November 19, 2003

Chrysler Group previews 2004 new model launches

by Grant Yoxon

At least nine new models to debut before 2005

Detroit – Following three years of cost cutting, Chrysler Group went on the offensive, previewing ten new or freshened models to US and Canadian media Monday afternoon. Chrysler Group CEO Dieter Zetsche said the company would roll out 25 new models over the next 36 months, in an unprecedented product renenewal for Chrysler.

DC execs with 300C and Magnum
Chrysler Group’s executive management team, from left: Trevor Creed, Senior Vice President, Design; Tom LaSorda, Executive Vice President, Manufacturing; Wolfgang Bernhard, Chief Operating Officer; Dieter Zetsche, President and Chief Executive Officer; Peter Rosenfeld, Executive Vice President, Procurement & Supply (effective 12-16-03); Joe Eberhardt, Executive Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, and Eric Ridenour, Executive Vice President, Product Development, show two of Chrysler’s all-new vehicles, the 2005 Chrysler 300C, left, and 2005 Dodge Magnum. Click image to enlarge

The press preview, at which photography was strictly forbidden, concluded the US portion of a Chrysler road show to bring the product renewal message to its dealers. Chrysler Group will bring the show to Canadian dealers at stopovers in Montreal and Toronto in December.

The product revival, most of which are 2005 models, includes:

  • Dodge Durango. The full size sport utility, priced at $2000 less than the previous model, was launched earlier this month as a 2004 model. Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler Executive VP, Global Sales, Marketing and Service, said the company has received 40,000 orders already for the new SUV.
  • Dodge Ram SRT-10 pickup. Powered by the 500 hp, 505 cubic inch Viper V-10, the Dodge Ram SRT-10, will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. The SRT-10 goes on sale in January.
  • PT Cruiser convertible. The top finally comes off the PT Cruiser in March. The drop top features fold and tumble rear seats and the first pass through trunk in a convertible. A turbocharged version of the two door convertible will be available.
  • Long wheelbase Jeep TJ. The TJ (Jeep Wrangler in the US) will be stretched 15 inches, providing 2 much needed inches for rear seat passengers and 13 for cargo. The Wrangler Unlimited will featureimproved off-road capability for steep hill climbs and a unique a “Sunrise” soft top, that allows the front of the top to be peeled back without removing the whole canvas. Look for the new TJ in April.
  • Chrysler 300C. Also in April, Chrysler’s rear wheel drive replacement for the LH cars arrives. The Chrysler 300C will offer both 3.5 litre V6 and Hemi V-8 power. With the Hemi, Chrysler says the 300C will do the 0 – 60 mph dash in 6.3 seconds. Prices are expected to range from US$25,000 to $35,000.
  • Dodge Magnum. The wagon version of the 300C should appear in May, with similar power options and pricing. Both the Magnum and the 300C will also be available with all-wheel-drive.
  • Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6. Also in May, the Crossfire gets some real performance when a supercharged version appears. With the supercharger, the Crossfire’s 3.2 litre single overhead cam V6 engine will produce 330 hp and propel the coupe to 60 mph in just over 5 seconds. The SRT-6 option will also be available on the new Crossfire Roadster, which will debut in September.
  • Dodge Dakota pickup. The mid-size truck, the only small pick up available with a V8 gets a complete redo for 2005 and should make it to dealers in September. The Dakota we saw was a four-door quad cab with a very roomy rear passenger compartment.
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee. An all new Grand Cherokee, complete with hemi power, will come next November. The new Grand Cherokee will feature Chrysler’s next generation four-wheel-drive system, Quadro Drive II.

Also in November, the Jeep Liberty will receive a mild refreshening, with a new front end.

Conspicuously present – because it or something resembling it remained covered throughout the preview – was Chrysler’s new minivan, rumoured to feature second and third row seats that fold into the floor for a wide-open cargo space. The minivan is expected to be revealed at the Detroit auto show in January.

Chrysler also showed journalists video of three new concept cars that will debut in Detroit in January. The Dodge Sling Shot is powered by a three cylinder engine that can take it from 0-60 mph in approximately 10 seconds while delivering up to 45 miles to the gallon. The Jeep Treo, which first appeared at the Tokyo Motor Show in October, combines fuel-cell technology to drive electric motors at each wheel with an innovative use of drive-by-wire technology.

The third concept – and one likely to see production – is the Jeep Rescue, a large TJ-like SUV (123 inche wheelbase, 80 inches wide) that would compete with the Hummer H2. Power for the Rescue comes from an all new Cummins 6.1 litre diesel that produces 325 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. The new Cummins will also be available next year in Dodge’s Heavy Duty Ram trucks.

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