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The debut of the Chrysler Airflow battery-electric crossover at the Consumer Electronics Show was meant to be the harbinger of Chrysler’s arrival as a 21st-century brand. After four months on the job as brand CEO, former Ford and Honeywell executive Christine Feuell opened up on her vision for the Pentastar in interviews with Automotive News and The Detroit News. When Stellantis asked each of its 14 brand chiefs for one word to describe their intentions, Feuell’s word was “transformation,” that overhaul seeing Chrysler become the mothership’s “startup brand.” The obvious sum of those two intentions is more technology, the good news about them is that there will be more product, the best news about them is that there will be more quality.
The Airflow is said to arrive by 2025. Chrysler’s two current products, the Pacifica/Voyager minivan and 300 sedan, will be replaced by new offerings that serve those same two segments but that are “a vast departure from what’s in the market today.” Beyond these three nameplates, visitors to Chrysler dealer lots will be able to choose from “a number of brand-new products that don’t exist today.” We’ll guess there’ll be one or two more crossovers in addition to whatever else comes, since that form factor hasn’t begun to run out of steam. A couple more family conveyances after the Airflow would cement the Auburn Hills automaker as the people-hauler arm of Stellantis’ U.S. quartet. We’re told to expect something “in the largest segment,” in TDN‘s words, but we’re not certain if “largest” refers to the segment size or vehicle size.
Naturally, these transports will be electric, Chrysler aiming to be all-EV by 2028. Feuell said the Pacifica Hybrid has been able to poke its nose into a demographic of tech-friendly buyers, specifically, diverse millennial females with higher incomes. She wants to expand on that success, becoming an attractive option to families with a fair bit of disposable income — you know, Tesla buyers. Assuming she can translate her vision into good product, those shoppers will find in Chrysler “clean mobility, seamless technology,” and unexpectedly rewarding ownership experiences. As for tech hardpoints, between the parent company and Chrysler, there will be 800-volt architectures, the STLA Brain electrical architecture, AI-based Mobil Drive vehicle communication being developed with Foxconn, Smart Cockpit infotainment being developed with Amazon, and AutoDrive autonomous capability being developed with BMW. We will see the first of these advances in other Stellantis vehicles due in 2024.
Until the Airflow comes, Feuell will be working on Chrysler’s reputation and quality scores. She told AN, “It’s not just enough to come out with a great product and rebuild the brand, you have to make sure that the customer experience is also there to fulfill their needs at every step of the process from search, to purchase to on-board to ownership.” That’s obvious, but something Chrysler hasn’t had the money and C-suite attention span to provide until now. To keep the Pacifica and 300 in shoppers’ minds until the real show begins, the CEO plans new packages and special editions. Sure, that reads like it deserves an eye-roll, but that two-step has been a highly profitable specialty at sister brand Dodge, there’s no reason Chrysler shouldn’t gather from that well.
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