American cars used to be known for their style, for their engineering and for their build quality. The U.S. big three set the standard for automotive fashion, and Chrysler was a one-time design leader in the automotive industry. Take the 1934 Chrysler Airflow which brought streamlining to the automobile and was years ahead of its time. The 1951 Chrysler K-310 concept car is as stunning today as when it was penned, and the original Chrysler 300s were icons of both design and performance. Even into the late sixties and early seventies, Chrysler brought us cars like the Dodge Charger and Challenger, and the Plymouth Barracuda. By the end of the seventies, though, something had gone horribly wrong.
I’d be hard pressed to name a truly memorable Chrysler design of the last 20 years, so I can completely understand Chrysler’s perspective with their latest ad. The new 300 is a cleaner design than the model it replaces, and the 200 is nicer than the outgoing Sebring, but I wouldn’t call either a benchmark of American design. Fiat’s influence should help in the coming years, but I think Chrysler would be better served by emphasizing the improvements in the 200 versus just the change in sheet metal. Nostalgia, if you ask me, is what you promote when you have nothing else left.