Out of the “Big Three” U.S.-based automobile manufacturers, it would be a purely subjective call to say which one produces the best cars and trucks. When it comes to bad luck, poor sales and questionable management decisions, there is a definitive Third Place finisher, and it would be Chrysler. The venerable car company has been in a slump that dates back to before its sale to German maker Daimler-Benz.
Times of Tumult
Lee Iacocca, after having brought Chrysler back from the abyss, left on a note that sounded very much like a death knell for the company. Their highly-publicized “cab forward” design let to a sales thud that the industry hadn’t heard since Ford named a car after Henry’s son Edsel. Chrysler’s minivans and trucks comprise the company’s backbone, and since being purchased by Fiat as part of their bailout-related restructuring, they have made quality improvements, if not sales traction.
A Long Road Back
Just when their journey seemed to be smoothing out, however, Chrysler hit a bump in the road. Hoping to make lemonade out of lemons this time, Chrysler made sure to get out in front of a recall that involves (so far) only about 11,000 vehicles. Still, there are two factors that make this recall a bit sticky. One, it involves a steering column defect that the NHTSA says could “compromise the ability of the steering column to support the occupant loads” – a roundabout way of saying one could be impaled in the event of a front-end collision.
The other problem is that, while few in number, the flaws affect almost the entire array of Chrysler’s 2011 fleet, including the Chrysler Town and Country minivan and the new 200 (both sedan and drop-top models), the Jeep Liberty, Wrangler, Compass and Patriot; and Dodge’s Caliber, Nitro, Journey and Avenger. No actual injuries have occurred, and Chrysler seems to be throwing good money before bad, perhaps having taken notes when Toyota went through a disastrous spate of accelerator-pedal problems despite having undergone no recall whatsoever.