Find or Sell any Parts for Your Vehicle in USA

After a miss with the Sebring, Chrysler resets its upscale mission

Mon, 22 Nov 2010

With the 2011 200 sedan, due in December, the Chrysler brand is taking another shot at the vast mid-sized sedan market, a target it missed badly with the Sebring.

The 200, derived from the Sebring, resets the brand mission: refined design, luxury touches inside, a quiet ride and responsive handling--at affordable prices.

The approach will be shared by the reworked Chrysler Town & Country minivan, also due in December, and the reworked 2012 Chrysler 300 sedan, which arrives in March.

At a press event in California last week, Chrysler brand CEO Olivier Francois said the brand is now all about aspiration for luxury.

"Clearly, luxury is not the main territory of Chrysler," says Francois, a native of France who also runs Fiat's Lancia brand and marketing for all Chrysler Group brands. "Chrysler's mission is to bridge the gap between aspiration and ownership."

That means taking design cues from luxury brands, such as black stitched leather seats and steering wheels, but not the price tags.

"The Chrysler brand is and has always been the design brand of the group--not only style but style with purpose." Francois said.

Chrysler brings additional customers that the Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands don't cater to, he said, and can be more urban and feminine.

Chrysler will be positioned upscale from Dodge, particularly in minivans. Chrysler Group will divide minivan sales in half. The Town & Country will play in the $30,000-plus segment, while the Dodge Grand Caravan will seek customers in the sub-$30,000 segment.

Meanwhile, Francois said the 200 and Town & Country have different objectives for the brand.

"With the 200, we are reaching out to expand our reach with new customers. Here we have to conquest" in the industry's largest segment, a market where Francois admits Chrysler has been a nonfactor.

The 200, though based on the Sebring, looks and drives like a different car. Its design features a new chrome grille and the blue winged badge. That look will be shared by the rest of the Chrysler family, including the Town & Country.

The 200 will come in four trim levels: entry LX, Touring, Limited and an S model, which won't be available until spring. The LX starts at $19,995 including shipping, while the Limited starts at $24,995. The 200 will compete against domestic competitors such as the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion.

The Town & Country, already a major player in the minivan segment, will have a different job, said Francois: "We just want to reinforce our position and regain the customers we lost due to the competition being very aggressive."

The marketing launches of the Town & Country and 200 will be in early 2011. Chrysler has not chosen its advertising agencies, said Francois.

Following the Town & Country and 200 will be the reworked 2012 Chrysler 300 large rear-wheel-drive sedan, which arrives in March. The 200 convertible, which will be shown this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show, arrives in April.

Those four vehicles will sustain the Chrysler brand until Fiat-based vehicles arrive in 2012 and 2013.

By Bradford Wernle- Automotive News