Chrysler plans a novel approach for the redesigned Sebring convertible. It will offer two models: one with a retractable hard top and one with a soft-cloth top, say dealer and supplier sources.
In taking the two-pronged approach, Chrysler will go to German supplier Wilhelm Karmann GmbH to supply both the soft and hard tops for the Sebring. Longtime supplier Dura Convertible Systems Inc. declined to bid for the next-generation Sebring.
The Sebring convertible, which arrives in 2007 as a 2008 model, is an important vehicle for Chrysler.
For several years, the Sebring has run neck and neck with the Ford Mustang in the U.S. convertible market.
Ford Motor Co. offers the Mustang convertible only with a soft top.
For the first four months of 2006, the Sebring convertible trails its Mustang rival 12,914 to 16,402 in U.S. sales, according to the Power Information Network.
"Sebring is a very popular, very profitable product for Chrysler," says John Wolkonowicz, an analyst for Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. "It's worth spending money to do something new."
Chrysler also plans to offer a sedan version but no coupe. Chrysler spokesman Richard Deneau declined to comment on plans for the Sebring.
Sources say the hardtop will be offered at a higher price than the soft top.
The base price for the Sebring convertible, now in soft top only, is $26,790 including shipping.
Karmann also makes the retractable hard top for the Pontiac G6. Dura's parent company is Collins & Aikman Corp., which tried unsuccessfully to sell Dura as part of its ongoing Chapter 11 restructuring.
In 2003, Collins & Aikman dropped out of competition for the 2008 Sebring contract as then-CEO David Stockman sought to unload unprofitable businesses. That move did not affect Dura's contract to do the current Sebring convertible.
Jens Meiners contributed to this report
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