A reader asks:

Looking at purchasing a 2001 Dodge Stratus R/T; it has the 3.0 V6 engine and manual transmission, with 92k miles. I’ve had a Chrysler Sebring in the past and remember how much of a pain that car was, but know that it was a completely different motor. Just want to know if y’all have an idea of the vehicle in question’s reliability.

With all due respect to Chrylser/Dodge/Jeep/RAM fans and workers, there’s no such thing as a “reliable” Chrysler product from the early 2000’s, excluding a couple of Jeeps. In fact, there’s really no such thing as a reliable Chrysler product from most of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Only recently have Chrysler products started to meet or exceed average reliability ratings.

Why Aren’t Chrysler Products From the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s Reliable?

A lot of people don’t realize this, but the Chrysler company (which is the parent of the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and RAM brands) was in dire financial straits during most of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. There wasn’t much money to spend on perfecting designs or making sure assembly was perfect. There also weren’t a lot of dollars to be spent on top-quality parts. As a result, most of Chrysler’s parts were poorly designed, poorly assembled, and prone to problems – at least compared to other brands from the same era.

Dodge Aries k-car
The Chrysler corporation struggled to earn a profit for most of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, and their product quality suffered as a result. This Dodge Aries is a ‘k-car’, one of the only reliable models Chrysler offered in the 1980s and early 90s.

This is not to suggest that Chrysler engineers didn’t know what they were doing, or that Chrysler’s assembly workers weren’t doing their jobs – quite the opposite. Considering the company’s meager resources and chronic mismanagement, it’s a testament to Chrysler employees that the company survived at all.

But, if you look at JD Power ratings, Consumer Reports ratings, or the very clever reliability ratings from Dashboard Light, you can see quite clearly that Chrysler family products are almost always below average in terms of reliability. The reason is that Chrysler simply didn’t have the money to invest in quality from the outset.

The lone exception would be some Jeep family products, particularly the Wrangler. For a few reasons, Jeep managed to build some good quality vehicles during the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s. However, not all Jeep products are good from this time period. We’d point people to the XJ (Jeep Cherokee), TJ and JK (Wrangler), and certain versions of the Grand Cherokee.

So, About That 2001 Stratus…

The Dodge Stratus
The Dodge Stratus is not known for reliability.

If you take a look at the long-term reliability ratings on Dashboard Light – as just one data point – you’ll see that the Stratus has an atrocious reliability rating. This is also clear from some of the reports about the Stratus on CarComplaints.com (which, while not as accurate as JD Power or Consumer Reports, is still helpful). This information is not a surprise, these low quality ratings are typical of the brand.

What About Newer Chrysler Products?

After Chrysler collapsed and filed bankruptcy in 2009, it was merged into Fiat’s operations. While Fiat is not a brand known for quality (not in the US, and not in Europe either), Chrysler’s quality has improved substantially since the Fiat merger. While we always recommend checking a brand’s ratings with Consumer Reports and JD Power to see for yourself, most of Chrysler’s products (which includes Dodge, RAM, Jeep, and Fiat) offer average quality as of 2018.

Suffice to say, if you’re looking at buying a car built before 2012, it probably shouldn’t be a Chrysler brand product. If it is, make sure you can afford to spend money fixing it.


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