The first vehicle the Chrysler group is co-developing with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. arrives next year.
Chrysler and Mitsubishi are working closely on several projects, including a front-drive car platform expected to yield a range of small and mid-sized vehicles. The first of those vehicles is the redesigned Dodge Neon, which arrives in 2005.
The projects are proceeding even though DaimlerChrysler AG said in April that it would stop investing in Mitsubishi. As a result of that decision - and a bailout orchestrated by Mitsubishi group banks and Phoenix Capital, an outside investor - DaimlerChrysler owns less than 25 percent of the Japanese automaker, down from 37 percent.
The long-term product implications of DaimlerChrysler's smaller stake in Mitsubishi are unclear. For example, Chrysler had been considering assembling a minivan for Mitsubishi. That possibility now appears remote. But Chrysler executives say collaborations with Mitsubishi on small and mid-sized vehicles are on course.
Meanwhile, the Chrysler group is broadening the range of the Jeep brand and working to sharpen the definition of the Chrysler brand. And the company has confirmed that it is considering a fourth brand, aimed at young budget-minded buyers.
Here are the highlights of the Chrysler group's vehicle plans for the 2005 to 2008 model years, as gathered from company and industry sources.
|PT Cruiser convertible debuts||PT Cruiser hatchback freshened||Sebring redesigned||PT Cruiser redesigned (or 2009)|
|Town & Country long-wheelbase model re-engineered||300 freshened||Pacifica reskinned or restyled|
|Possible ME Four-Twelve debut|
|PT Cruiser convertible freshened|
|Town & Country restyled (or 2008)|
|Grand Caravan re-engineered||Neon redesigned||Stratus redesigned|
|Dakota redesigned||Charger sedan debuts||Magnum freshened|
|Grand Caravan, Caravan restyled (or 2008)|
|Compact SUV debuts|
|Liberty freshened||Commander 7-passenger SUV debuts||Entry-level SUV debuts (or 2008)||Wrangler derivative (or 2009)|
|Grand Cherokee redesigned||Wrangler redesigned||Liberty restyled, re-engineered|
CHRYSLER, DODGE CARS
The redesigned 2006 Neon will be derived from the new fwd platform that the Chrysler group is developing jointly with Mitsubishi.
The new Neon will be a sport wagon, the first of several small- and mid-sized vehicles being drawn from the new fwd platform. The platform will spawn replacements for the Dodge Stratus, Chrysler Sebring, Chrysler PT Cruiser and a new entry-level small Jeep SUV.
The 2006 Neon will be powered by a new four-cylinder engine that the Chrysler group, Hyundai Motor Co. and Mitsubishi will assemble in Dundee, Mich. The plant begins operation in 2005 and will produce 600,000 engines annually.
While the specific engines scheduled for the Neon replacement and other Chrysler group vehicles have not been announced, the Dundee plant is expected to produce 1.8-liter, 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter engines. Hyundai engineered the engine family.
Production of the current Neon ends next year.
The Chrysler group's mid-sized vehicles will be redesigned for the 2007 model year. They will be derived from the platform developed with Mitsubishi.
A sedan and a convertible will be the first two offerings and are likely to be sold by the Chrysler brand. Dodge is developing a five-door hatchback.
Chrysler and Dodge vehicles will be more highly differentiated than current models, mimicking the strategy of the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum. Production of the current-generation Sebring sedan and convertible and Stratus sedan ends in May 2006.
Mitsubishi is cutting jobs and production at its Normal, Ill., assembly plant, where the Sebring and Stratus coupes are built. The Chrysler group's contract with Mitsubishi to produce vehicles in Normal expires in 2005, when production of the current-generation coupes will end.
The Sebring and Stratus sedans and Sebring convertible are built at Chrysler's Sterling Heights, Mich., assembly plant. The Sterling Heights plant and the Chrysler group's assembly plant in Belvidere, Ill., are likely candidates to gain the assembly work. The Belvidere plant builds the Neon.
