As Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) merged with French automaker Peugeot S.A. (PSA) earlier this year, to create the new identity of Stellantis, (the fourth-largest global automaker by volume), one man looked on with frustration to see the company that held his family name for 95 years would no longer exist. That man is Frank Rhodes, the great-grandson of Chrysler founder Walter P. Chrysler.
While the Chrysler brand lives on, the Chrysler name has been on the overall operations of the company since 1926, and despite being the fourth time for the company to switch hands in 23 years, the former Chrysler Corporation no longer bears its founder’s name.
You might remember, we wrote about Mr. Rhodes back in January 2019 and his mission to save the nameplate that revitalized the brand only 22 years ago. That nameplate was the resurrection of the 300 nameplate to live as its new rear-wheel-drive-based large sedan. That very vehicle would go on to become the halo vehicle for the Chrysler brand and take the automotive world by storm.
The 300 Series quickly became the most award-winning vehicle that year, winning titles like MotorTrend’s 2005 Car of the Year, 2005 North American Car of the Year, Automobile Magazine’s 2005 Car of the Year, and it topped Car and Driver’s 10-Best in 2005 and 2006.
Since getting a major revamp in 2011, the Chrysler 300 Series underwent a mid-cycle refresh in 2015 and has stayed virtually untouched since. Over the past four years, only one televised commercial has centered around the vehicle, leaving many to doubt the brand’s future.
With the merger completed, the new CEO for the company Carlos Tavares announced that the new Stellantis identity will give each of its 14 brands a time frame of 10 years to find themselves and create a case for their existence. With that being said, a lot of fingers have been pointed at the Chrysler brand, which is currently made up of a trio of minivans and one large sedan which is reaching the end of its lifespan.
With the inevitable lurking around the corner, Chrysler’s 300 Series continues forth with virtually no investment from the brand that utilizes it as its halo vehicle. With the production of the much-wanted export Chrysler 300 SRT coming to an end earlier this year for Australian citizens, the beloved sedan hasn’t been making a lot of headlines lately. But with time ticking down, Mr. Rhodes is continuing his journey to save not only the American icon from extinction but the entire brand as well.
Mr. Rhodes has continued to write to Stellantis management after the merger about the lack of drive to push the brand forward. “As people push more towards pickups, crossovers, and SUVs, the Chrysler brand is left without a legitimate option to today’s changing market. Chrysler has teased the Chrysler brand as some sort of “conceptual” technology brand with vehicles like the Portal Concept and this year’s Airflow Vision Concept, but what about some real products? We have heard about a possible SUV based on the midsized Cherokee, however, there has yet to be anything announced other than minivan offerings for Chrysler,” Rhodes wrote in an opinion article for MoparInsiders in October 2020.
Since then, we have again been teased with another new Chrysler potential vehicle during this year’s EV Day 2021 presentation. However, no information, or acknowledgment about such a vehicle coming to production was ever hinted at. Sources close to MoparInsiders.com have said that Stellantis might be getting ready to launch a Chrysler-branded SUV in the Chinese market in the next year, but there has been no word on a new product for the “Imported From Detroit” brand.
“The current Chrysler badging is so limited on the current products, one might not know what it is. All Stellantis needs to do is to change the small “Chrysler” logo on the front and back of the vehicles, and replace it with Peugeot. Just like the Dodge Ram trucks being rebranded as Ram Trucks. It could be sold off piecemeal like the Jeep brand if they wanted,” Rhodes said.
Mr. Rhodes most recently wrote to the new heads of Stellantis management about the branding of the vehicles. In a recent e-mail to the Head of the Chrysler brand, Tim Kuniskis, Mr. Rhodes wrote…
Good morning Mr.Kuniskis,
Please market the Chrysler brand in a better way as referenced in the above attachments. The Jeep Grand Wagoneer has the name blazoned prominently on the body. I have been pushing this idea for the Chrysler brand for over four years now. Does anyone at Auburn Hills listen? As I see it, was this a soft approach to eventually abandon the brand from the former FCA group? At least Stellantis plans to make an attempt to save the storied brand with a ten-year window. The name Chrysler used to be recessed in the rocker panel area on the Pacifica. Hey, several years after my notes, even FIAT has put their full name on South American products. There is too much clutter out there and CHRYSLER needs to promote their products better in my opinion.
Lincoln has marketed their brand very well; as you know what the vehicle is when you pull behind one. I remember speaking with a Chrysler executive six years ago about Lincoln. The answer was, ” Oh their brand is just a fad for now”?
Also, why not experiment with some two-tone paint ideas?
Anyway, many thanks for your time and courtesies, and please let me know if you have any thoughts regarding the above. I would appreciate hearing from you.
Frank B. Rhodes Jr.
Rhodes encourages all Chrysler fans to write e-mails or mail letters to Stellantis management, to ensure there is transparency from the automotive-loving fans out there who have supported the brand over its 96-years of existence to the corporate boardroom where the decisions are made. While Mr. Rhodes doesn’t have anything to do with the company directly, he continues to play an important part in helping to protect his grandfather’s legacy.