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Chrysler 300 Diesel Being Considered


DETROIT – Chrysler is leaning closer to adding another diesel-powered model to its U.S. lineup, this time the fullsize 300 sedan.

Responding to a query by WardsAuto at a recent Automotive Press Assn. luncheon here, the brand’s president and CEO Saad Chehab says the auto maker is investigating the possibility but a firm decision is nowhere close.

The 300, built in Brampton, ON, Canada, is sold in Europe as the Lancia Thema with a diesel option. The engine is built by VM Motori, a longtime Fiat supplier that also designs oil-burners for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and, later this year, the Ram 1500.

“I think that we are in talks about the diesels because the Thema has a diesel in Europe anyway,” Chehab says. “It’s a matter of how much the customer is willing to pay for that premium. That’s the only issue with it.”

Both the Grand Cherokee and 300 are rear-wheel-drive vehicles with 8-speed transmissions, but the Grand Cherokee’s 3.0L, V-6 diesel engine carries a $7,500 premium. “We have to make sure it’s within the reach of people,” Chehab adds.

Asked whether the midsize 200 sedan, due for a significant revamp in 2014, could employ a diesel mill, “it could be an amazing engine there, too,” Chehab replies. “We have that opportunity to do it at any time.”

The current 200 leaves showrooms this year as Chrysler prepares for the refresh. Chehab introduces a limited-edition, ’13.5 model built in collaboration with Carhartt, a Detroit-based industrial clothier, at the luncheon here.

The next 200, which he says is scheduled to retain its nameplate for now, will launch as a ’14 model in the “early part of the next year.” Chehab says Chrysler is weighing whether to debut it at next year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

While giving no hints about the next-generation 200, he does say to expect some aspects of its sport-oriented models – blacked-out grilles, intimidating wheels, fine-tuned interiors – to carry over into the new version.

The 200 has been the centerpiece of the brand’s “Imported From Detroit” marketing campaign that Chehab says won’t be letting up soon, even as the city of Detroit weathers a financial crisis that has forced the state’s governor to appoint an emergency manager.

Chehab says he is not concerned with any negative connotation between the campaign catchphrase and the city’s turmoil. “Where else in the world do you accumulate so many brains and resources that relate to the car business as Detroit does?”

“That’s an asset for us I think we should protect for the future,” he adds. “I think Americans are looking for that story of success somehow, and we should not give up.”
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