Canadian content in Chrysler 200 design

Guelph, Ontario native responsible for new 200's elegant exterior design

Published: February 21, 2014, 2:00 PM
Updated: November 22, 2021, 4:12 PM

2015 Chrysler 200

TORONTO – The Chrysler brand has a long tradition of creating distinctive designs for its products – and its latest entry in the highly competitive mid-size sedan segment follows that heritage.

The all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan is the first Chrysler product to be built on the platform it shares with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a result of the company’s partnership with – now ownership by – Fiat.

While the foundation may be Italian, however, the 200 is solidly North American in design. In fact, its elegant, fluid exterior is the work of a Canadian designer, Jeff Hammoud.

The 34-year-old Guelph, Ontario native says that designing a unique look for the 200 was quite a challenge in a segment that’s driven by such features as interior volume, trunk space and safety requirements.

"A lot of the vehicles in the mid-size sedan segment end up looking similar because the dimensions are very similar," Hammoud explained during a recent visit to the Canadian International Auto Show where the 200 made its Canadian debut. "One of the things we tried to do was to change the overall silhouette of the car.

Proportion is key

"One of the first things you learn in design is proportion. If you put a cloth over the top of the car, would you still know what it is? That’s what makes a lot of distinctive designs so unique, it’s what makes some cars iconic.

"In this car, we spent a lot of time giving it that coupe-like appearance. If you look at it from a distance, it’s got a unique profile to it, very streamlined in appearance."

In fact, the new 200 not only looks sleek and aerodynamic, it really is.

"It’s the most aerodynamic vehicle in its class – its drag co-efficient is 0.26," Hammoud said proudly. "It was very challenging to do, but it worked really well with this car. This was one of the things we wanted to try to do to make it different from other cars in the segment."

Another priority in Chrysler design is to create products that exude an upscale, premium appearance that far exceeds the vehicles’ actually cost. Hammoud said this was also a challenge, but one he feels was mastered with the 200.

"A lot of people think the car’s MSRP (suggested retail price) is a lot more than it actually is –$22,495 is where it starts at – but it has a very upscale, expensive look.

We’ve had a lot of comparisons of the 200 to more expensive vehicles, but this is where Chrysler has always been successful – offering a vehicle design that looks very premium, but at an affordable price."

Not vanilla

Still, Hammoud concedes it’s difficult to make a vehicle that’s distinctive in the mid-size market, where vanilla is that segment’s favourite flavour.

Chrysler, in particular, has made a practice of avoiding bland designs – love ‘em or hate ‘em, but at least their cars generate opinions. Think Chrysler 300, for example. For the 200, however, Hammoud said the design had to a bit less polarizing in such a high-volume segment.

"It was not like we were trying to appeal to everybody, but it is a car that is supposed to create a very broad appeal to people. You can’t offend as many people as you could with a vehicle that’s not such a high-volume product. You still want to sell it, but you can’t also, with design especially, do something that everybody is just okay with."

He said it’s critical to create designs that evoke passion, even in a segment where vanilla is the safest approach. He said, if the reaction to a design is simply, "Yeah, it’s nice," that type of response will never be enough to entice a consumer to buy that car.

"What draws them to buy a vehicle is the emotional response to it – like ‘wow, that’s a very good-looking car,’ or, for every person you see who says they don’t like it you see someone who does. It’s those passionate people, those passionate reactions that are the ones that will bring people into your showroom."

Hammoud says it is a fine line between creating a look that stimulates a buyer’s passion, yet not so extreme to turn them off. "You kind of have to walk the line, especially with a car that’s as important as the mid-size sedan – it’s such a huge segment. Some of the other manufacturers might try to become a bit more vanilla, but we didn’t want to be vanilla – we wanted to stand out because that’s always been our selling point at Chrysler."

Versatile platform

With the 200 utilizing the compact Alfa platform, one might expect there would be limitations on the designers. Not so, said Hammoud, who noted this same platform has been used for the Dodge Dart and the new Jeep Cherokee. For the 200, he said the basic platform was widened from the Dart iteration and the wheelbase was stretched to suit his car’s specific requirements.

"We played with different wheelbases. I was also able to play with different windshield placements and where the C-pillar netted out, so there was room to kind of move around some of those things," he explained, "it’s not like we were constricted by the physical package. We did have some flexibility on that, to make it work best over the platform we were given, which was nice. We worked with engineering and design together to come up with something that suited both needs."

Hammoud said the 200 project took more than three years to complete, following his assignment as lead designer for the current-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was introduced in 2011.

The long hours, however, were worth it as initial response to the car, which will arrive in showrooms in the second quarter of this year, has been very positive. For that, Hammoud is grateful. He also concedes there’s a special twinge of pride as he finally sees his creation on the road.