DETROIT -- Likening itself to Detroit, a gritty city that has survived numerous setbacks, Chrysler today officially took the wraps off its all-new 300 sedan.
Olivier Francois, CEO of Chrysler brand, said the vehicle will go on sale in the United States as a 2011 model in the spring. But Ralph Gilles, head of design at the company, was more specific -- saying it would go on sale in late February.
Francois said the company invested “over $1 billion” in the 300 and he expects widespread public acceptance once consumers drive the vehicle. He said he expects about half of 300 sales to be those equipped with Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engines.
“Chrysler has been linked to Detroit history and I deeply believe in the comeback of Detroit,” Francois said. “I know about the comeback of Chrysler and I think it makes sense to link both things.”
Francois said research clinics revealed that changing the grille of the 300 was a big deal with consumers. As a result, the company will make the previous-generation, Bentley-like grille available through Chrysler's Mopar parts and accessories division.
Francois declined to say how much the company will spend to advertise the 300 and its other new models such as the 200 and Town & Country minivan, but said the company's advertising budget would “slightly” increase.
The 2011 Chrysler 300 will be available in the United States in four versions: Chrysler 300, 300 Limited, 300C and 300C all-wheel drive.
The 300 and 300 Limited are rear-wheel drive and powered by Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engines that generate 292 hp. The 300C versions are equipped with 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engines that deliver 363 hp. Francois said he expects vehicles with V-6 engines to make up about half of 300 sales.
The Chrysler 300 sticker price starts at $27,995; the Limited is priced at $31,995, the Chrysler C is priced at $38,995 and the 300C all-wheel-drive is priced at $41,145. All prices include $825 destination charges.
The 300 was well-received by buyers when it was introduced to the market in 2004. It sold 112,930 units that year and peaked at 144,068 units in 2005. In 2010, sales struggled to reach 37,116 units.
The vehicle is being built at Chrysler's assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario, near Toronto. Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne launched production there at an event on Friday.