Chrysler hopes to boost sales in Germany in 2004

New model offensive, cool slogans on the way

Berlin / Munich. Germany is the focal point of the Chrysler group's European sales offensive.

"This is one of our favorite markets," said Chrysler manager Thomas Hausch, who is responsible for all non-US American markets.

Chrysler is trying to reach new market segments in Germany with new models such as the PT Cruiser convertible and an offbeat marketing campaign.

This year, eight new cars will arrive at 180 German sales locations. The company also hopes to double the sales share for diesel models by 2007.

The PT Cruiser convertible is the first new model, going on sale March 27. With lots of standard equipment and strong engines - 150hp and 223hp with a starting price of 24,850 euros -- it is targeted at Volkswagen Beetle customers.

Each dealer will receive two cars at the sales start. The Crossfire roadster and the restyled Voyager (for the first time available with 2.8-liter Mercedes turbo diesel engine and automatic transmission) will follow in April.

In May the 300C sedan will be launched and in September the 300C station wagon version will enter the market.

Chrysler is vague about sales targets. Chrysler sales in Germany last year fell 14.6 percent and Jeep was down 4.9 percent. Only 20,104 vehicles were sold.

"We definitely want to sell at least more than 20,000 autos this year," said new Germany Managing Director Bernd Hullerum.

The January sales only reached last year's level. But Hullerum sticks to his predecessor Hartwig Hirtz's target of reaching a market share of one percent by 2006.

Dealer spokesman Bernd Wiesemes, who runs TG Automobile in Kaiserslautern, a large Chrysler dealer, is more optimistic for 2004.

"With the new strong models we should manage a 10 percent sales increase, even if economy remains unchanged," he said.

Of the new models, Wiesemes' great hope is the 300C.

It's "a fantastic car," he said, although the 300C will not get a diesel engine until early 2005 when the 2.8-liter Mercedes turbo diesel will be available.

The advertising campaign will market the American-style sedan as an "expressive alternative to the E-segment."

Catchphrases such as "Don't be modest, forget about understatement" or "You have neither a butler nor a chauffeur, even if looks like it," are targeted at a new clientele.

Marketing boss Ulrich Klenke hopes to give the Chrysler brand image a new profile.

"We aim at people who have the courage for a modern, individual life plan," he said.

The 300C got good marks in Chrysler internal customer surveys.

"The car has a polarizing effect. But the people who liked the 300C would also buy it," Klenke said.

Hausch is optimistic in regard to the total sales in western Europe, where in 2003 Chrysler sold 102,000 units. He said that a sales increase of 50 to 100 percent by 2007 is feasible.

He added: "Our internal targets are distinctly higher."

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