Caught in the Crossfire: Chrysler mulls future of slow-selling sports coupe

Caught in the Crossfire: Chrysler mulls future of slow-selling sports coupe
RICK KRANZ | Automotive News
Posted Date: 9/26/05
FRANKFURT — Chrysler group executives are weighing the future of the slow-selling Chrysler Crossfire.

At issue is whether the two-passenger sports car will be redesigned and assembled in North America or merely fade into the sunset when its assembly contract with Wilhelm Karmann GmbH expires.

The rear-drive Crossfire shares Mercedes-Benz components and is assembled by Karmann in Osnabruck, Germany. Production began in 2003.

Without giving specifics, Hendrik Loetter, key account manager of Karmann U.S.A., said the contract to build the Crossfire was for approximately five years.

The Crossfire “has done an awful lot for the brand. It has helped redefine our design and engineering capabilities,” said Joe Eberhardt, executive vice president of global sales and marketing. “I think as an industry and as a company, we have to get away from the fact that every new vehicle automatically has to have a replacement.”

Asked if the Chrysler Firepower roadster concept, which was shown at this year’s Detroit auto show, is the likely Crossfire successor, Eberhardt said “the two are not related.”

When the Crossfire debuted in 2003, the intent was to create a halo vehicle for the Chrysler brand. The automaker set an annual U.S. sales target of 20,000 units. It sold 14,969 units in 2004.

Chrysler has sold 10,276 units through August, 166 units up from the year-ago period.

The special employee pricing program for everyone boosted July and August sales. In July, Chrysler sold 1,364 Crossfires, compared with 1,269 in July 2004. In August 1,262 units were sold, up from 1,205 for the year-ago month.

“If we continue at the current pace that we saw last month (August), I would be happy,” said Eberhardt, who was interviewed on Sept. 13 at the Frankfurt auto show.

But Eberhardt added: the “Crossfire is certainly a challenge for us. It is no secret.”

The 2006 Crossfire’s sticker price ranges from $30,070 for the base coupe to $50,395 for the SRT-6 convertible. Prices include shipping.

“Pricing is an issue if you look at what else is out there in the market today in that segment,” Eberhardt said.

Chrysler is talking to auto dealers to determine how sales can be increased.

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