The 2005 Chrysler 300C SRT-8 offers a 425-hp, 6.1-liter V-8 and a Mercedes-Benz automatic transmission.
In addition to the 300 sedan, Magnum wagon and the 2006 Dodge Charger sedan, a fourth nameplate is planned on the automaker's rwd LX platform, although the timetable for that derivative is unclear.
The lineup will be freshened for the 2007 model year.
The 2006 Charger, a full-sized sedan based on the 300 and Magnum rwd chassis, arrives in 2005. A few styling cues will draw on the heritage of the late 1960s Charger muscle car. But the slinky Charger R/T concept that debuted at the 1999 Detroit auto show is not the car that is going into production, insiders say.
The Crossfire lineup was expanded for the 2005 model year. A convertible and a 330-hp SRT-6 model were among the additions.
The two-passenger car was developed from the past-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK and assembled by Wilhelm Karmann GmbH in Osnabruck, Germany. DaimlerChrysler executives have said that a replacement is not planned.
The 2005 Viper SRT-10 will be introduced in Europe in December as part of a plan to turn Dodge into a global player.
Previous-generation Vipers were sold in Europe from 1993 to 2001 as Chryslers. Beyond that, no major changes are expected.
Chrysler ME Four-Twelve
A decision on whether to produce the ME Four-Twelve, a two-seat mid-engined Ferrari-fighter is promised by year end.
But unlike other Chrysler concepts that have been introduced at auto shows, this vehicle was engineered for evaluation and testing purposes, said Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche. Several auto journalists have been invited to drive the vehicle this month.
If Chrysler gives the car a thumbs-up, the ME Four-Twelve could be in production around the 2007 model year.
The ME Four-Twelve concept was a hit at the 2004 Detroit auto show. The concept features a 5.9-liter quad-turbo V-12 that produces 850 hp and 850 pounds-feet of torque. The engine was developed by AMG, Mercedes-Benz's performance group. At the show, Chrysler executives boasted acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in under 3 seconds.
If produced, the hand-built, low-volume vehicle likely would be assembled in Europe. A sticker price above $150,000 is expected.
Chrysler PT Cruiser
The 2005 PT Cruiser convertible joined the lineup in March.
The PT Cruiser hatchback will be freshened for the 2006 model year. The convertible freshening follows for the 2007 model year.
The front-end styling of the 2006 PT Cruiser will be new and will feature a flatter nose, a departure from today's rounded front grille. The headlights will be redesigned, with round, chrome-ringed lights behind a clear plastic cover.
Additional styling changes include flared edges around the front and rear fenders and a rear bumper with a smoother shape. The car no longer will have the recessed, sculptured shapes around the backup lights and license plate. Reductions in noise, vibration and harshness are expected.
The PT Cruiser will be redesigned and moved to a new fwd platform for the 2008 or 2009 model year. The redesigned vehicle will be derived from the platform that the Chrysler group is developing with Mitsubishi.
Chrysler Town & Country
Dodge Grand Caravan
The company spent $400 million and 18 months re-engineering the extended 2005 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans that arrived this year. The second- and third-row seats fold into the floor, a feature the company calls Stow 'n Go seating.
The changes were more substantial than typically made in the middle of a vehicle's life cycle. On the long-wheelbase models, the automaker re-engineered the platform extensively. Chrysler had to modify the rear suspension and relocate cross beams, the gasoline tank and spare tire to accommodate Stow 'n Go.
The next phase will be a restyling of both the long- and short-wheelbase models, expected for the 2007 or 2008 model year.
A larger, more powerful V-6 is expected in the next two years. The Pacifica will be reskinned or restyled in early 2007 as a 2008 model.
Dodge compact SUV
Dodge will begin selling a compact SUV in two years that is based on the Jeep Liberty platform. Until now, the Chrysler group has not shared Jeep platforms with Dodge or Chrysler.
