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Jan 23, 2012
Chrysler plans new 200, Dodge Avenger, Jeep Compass

Chrysler is going to introduce new midsize sedans to replace the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger and new versions of the Compass and Liberty for 2013. They'll be based on the platform that underpins the Dart and built in Toledo.

Modifying the platform to meet Jeep owners' demands will be a crucial test of the Fiat-Chrysler strategy.

"It's gonna be a trail-rated, full-blooded Jeep that has its origins in the architecture of a sports car," Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said in an interview.

Chrysler is also considering a compact hatchback -- Marchionne calls it the "Chrysler 100." If that car gets the green light, Chrysler will also export it as a Lancia, Fiat's European luxury brand.

He also plans to export sporty Alfa Romeos, probably a midsize sport sedan and wagon. Alfa's return to the U.S. has been frustratingly delayed until 2013, but Marchionne remains adamant it will happen.

"We had to make sure they were lightweight, fast cars with Alfa powertrains," he said, citing an upcoming 1.8-liter engine that produces a mind-boggling 300 horsepower.

"There will be plants making Alfas in the United States and Europe," he said. "I need to export to Europe from the U.S. The volumes I get here are how I reintroduce Alfa to Europe," where it has become a bit player compared with brands such as Audi and BMW.

Marchionne must also solve the riddle of Chrysler and Dodge's minivans in 2013. He hates building nearly identical vehicles for two different brands, but he can't afford to throw away tens of thousands of sales by rashly killing a model.

"Retention and growth of volume is key," he said. "I've got to protect (the golden) goose."

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