Chrysler Planning Turnaround by 2012
Throughout the first three major shows of this auto show season (Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago), Chrysler Group LLC has been relatively quiet as far as new vehicle introductions or even concept vehicles. Now, according to the Automotive News, Chrysler is getting ready to make up for lost time with a slew of changes including new models, significantly updated models and new powertrain technologies. In total, AN says that Chrysler is preparing to launch as many as 15 new or refreshed models into its Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep lineups within a year - not including the Fiat 500 which has been confirmed for a North American introduction toward the end of this year.
Some of the biggest news for Chrysler includes the addition of the all-new Pentastar V-6 engine and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission designed and engineered by Fiat. The first model to introduce the anticipated new engine will be the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which made its initial debut last year at the 2009 New York International Auto Show, and it will go on into production this spring. As for the sporty new transmission, it will first be offered in the replacement for the Chrysler Sebring which is expected by the end of this year likely as a 2012 model.
Apparently the styling and the quality of the current Chrysler Sebring were so inferior that not only is Chrysler giving the car a complete makeover inside and out, but it will also be dropping the Sebring nameplate which has been in use since 1995. In order to become more competitive with luxury midsize sedans, the new Chrysler sedan and convertible will receive new exterior styling, a more luxurious and attractive interior as well as a much more advanced and responsive powertrain including the Pentastar V-6. There is no indication as to what direction Chrysler is taking with the all-new sedan, but it very well borrow styling cues and its name from the popular 2009 Chrysler 200C EV Concept. The related Dodge Avenger will also get styling and interior updates, but to a much lesser degree, and it will also add the new powertrain options.
Stepping up from the midsize sedans, Chrysler will also be redesigning the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger later this year for 2012. These popular full-size sedans will get major changes to just about every aspect of the cars. Both cars will get new designs that are completely different from the current models, but each will be getting a more detailed cabin and an updated rear suspension design. The styling of the new 300 has been partially unveiled on multiple occasions showing the new design, while the Charger's new look is likely to take cues from the 1999 Dodge Charger RT Concept. As for the rear suspension, the current LX platform shares its independent rear suspension with the previous Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and to break ties with Daimler AG, Chrysler is replacing the LX platform's rear suspension setup although a replacement and where it came from haven't been announced. Chrysler is also said to be revising the HEMI V-8 engine for the LX sedans and adding the Pentastar V-6 as the base engine.
Looking to become a bigger player in the full-size crossover SUV market, Dodge will be getting a successor to the Durango which could possible revive the Magnum nameplate. Unlike the current Dodge Durango, the 2012 Dodge Magnum will ride on a unibody platform shared with the new Grand Cherokee, but the new Dodge model will offer a three-row seating arrangement. It is likely that the new full-size Dodge crossover will be built alongside the Grand Cherokee at Chrysler's Jefferson North Assembly Plant. It too will use the new Pentastar V-6 engine.
With Toyota and Honda both introducing new minivans for 2011, Chrysler is looking to retain its domination of the minivan market by redesigning the Chrysler Town & Country and updating the Dodge Grand Caravan during the fourth quarter of this year for 2012. Both minivans will get the Pentastar V-6 and a restyled interior, but the Chrysler version will get a major styling update to better distinguish it from the Dodge minivan. This means that the front end, rear bumper and taillights are likely to change to give it a more upscale look to fit Chrysler's improving luxury image. The Dodge Grand Caravan will also get styling changes but to a much lesser extent.
As for the popular 2011 Jeep Wrangler, it will receive a slight design update, but the biggest improvement will be the addition of the Pentastar V-6 under the hood. Other Jeep models to receive updates include the 2011 Jeep Liberty which will get a refreshed exterior design and the 2012 Jeep Compass and 2012 Jeep Patriot which will both be getting updated exterior designs. Finally, the 2012 Dodge Journey will be getting an all-new interior, a restyled front end and the Pentastar V-6 engine. The Dodge Journey was introduced for 2009, and its biggest downfall has been the design of the interior.
It isn't clear when or where Chrysler plans to unveil its new and updated models, but according to the given timeline there are only two major auto shows remaining: New York next month and Los Angeles in December.