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October 3, 2008

Chrysler to debut new Charger, 300

Redesigned versions set for 2010, CEO says

It's official: Chrysler plans to launch redesigned versions of the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 in 2010.

The Auburn Hills automaker's plan to launch redesigned versions of the full-size cars in 2010 was an open secret in Detroit, but it was something that Chrysler officials never talked about in public.

That is until this week when Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli confirmed it.

"In the pipeline for 2010: A brand new 300, a brand new Charger ... a brand new Jeep, the pipeline is full, plus we have these smaller vehicles coming through partnerships and alliances," Nardelli said. "I think the product cadence at Chrysler is coming back strong."

As the Free Press first reported, Chrysler is planning a "product renaissance" for 2010 when it will launch seven -- perhaps eight or nine -- new vehicles.

Nardelli made his comments in an interview on CNBC's "Conversations with Michael Eisner," which aired this week.

Chrysler has said that it plans to offer a new Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Nissan-made small car in 2010. The automaker also has announced plans to begin selling a hybrid version of its Dodge Ram in 2010.

Last week, Chrysler unveiled three electric-drive vehicles, one of which will be ready for market by the end of 2010.

Speaking to journalists after the announcement, Frank Klegon, Chrysler executive vice president for product development, said the newly announced electric vehicles are in addition to the seven vehicles planned for launch in 2010.

Launching in 2010, the new 300 and Charger will probably be sold under the model year 2011.

In an interview with the Free Press earlier this year, Ralph Gilles, Chrysler's vice president for design, said the redesigned Chrysler 300 would be a "quantum leap in quality."

Sales of the 300 are down 43% this year through September and the sales of Charger are down 10%.

Erich Merkle, an industry analyst with Crowe Horwath, foresees good things for these redesigned vehicles if Chrysler is able to replicate its formula of good design with good value as it did last time out, noting the vehicles provided customers with a nice mixture of space and efficiency.

"Make no mistake about it, right now the 300 and Charger have dropped off, but they've been going through their product lifecycle and, granted, gas prices have gotten a little out of hand and that didn't help them, either," Merkle said. "But I think by the time they launch these new vehicles ... there's a great opportunity."

Analysts say 2010 can't come fast enough for Chrysler, which has seen its sales drop 25% so far this year. While Chrysler is out with a new Dodge Ram this year, little new product is expected from Chrysler in 2009.

Speaking to journalists in Paris, Jim Press, a Chrysler president and vice chairman, said he doesn't expect the industry to improve next year.

"I don't see any 'whys' why it's going to be any better," Bloomberg quoted Press saying at the Paris Motor Show. "We're already adjusting to this level pretty well. We're learning how to fight through it. It's hand-to-hand combat. It's tough."

Meanwhile, Chrysler plans to increase the price of its 2009 model-year vehicles by on average $500, according to a person told of the plan.

A Chrysler spokesman declined comment.

LINK:Chrysler to debut new Charger, 300 | | Detroit Free Press

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