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25 Times The Chrysler Corporation Messed Up Big Time

Cameron EittreimJanuary 26, 2022

The Chrysler Corporation was once a juggernaut of the auto industry for decades. The company was responsible for bringing forth revolutions like the minivan, the Hemi V8, and even the iconic Plymouth Superbird. However, Chrysler has also had its fair share of disappointments and close calls with financial ruin. Out of the big three automakers, Chrysler is the smallest company, but that doesn’t mean it is any less significant.

Without Chrysler’s influence on the automotive industry, a lot of innovation would have never happened at all. Chrysler invested over a billion dollars to design and build the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 passenger cars. This failed investment in these two passenger cars is merely the most recent in a long line of failure by the company. We looked back at 25 times Chrysler made big mistakes that impacted the auto industry right here.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

25: Plymouth Prowler

Here we have one of the most confusing Chrysler models of all time, the Prowler. The Prowler was among one of the most controversial production cars released in 1997. Before the Prowler, this extreme of a design had not been used on a brand that was not deemed exotic. This meant the average Plymouth buyer wasn’t sure what to make of the futuristic new hot rod (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Few cars have gone directly from concept car to full-blown production model but the Prowler did. The design of the Prowler was about as forward-thinking as possible, but the implementation was lackluster. A lack of a V8 engine erased any thought of this car being a legit hot rod. That lack of performance coupled with the high price tag meant most consumers avoided the Prowler.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

24: Chrysler Aspen

What’s smarter than releasing an outdated gas guzzler during an economic recession? The Aspen SUV, if you asked the folks at Chrysler in 2007. Based on the existing Dodge Durango SUV that was out since 2004, the Aspen was a big and flashy Hemi-powered experiment by Chrysler to compete with the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade. The problem is that both of those SUV models were purpose-built while the Aspen was not (via Repair Pal).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

When drivers got into an Aspen, they felt like they were riding in a Dodge Durango. In the middle of a recession where gasoline prices were skyrocketing, the Aspen didn’t offer enough of a compelling bargain. There are quite a few failed SUV models from the mid-2000s economic crash and the Chrysler Aspen is one of the least-known models.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

23: Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible

The PT Cruiser was a car that was teased throughout the ’90s as a concept car. The top brass at Chrysler had a plan to position Plymouth as the trendy alternative automotive brand. But as the end of the decade grew closer, it became more evident that the Plymouth brand wasn’t going to cut it in the new millennium. The PT Cruiser was released to much fanfare at the start, but the warm welcome quickly faded away (via Car & Driver).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The PT Cruiser convertible was a stubby, awkward-looking car that didn’t sell well. The cramped dimensions of the car were the most obvious problem with it. As a four-door wagon, the PT Cruiser was a small car. Turning it into a two-door convertible didn’t help things out. The sales of the car were poor at best and the PT Cruiser was discontinued not too long after.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

22: Dodge Dart

The Dart was part of a $1 billion investment Chrysler Fiat made in a new passenger car. The Dart was everything you’d want in a sedan. Its only problem was that it was released about 10 years too late. Consumer tastes had already shifted toward crossover vehicles so the Dart wasn’t appealing. Dodge aired an aggressive advertising campaign for the Dart, pitting the car against the best vehicles from Japan (via Every Auto).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Right off the bat reliability issues caused consumers to turn on the Dart. Rampant transmission failures were reported early on for the car. All in all, the Dart and Chrysler 200 were the last passenger cars Chrysler invested substantial money into redesigning.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

21: Chrysler 200

The same story goes for the corporate cousin of the Dart, the Chrysler 200. Fiat-Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne considered it a failure by Chrysler shortly after the car was launched. He criticized the rear window design of the car, saying the company copied the Hyundai Sonata. This wasn’t exactly the most intelligent move for an executive of a large automaker to make (via CarFax).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Dealerships were confused why the chief executive of a brand would tarnish a new vehicle nameplate like that. The 200 would soldier on for a few years but the car was generally relegated to rental car fleets. The 200 was highly touted as the future of the brand but it failed a few years later.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