The Dodge SUV will have a different body style, incorporating the muscular look of the brand. The Jeep will be more capable off-road.
The production SUV or a concept showing the styling direction of the vehicle will be shown at Chicago's auto show next February; sales begin in fall 2006.
The redesigned 2005 Dodge Dakota Club Cab has two rear-hinged access doors.
Three engines will be available: the standard 210-hp 3.7-liter V-6, an optional 230-hp 4.7-liter V-8 and an optional 250-plus-hp 4.7-liter V-8.
Chrysler is developing a pickup for Mitsubishi that will be based on the Dakota. The Mitsubishi pickup, called the Raider, goes on sale in 2005. But Chrysler sources say the Mitsubishi truck will not be merely a rebadged version of the Dakota. To protect the Dodge brand, the Mitsubishi pickup will have its own sheet metal.
The Durango will be freshened for the 2007 model year.
Dodge Ram 1500
Dodge will boost Ram production in Mexico and expand the pickup's model line for the 2005 model year and beyond. Several new Ram-based models that have not been revealed are planned for the 2006 model year and beyond. But a Ram-based SUV is not planned.
In June, Dodge announced the addition of two Ram models for the 2005 model year: the Power Wagon and the SRT-10 Quad Cab. The Hemi-powered 345-hp Ram Power Wagon is intended for off-roading. The SRT-10 Quad Cab is equipped with the Dodge Viper's 8.3-liter V-10, producing 500 hp and 525 pounds-feet of torque.
Other than powertrain modifications, no major changes are expected for the van.
Entry-level Jeep SUV
The two-door Compass, a small entry-level concept that debuted at the 2002 Detroit auto show, signals the styling direction for an inexpensive entry-level SUV below the Liberty.
The vehicle is expected to debut in the 2007 or 2008 model year. It will be positioned as an inexpensive entry-level SUV below the Liberty.
The two-door Compass, a small entry-level concept that debuted at the 2002 Detroit auto show, signals the styling direction for the new nameplate.
Jeep will add a four-door model when the Wrangler is redesigned for the 2007 model year. Another Wrangler derivative follows in the 2008 or 2009 model year.
A freshened Liberty arrives for the 2005 model year. A diesel engine also is offered.
The Renegade leads the 2005 Liberty line with a flatter hood and a taller grille. The Sport and Limited models are updated with a new front fascia, grille and body side moldings.
A 2.8-liter common-rail diesel engine coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission is optional on four-wheel-drive Liberty Sport and Limited models.
The engine is supplied by VM Motori of Italy and is rated at an estimated 160 hp at 3,800 rpm.
A re-engineered and restyled Liberty is due for the 2008 model year.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The redesigned 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee gives buyers a choice of three 4-wheel-drive systems.
The company is positioning the model as an off-road SUV with on-road manners.
The 2005 model will continue to offer two rows of seats, not three, in deference to Jeep loyalists. Chrysler considered a seven-seat model but rejected it. Loyal buyers don't want the extended length that a three-seat model requires, the company says.
The suspension is re-engineered for better off-road capability and improved on-road ride. Three four-wheel-drive systems are available to appeal to a range of buyers.
The 2005 model is 5.1 inches longer than its predecessor and 1 inch wider. Designers tried to minimize the larger presence by giving the Grand Cherokee a more upright, slab-sided stance. The new model is available with three engines, including for the first time a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.
Jeep is promoting the 325-hp Hemi-equipped Grand Cherokee as the first SUV to offer cylinder deactivation. A 3.7-liter single-overhead-cam V-6 rated at 210 hp is the base engine. A 4.7-liter single-overhead-cam V-8 carryover engine rounds out the lineup.
The seven-passenger SUV based on the redesigned Grand Cherokee platform arrives as a 2006 model. The Commander is pivotal to Jeep's plan to expand its fortunes.
Product Editor Rick Kranz contributed to this report