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DaimlerChrysler Product Plans for 2006 Revealed

June 8, 2004

DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group has confirmed plans for three new models for the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands, according to the Detroit News. In a meeting with financial analysts on June 2, Chrysler executives said they plan to revive the famous Dodge Charger fastback as a sedan and build a new full-size sport/utility vehicle called the Jeep Commander. The company also provided details about the replacement for the Chrysler Sebring sedan, which is being developed with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and could be sold under a different name. While speculation has been rampant about the Commander and Charger, this marked the first time that Chrysler publicly said the vehicles will be produced. Analysts say the automaker is also working on new entry-level SUVs for the Jeep and Dodge brands, as well as a small sport wagon for Dodge to replace the Neon compact car, according to the Detroit News. Chrysler is introducing nine new vehicles this year and has promised 16 more new cars and trucks by the end of 2006. Though the company will not discuss product plans for 2005 and 2006, analysts who follow the automaker are crafting a picture of what is on the way, according to the Detroit News. Michael Bruynesteyn of Prudential Equity Group in New York described the Charger, Commander, and Sebring replacement in a report released on June 3. He attended the June 2 analyst meeting at Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills. The Jeep Commander is 4.5 inches taller than the popular Jeep Grand Cherokee and more square and upright, “bearing some resemblance to GM’s Hummer H2,” Bruynesteyn wrote. It will share the same underpinnings as the Grand Cherokee, but will have three rows of seats and should debut during the third quarter of 2005, he said. The Sebring replacement, expected in 2006, is taller and wider than the current model, with notable “cat eye” headlights and “employs some styling cues from the Chrysler Crossfire,” Bruynesteyn said. The mid-size passenger car is being jointly developed with Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors, which is partly owned by DaimlerChrysler. The Charger has the same interior and underbody as the Dodge Magnum wagon, “but the exterior sheet metal is completely different,” he said. First produced in 1966, the Charger was long considered Chrysler’s premier muscle car and is probably best known for its starring role as the General Lee in TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard. Late 2005 should bring a replacement for the Dodge Neon compact car, which will look quite different from its predecessor, said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. “They’re not replacing the Neon with a traditional sedan,” she said. The new Neon will take the shape of a wagon, similar in size to the Pontiac Vibe or Toyota Matrix, Lindland said in the Detroit News article. Although the next-generation Neon is also being developed with Mitsubishi, “it’s still going to be a Chrysler through and through,” CSM’s Wall said. But “from everything we’ve heard, it’s going to get a new name.” In 2006, the Jeep brand is also expected to get a small SUV based on the Compass concept vehicle shown at the Detroit auto show in 2002, as well as a new version of the open-top Wrangler. In addition, a new Dodge SUV based on the Jeep Liberty should hit the market by late 2006, analysts said. A replacement is also expected in 2006 for the mid-size Dodge Stratus sedan, as is a refreshed version of the PT Cruiser. A completely redesigned PT Cruiser won’t be in showrooms until 2008, analysts said. Chrysler is also moving to reduce the number of basic vehicle architectures it uses from 12 to three by 2008 to make the company’s factories more flexible, according to the Detroit News.
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