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Chrysler races to upgrade its lineup

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Chrysler races to upgrade its lineup

15 vehicles are being reworked; all will be on sale by early 2011

Luca Ciferri

and Bradford Wernle

Automotive News -- March 1, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

In a bid to improve its lineup before a fleet of new Fiat-based vehicles arrives in 2012, Chrysler Group is rushing new features and equipment into 15 reworked vehicles.

The equipment, such as a Fiat dual-clutch, six-speed transmission and a new Chrysler V-6, will boost fuel economy, improve driving dynamics and spiff up drab interiors, all areas in which Chrysler has fared poorly in consumer surveys.

All the vehicles will be on sale by the first quarter of next year.

But the rush of upgrades is straining Chrysler's engineering staff, which has been working overtime for months, and it will hand a huge challenge to the automaker's marketers to tell shoppers about all the changes.

Improvements planned for the Chrysler Sebring mid-sized sedan tell the story. Sources say the car will get new front and rear styling, a new interior and a revised suspension for improved ride and handling. The Sebring will be the first vehicle with a Fiat-engineered dual-clutch transmission, which will be offered with Chrysler's new Pentastar V-6 engine.

The automaker plans to begin manufacturing the car in the fourth quarter at its Sterling Heights, Mich., plant.

Slow seller

From its launch as a 2007 model, the Sebring was a slow seller and failed to make a mark on a segment dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Sebring was widely criticized for its cheap-plastic interior, unresponsive powertrain, mediocre handling and plain styling.

Chrysler's previous owner, Cerberus Capital Management, had decided not to spend the money to make the Sebring competitive. When Sergio Marchionne took over as Chrysler Group CEO last June, he reversed that decision. Marchionne told Automotive News that the changes are so extensive that the Sebring name will be dropped.

The Fiat dual-clutch transmission, which can be shifted manually or automatically, promises the fuel economy and versatility of a manual with the ease of an automatic.

Of the 15 vehicles, eight are being redesigned or re-engineered. Seven others are getting significant midcycle alterations. A 16th vehicle, the Fiat 500, will be sold at Chrysler dealerships.

Redesigned models include the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Production is scheduled to begin in May or June.

The five-seat Grand Cherokee will be the first vehicle to get Chrysler's 3.6-liter, 280-hp Pentastar aluminum V-6 engine.

Following in the fourth quarter will be a redesigned seven-seat crossover to replace the Dodge Durango. The 2011 model is built on the same platform as the Grand Cherokee.

Also in the pipeline for the fourth quarter are the re-engineered 2011 Dodge Charger and its Chrysler 300 sibling and the Chrysler Town & Country.

These re-engineered models also get the new Pentastar V-6 engine. Also expected is the North American debut of the Fiat 500.

Revision for Wrangler

Vehicles getting important revisions include the Jeep Wrangler, coming in the third quarter. Wranglers sold with diesel engines, outside the United States, will get stop-start technology, which saves fuel by turning off the engine when the car stops.

Wranglers will also get exterior styling modifications.

By year end, the Dodge Avenger sedan will receive the same suspension and powertrain improvements as its Sebring sibling, with just minor styling tweaks, such as new front and rear bumpers and a new grille.

Much work ahead

The Pentastar V-6 engine will arrive in other vehicles, including the Dodge Grand Caravan and Journey, by the end of the year.

Jim Hall, analyst with 2953 Analytics in Birmingham, Mich., says Chrysler has its work cut out for it to reconnect with consumers after its bankruptcy.

"Product is only part of the equation," he says. "They've got to get the consideration up. They have twice the challenge GM does.

"Chrysler has to get the product right and the marketing at the same time."

CHRYSLER'S PRODUCT OFFENSIVE

Chrysler Group is giving its existing lineup new equipment and upgrades, sources say. It also is introducing a redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Dodge Durango replacement this year and expects the North American debut of the Fiat 500 in the 4th quarter. Times are for planned start of manufacturing.

