Can the 2015 Chrysler 200 Take On Ford's Mighty Fusion?

Chrysler's Al Gardner unveiled the 2015 Chrysler 200 in Detroit last month. The sleek, high-tech sedan is a big improvement on its predecessor. But is it improved enough to challenge Ford's Fusion? Photo credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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.


Read/Post Comments (18) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2014, at 10:06 PM, KYBLUE1 wrote:

    It looks like the Dodge Dart....Not good.

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2014, at 9:38 AM, hankq wrote:

    Any word on the convertible?

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2014, at 10:48 AM, sabebrush6 wrote:

    Mopar is still the red headed step child. Mopars look like Subaro's anyway. Mopar is owned by Fiat.

    Fiat - Fix it again, Tony.

    I'm a Chevy fan, but Ford is a way better choice than Mopar any day of the week. I've had some Ford trucks along the way and they were good vehicles. No problems.

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2014, at 12:16 PM, fastbiker wrote:

    Montly may be right about the styling and the marketplace, but look at the transformation from the forgettable Cobalt to the new Dart. Like the Cobalt , very few people got excited over the previous 200. At least a Fiat group chassis and power-train will give the dealers something to point out on the showroom floor and a little performance to display during the test drive!

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2014, at 2:36 PM, Localyokul wrote:

    I have noticed over the years that early announcement for next years vehicles attract many buyers, not to mention lease companies as well. Getting to drive next years model months in advance. It also stirs interest and adds to production . I hope that Fiat-Chrysler doesn't drag their feet on announcement of the 2015 convertible.The present model is basically unchanged since 2008.

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2014, at 2:47 PM, KarlosEnrique wrote:

    "Can the 2015 Chrysler 200 Take On Ford's Mighty Fusion?"

    --In a word "No". In three words, "No Efffing way!!!"

    Fusion is a runaway rabid success with unique styling, very high quality, and excellent mpg. 200 falls short in all three of those criteria, both subjectively and objectively. This 200, like its predecessor, will remain a rental fleet staple.

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2014, at 3:51 PM, softwarengineer wrote:

    Alas, the 2014 Ford Taurus is Almost the Same Car as the Focus

    I like the Taurus front end a bit better though, more balanced....

    How about the 2014 Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Avenger? More differences than the Ford duo; but simlar same sedan problem....

    Which is better? I'd shop the Dodge Avenger, its cheaper than Ford and looks a quite a bit like a small 2010 or older Dodge Charger [especially the back]....I'm hooked on muscle cars. Too bad the Taurus doesn't look like a Mustang....LOL

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2014, at 4:55 PM, NoVaEarly wrote:

    When will CFA realize that more horsepower is not a substitute for good handling, well built vehicles. Improve your fit and finish and reliability and put your cars on diets so you can compete on even ground rather than trying to beat the competition through pricing. Don’t try to be bottom feeders when consumers are willing to pay a premium for a quality product.

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2014, at 7:03 PM, WillBrad wrote:

    They are two different brands. Ford has always been the bread and butter mainstream brand of FOrd, whereas the Chrysler brand was, and still portends to be, a more upscale line. Chrysler would be better aimed at fighting the Verano, and leaving Dodge to fight Ford. Buick's recent success story has been getting people to see the brand as a premium offering again, not competing against Camry and Fusion, which it will never match sales wise.

  • Report this Comment On February 12, 2014, at 11:04 PM, dmvrba wrote:

    as a GM owner this a no brainer, it would be like comparing a lemon to apple and lemon goes to the wanna be looking dart. sorry (fix it again tony) you are going to fight a battle with no chance of winning..

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2014, at 10:07 AM, Monclover wrote:

    The current Chrysler 200 is nothing more than a Nameplate change from the Sebring to the 200. I have had both the Sebring HT Conv. and the 200 HT conv.....absolutely no difference. I don't foresee that the 2015 200 will be much different. However, I don't have any complaints about the Sebring or the 200. Both have been great cars and I have never had any problems with them period. I think Chrysler makes one of the best convertibles on the market from a dollar cost basis.

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2014, at 11:21 AM, jasmith909 wrote:

    Great. Another carmaker polluting our roads with these hideous eyesores. It truly disgusts me to see designs like this, because as a carmaker, they're completely free to do whatever they want. They have a blank canvas upon which to create something that's aesthetically pleasing, and this is what they come up with? Is this a joke? Is Ashton Kutcher going to jump out from behind the curtains at the Detroit Auto Show and tell us we've all been getting punked this whole time? If this is what we bailed out these dunderheads for, we got ripped off. Unimaginative, uninspired garbage. Where's their sense of style? They used to have it, half a century ago, but now they all churn out these atrocious bubble-mobiles. No wonder Detroit looks like it's been sacked by the Visigoths.

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2014, at 3:02 PM, LungsOfSteel wrote:

    Funny - no one has driven, and most haven't seen the 200 up close, yet the armchair experts are already out in force with their criticisms.

    I also find it interesting that someone finds the Fusion has "unique styling" but it's rather derivative - just a better-looking Hyundai.

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2014, at 6:45 PM, Calninja wrote:

    As a owner of a Ford Fusion and a BMW, I would say a Ford Fusion is a beast of a car and completely destroyed my BMW on a race track recently, My fusion is one of the best cars I ever owned, I have also owned Chrysler's and had nothing but mechanical problems with them and to think at one time I hated Ford's until I purchased this Ford Fusion.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 4:06 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    JR: Thanks, this is one I would have missed had it only been video with no transcript. Got some good value out of it too. Some of your text had me worried. Reading the transcript, less so....

    I really think many are underestimating the pull of the comeback, American made story of F, and also the potential tarnish on Chrysler-Fiat. If I were investing in a car today, I would worry about Studebaker...ummm I mean CHRYSLER being around to service and part their new vehicle in 8 or 10 years. Ties would NOT go to Chrysler, and I used to be a Chrysler guy from my 67 Barracuda (damn I wish I had kept that car) to my last in 99. Never again.

    It would take a huge advantage for me to be involved with Fiat/Chrysler as investor or customer. I just don't see that happening.....

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 6:10 PM, stevedb wrote:

    It seems to me, John, that if you have not driven it then whatever you say has little value to a prospective buyer. The consensus in the automotive media is that is is a FAIL, a little more than a warmed over Sebring.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2014, at 10:12 AM, puppybone69 wrote:

    I knew as soon as the new Fusion came out that every other midsize sedan maker would try to copy it. So big surprise, all the wannabes are trying to catch up to the leader now, and they all just look like cheap knockoffs.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2014, at 5:06 PM, LouisTewl wrote:

    First question, JR, how come the 'Wall Street Cheat Sheet' keeps eating your lunch on POSITIVE FCA news, like here:

    http://wallstcheatsheet.com/business/stock-news/rams-ecodies...

    Your bias towards the "mighty" Ford, and against the "regional" FCA is (again) showing. Heil Ford!

    Second Question: Do you know why TATA motors is doing so well with the Jaguar/Land Rover brand they bought from Ford?

    Because nobody wanted to own a Jaguar designed and built by Ford, that's why. The Ford Design Nazis still follow Henry's original flair for variety, when he said, " They can have any color they want, as long as it's black. "

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