What I Learned From Studying Over 60 Months of Chrysler Sales

Posted Kirill Ougarov Market Analysis

Chrysler’s March 2015 sales release was headlined by this figure: 60th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains. Sounds pretty impressive, right? But what does it actually look like? I decided to find out. And ended up looking at 11 years in all, instead of just that 60 months.

While looking for the data I needed, I picked up some secondary findings. I’ll start with these, actually, because they help set the story:

1. The Great Recession was a six-year setback

Chrysler Annual Sales - All Brands

As you can see, Chrysler was already wobbly going into 2007, and then the bottom completely fell out. That they were able to dig their way out of a 55% collapse within 5 years is actually pretty impressive. And that is the story of the 60 months. Still, the consistency is impressive no matter how you look at it.

2. The Brand Pecking Order Has Changed

Chrysler annual sales 2004-2014 by brand

Jeep went from third to first thanks to crossover-mania and the simple genius of the Wrangler Unlimited. Ram outsells Chrysler – and could eclipse Dodge in 2015 in a “student becomes the master” move, depending on how things go for the Promaster line. Fiat hasn’t really gone anywhere, losing market share as the market has grown.

3. Trucks Up, Minivans Down

This is kind of a weird grouping of four segments, but it illustrates the fate of three mainstay segments. Truck sales have rebounded with a vengeance, they’ve made some inroads in the midsize segment with the 200, and props go to the Challenger for maintaining pace despite being an aging coupe (normally, the half-life for a coupe is about two years) – but the minivan is unlikely to see previous glory ever again.

Dodge Caravan, Ram Truck, Chrysler 200 and Sebring, and Dodge Challenger Annual Sales

4. A Tale of Two Segments

Now you see why there’s still so many first-generation Chrysler 300s and Dodge Challengers around – they sold a grip of them in the three years leading up to the Great Financial Crisis. And then gas prices shot up and groin-punched the fullsize sedan segment. Thanks to more robust marketing support, and a wider range that includes a police model, the Charger has recovered better than the 300.

Meanwhile, within the two Jeep lines are a few stories. First, you can see the impact of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited in the difference between 2006 and 2007 – and that sales have doubled in five years. Second, sales of the Grand Cherokee have nearly QUADRUPLED from their crisis low. Sure, more were sold in 2004, but sales began tanking two years before the crisis, so the product clearly became un-competitive. Quite the turn-around thanks to the on-going SUV mania.

Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler annual sales

5. 60 Months of Sales Figures Makes for an Ugly Graph

Chrysler Monthly Sales Graph, 4-10 to 3-15

But they also make for some fascinating conclusions. For example, peak sales months are March, May, August, and December. You can actually see the volume-gaining strategy: ramp up sales in February and March and keep things chugging along with the February number as the minimum target. If this is news to someone in a competitor’s marketing department, fire your analysts – now.

PS. If you want to look at the data yourself, add to it, or do some other magic, here’s the Google Doc.

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