The Wall Street Journal noted on Friday that the German-American auto giant is embarking on a revival of some of its classic nameplates in hopes of capturing both the nostalgic crowd and newcomers. Already the company has scored big with its 300 model, a new incarnation of an old favorite. For September, DaimlerChrysler reported that the 300 posted sales of 11,163 units and that the sedan now holds a 23% share of the luxury full-size car market year to date. The new car demonstrates how one successful vehicle can significantly improve an automaker's fortunes.
The 300 owes at least some of its success to styling, but Chrysler also appears to be tapping into America's longtime mania for horsepower. Although on the low end the 300 comes with just a 190 horsepower engine, consumers have the option of buying a model with as much as 340 horsepower. The company appears eager to continue to feed the muscle car interest with a new initiative, a remake of the Dodge Charger. The Charger truly holds an icon status, not the least of which for its starring role on the long-running TV series The Dukes of Hazard.
Ford, of course, is not simply standing still in this new car competition. The firm has had some tough months lately, but there could be reason to be optimistic. Ford is poised to introduce several new models, the most promising of which looks to be its powerful 2005 Mustang.
With more than 77,000 cars sold since April, the 300 has successfully captured a large market. The challenge for the new Mustang and the Charger will be to satisfy die-hard fans while at the same time appealing to a broader group of consumers. Chrysler has already shown it can maintain this balance with the 300. Reports indicate that the same designer that worked on the 300 is leading the Charger effort, a fact that bodes well for its prospects.
Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.