So two years into the Caliber, Compass, Patriot generation, it’s fair to ask whether the vehicle line that replaced the Neon can be considered a success.
Auto analysts gave the Belvidere trio a yes, with some caveats.
“There have been some very successful things about this line for Chrysler,” Alexander Edwards of San Diego-based research firm Strategic Vision said. “Caliber was very well accepted in the U.S. and we just released our annual customer delight awards for 2007, and the Jeep Patriot did very well in the small SUV range, getting higher marks from consumers than such SUVs as the (Honda) Element, (Suzuki) Gand Vitara and (Chevrolet) Equinox. Unfortunately, the Compass didn’t resonate as well with buyers initially.”
has taken some criticism because of the fact it had 101,079 sales in the United States in its second year in the marketplace, a lower total than any year of the Dodge and Plymouth Neon, which was built in Belvidere from 1994 through 2005.
Few thought the Compass
would be a top seller and it lived down to the reputation, at least in the states, with 39,491 in U.S. sales last year.
Clearly, though, it was the Patriot’s struggles that most likely led to the elimination of Belvidere’s third shift. The Patriot, which was roundly applauded by auto analysts because of its strong resemblance to the old Jeep Cherokee, had just 40,434 U.S. sales.
“There’s no doubt Chrysler had higher expectations for the Patriot,”
said Catherine Madden, senior automotive analyst for Massachusetts-based market research firm Global Insight. “It’s not to say it’s a failure, but there’s a lot of information that indicated Chrysler expected it would have 100,000 in sales.”
When asked about sales, at least in the U.S., of the Belvidere trio, Chrysler officials, both under its old parent, Daimler AG, and current owner Cerberus always were quick to say the cars were selling well worldwide. And if one takes a global view, the Belvidere-made vehicles have delivered.
The combined sales total of the Caliber, Compass and Patriot worldwide was 294,888, the highest total for Belvidere-made products by nearly 40,000 going back to 1997, the last year Chrysler has worldwide sales figures in its computer databases.
The previous high in that time frame was 1998 when dealers worldwide sold 255,802 Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler Neons.
Of course, in 1986, Chrysler sold more than 303,000 Plymouth Horizons
and Turismos and Dodge Omnis and Chargers
in the U.S. alone. Back then Toyota, Honda and Mazda were just gaining traction in the U.S.
Interestingly, each of the current models had areas of strength. The Caliber had the highest international sales total for a Belvidere make and model ever. The Compass also did well internationally with 23 percent of its worldwide sales coming outside of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
The Patriot’s best market was Mexico, where it had nearly as many sales as the Compass and Caliber combined. In Canada, where Chrysler is the No. 2 automaker, the Patriot and Compass combined to outsell the Caliber.
Still, increasingly the name of the game in the automotive field isn’t market share it’s profitability. While dealers sold nearly 295,000 of the Belvidere trio, workers built more than 333,000.
“The combined (Caliber, Compass and Patriot) program probably eked out a profit for Chrysler this year,” Madden said. “The question now is what will Chrysler do to improve those products, because they’ve been in the market for two years and there are new products in those categories.
“There have been issues with the engines not having enough power and complaints about the plastic interiors,” Madden added. “Cutting costs is just one side of the business. Cerberus has to make cars that people want to buy, and clearly there are some areas they can improve on those vehicles. I certainly would love to find out more about what is coming.”
Despite losing shift, Caliber, Compass, Patriot deliver for Chrysler - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star