Project Description

Chrysler Cirrus / Dodge Stratus Automotive Design

I was offered a position as an automotive designer by Chrysler on the last hour of the last day of the first ever post-graduate internship the company had ever offered.  The company was in the throws of re-inventing itself. It was a wonderful time to be there. Young designers were given extraordinary opportunities to contribute. I took full advantage. I learned as much as I could as quickly as I could. When the “JA” program kicked off, I thought long and hard about what kind of car the company needed, what kind of car the world wanted and most importantly, what kind of visual statement upper management would choose to put into production!

The third of the revolutionary “cab-forward” cars, the forth coming Chrysler Cirrus and Dodge Stratus sedans needed to be big hits. My idea was to create a radical design in the plan view. Most cars use a 1 sweep in the body side. I used a 5. A first for Chrysler. The 5 sweep gave the surfaces an incredible amount of tension. This gave an athleticism to the form. The stamped doors (another first for Chrysler) made the car look safe and solid. This spoke to the young families the car was aimed at. The New York Times ran a Business Section cover story about the Chrysler design Renascence which I was proud to be have been a part of. It can be read here.

John Herlitz

“After all his success, I was often asked what was it about Michael, what did I see that told me to take a chance on him? Why did I hire him? After thinking about it, I realized that he was the most passionate young designer I had ever met. You knew he was going to make it. He was going to make a major contribution some where. In the five years he was in a production studio at Chrysler, he designed 3 successful production cars, which is unheard of. ”

John E Herlitz

Director Exterior Design, Chrysler Corporation

The following is a list of design features that set the Cirrus and Stratus sedans apart from the countless compact sedans in their class. The majority of these ideas were groundbreaking for their time and were an intrinsic part of the cars winning so many awards. Many have gone on to become standard practice in automotive design.

  • Front Fascia
    • Dodge
      • Molded in brand identification
      • “Grill-less” design improves fit and finish quality and reduces cost
      • Molded-in front spoiler reduces front-end lift, improves aerodynamics and reduces cost
      • Base model design allows fog lamp upgrade without additional parts cost
      • Molded in color rub strips
    • Chrysler
      • First use of flexible chrome at Chrysler
  • Headlights
    • Single unit with movable parabola and integrated park and turn design improves fir and finish quality and lowers cost
  • Body Side
    • Stamped Doors
      • Smaller DLO reduces weight
      • Large body-in-white openings improve passenger ingress/ egress
      • Minimal seals and moldings reduce wind noise
      • Door system design simplifies manufacturing, improving quality and lowers cost
    • Plan view “5-sweep” curve and “V” section end view increases interior volume at no extra cost or weight
    • Lower bode side “C-line” groove hides construction joints for more integrated look improving perceived quality
  • Mirrors
    • Flag mounted twin strut design reduces mass, minimizes turbulence and adapts to cab-forward design
    • Allows mirror head to be placed further back reducing coefficient of drag for entire vehicle
    • Controls airflow around A-pillar and brings it back to side glass automatically clearing side windows of water when driving in rain
  • Deck lid/ Truck
    • Integrated site guide increases understanding of vehicle’s position during parking
    • Low lift over height makes loading and unloading easier
    • Integrated rear deck spoiler improves handling, overall quality and reduces cost
  • Tail lights
    • Single unit design reduces cost, simplifies manufacturing and improves fit and finish
  • Overall
    • The lowest projected drag coefficient in their class
    • The lowest projected drag coefficient ever recorded for a production Chrysler vehicle
    • The largest projected interior volume in their class
    • Largest projected trunk volume in their class