Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne called on dealers today to rally behind the company's new product offensive.
Speaking in Orlando, Marchionne was addressing a general audience of Chrysler's dealers for the first time since he assumed the top job at the company in June 2009. He had insisted he wanted to work behind the scenes and wouldn't say anything until he had something to talk about -- in this case, a fleet of rejuvenated products.
The company showed dealers 30 vehicles in all today including 16 new or significantly refreshed vehicles for 2011 and some special edition Mopar vehicles.
Among the vehicles dealers saw today were the Fiat 500 minicar, a redesigned and renamed mid-sized sedan called the Chrysler 200, the new Dodge Durango crossover and a refreshed Jeep Wrangler.
“Our management team is committed to restoring Chrysler's greatness by delivering a product line makeover that is second to none in the industry,” Marchionne told dealers today.
“We must all be prepared to capitalize on this moment. No matter how creative the advertising or how beautifully designed the vehicles, this alone will not be enough to achieve our ambitious sales goals. For that, we will need trained and dedicated personnel, world-class facilities and, most importantly, your leadership.”
Marchionne, wearing his trademark black sweater, spoke to an audience that included about 75 percent of Chrysler's 2,314 dealers representing about 90 percent of the sales volume.
Said Jesse Toprak, an analyst for TrueCar.com in Santa Monica, Calif.: “I think what we saw today is a good start, but clearly not anywhere near where they should be with their product lineup if they're going to go head to head with their main competition, which is today Ford and GM.”
Brand by brand
The 200 sedan heads a rejuvenated Chrysler brand lineup. The 200 is built on the bones of the existing Sebring sedan. But Chrysler heavily reworked the car from the inside out, giving it Chrysler's new Pentastar V-6 engine, a new interior, new front and rear fascias and a new grille to go along with the new name.
A redesigned Chrysler 300 sedan will get a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The re-engineered Chrysler Town & Country minivan will get the Pentastar V-6 and a new interior.
The Patriot gets new front and rear fascias, a body-color grille and refined ride and handling for 2011. The Wrangler gets a new interior.
The Dodge Durango, a seven-seat crossover, arrives at dealerships later this year. It is built on the same platform as the five-seat Jeep Grand Cherokee. Dealers also got to see the new Dodge Charger and the redesigned Avenger sedan and the Grand Caravan minivan.
Fiat, which controls Chrysler, unveiled several versions of its new minicar today that are destined for North America.
Fiat will emphasize special edition vehicles such as the Fiat 500 Sport, which Chrysler showed today in a blog on its media website. The 500 Sport has an “athletically styled front and rear fascia with larger grilles and flared aerodynamic treatment.” It comes with special 16-inch wheels.
Like all other 500 models in North America, the 500 will be powered by Fiat's 1.4-liter MultiAir engine.
Fiat also showed two additional models: the 500 Pop and the Lounge. These are European models adapted for the North American market. Chrysler will reveal further details on them later.