A Platinum reality check on ‘jobs for America’
It is a big American sedan made by an Italian-American company, assembled in Brampton, Ontario — and originally designed in the United States by an African American.
Such are the twists and turns of “jobs for America.” Americans might be able to keep those jobs as long as Americans are willing to buy those cars in the United States of America. That is neither promised nor guaranteed. Nor can it be ordered or demanded by this new U.S. presidential administration.
Take this week’s subject automobile, the 2017 Chrysler 300-C Platinum. Not many of them are sold worldwide, which is the arena in which most new automobiles have to compete. It would be assembled in America if doing so would make a profitable business case for the car. It doesn’t.
Italy-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which now owns all of once all-American Chrysler, has to assemble the 300-C where it can do so at the lowest costs and sell it worldwide for the most money. Chrysler Corp., once all-Americanowned, couldn’t do that and slid into bankruptcy. That is why it is now owned by Italy’s Fiat.
But let’s get to the real thing that controls “jobs for America,” especially in the automobile industry. It’s sales. That is why Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, BMW and Mercedes-Benz design and manufacture large volumes of their cars here instead of in their home countries. They don’t do it to please President Trump any more than they do it to displease leaders and workers in their home countries. They do it because they are building and selling many cars many Americans want to buy. It’s money, not politics.
Now, let us look at the 300-C, which was designed by the very talented Ralph Gilles in 2001 and went on sale in the United States in 2004. Gilles wanted a motorized urban renaissance, specifically a car that bespoke Detroit funk and European sophistication. He nailed it with the full-size, rear-wheel-drive 300-C, which was a hot number for a while.
Some 112,930 300-Cs were sold in the United States in its 2004 debut year. But sales fell to 53,241 in 2016. The second generation of the car was sold as the Fiat Lancia Thema in much of Europe in 2011 and remained as the American-badged Chrysler 300-C in U.S.-friendly nations, Britain and Ireland.
The car is sold today in the United States as the Chrysler 300 (base), 300-S, 300-C, and top-of-the-line 300-C Platinum.
It is a good car — luxurious, quiet on the road, comfortable, and equipped with all of the latest advanced electronic safety appointments. The six-cylinder 300-C Platinum is even relatively fuel-efficient at 30 miles per gallon on the highway and 19 miles per gallon in the city using regular-grade gasoline. But at a fully loaded price of $48,855, apparently as inexpensive as Fiat Chrysler could manufacture the car in Canada, it is not going to take sales from the equally nice and often less-expensive Hyundai and Kia cars made by Americans in the United States. Nor will it draw prestige-oriented buyers from expensive BMW and Mercedes-Benz models made in America.
That is the real world, as opposed to the World of Trump. Jobs rely on sales and profits. Sales depend on consumer wishes and wants. Sales ultimately rule.
But the 300-C Platinum, equipped with the standard 3.6-liter V-6 for this column (292 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque), is a very nice car that, despite being made in Canada, references all things Detroit. It is just that Fiat Chrysler is not likely to sell enough of them in the United States to profitably justify building them here.
It’s a very nice car — but not likely to sell well enough for Fiat Chrysler to make it here.