Chrysler: so what?
So far in this intermittent series I have picked on a forgotten supermini, a lavishly expensive sportscar and the VW Passat. Today I feel the need to declare that Chryslers and associated brands are vehicles about which I have nothing to say.
Or almost. I might feel a certain morbid fascination with the K-cars of the Iacocca era, which period also includes the Chrysler-Maserati. Apart from that, Chrysler is a nullity. While Fords and GM vehicles from pretty much anytime after 1960 are in some way interesting to me, Chryslers aren’t. They seem to be nothing more than a spear-carrier in the grand drama of the American car industry.
They are the Rootes group of the US automotive scene but they are not gone yet. Periodically the go bust and are cruelly brought back from the grave every time to do what? What innovations have ever emerged from Chrysler’s research centres?
Answer: Corinthian upholstery. That’s it.
Whereas I have an extensive visual reference bank of the cars churned out by Ford and GM, Chryslers offer nothing to my mind’s eye but the kind of generic square shape a cartoonist might sketch to represent “any old car”. At some point Chryslers/Dodges (and…there was a third brand wasn’t there?) were either an amalgam of what the other pair in the Big Three did or else a rather unsuccessful alternative.
After the pitiable K-car era, there was the cab-forward era where Chrysler led the way but no-one wanted to follow. For a while the UK motoring press had a love-affair with Chrysler. I can recall Russel Bulgin raving about the P/T Cruiser or maybe the Plymouth Prowler***.
Car Magazine adored the cab forward schtick and I really felt at the time it was as good as a cure for cancer. Really it was just show business distracting from the real news in the early 90s, that Chrysler was sinking inexorably.
And since then it’s a glorious blank. I really can’t think of anything Chrysler are making at the moment though I think there’s a car with a retro-name like Charger and it’s sold only in orange. I don’t lament the fact they don’t sell these cars in Europe**.
If I was renting a car in the US I would resent being given a Chrysler if there was literally any other car available from any of the other manufacturers. Chryslers don’t seem to matter and I don’t feel I need an opinion about their products in the way GM and Ford do, like them or not. Being given a Chrysler would mean I might form opinions that had no further relevance.
In fact, I have a love-hate relationship with Ford and GM which satisfies the need for drama in my life that perhaps others satiate by following soap-operas. Just lately I have become aware of the GM Zeta platform. It’s a rear-wheel drive platform that is underused and would make a perfect basis for a new Opel Senator. Do it, Opel! I can fantasise and hypothesise about GM and Ford but Chrysler provides nothing to project onto.
Finally, not being able to talk about Chrysler cars doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion about Fiat Chrysler Automotive. Right now there are rumours floating again about VW buying FCA (see www.Autonews.com). This idea fills me with lots of opinions but these are meta-opinions, opinions about the firm not the product. That doesn’t count.
*** Dodge, Plymouth? When did that distinction ever make any sense? 1956? Plymouth was the third name I was trying to think of. Plymouth means even less than Mercury. I could imagine Ford using a third line of cars between Ford and Lincoln (even if Ford never could). Plymouth is automotive tofu. It died in June 29, 2001 but I needed to look that up.
**They do sell Jeep. They make a thing called the Patriot. If you get inside it you’re secretly sent to a third country and waterboarded until you confess. Did they really name a car that suggests a person who wants to openly carry a loaded gun in public?