Redesigned or reengineered

1st quarter 2010

Ram Chassis Cab: Redesigned chassis for Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500

2nd quarter

Jeep Grand Cherokee: New platform; first to get Chrysler's Pentastar V-6 engine

4th Quarter

Dodge Durango replacement: 7-seat sibling of Grand Cherokee; unibody construction, unlike current Durango, which is body on frame; Pentastar V-6

Dodge Charger: New sheet metal; heavily revised LX platform, including new rear suspension; Pentastar V-6 and revised V-8s; new interior

Chrysler Town & Country: New front end; Pentastar V-6; new interior; sharply differentiated from the Dodge Grand Caravan

Chrysler Sebring sedan and convertible: New front and rear; Pentastar V-6; new interior; revised suspension; first with Fiat-engineered 6-speed dual-clutch transmission; new name

Chrysler 300: New sheet metal; heavily revised LX platform, including new rear suspension; Pentastar V-6 and revised V-8s; new interior

Restyled, freshened

1st quarter

Jeep Liberty: Styling tweaks

3rd quarter

Jeep Wrangler: Diesel Wranglers, not sold in the U.S., will get stop-start; modified exterior design; Pentastar V-6 in 2011

Jeep Patriot: Revised exterior

4th quarter

Dodge Avenger: New front and rear bumpers and grille; major interior changes; upgrades to suspension; Pentastar V-6

Dodge Grand Caravan: Minor styling tweaks; new interior; Pentastar V-6

Dodge Journey: New interior; restyled front end; Pentastar V-6

Jeep Compass: Revised exterior

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100301/OEM01/303019946/1128#ixzz0gw5HfDQM

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Jeep Wrangler: Diesel Wranglers, not sold in the U.S.,
:facepalm:.:facepalm:.:facepalm:.:facepalm:.:facepalm:
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Sounds like a good plan. I sincerely hope it works for them. I like a lot of Chrysler products.

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I'm curious to see if the Charger has a less terrible interior. I'm also surprised that these intros are so soon.

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Chrysler Group's 2011MY Lineup: 8 Redesigns, 7 Face Lifts, and a Fiat 500

In what's probably the least-shocking news of the day, Chrysler is working hard to bring its product line up date. Specifically, fifteen vehicles are being "reworked", eight of those "being redesigned or re-engineered".

Automotive News indicates that Chrysler is looking to get its vehicle portfolio up to snuff for Fiat's upcoming product merger.

This means that Chrysler will be throwing its new V6 into just about anything with wheels while redesigning, re-engineering, and renaming just about all of its vehicles (while also making use of a Fiat-developed dual-clutch transmission... about time, guys).

So, what do we know? The Sebring name is being dropped; Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne considers the changes "extensive" enough to call it a new model (this is good news). Also, it will be the first vehicle to come with the DCT from Fiat.

Then, beginning with Jeep's 2011 Grand Cherokee, we see the real-world application of the new V6. While the Jeep's V6 doesn't feature direct injection, Chrysler's 5-year plan indicates a few different variants including 3.0, 3.3, and 3.6 liter displacements, along with direct injection and turbocharging. Very good news. Also, Jeep's overseas, diesel-equipped Wranglers will gain start/stop technology.

Last but certainly not least, Fiat's long-anticipated 500 mini that will be sold through Chrysler dealerships starting from the fourth quarter of the year.

Redesigned/re-engineered models debuting this year and featuring Chrysler's new V6:

Jeep Grand Cherokee (Quarter 1 2010)

Chrysler Town & Country (face lift ; Q4 2010)

Chrysler 300 (face lift ; new sheet metal / interior / rear suspension; Q4 2010)

Chrysler Sebring replacement (Q4 2010)

Dodge Durango (unibody construction ; 7-seater ; shares platform with Grand Cherokee ; Q4 2010)

Dodge Charger (face lift ; new sheet metal / interior / rear suspension; Q4 2010)

Refreshed models debuting this year:

Jeep Liberty ("styling tweaks" ; Q1 2010)

Jeep Wrangler (start/stop for overseas diesels in Q3 2010 ; Pentastar V6 in 2011)

Jeep Patriot (face lift ; Q3 2010)

Jeep Compass (face lift ; Q4 2010)

Dodge Avenger (face lift ; Pentastar V6 ; suspension/interior upgrades ; Q4 2010)

Dodge Grand Caravan (face lift ; Pentastar V6 ; new interior ; Q4 2010)

Dodge Journey (face lift ; pentastar V6 ; new interior ; Q4 2010)

If anyone can think of a good name for Chrysler's replacemo-Sebring, throw it down in the comments below.

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LeBaron?

:P J/K

Good to see some action coming out of Chrysler.

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Quite impressive. Not that they're getting the Pentastar V6 (love that name by the way) since that's been in the works for a little while now, but that they're very quickly upgrading the clutch system, full suspensions, and interior/exterior updates/changes. This is very quick, and I hope that they can keep the cars safe and reliable with such a quick turn around.

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