Was 'Cuda lurking in the '60 Minutes' piece on Chrysler?

Shown a screen capture of the coupe behind Ralph Gilles in the “60 Minutes” segment, a Chrysler spokesman said the car "is just one of the many concepts and projects in our studios."

Photo credit: 60 Minutes
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DETROIT -- Chrysler Group took a star turn in the mainstay of broadcast news Sunday with a lengthy appearance on CBS's "60 Minutes." The piece told a good story and had some intriguing images of Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne as he goes about his multicontinental nonstop work life, even if it broke no new ground.

But the largely puff piece's only bit of real news may have been discovered by the members of Chrysler-centric forum Allpar.com.

About 10 minutes into the broadcast, "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft is interviewing SRT brand head Ralph Gilles, who also is Chrysler's head of design. Observers on Allpar.com noticed that visible behind Gilles is the roofline and tail of an as-yet-unidentified red coupe.

The mystery car could be the hinted-at Barracuda, given what appears to be a performance-oriented spoiler visible on the tail. Rumors have a new Barracuda taking its place in the SRT lineup based on the current Dodge Challenger.

In January, Chrysler resurrected the 'Cuda nameplate in trademark filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, but Gilles has given a respectful "no comment" when asked if a new version of the '70s Plymouth muscle car was in the works.

Shown a screen capture of the coupe in question from the "60 Minutes" piece, a Chrysler spokesman said the car "is just one of the many concepts and projects in our studios. That one is a student model."

It certainly could be, as they say, a full-sized student design model sitting there perched in Chrysler's design dome in Auburn Hills, Mich., alongside all those other Chrysler Group production vehicles.

Or it could be an aggressive fish about to strike. We'll just have to wait to find out. Either way, hats off to the folks at Allpar.com for spotting the only piece of auto-centric news in the "60 Minutes" report on Chrysler.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.

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