By Alisdair Suttie 06 June 2012
Wednesday 6 June 2012. Fleet Voice Column.
The all-new 300C saloon is now upon us and it remains as defiantly different from the European competition as the previous model that proved an unexpected sales hit.
Given the Chrysler 300C’s rivals include the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF and Mercedes E-Class, the American has its work cut out. For this reason, Chrysler UK’s Brand Director Nigel Land is cautious about sales predictions.
Land says: “We reckon we’ll find 450 buyers in 2012 and then 750 to 1000 in a full year from then on. These are modest figures but this is a tough market, not just because of the competition but also because we are in a much changed financial climate from when we launched the last 300C in the UK.”
He continues: “The estate version of the last 300C was a good seller in the UK, only tailing off towards the end of the car’s production life. It remained a keen seller on the Continent, but looking at the sales numbers compared to the development cost it’s just not viable at the moment.”
Those costs will have been very carefully scrutinised by Chrysler’s parent company, Fiat, which also supplies the creamily smooth 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine that powers the 300C.
Fiat majority shareholding in Chrysler may have been a surprise move when it was announced 2011, but it’s so far proved to be a good move for both parties. Admittedly, the Chrysler Ypsilon and Delta are nothing more than rebadged versions of awkwardly styled Lancias, which themselves use Fiat underpinnings.
However, the Grand Voyager remains a very useful, practical and celebrity-friendly large MPV. It’s this end of the market where the 300C will find its target buyers, with a fair few likely to come from the ranks of company car drivers.
There is a snag for company and private buyers in that Chrysler has upped the entry price point for the 300C from around £30,000 to £35,995 for the Limited model and £39,995 for the all singing Executive.
While those prices seem like a big jump, Nigel Land is quick to point out they are very good value compared to rivals’ and the previous 300C.
He says: “Yes, the prices of the new 300C have gone up, yet it is still less expensive than anything else in the executive segment if you compare like for like on equipment levels.
“The 300C is very well equipped in both Limited and Executive trims and, unlike most of our competitors, all of the equipment comes as standard so there’s very little for the customer to add other than by way of personalisation of the car.”
He acknowledges buyers in this sector are conservative and notes: “The 300C is a car owners are proud of. People in the UK are very pleased to own a 300C because it’s a bit different and marks them out as having a made a distinct choice rather than following the crowd.”
Another reason for the 300C’s appeal in the UK and Europe where other large American cars have faltered at the first fence is the 300C’s blend of values. Land comments: “Chrysler brand positioning is more mid-Atlantic than pure American, so European buyers feel they are getting something separate from the usual German offerings yet the 300C is not so far removed as to scare off potential buyers.”
Any business driver tempted to try the 300C should take the opportunity. Where the previous model looked the part but was a little let down by its aged Mercedes platform shared with the mid- to late 1990s generation of E-Class, the latest 300C is all-new and very good. It suppresses all sources of noise with calm composure, rides the bumpiest of roads with a confidence only the best of the competition can match and it has enough verve to the way it drives to lay to rest any qualms you might have about an American-made executive car.
All of this is vitally important says Nigel Land. He knows European buyers are far more discerning and demanding when it comes to their executive cars and he points out the 300C’s suspension has been tuned very differently for the European market compared to the North American set-up.
However, Chrysler cannot help offer a bit of good ol’ brash Americana with the 300C. Buyers will have a choice of five different grilles to top off their car, including that chromed mesh grille with Bentley-esque looks that helped the last 300C become a favourite with the Home County homies.
Less fashionable but more pertinent to many company car drivers will be combined fuel economy of 39.8mpg and 185g/km carbon dioxide emissions. These figures creep up fractionally if you opt for the 20-inch alloy wheels over the 19-inch variety fitted as standard to the Limited. The Executive comes with 20-inch alloys as part of its normal kit.
These fuel economy and emissions figures are not going to trouble the engineers at Chrysler’s main opposition, but they are at least in the right ball park for interested business users to make a case for driving something a bit different.
We may not all want to do different, but it’s good to know there’s still the option and for that we should be pleased the 300C is back among us.
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