Dodge dealers will get a new mid-range crossover vehicle in early 2008 to compete with the likes of Ford's upcoming Edge and the Toyota Highlander.
The model, called JC49 internally, will be built at Chrysler's Toluca, Mexico, factory starting in December 2007.
The Dodge crossover will be built on the same platform as the new Chrysler Sebring sedan. Sources say DaimlerChrysler estimates volumes of 150,000 a year. Industry analysts forecast an entry-level price of about $20,000.
Chrysler has kept the JC49 under wraps, but a company official confirmed plans for the vehicle. Chrysler is calling it a "new concept crossover," trying to set it apart from other entries in an increasingly crowded segment.
In March, Chrysler said it will spend $1 billion to increase flexibility at Toluca so that it could make various derivatives on a single line. The investment includes two new supplier parks. Toluca last year turned out 177,370 PT Cruisers and PT Cruiser convertibles.
A Chrysler version may arrive in 2010, says Erich Merkle, director of forecasting for IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich. That vehicle is code-named JZ49. The Chrysler official would not confirm the JZ49 plans.
Merkle expects the Dodge crossover to bear the same relationship to the Dodge Avenger sedan that the Ford Edge has to the Fusion sedan on which it is based. The Avenger is the Sebring's Dodge twin, due late in 2007 as a 2008 model.
Suppliers say the JC49 also will be assembled in the east China province of Fujian, where DaimlerChrysler has several van assembly plants through a joint venture and a licensing agreement.
Supplier sources say the start of production in China for the JC49 is scheduled for mid-2008.
Alysha Webb contributed to this report
You may e-mail Bradford Wernle at [email protected]