20: Chrysler Sebring

The third generation of the Sebring was arguably the most paltry offering ever from the brand. The car was cheaply built and felt that way in almost every aspect of design. The interior was full of cheap plastic and interior fabrics, which left consumers wondering why the car was marketed as a premium offering. Even if you stepped up to the luxury option, the Sebring was far from actually being a well-appointed car (via Consumer Reports).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Its stubby dimensions made it a tighter squeeze than a comparable Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. With the increased competition from Hyundai and Kia, the Sebring was being outsold on a two-to-one basis every year. The reliability of this generation of the Sebring was also some of the worst that the brand had seen. The Sebring brand was discontinued after a brutal eight years on the market.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

19: Dodge Caliber

Dodge has always had some sort of compact car in the brand portfolio since the early ’80s. The Neon was the compact car sold during the mid-1990s up until 2006. Then the Caliber was released and it was a completely different compact car than what was sold prior. There was a special SRT4 edition of the Caliber that hit the market, but it wasn’t enough to stir up interest (via Car & Driver).

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Chrysler heavily marketed the Caliber as an alternative compact car, but consumer interest in the vehicle waned. The build quality was about as cheap as possible and there were better offerings from Hyundai and Kia. The Caliber would soldier on for a few years until it was finally discontinued.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

18: Chrysler Crossfire

In the mid-2000s, the Chrysler brand was on the cusp of change. There was no direction with the brand and it was stuck in between a premium luxury brand and an ordinary blue-collar brand. A unique sports car would be the perfect way to position the brand upmarket, and Chrysler released the Crossfire. The car was heavily based on the Mercedes-Benz SLK-320, which itself was dated by this point (via Repair Pal).

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The Crossfire was a car with a lot of potential but critics panned the styling and its performance wasn’t all that great. There were interesting features about the Crossfire, like the spoiler that would raise after the vehicle hit 40 MPH, but the rest of the car was a failure for the brand.

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17: Dodge Aspen

Released in 1976 on the heels of the fuel embargo, the Aspen was supposed to be a family sedan. The domestic automakers didn’t expect the fuel crisis or economic crash that happened so quickly. Just a few years before, these automakers were all selling fast muscle cars that invoked all kinds of passion. When you looked at the Aspen, it was a bland sedan that didn’t offer much styling (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Critics panned the Aspen for lackluster handling and a frame that wasn’t as strong as it should have been. Even though safety was becoming a major thing in the automotive industry, potential buyers were concerned with the rigidity of the Aspen. The car lacked refinement and many of the design elements drivers had hoped for.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

16: Dodge Avenger

Another car released to almost endless advertising was the Dodge Avenger sedan. The styling was taken from the Dodge Charger sedan that had debuted a few years earlier. There’s no doubt the Avenger was a vast improvement over the Stratus sedan it replaced. But the car had many reliability issues that made drivers reluctant to buy one (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The interior was also cheap when you compared it to the competition as Honda was stepping up their game with the Civic around this time. The Avenger didn’t have a sports model, and the car wasn’t particularly fast as advertising would have implied. All these problems compounded to make a car that no drivers wanted.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

15: Chrysler 200 Convertible

The original Sebring Convertible was one of the biggest success stories in the convertible segment. Chrysler designed a car that you’d think would have a limited appeal and it sold like hotcakes. The Sebring was the go-to car if you wanted an affordable convertible for many years. But as time went on, Chrysler grew complacent with the car and updates were few and far between (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

When the Sebring brand was renamed the 200 in the mid-2000s, the car didn’t get any updates. The platform itself dated back to 2007 and the car had not aged well. The reliability was questionable at best, and consumers were over the bland styling. Sadly, the Chrysler 200 convertible was a short-lived car and didn’t sell well.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

14: Dodge Avenger Coupe

The Dodge brand had a completely new image in the late 1990s, and that image was centered around being a sporty, forward-thinking brand. The Avenger was not a traditional sports car, but instead a coupe that shared a platform with the Sebring. Underneath the sheet metal was Mitsubishi engineering, which gave the car a sportier feel (via Car Guru).

