Eagle Jazz

It might just be me, but doesn't its rear roofline and 'shoulders' have a certain Panamera quality about them?

When merging with Chrysler in 1987, AMC was in a bit of a bind. Its cars had only been known under the brand name AMC, which would be disappearing by 1988—leaving them with two new cars and no brand to place them under. The solution: take the Eagle name from AMC and apply it to the brand, making it more than just a compact car.

As it happens, the Eagle Premier and Medallion, both built in heavy partnership with Renault, ended up being "salesproof"—meaning nobody would buy them, no matter how great they were. That's the view of Bob Lutz, of course, but whether it was due to a lack of marketing or the brand-new name, few payed attention to Eagle.

Except, of course, for neighbours across the street from my childhood home, who owned a white-on-white Premier…come to think of it, aren't they always white-on-white? Anyway, I was young enough to be immune to Eagle marketing materials, but I remember seeing that car and thinking, "I know who bought this car, but seriously, who would buy this car?" Something about it just seemed odd.

I'm not sure how long it takes to shut down an automaker, but by 1995, Eagle was doing OK, selling a rebadged Dodge Intrepid as the Eagle Vision, and a rebadged Mitsubishi Eclipse as the Eagle Talon. Intended to woo monied Gen X buyers and people who had already made the switch to imports, but as Scion is finding out, filling demographic segments with cars is not an easy problem to tackle.

So what about a sports sedan? Between the Mitsubishi-based Talon and Chrysler-based Vision, engineers had all the ammunition Eagle needed to justify that an all-wheel-drive, turbocharged family sedan was a great way for the brand to go.

But of course they wouldn't go there, no. Even in 1995 Eagle seemed doomed as a temporary measure to appease outgoing AMC executives and dealers rather than an earnest attempt at making desirable cars.

The Jazz concept is the closest they came. Introduced at the 1995 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the press release is full of bullshit from the first paragraph:

Today, Eagle products provide the balance of performance technology and international styling that attract unique, intelligent and sophisticated drivers. International in character and dynamic performance and handling characteristics, Eagle Jazz is a visual, refined representation of the future of the Eagle brand. 

…but the third paragraph starts with an even more hilarious assertion:

Jazz would be a familiar sight on the Autobahn. 

Underneath, the running concept had a 2.5-litre V6 engine, with double wishbone front suspension, rear independent multilink suspension… If you weren't already familiar with the Dodge Intrepid, the next few specs should tell you all you need to know about the Jazz. It had front wheel drive, a four-speed automatic "Autostick: transmission, and an Autobahn-crushing 175 horsepower. 

Show car touches included the stuff we now take for granted: 18-inch wheels and tires, combination "radio / cellular phone", rear video system, rear climate control, split-folding rear seats, and a hatchback that also (somehow) incorporated an opening trunk to split the cabin from the cargo space.

Daimler came to court Chrysler, but by their consummation in 1998, Eagle was a dead brand walking. Low sales will do that. The only model to survive was the Intrepid-based Vision, whose aborted second generation refresh ended up selling as the Chrysler 300M. I'll give the last line to Chrysler:

Developing forward-thinking concepts is one of the ways that Chrysler is planning for the future of Eagle, and Jazz strikes all the right notes.