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The Rise and Fall of the Chrysler Crossfire

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Chrysler Crossfire history rise fall sports coupe problems buy

Remember the Chrysler Crossfire?
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Chrysler’s lineup is pretty small now, focusing on just the family-friendly Pacifica and the posh 300, but over the years, the luxury brand has released a number of memorable models.

For a couple years, the Crossfire was the automaker’s flagship model, but its presence in the Chrysler lineup was short-lived. The product of the partnership between Chrysler and Daimler, the two-seat roadster was a unique milestone in the brand’s history and is worth remembering.

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The strengths and weaknesses of the short-lived and under-appreciated Chrysler Crossfire

Introduced at the 2001 North American International Auto Show as a concept model and then as a production model at the Los Angeles Auto Show the following year, the first Chrysler Crossfire went on sale as a 2004 model. It retained many of the styling queues from its original concept form — something rare in the industry.

There was — and still is — a lot to love about this rear-wheel drive, two-seater sports car. Thanks to its fastback roof, wide fenders, angled character lines, and elongated hood, the design of the Crossfire is as dynamic and distinctly modern today as it was when it debuted 15 years ago. Plus, you might not realize that the German-built Chrysler Crossfire actually shared a lot of components with Mercedes-Benz models, particularly its underpinnings from the first-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK.

So, why did this sports coupe with so much promise fail to impress? First of all, there were many aspects of the vehicle that Chrysler made to be purposefully divisive, such as its recirculating ball steering system, which most drivers were not used to; its two different wheel sizes, with the rear wheels being an inch bigger than the 18-inch front wheels; and a power-retractable rear wing spoiler. Initial buyers took issue with the V6 engine’s weak horsepower, and multiple mechanical issues began appearing (quickly garnering a bad reputation for sudden stalling).

Sales were lower than anticipated, unfortunately. While its first two model years exceeded projected totals, sales suddenly dropped by around 75% in the third year and never recovered. Selling the Crossfire cost dealerships a lot of money, as they had to purchase special tools and parts to carry and service the model. Within five years of its initial release, Chrysler decided to discontinue the Crossfire, and soon after the company restructured to eventually become what it is today: FCA.

What did you think of the Chrysler Crossfire? Was it a complete misfire or is it an under-appreciated gem?

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Sources: NADA Guides, Chrysler, Automobile