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Unfortunately, the Avenger was not a hot seller for the brand and most people have forgotten about this generation of the Avenger. There were far better two-doors on the market around this time period. For a car purported to be sporty, the Avenger was a boring two-door coupe that lacked original design.

Eagle Vision
Photo Credit: Auto Trader

13: Eagle Vision

Branding a new automotive nameplate in the ’90s was not a new concept. GM did it with the Geo brand and Ford tried it with the Merkur brand. Chrysler attempted to reinvigorate their dealership network with a new brand called Eagle. These cars were supposed to have the soul of a sports car and upmarket styling like Infiniti (via Every Auto).

Eagle Vision
Photo Credit: Auto Trader

The problem was that these cars were just rebadged Chrysler models that were on the market. The Vision shared a platform and overall design with the Dodge Intrepid sedan, and there was not much to differentiate the two. If you looked at a profile of both cars from the side, you’ll see that they are basically the same vehicles.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

12: Chrysler Imperial

The Chrysler brand of the early ’90s was also diverse with various models. The problem is that most of these vehicles were exact clones of other vehicles minus a different nameplate here or there. The Imperial is one such car that was based on already existing Chrysler products. The K-Car platform was great for a commuter car yet not so much for an expensive luxury car (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The difference here of course were the upmarket touches added to the car. Being positioned as a premium offering, the Imperial looked to take customers from Cadillac. The problem was that the car was a lot smaller than what Cadillac was offering at the time. Traditional buyers of cars like the Imperial wanted a car that was much larger.

Photo Credit: Jeep

11: Jeep Compass

If there’s one thing about the Jeep brand that people recognize the most, it’s off-road capability. When a Jeep vehicle is trail-rated, you know that it can tackle just about anything. So when Jeep introduced a car based on the Dodge Caliber, traditional loyalists scratched their heads (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: Jeep

The Compass was not an actual Jeep model in any stretch of the word; in fact it wasn’t even an SUV model. Being based on the Dodge Caliber, the Compass was actually a passenger car stretched and given a taller roof line. Other than that, the Compass was one of the most confusing Jeep models to ever hit the market.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

10: Jeep Commander

In the mid-2000s, Jeep had a confusing lineup of SUV models to choose from. The top brass at Chrysler wanted the brand to have a full-sized offering, so the Commander hit the market. The problem is that the Commander had a lot of Mercedes-Benz parts built into it and these parts were not the most reliable (via Cars.com).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Perhaps one of the most obvious failures was the transmission, which was equally difficult to replace. The Commander would go on for quite a few years, although it never sold in the numbers that Jeep had hoped for. The new Grand Wagoneer ultimately replaced the SUV we have today.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

9: Jeep Liberty

When Jeep discontinued the Cherokee after the 2001 model year, the brand needed something that appealed to entry-level buyers. The Liberty was supposed to be the replacement for the Cherokee. Albeit the Liberty was a much smaller SUV and lacked the legendary engine that made the Cherokee such a popular model (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The Liberty would soldier on for many years without any real upgrade. Sales were respectable, but never anything that would term the vehicle a home run. Most Jeep shoppers will never take their SUV off the pavement, which meant the Liberty was a safe bet for Chrysler around this time.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

8: Dodge Ram Mega Cab

Everything is better when it’s bigger, right? As far the original Dodge Ram Mega Cab goes, this wasn’t the case. The folks at Chrysler decided to use a dated design and stretch the cab out a little bit. The Mega Cab was a suitable option if you had a large family but still wanted a pickup truck. There was only one problem. The Mega Cab was only sold in a 2500 heavy duty configuration, something that is useless to the average consumer (via Car & Driver).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Most of us will never have to haul heavy machinery, much less what a diesel-powered Ram 2500 is capable of. Which means that the buyers who would traditionally gravitate toward the Mega Cab were priced out or simply not interested. There were better options on the market for the average consumer, such as the Toyota Tundra.

