The current state of Chrysler: 10 questions with CEO Chris Fuell
In case you missed it, Chrysler is still a happening item. The V8-powered 300C was a hit when it was revealed last year, selling out in mere hours. The Pacifica minivan is a rocking family bus, and there are some concepts floating around, too. That said, it’s been a minute since we sat down with Chrysler to see what’s new.
CEO Christine Fuell — known as Chris — has been on the job since 2021. To get a sense of where she thinks the company is now and where it’s headed, we sat down with Fuell at last week’s Chicago Auto Show for a one-on-one chat. From jokes about a Pacifica Hellcat to where Chrysler stands on controversial post-purchase subscription services, we take a look at what Fuell and Chrysler are up to.
Read on below for the Q&A.
Autoblog: What’s the future for the Pacifica name plate?
Fuell: Pacifica’s the hero of the brand, and as we look toward the future, we want to make sure that Chrysler is known not just as a minivan brand, but a brand that makes minivans. We created the segment nearly 40 years ago.
Autoblog: Is more electrification a path that you see for a minivan in the future?
Fuell: It certainly is a natural progression … migrating to full electrification in the minivan is just kind of the natural next step. We made a commitment to fully electrify the portfolio by 2028, and so, every new product that we launch between now and then will be exclusively a battery electric propulsion system.
Autoblog: Everybody likes to joke about the Pacifica Hellcat, but with electrification … ?
Fuell: You can put some interesting tuning experiences in a minivan. Not saying that we would, but it’s possible.
Autoblog: Concerning the Chrysler 300C that sold out instantly, does it give you any pause in that journey to electric in seeing how rabid people are about this really cool V8 sedan?
Fuell: In terms of the popularity of a V8, when you’re going down this path of clean mobility, it can create a bit of a dichotomy in terms of what the brand really stands for. But at the end of the day, the 300 was a very important product to the brand when it launched in 2005. It set a tremendous trend for not only design but attracted a lot of new customers to the brand that we hadn’t seen before and, so we wanted to send it off in a real respectful celebration.
One of the things that’s really important about brand strategy is once you set a path and a course, you have to be crystal clear and you have to be focused and committed to staying on that course, so there’s no looking back. We’re not second guessing the direction that we’re going in.
Autoblog: Are features via subscription something you see in the future of the Chrysler brand?
Fuell: There are definitely opportunities for us to offer certain technologies and services via subscription, but we’re being very targeted and intentional rather than broad about rolling those programs out. What we’ve heard from customers is there are certain features and technologies that they just expect to come with a base price of the vehicle. They view subscriptions rather skeptically, like, “You’re just trying to charge me more for something that I already get for free today.”
Autoblog: Could you give some examples of potential subscription services?
Fuell: Smart navigation, you know, advanced navigation technology is one if they’re going on a road trip. They might want a more advanced or intelligent navigation system than what they have in their vehicle today. One that made sense on a perpetual basis, was over the air updates, above and beyond bug fixes within the vehicle. These being actual improvements in the vehicle, whether it’s in the software technology, advanced lighting systems and capabilities, upgrading the infotainment system on demand, and in those kinds of things they would be willing to pay on subscription to have perpetual access to those updates and upgrade availability.
Autoblog: It’s a very fine line to tread with folks who may be resistant to this.
Fuell: Right, and we want to make sure that when we’re going down that path that we’re really giving the customer value, rather than just charging for something.
Autoblog: What about something like a subscription for heated seats?
Fuell: I didn’t want to bring up the heated seats because, you know, when our competitor launched that I thought right away. Wow. I don’t know who is going to buy that, they’re probably going to get a lot of criticism for that. No. And like I said, that really goes back to my point about what really adds value for the customer. So if they’re paying a subscription, they want to know they’re getting something from it, not just today, but in the future.
Autoblog: What do you think will replenish Chrysler? What’s coming?
Fuell: We’ve got quite a bit of new product in our roadmap. Going forward, the first brand new product to launch really since the 300 launched in 2005 will be our first battery electric vehicle in 2025, so we’re really excited about that. And we’ve got a pretty quick succession of additional new products and launches that will be coming down the pipe between then and 2028 when we transform the portfolio to full electrification.
Autoblog: How about between now and 2025?
Fuell: We’ve got this period in which we’re sunsetting the 300 at the end of this year, and for the most part, for a little over a year, will be a one nameplate brand with Pacifica. From 2025 onward, we’ll be entering new market segments that we haven’t been in in a while. And, you know, really launching products in the sweet spot in the volume segments that will help propel the brand to grow.