still, GM might salvage the satisfying rear-drive platform used not only for the 300 but also the Charger and Challenger. Indeed, when GM considered buying Chrysler before Cerberus did, the platform was one of the few items that GM deemed of value from such a deal.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Chrysler 300
1. Dodge Charger 14%
2. Cadillac CTS 10%
3. Honda Accord 10%
CHRYSLER MIDSIZED CARS: GONERS
Chrysler's oft-criticized midsize cars, the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger, overlap heavily with GM models, particularly the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac G6. With heavy cross-shopping between the pair themselves, Sebring and Avenger buyers consider other Chrysler models and GM models more often than vehicles from any other manufacturer.
Clearly, were GM and Chrysler to merge, the midsize car segment, in which GM also has plenty of unnecessary overlap within its own ranks, would be among the first to be scrutinized.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Chrysler Sebring
1. Pontiac G6 13%
2. Chevrolet Malibu 12%
3. Honda Accord 11%
4. Nissan Altima 10%
5. Toyota Camry Solara 10%
6. Dodge Avenger 9%
* Also making the top 25 list from GM are the Chevrolet Cobalt and Impala and Saturn Aura
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Dodge Avenger
1. Chevrolet Malibu 18%
2. Nissan Altima 14%
3. Ford Fusion 13%
*The next three most cross-shopped models are Chrysler's own - Dodge Caliber and Charger and Chrysler Sebring.
CHRYSLER PT CRUISER
No surprise here. The vehicle most often cross-shopped vehicle with the Chrysler PT Cruiser is the Chevrolet HHR.
The little retro haulers were, after all, styled by the same designer, Bryan Nesbitt. He left Chrysler after penning the then-innovative PT Cruiser; joining GM, Nesbitt's first job was creating a similar vehicle, which became the HHR. Nesbitt is now one of the top directors in GM's North American design studios.
Reverse cross-shopping data shows shoppers of the Volkswagen New Beetle list the PT Cruiser at the top of their list for comparison.
Much speculation has it that Chrysler will completely eliminate the PT Cruiser from its lineup; it already has ended production of the convertible version. Certainly, were GM and Chrysler to merge, the PT Cruiser or the HHR, also considered by Dodge Caliber shoppers, would have to go.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Chrysler PT Cruiser
1. Chevrolet HHR 26%
2. Dodge Caliber 12%
3. Pontiac Vibe 9%
A half-dozen of the 25 vehicles also considered by shoppers of Chrysler's Dodge Journey crossover, introduced last spring are GM models, more than any other automaker. The Chevrolet Traverse, just now hitting the market, is the top contender against the Journey.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Dodge Journey
1. Chevrolet Traverse 13%
2. Honda CR-V 13%
3. Mitsubishi Outlander 12%
4. Toyota RAV4 10%
5. Ford Edge 10%
The Dodge Caliber would likely disappear under a GM-Chrysler merger scenario. The top three spots of most cross-shopped vehicles by Caliber shoppers are GM models.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Dodge Caliber
1. Pontiac Vibe 14%
2. Chevrolet Cobalt 10%
3. Chevrolet HHR 9%
Undoubtedly dead meat. The Dodge Nitro overlaps deeply with other Chrysler models. Of the 25 top most cross-shopped vehicles considered by Nitro shoppers, nine are Chrysler models and five are GM's.
Most Cross-shopped by Manufacturer Against Dodge Nitro
1. Jeep Liberty 15%
2. Ford Escape 14%
3. Dodge Journey 13%
While Chrysler has discontinued the Pacifica, many still remain on dealer lots. The eventual void suggests Ford and GM will pick up the slack.
The Ford Edge is most cross-shopped against the Pacifica, followed - again - by GM's Lambda crossovers, the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. The new Lambda-based Chevrolet Traverse as well as the Chevrolet Equinox and the Saturn Vue also are on the shopping lists of Pacifica shoppers.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Chrysler Pacifica
1. Ford Edge 12%
2. GMC Acadia 9%
3. Buick Enclave 9%
The segment void left by Chrysler ditching the Crossfire looks like it will be filled by GM. Five of the 25 most cross-shopped models by Crossfire shoppers are three Chryslers and five GM vehicles - Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice, Chevrolet Corvette, Cadillac CTS and Saab 9-3. There's also a smattering of other odds and ends, including the BMW Z4, 1-Series and 3 Series, the Mazda 3 and a couple of Audi models.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Crossfire
1. Pontiac Solstice 12%
2. BMW Z4 10%
3. Ford Mustang 9%
The departure of the Dodge Magnum from Chrysler's model range likely will make little difference. Five of the most cross-shopped vehicles by Magnum shoppers are Chrysler models; only one of the top seven is a non-Chrysler vehicle, that being, oddly enough, the Chevrolet HHR.
Top Most Cross-shopped Models Against Dodge Magnum
1. Dodge Charger 17%
2. Chrysler 300 10%
3. Dodge Challenger 8%
4. Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Caliber, Chevrolet HHR 7% (each)
5. Dodge Nitro, Ford Flex 6% (each)