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Cool Chrysler vows to rebuild SRT

Chrysler vows to rebuild SRT

June 27, 2011

Ralph Gilles promises that Chrysler Group will be "very choosy" about the cars and trucks that get the SRT performance badge.

Gilles, recently named head of SRT, is charged with rebuilding the SRT unit, which languished when Chrysler was owned by Cerberus Capital Management.

Three new SRT vehicles, versions of the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans and the Jeep Grand Cherokee, will arrive in dealerships this fall, joining the Challenger SRT8. The price premium hasn't been revealed.

This month Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne put Gilles in charge of SRT. Gilles had been CEO of the Dodge brand for two years; he keeps his duties as head of design for all Chrysler brands.

Speaking at an event at Chrysler's test track in Chelsea, Mich., Gilles said Chrysler's effort to improve its base lineup will help him expand SRT's reach. "We have the best chance we've ever had of conquesting some great customers here," he said.

SRT vehicles traditionally have had specially tuned engines and suspensions. They will now have high-end audio systems and other electronics, Gilles said.

Gilles said he will be selective about what vehicles get the SRT badge. The SRT brand once had 11 different SRT vehicles, including versions of the Chrysler Crossfire coupe and convertible, two Dodge pickup trucks, a Neon and later the Dodge Caliber SRT4.

The Dodge Viper, the flagship of the SRT brand, is currently out of production, but Gilles said work is progressing on a Viper successor. He gave no further details.

Gilles plans to work on developing the SRT bond with owners through owners' clubs around the country.

"We know customers of the old SRTs were definitely the power seekers," he said. "They were looking for the horsepower. But the new cars offer more. The 2012s all have active suspensions. They will probably have the best sound systems we've ever put in any car."


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