Chrysler wows dealers with next-gen 200
Marchionne: The dealers came through -- and we will, too.
Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
Chrysler Group dealers who last week got a sneak preview of future products in Las Vegas reserved most of their enthusiasm for the next Chrysler 200.
The redesigned 2014 mid-sized sedan will share a Fiat-based platform with the Dodge Dart but will be larger than the Dart.
The next 200, like the Dart, will be front-wheel drive with a new nine-speed automatic transmission that Chrysler has licensed from ZF Friedrichshafen.
Dealers in attendance said at least one version of the new 200 would achieve an EPA-rated 38 mpg on the highway.
"The 200 is a stone-cold winner," said David Kelleher, owner of David Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in suburban Philadelphia and chairman of the Chrysler National Dealer Council. "It doesn't look like anything we've ever done before."
Chrysler said it paraded 66 vehicles -- some were trim levels or special editions -- across the stage at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas before a crowd Chrysler estimated at 6,000.
Electronic devices were forbidden inside the auditorium, and the only images from the preview were from video released by Chrysler that showed no cars or trucks.
Also shown was the Jeep Liberty replacement and an all-new Chrysler 100 hatchback, both of which will share the CUSW platform and the nine-speed automatic transmission with the Dart and Chrysler 200.
Dealers said the Liberty replacement is much changed from the 2012 Liberty, which ended production in August. They said the replacement looks like a smaller Grand Cherokee with a sharp, pointed nose.
Dealers were much more upbeat than in 2010, when Chrysler last held its product preview. Twenty-nine straight months of year-over-year sales gains will do that.
Two years ago in Orlando, Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne chided dealers, calling on them to improve their stores and treat customers better. He promised them better product in exchange for improvements in customer satisfaction. Last week, he took a more conciliatory tone.
"I want to express my sincere appreciation to you for upholding your end of the bargain," Marchionne told the dealers. "You did so, despite the hard times and the uncertainty that surrounded our fate."
You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at firstname.lastname@example.org.