Now Fiat’s plans for Chrysler have revealed, it’s worth pondering just how remarkably similar Chrysler’s history is to Rover’s.
The American carmaker built its reputation on advanced engineering at an affordable price (as did Rover in the 1960s) but suffered a near-death experience in 1979 before being bailed out by the US government. ? ?It prospered for a while through the compact K-car, MPVs and, in 1990s, innovative styling strong sales at its Jeep SUV division.
Like Rover, Chrysler was also swallowed up – and then spat out – by a German carmaker (Daimler rather than BMW). ? ?But while Rover cars – shorn of its Land Rover division - struggled on as an independent before succumbing, the Chrysler Group gets a chance to live another day as part of the Fiat Group.
What’s most worrying about the Chrysler revival plan is the move towards what’s called the ‘premium mainstream’. This Bermuda Triangle of a niche has been long searched for by mass carmakers.
If only they could convince enough punters to pay extra for a ritzy car that’s based on quality mainstream engineering, they could build a very handy business.
That’s what Rover bosses tried do in the 1980s and 1990s using Honda technology wrapped in the ‘above all it’s a Rover’ skin. BMW tried it with the all-new but retro 75.