In a bid to improve its lineup before a fleet of new Fiat-based vehicles arrives in 2012, Chrysler Group is rushing new features and equipment into 15 reworked vehicles.
The equipment, such as a Fiat dual-clutch, six-speed transmission and a new Chrysler V-6, will boost fuel economy, improve driving dynamics and spiff up drab interiors, all areas in which Chrysler has fared poorly in consumer surveys.
All the vehicles will be on sale by the first quarter of next year.
But the rush of upgrades is straining Chrysler's engineering staff, which has been working overtime for months, and it will hand a huge challenge to the automaker's marketers to tell shoppers about all the changes.
Improvements planned for the Chrysler Sebring mid-sized sedan tell the story. Sources say the car will get new front and rear styling, a new interior and a revised suspension for improved ride and handling. The Sebring will be the first vehicle with a Fiat-engineered dual-clutch transmission, which will be offered with Chrysler's new Pentastar V-6 engine.
The automaker plans to begin manufacturing the car in the fourth quarter at its Sterling Heights, Mich., plant.