Dodge Nitro - Dodge
Photo Credit: Dodge

7: Dodge Nitro

The Nitro was one of the more confusing Chrysler models released in the mid-2000s. Dodge was in a transitional period and the Durango needed a redesign. But instead of focusing attention on the flagship model, Dodge introduced many new models. The Nitro was one of these new models and shared a platform with the Jeep Patriot (via Consumer Affairs).

via: Chrysler
Photo Credit: Chrysler

On paper, you’d think the Nitro was a capable SUV, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Overall the Nitro was underpowered and outdated compared to what else was on the market at the time.

Photo Credit: Dodge

6: Dodge Journey

Crossover SUVs are the most popular segment on the road right now. In fact, the Crossover has just about replaced the modern family sedan as the preferred method of transportation. It’s hard to believe it, but Chrysler actually got a jump on the competition by releasing the Journey a decade ago (via Car & Driver).

Photo Credit: Dodge

The problem is that the vehicle’s general design remained the same for all that time period. Nowadays, the Journey has an unrefined and dated feeling, where other automakers have been able to capitalize. Much of the Dodge lineup is made up of vehicles that you might remember 10 years ago.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

5: Jeep Patriot

The Patriot is the SUV that shared its platform with the Dodge Nitro and was the spiritual successor to the Jeep Cherokee. The boxy Jeep model was released in the mid-2000s and experienced an early boom in sales. The problem is that the Patriot was short lived and consumers weren’t terribly fond of the thing (via Consumer Reports).

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The lack of refinement or horsepower made SUV shoppers go the other way. Eventually Chrysler would begin to heavily discount these things until finally discontinuing it altogether. The Jeep models from this time period were confusing to say the least. For a brand that made its bones with off-road capability, the Patriot was lacking in this department.

Dodge Omni Shelby GLH/GLHS
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4: Dodge Omni

The Omni is the car that should have saved Chrysler, but instead the K-Car platform overshadowed that to become instantly popular. The styling of the Omni was one of the original problems with the car. Even in the late 1970s and early ’80s, the car was downright ugly to look at. The Omni could have been much better in terms of its design (via Car Gurus).

Dodge Omni - Dodge
Photo Credit: Car Domain

Most consumers didn’t want one of these, especially after the fiasco Ford had with the Pinto. Hatchback models from this era were under intense scrutiny because of where the gas tank was located. In a crash, these vehicles were more susceptible to an explosion than other automobiles.

Photo Credit: Jay Leno’s Garage

3: Dodge Viper

The Viper was one of the most iconic Dodge models of all-time, but the car was limited in its appeal. Towards the end, the Viper became an expensive status symbol that forgot about its humble beginnings. In the early days of the Viper brand, the car had a simple purpose of being an insanely fast vehicle (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: Jay Leno’s Garage

Chrysler missed a real opportunity to make the Dodge Viper an iconic car like the Corvette was. The early designs of the Viper were rough and the car didn’t improve as time went on. There were better vehicles for the price, and the Viper soon became a relic. Most people seldom remember this car other than it being on a poster in their bedroom.

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2: Dodge Raider

Chrysler sold a rebadged Mitsubishi Montero in the late 1980s known as the Raider. The little SUV had a real opportunity to capture marketshare from Jeep and Suzuki, unfortunately the trim lines were limited. The Raider didn’t have a removable top and it was only available in a base trim (via Car Gurus).

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The buyers of these small SUVs were generally interested in the removable top and the Raider didn’t have that. The model could have been so much more popular than it was and Chrysler wouldn’t have had to spend a dime on the design. Unfortunately, the Raider suffered from most of the cheap rebadging that other Chrysler models did at the time.

Photo Credit: IIHS

1: Dodge Dakota

The original Dakota was the truck that invented the mid-size pickup segment. But as time went on, Dodge grew complacent and the final generation of the truck was one of the worst in the lineage. Dodge missed out by cancelling the Dakota line because mid-sized trucks have become big business (via Vehicle History).

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Toyota is more popular than ever with the Tacoma, and even Honda has gotten into the fray with the Ridgeline. Chrysler did release the Jeep Gladiator pickup truck, but it is basically a Jeep Wrangler with a truck bed. The Dakota was an authentic mid-sized truck that offered a decent amount of bang for the buck.

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