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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

So long Chrysler, and thanks for the Lancias

THE THREE cars might as well have been coffin nails. That’s the total sum of what Chrysler sold across the UK last month – a distant final blip on the sales chart of a brand that’s been axed yet again.

You might have missed that this emblem of American motoring got quietly deleted from the showrooms earlier this year, which is why the three Chryslers sold last month would’ve been dealers clearing out the last hangers-on now that British sales have effectively stopped. In effect, these three sales are a bit like fingernails that keep briefly growing even after your heart’s ticked its final beat.

It doesn’t take an automotive coroner to deliver the verdict – what was behind a terminal sales slump was a quartet of not terribly relevant models, two of which were Italian offerings masquerading under an all-American badge. Pop across the Channel and the Delta – actually deleted here last year on account of its dire sales figures – and Ypsilon are better known as Lancias. I’ve argued before they should have been known as Lancias here too because they’d appeal to people who grew up driving them on Sega Rally, but apparently every time someone mentions the L-word an entire retirement home groans with tired tales about rusty Betas and engines falling out.

Chrysler’s other two models are rather more American but even less relevant. I love the 300C’s moodiness and mean proportions – it’s like a Rover P5 that’s been kicked out of school for smoking behind the bike sheds – but its high running costs don’t really chime with a Britain reeling from spending cuts. It’s the same story with the Grand Voyager. In a world full of Renault Scenics and Vauxhall Zafiras we only need one truly massive people carrier – and it’s the Ford Galaxy. So poor Chrysler was stuck with four models nobody really wanted.

But here’s the thing. Sales of sister brand Jeep are up nearly 60% compared to this time last year, and parent firm Fiat is going from strength to strength, having just introduced a new version of the 500. Whether it’s a rugged-looking off-roader with real world running costs (the Renegade) or a cutesy city car every twenty-something girl falls in love with (no prizes for guessing that one), both sell relevant cars people want to buy.

The days of cheap-as-chips Neons, Voyagers dominating the school run and Vipers being plastered across bedroom walls seem a very long time ago.

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