Thursday, February 15, 2007

My First Car Was a Chrysler

I bought my first car in 1953—a six year-old Chrysler Windsor convertible and it was a beauty. Not red, which might have been my boyhood fancy, but deep, midnight blue and I drove it through my last two years of high-school and then to Michigan State.

I bought my first car in 1953—a six year-old Chrysler Windsor convertible and it was a beauty. Not red, which might have been my boyhood fancy, but deep, midnight blue and I drove it through my last two years of high-school and then to Michigan State.
Chryslerconvertible I loved that car. It was an absolute slush-bucket, pickup wise. That is to say it was slow—one of the first automatic transmissions, perfectly named Fluid Drive, it left the stoplight like an incoming tide. Its pickup qualities with girls were considerably more appealing.
Eddyhoward The car even had a history. I bought it from Eddy Howard, a singer in the Big Band days. You might remember Careless, Maybe It’s Because and To Each His Own, all of which were Howard hits. It was a big car—a schooner form a crooner. Gas was 22 cents a gallon.
That little trip down memory lane brings me to the news in today’s paper that Chrysler may not be long for this world.

Maybe it’s because
Chrysler just couldn’t kick the big-car big-truck habit and was careless during union negotiations in those bygone salad days of big profit. But they’re owned by the Germans now and to each his own means Daimler will for sure be the surviving member of Daimler-Chrysler.
DaimlerceodieterzetscheDieter Zetsche is the CEO of the German parent and anyone who’s ever had German parents, knows they brook no nonsense. Chrysler is not the usual Detroit disaster-story. They are probably the American best bet among old-style corporations worth saving. Unlike Ford and GM, Chrysler has been recently profitable.
Leftlane News-January auto sales numbers are in, and as always the results are a mixed bag. Sales at GM were off 20 percent, and Ford wasn't far behind, posting a 19 percent decline. Chrysler Group reported an increase of one percent, driven by a strong Jeep brand.
Last year’s loss was exacerbated by a Chrysler decision to gamble on the building of 100,000 vehicles that had not been ordered. They ate them all, at a per vehicle write-off of three grand. That’s a heavy meal, but it’s hard to believe the Teutons didn’t have a say in ordering up the American menu.
Dodgeviper So, Chrysler is off on another cost-cutting reorganization—the only thing Detroit seems able to do these days and they don’t do that very well. Further dependence upon SUVs and trucks, further lobbying against mileage requirements, further crashes into the wall of reality. But don’t cash in your Chrysler stock just yet, they're showing some hot product.
The smallest of the big three, the parent of my first car still takes home 15% of the 18 million vehicles sold in America. Hard to walk away from two million, seven hundred thousand sales and harder yet to guess where Daimler (Mercedes) would even begin to fill that size market segment with their own product.
It won’t happen. Corporations, like individuals, always make choices in their own best interests and the best interests of Chrysler’s German counterpart is to expand rather than contract that market share. Don’t bet they can’t do it. Germans are practical and unsentimental. That lack of sentimentality should not be lost on the UAW as Zetsche rattles the saber of downsizing, sale or outright closure. He'll get whatever concessions he deems necessary.
But again, an actual sale won’t happen. With GM and Ford on the block, there are no suitors for a Chrysler acquisition. Even though anyone out there shopping for an automobile manufacturer to be had at fire-sale prices would be far likelier (and wiser) to pick up Chrysler than either General Motors or Ford. Daimler already has them.
After decades of struggle hankering to be #2, it turns out that number three is a winning number. In 2005, Ford lost a billion (on autos), GM 12 billion and Chrysler eked out a 2 billion profit. With half GM's market share, Chrysler was fourteen times as profitable.
“No option is being excluded in the interest of arriving at the best possible solution for the Chrysler Group and DaimlerChrysler as a whole.”
You can’t get any more pragmatically German than that.
_______________________________________________________
Media comment