If you know someone who just bought a new Chrysler product (aka Jeep, Ram, Dodge, or Chrysler) there’s at least a 29% chance that this person has bad credit. From AutoNews.com:

In the first quarter of 2012, 29 of every 100 new-auto loans for Chrysler vehicles have been to consumers with credit scores below 680, says credit agency Experian Automotive. Experian considers scores below 680 subprime.

“Subprime” is auto industry speak for “bad credit.” This percentage – which is nearly 25% higher than the norm – is amazing for a couple of reasons:

  1. Sub-prime auto lending all but died after the financial crisis in 2008
  2. Chrysler products have some of the worst reliability ratings in the industry

Put another way, Chrysler has figured out that the “credit challenged” are the best people to swindle.

Chrysler’s Poor Reliability and High Ownership Costs

Reliability – JD Power conducts what is arguably the most authoritative quality study in the auto industry, and in their 2011 Vehicle Initial Quality Study (the most recent) Chrylser products finished thusly:

  • Chrysler – 110 problems per 100 vehicles, 3% below average
  • Ram – 114 problems per 100 vehicles, 6.5% below average
  • Jeep – 122 problems per 100 vehicles, 14% below average
  • Dodge – 137 problems per 100 vehicles, 28% below average – worst of all brands tested!

As you can see, Chrysler’s brand ratings in JD Power’s vehicle quality study are poor. Consumer Reports – another trusted evaluator of vehicle quality – isn’t a big fan of Chrysler products either. The Dodge Avenger rates a score of 43 out of 100 points on ConsumerReports.com (subs. req’d), the lowest rating of any family sedan Consumer Reports has reviewed and one of the lowest scores of any sedan made.

Dodge Avenger poor quality low rating
The Dodge Avenger is one of Chrysler's worst-rated cars, but it's also a top-selling car for the "credit challenged." Coincidence? Hardly

Coincidentally, the Avenger also happens to be Chrysler’s best-seller on the sub-prime market. 39% of Dodge Avengers sold go to people with subprime credit ratings, joined by the Dodge Caliber (36% of sales are subprime), and the Chrysler 200 (24%), as Chrysler’s best-selling cars for people with bad credit.

These “bad-credit-mobiles” combine for just about half of Chrysler’s car sales year to date.*

Ownership Costs– According to KBB.com, Chrysler’s best selling sub-prime models have the following rankings in terms of 5 year cost:

  • 2012 Dodge Avenger SE – 12th place out of 13 vehicles compared, with a total 5 year cost of $38,627
  • 2012 Dodge Caliber SE – 5th place out of 5 vehicles compared, with a total 5 year cost of $33,876
  • 2012 Chrysler 200 LX Sedan – 9th place out of 11 vehicles compared, with a total 5 year cost of $36,365

As you can see from the links above, these best selling sub-prime vehicles are also some of the most expensive cars to own in their class.

What does it all mean?

Chrysler is making money by taking advantage of people with bad credit. They’re making it easy to arrange financing on their worst products, which happen to be some of the least reliable and most expensive to own cars on the road. This is unfortunate, as people with less than perfect credit need an expensive, unreliable vehicle about as much as they need a hole in the head. Shame on Chrysler, and shame on Chrysler dealers for taking advantage of the disadvantaged.

*Car sales as in cars, not trucks or SUVs

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