DaimlerChrysler’s all-new full-size sedan has been a clear winner since debuting early this year. Its American-influenced styling and rear-wheel technology have earned an enthusiastic reception. Already a reported hit in dealerships, the Chrysler 300 has scored another distinction from U.S. fleet managers who selected the full-size sedan as the “Fleet Car of the Year.” In the competition sponsored by Automotive Fleet and Business Fleet magazines, qualified fleet buyers chose the 300 from among 22 domestic and import 2005 models, voting online via the magazines’ shared Web site, www.fleet-central.com. The fleet award also reflects the 300’s impressive reception by the entire automotive industry. The 300, Chrysler’s entry in DaimlerChrysler’s new LX series, has also been named Motor Trend’s 2005 Car of the Year, and Edmunds.com’s Most Significant Vehicle of the Year and Editors’ Most Wanted Sedan Under $25,000 for 2005. Styling Earns Raves
The 300’s contemporary styling has earned an enthusiastic response from Reliant Pharmaceutical’s fleet drivers, according to Anne O’Neill, fleet manager at the Liberty Corner, N.J.-based company. The firm’s 1,000-unit fleet includes 50 Chrysler 300s. “I’ve gotten raves about the 300s since we added them to our fleet last January,” said O’Neill. “They love the look of it.” Provided for Reliant employees at the district manager level and above, the units are so popular “the sales force has been asking if they could pay the extra cost” to be assigned the 300, according to O’Neill. “And people who are in the Snow Belt region have also been asking for it,” she reported. O’Neill cited the 300’s “European-styling look” for the vehicle’s popularity among Reliant drivers. “Everyone feels as if they are in an upgraded vehicle - a larger, higher-standard car,” she noted. Florida-based Darden Restaurants also added the new Chrysler sedan to its fleet lineup early this year, replacing Intrepid and Concorde models. The 300 has been “well-received,” said Denise Axelson, corporate car administrator for Darden, a 1,300-unit chain of family restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. “I’ve heard nothing but raves,” Axelson said. The 300s are assigned to major area directors throughout the company’s national fleet. “We’re delighted to receive the 2005 Fleet Car of the Year award for the Chrysler 300,” said Pat Dougherty, director of commercial vehicle sales, DaimlerChrysler Fleet Operations. “It is particularly gratifying to receive confirmation from the fleet industry of what we believe is a new standard for American large cars.” A Return to Rear-Wheel Drive
The Chrysler 300 represents the automaker’s return to rear-wheel-drive technology in passenger cars. The all-new platform of the 300 (and its sibling, the Dodge Magnum) was developed with the latest technology from DaimlerChrysler. The design uses advances in tire technology, traction control, and electronic stability control, said company officials. The result, according to industry reviews, is a car featuring high standards of road holding and comfort. More than 50 fleet managers put the rear-wheel-drive technology through rigorous winter condition testing last February at an engineering test facility in Houghton, Mich. According to company officials, participants were convinced of the vehicle’s handling capabilities even under severe conditions. The single most impressive test for Debbie Mize, corporate services manager, fleet & relocation for Hallmark Cards, was stopping halfway up an incline with one wheel fully on ice. “None of the front-wheel-drive vehicles could make it up the 15-degree incline when stopped halfway,” said Mize. “The 300 made it up the 20-degree incline, which was a very steep incline.” Safety Features Earn Top Rating
“The key benefit of rear-wheel drive for commercial fleets is safety, provided by improved drive, stability, and handling,” said Bick Pratt, senior manager - market development, DaimlerChrysler Fleet Operations. A safety convenience package for fleets is offered, including Electronic Stability Control, ABS brakes, All-Speed Traction Control, and power drive seat on base Chrysler 300 models. The 300 and the Magnum recently received National Highway Traffic Safety Administration five-star ratings for driver and front passenger protection in a frontal crash, the U.S. government’s highest rating. The rear-wheel-drive architecture was also the basis for a vehicle shape of classic proportions - a long hood, short deck, longer wheelbase, and dramatic profile. Powerplants for the 300 include a 2.7L V-6, 3.5L V-6, and 5.7L V-8 Hemi. Models equipped with the 3.5L and a 5.7L engines are also offered with all-wheel drive. The Hemi 5.7L V-8 engine features Chrysler’s Multi-Displacement System, which turns off fuel consumption in four cylinders when V-8 power is not needed. The 2005 Fleet Car of the Year voters were professional fleet managers who face the daily real-life challenges of operating commercial fleets. Poll participants were drawn from the Automotive Fleet, Business Fleet, and Fleet Financials commercial fleet audiences, which represent nearly 20 percent of all domestic car and truck sales.