Plymouth Runs Out Of Gas

The Plymouth automobile brand will be phased out at the end of the 2001 model year, DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler president Jim Holden said.

Auto Correspondent Jeff Gilbert of CBS Station WWJ-AM reports the phaseout had been rumored in Detroit for about a month.

Created in 1928 as Chrysler's low-priced line, the Plymouth nameplate has lost much of its luster in recent years. It's unlikely too many Plymouth dealers will be upset by the line's demise: All but three also sell Chryslers.

"They've been trying to promote it as an entry-level brand," reports Gilbert, "but sales have been declining, and also profit margins are a lot higher on their other brands. They can make more money selling a Dodge truck than a Plymouth Neon."

"They've got Dodge for their low-end market and Chrysler's their high end," Randy Campbell, an auto enthusiast and collector, told CBS News Reporter Stephan Kaufman. "Plymouth is just kind of out there."

Many of the Chrysler-Plymouth dealers feel the same way. Most of Plymouth's car models are available as Dodges, and the duplication just drives down prices - and profits.

"If two brands are selling basically the same cars, you're doing damage to both brands," a national dealer representative told The Wall Street Journal. "You have too many outlets selling too much of the same thing," which depresses prices, he added.

The Plymouth Neon, Breeze and Voyager, its top-selling models, are all available as similar Dodge cars; the Voyager is also sold as the Chrysler Town & Country.

Campbell said Plymouth didn't have a niche within Chrysler.

"If you don't have a giant sport utility vehicle you're going to be out of business," Campbell said. "They don't sell trucks, and SUVs and trucks is pretty much where it's at."

Plymouth will be the second brand axed in a decade by Chrysler. Several years ago, the company, which merged with Daimler-Benz AG of Germany a year ago, discontinued its Eagle brand, which it inherited when it acquired American Motors.

The other major U.S. automakers, Ford and General Motors, are facing similar questions about Mercury and Oldsmobile, respectively.

Campbell expects to see other famous auto names disappear from the market, driving off into the sunset like Kaiser-Frazer, Packard, Edsel and DeSoto have in the past.

"Everyone is tightening up and being more efficient and everyone owns a piece of everyone else, it seems," Campbell said. "Ford, Volvo and Jaguar. GM owns parts of Saab now. And Mazda belongs to Ford."

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