Al Gardner, president of Chrysler brand, shows off the soon-to-be-available 2015 Chrysler 200 S. (Photos by Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)
The new Chrysler 200 is on the horizon, and that’s a splendid thing.
The old Chrysler 200 is on the lot, and that’s a bit of a sticky thing.
The 2015, on display at the North American International Auto Show, has already drawn praise, salutes, hosannas and riotous applause. Chrysler says it’s new from the valve stems on up, with the tacit acknowledgment that jeez, it’s about time.
As for the 2014 … hey, did you notice the rotary dial shifter and the 9-speed transmission on the new one?
It’s a common challenge in the car business. At the same time you’re introducing the next generation of a vehicle and explaining all the ways it’s an improvement, you’re trying to sell the previous model you’ve just identified as being not quite so blessed.
The issue is even more accelerated with the 200, because across the years, critics have been somewhat less than affectionate with it.
“Lowly and much maligned,” says Cindi Brody of Beverly Hills. But wait: she’s not a critic, she’s a 55-year-old lawyer from Oakland County. She drives a 2010 Chrysler Sebring, which evolved with much derision into the 200 a year later; if you Google “lipstick on a pig” and Chrysler 200, you’ll get more than 3,000 hits.
And she likes her Sebring. In fact, it’s her third one.
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It seems that would be the other prickly thing for a carmaker with a hot new number like the 200. Do the people who bought the old one feel slighted or sullied?
Brody doesn’t. “They’re always making fun of it in the paper,” she says, “but I don’t really care. It’s a great little car.”
Likewise, says Allen Rubin of Oak Park, who has a 2006 Sebring convertible: “I’ve always liked it.” And ditto, says Kathy Niedbala, a 26-year-old schoolteacher from Chesterfield Township whose 3-year-old 200 is her first new car: “I’m very happy with it.”
That’s not to say the critics are wrong, or that reviews don’t serve a purpose, because they absolutely do. They provide information, a baseline for comparison, and valuable insight for the drivers who can truly feel the difference between a 6-speed transmission and that glorious new 9-speed.
A lot of drivers, though, don’t care how fast a car goes from 0 to 60, as long as it does.
“I’ve only been to the car show once in my life,” says Rubin, 60, a retiree on his way to a second career as a teacher. He wasn’t a fan.
Nor was he pleased that dropping the top on his convertible kept snapping the wires on his rear-window defogger. But he’s getting by okay with a foggy window, and come spring, it sure is fun to go topless.
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Andrew Love is one of those passionate pilots who can’t wait for the 295-horsepower 200 S with paddle shifters and an integrated sport mode.
He’s also a senior manager in Chrysler marketing who’s been involved with the 200 since it was a 2009 Sebring, a mere gleam in the designer’s high beams. “I’m a car nut,” he says, “and there’s a lot of me in the car.”
Drop by chrysler.com and you can already build and price a 2015, which should be available in the second quarter. Drop by a dealership and you can find one of the last of the 2014s, which will end production in the first quarter.
The overlap should only last a month or so, Love says, and even side by side, he doesn’t anticipate a problem clearing the inventory.
“We’ll have a great value equation on the old car,” he says.
Translation: prepare for drastic markdowns. That might not be as alluring as a sleek new body, but a sale never goes out of style.