Slowly but surely, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' (NASDAQOTH: FIATY ) plan for world domination -- or at least, global competitiveness -- is starting to take shape. One cornerstone of that plan was revealed last month: the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200, FCA's entry in the white-hot U.S. midsize-sedan wars.
The all-new 200 is sleek, loaded with high-tech features, plush -- and priced to sell. Built on a platform adopted from new corporate sibling Alfa Romeo, the new 200 looks to be a huge improvement on its uncompetitive predecessor.
But is it improved enough to worry Ford (NYSE: F ) ? As Fool contributor John Rosevear explains in this video, Chrysler hasn't been shy about the fact that the 200's development team benchmarked Ford's hot-selling Fusion sedan. But does the 200 have what it takes to steal the Fusion's thunder? Watch the video to hear John's thoughts on how the new 200 stacks up.
A transcript follows the video.
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Hey, Fools, it's John Rosevear. So my colleague Rex Moore and I were at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last month, and one of the many presentations we attended was the unveiling of the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan. We brought you a look at the 200 right from the show floor, with our first impressions. We still haven't had a chance to drive one -- it won't be at dealers until spring -- but we're learning a little more about the thinking behind it.
Al Gardner, who is president of the Chrysler brand, repeatedly mentioned the Ford Fusion in his remarks at the show, and now he has told the Detroit News that the Fusion was their target from the start. Now, think about that. It's kind of interesting. Here's Chrysler trying to come out with a midsize car that will get them on the map, that will put them on discerning buyers' shopping lists, that will be taken seriously, and they don't benchmark the Toyota Camry or the Honda Accord, which are the best-sellers in the midsize segment in the U.S. --they benchmark the Fusion. They took what they thought were some of the Fusion's key features and made sure to do them as well or better in the 200, and then they came out with a price that was cheaper than what Ford is charging for a comparable vehicle. It's an interesting strategy.
Now, like I said I haven't had a chance to drive the 200 yet, but I've seen a couple of them up close, I've sat in them, and I can tell you that it's a pretty nice car, but I don't think it's the head-turner that the Fusion is. The Fusion has gotten a lot of attention because of its dramatic styling -- that big grille that looks like an Aston Martin -- but also because of the really premium equipment level that's available, the really nice interior, and also Ford's comeback story has probably worked in the Fusion's favor as well. All of that helped the Fusion gain market share at the Camry's expense last year, in fact Ford had to open a second assembly line to keep up with demand, it has clearly been a big big success for them.
Chrysler obviously would like a bit of that success themselves, but I wonder if the new 200 will turn out to be a bit of a missed opportunity. Like I said, it's nice, it's competitive, but I'm not sure that it's giving anyone a reason to run to a Chrysler dealer and check it out. Toyota and Honda have decades of brand equity and brand loyalty to work with, Ford has the premium feel and the striking styling and the great story, and Chrysler has -- well, Chrysler has nice-enough styling and a competitive price and a good interior and an all-wheel-drive system that is a little more advanced and clever than the other guys are offering, and it's available with 295 horsepower, which is really a lot in this segment.
So we'll see. It's a good product, but if they were really going after the Fusion, I think they might have needed to make it stand out more. Thanks for watching, and Fool on.