Chrysler chooses to ignore its history - a decision they will live to regret by Peter M. DeLorenzo The Chrysler Group is doing their best to quell the negative rumblings bubbling up from the Internet chat rooms about their new Dodge Charger, dismissing such bleating as being from misguided enthusiasts wedded too much to the past. But the fact remains that this chatter is rooted in sound and remarkably simple logic - and that is the fact that a new "Charger" from Dodge and Chrysler has no business being a four-door sedan, period. And frankly, they're right. It doesn't help, of course, that the new Charger is the least attractive version built off of the Chrysler 300/Dodge Magnum architecture, despite Chrysler PR's best attempts at convincing the media and the public otherwise. Whereas the 300 and Magnum have real personality and an edginess about them, the Charger is a less successful rendering - too tame and much too timid for what the Charger name signifies. Yes, Chrysler will trot out plenty of "hot" versions at next month's Detroit Auto Show, including a "Daytona" in Hemi orange with a flat black hood (as if that will be enough to convince anyone of its authenticity). And, of course, the obligatory "NASCAR" version of the new Charger (which will make its racer-tainment debut at Daytona in February) will be on display, which we're officially dubbing the "clown car" version - because Chrysler's desperate attempt to hang Charger design cues on NASCAR's template-mandated body work fails miserably - just like it does for every other Detroit manufacturer trying to rationalize their participation in NASCAR. This business is littered with examples of car companies not understanding the power of their own brands. One memorable moment of temporary insanity in the car biz was when John Z. DeLorean, the then newly-minted general manager of the Chevrolet division, had the brilliant idea (in his mind) of combining the Corvette and Camaro into one vehicle back in 1970, figuring he could make a ton of money by eliminating the specialization needed to manufacture the Corvette by just building it off the Camaro platform. Fortunately for the Corvette, people rose up from all corners of the corporation and got his plan vetoed before it ever left the starting gate. There are many other examples of car companies tampering with their brands (far too many to list here), but some would even point to GM's recent experience with the GTO as yet another instance of a manufacturer failing to understand the significance of its own automotive history. In the case of the Charger, it's clear to me that the people at Chrysler not only refuse to understand the significance of the Charger name to the Chrysler/Dodge portfolio, they refuse to believe that it really matters that the new car is a four-door sedan in its newest iteration. Why? Because they don't believe today's younger buyer will care whether or not it's a sedan or a coupe, and they think that they can relaunch the Charger into the market with no lingering image-baggage whatsoever. That rationale might make sense if Chrysler were introducing the new Charger in some perfect revisionist history/marketing vacuum - where the public's memories are wiped clean and the media will somehow deem it unnecessary to mention what the Charger used to be in every single article they write. But it just doesn't work that way. What should Chrysler have done? Introduce the four-door sedan version of the rear-wheel-drive LX platform in Detroit as the Magnum sedan. Then, six to eight months later, do a two-door, shorter wheelbase, high-performance coupe version called the Charger. As for their NASCAR program, who cares? They can use their "Intrepid" headlight decals and grille openings on the NASCAR template body until the Charger Coupe is ready. But then again, what am I thinking? After all, that's too simple and far too logical of an idea for an organization that seems to pride itself on knowing absolutely everything there is to know about this business (and anything they don't know either doesn't matter or must not be true anyway as far as they're concerned). What really bothers me about Chrysler's plan for the Charger is that it reveals an organization that believes it can not only ignore history, but that they can actually make people ignore their recollections of history too. There's a built-in arrogance about this rationale for a four-door Charger that is almost beyond comprehension. Let me be the first to remind Chrysler that the Charger name is as significant to Chrysler as Corvette is to Chevrolet and Mustang is to Ford. Whether or not they choose to believe that isn't the market's problem or the nostalgia buffs' problem or the media's problem. It's their problem - because they're choosing to ignore their own history, and it's a decision they'll live to regret.