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Chrysler dealers see Jeep pickup, new Viper

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Chrysler dealers see Jeep pickup, new Viper

Bradford Wernle

and Mike Colias

Automotive News -- September 16, 2010 - 11:54 am ET

DETROIT -- Chrysler Group took its dealers by surprise this week by showing them concept versions of the Jeep pickup truck and 2012 Dodge Viper.

The unveilings came Tuesday at the company's national dealer announcement show in Orlando -- the first such show the company has held since 2007.

The dealers also got news about plans for a nine-speed automatic transmission for front-drive vehicles, which would follow an eight-speed automatic transmission for rear-drive vehicles due out in 2012.

Both will be adaptable to all-wheel-drive and hybrid applications, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told dealers in an hour-long address Tuesday. He did not say when the nine-speed automatic would arrive.

There was no word out of the meeting on a plan for the Jeep pickup. Jeep's last pickup was the Comanche, built for the 1992 model year. Jeep last toyed with the idea of a pickup in 2005, when it unveiled an extended-cab Jeep Gladiator concept at the Detroit auto show and said it was going to study its market potential.

According to one person who attended the dealer meeting, the 2012 Viper concept resembled the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione with a Viper face. The Competizione is a limited-edition supercar that was sold in select Maserati dealerships in North America.

'Something magic'

At $299,000, the Spider version was the most expensive Alfa Romeo ever.

In 2009 Alfa Romeo brought 84 coupes and 35 Spiders to the United States for sale in seven Maserati dealerships. The cars were sold before they were delivered. At $299,000, the Spider version was the most expensive Alfa Romeo ever.

The fourth-generation Viper ended production at the Conner Avenue assembly plant in Detroit on July 1. The Viper was first launched in 1992.

Chrysler introduced the 2012 Viper and the pickup truck concept with a touch of drama. At the end of his hour-long speech to dealers, Marchionne closed with a story.

“There are times when you are given the opportunity to give life to something which is so beautiful and unique, so just and equitable, that you pay a lot less attention to the numbers, to the financial reality that surrounds it. They happen only rarely. In my case, three times in more than 15 years as chief executive.”

He recounted a series of conversations he had had with Ralph Gilles, Dodge CEO and chief of design for all Chrysler brands.

“We had been debating this particular nameplate for a long time, and every time I just could not get there. And then one morning the product committee went into the dome and saw it, and we all knew we were in front of something magic, unique. It took less than five minutes for the committee to fund the initiative. Not a negative comment, not a remark, not a single question. And so I leave you with this. The 17th car in the lineup, in select dealers in 2012.”

And the Viper emerged from the wings.

The surprise from Jeep

The Jeep pickup got a similarly dramatic introduction. Jeep CEO Michael Manley concluded his presentation to dealers by saying: “You never know what might show up in your showroom someday,” according to a person who attended the meeting. Manley then walked off the stage, and the pickup truck appeared.

Manley said nothing about whether Jeep will produce the pickup.

Marchionne, wearing his trademark black sweater, spoke to an audience that included about 75 percent of Chrysler's 2,314 dealers, representing about 90 percent of the sales volume.

The dealers also got to see Chrysler's 2011 lineup, including key new production vehicles such as the Chrysler 200 mid-sized sedan, which is an extensively re-engineered and restyled update of the Sebring sedan.

Other production vehicles include the redesigned Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger full-sized sedans, the revamped versions of the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan minivans, the Jeep Patriot and the Dodge Avenger.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100916/RETAIL/100919884/1252#ixzz0zjUu9Vk9

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