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Chrysler touts new Chrysler 200, revamped Dodge Avenger


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Chrysler touts new Chrysler 200, revamped Dodge Avenger

Christina Rogers / The Detroit News

Sterling Heights— Chrysler Group LLC celebrated the production launch Monday of two midsize vehicles critical to its overhauled lineup: the new Chrysler 200 and the revamped Dodge Avenger.

The Auburn Hills automaker also reiterated its plans, first announced this summer, to add 900 jobs and a second shift at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in the first quarter of next year. The factory had once been targeted for closure by 2012.

The jobs, and an $850 million investment in the plant, will support production of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, plus other new vehicles slated for production in 2013, said CEO Sergio Marchionne.

State and local tax incentives, including a $29 million property tax abatement from the city of Sterling Heights, helped Chrysler keep the plant open. The 3-million-square-foot plant employs 1,270 workers.

"A year has gone by, and we've collectively accomplished a lot," said Marchionne, accompanied by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Chrysler, which partnered with Italian automaker Fiat SpA after exiting bankruptcy last year, has been laboring to revamp its car and truck lineup and lure more buyers to its brands.

It recently unwrapped 16 refreshed or all-new vehicles arriving in dealer showrooms this year and next.

The 200 and Avenger, which go on sale this month, starting at just under $20,000, represent the first real collaboration between Chrysler and Fiat.

The Chrysler 200 in particular is an important launch for the automaker as it tries to gain a better foothold in the midsize market.

It replaces the ill-fated Sebring and will compete with others in its class such as the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu.

"The 200 is the first step in rejuvenating the Chrysler brand," said Marchionne, who also heads Fiat.

Chrysler may repay its U.S. and Canadian government loans before 2013, allowing Fiat to take a 51 percent stake, he said.

"It's one of the options that we're looking at," he said. "It's not required" before an initial public stock offering, which Marchionne has forecast for the second half of next year.

Fiat holds 20 percent of Chrysler.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101207/AUTO01/12070320/Chrysler-touts-new-Chrysler-200--revamped-Dodge-Avenger#ixzz17QrMmQkW

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