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CHICAGO -- Dodge expects to sell 20,000 to 30,000 of its retro-styled Challenger sport coupes a year once the full model line goes on sale, Chrysler Vice Chairman Jim Press said Wednesday at the Chicago Auto Show.

For the 2008 model year, though, Dodge will only offer the 425-horsepower high-performance $37,995 Challenger SRT8. The whole production run of 6,400 cars is sold out and will appear at dealers in the spring, Press said.

"There's already a waiting list for 2009 models," he added.
Chrysler is to unveil the 2009 Challenger at the New York Auto Show next month. The Challenger family will probably grow next year to include lower-priced models with less-powerful engines. A convertible is also possible.

Dodge touted several key technical features as advantages versus the Ford Mustang, the Challenger's most obvious competitor. The Challenger will come with standard antilock brakes, electronic stability control, curtain air bags, six-speed automatic transmission and keyless ignition.

The five-passenger Challenger uses the same basic structure as the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans. Like them, it features a five-link rear suspension, a layout that's widely considered more advanced than the Mustang's solid rear axle.

"We'd rather run like a thoroughbred than ride like a pony," Frank Klegon, Chrysler vice president of product development, said in a thinly veiled jab at the Mustang.

Dodge set its sights high, pointing out that the Challenger SRT8's 170-m.p.h. top speed is faster than the $82,900 500-horsepower BMW M5 super sedan and that the 6.1-liter Hemi V8 produces more torque than a $126,200 Porsche 911 turbo.

"When you sit inside, it makes you feel younger and richer than you are," Press said.

He insists that the Challenger's appeal goes beyond aging baby boomers who remember the original 1970 Challenger muscle car, however.

"Young people are discovering the car on their own," he said. "They're drawn to it because it's great-looking, emotional, fun to drive and roomy."

Chrysler builds the car at its Brampton, Ontario, assembly plant.

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CHICAGO AUTO SHOW: Challenger goal: 30,000 a year
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