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First Drive: Chrysler 200 Convertible

More than a rental car.

by on Jan.28, 2011

Chrysler restyles open-air motoring with the new 200 Convertible.

Convertibles are back in style at Chrysler Group.  The maker that helped spur the revival of open-top motoring, back in the ‘80s, has updated its Sebring into a much more stylish and desirable offering that means it won’t just land with a thud in the daily rental fleets but actually appeal to retail customers.

The new Chrysler 200 Convertible has been given  a complete makeover for 2011 as part of the company’s far reaching effort to rebuild its product line and the effort has paid off handsomely, bringing  new life into what had been a neglected part of the company’s product line.

The welcome exterior changes first seen on the Chrysler 200 Coupe have been carried over – and include a new, well-integrated fascia as well as a new hood that gives the vehicle a remarkably improved appearance.  The changes to the front continue with the new, more elegant rear fascia as well as the new, redesigned Chrysler badges, which seem to fit nicely into the car.


First Look: Chrysler 200 Convertible

Image leak forces maker to reveal model early.

by on Jan.18, 2011

Chrysler's new 200 convertible will reach showrooms by spring.

The lackluster Chrysler Sebring Convertible is about to get a wee bit more stylish replacement.  The maker has officially released the first pictures of an all-new Chrysler 200 Convertible, which will go into production later this year.

Versions of both the 200 sedan and ragtop will make their debut, meanwhile, under the Lancia badge, in March, at the annual Geneva Motor Show.

Significantly redesigned, the 200 sedan was launched last year.  (Click Here for’s review.) But the maker was holding back on word of the convertible until an upcoming auto show preview.  At least that’s what it had planned until photos were unofficially leaked out to some Web outlets.

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That forced Chrysler to put out an official press release – and to trigger an angry outburst by photographer Webb Bland, who declared it “infuriating,” on his Facebook page, that “five weeks of careful planning and logistics (were) destroyed in an instant…by one lone, misguided idiot.”


Chrysler Introductions: 200, Town & Country and 300

After a depressing 2010 show, Detroit's smallest automaker comes back with a wealth of new products.

by on Jan.10, 2011

Chrysler's revamped 300 leads a resurgent lineup.

For the 2010 Detroit auto show, Chrysler’s stand was little more than an Dodge Ram mounted upside-down to the ceiling and journalists following CEO Sergio Marchionne around the sparse display.

The automaker’s display at the 2011 North American International Show is markedly different, and Chrysler’s people know it. Chrysler marketing chief Olivier Francois started his introduction of the new Chrysler 300 by talking about how grave the situation was at last year’s show.The biggest problem? New products. Chrysler hardly had anything to show.

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“This is a story about how people react when their backs are against the ropes,” Francois said in his heavily accented English.

Today’s Chrysler isn’t quite back from the brink, but the outlook from Auburn Hills is far rosier than a year ago. Jeep has the Grand Cherokee, which is getting rave reviews and Dodge’s Durango is getting positive early returns.


First Drive: 2011 Chrysler 200

Newly renamed compact might make you forget the Sebring Ever existed.

by on Nov.15, 2010

The 2011 Chrysler 200 could make you forget the dreeadful old Sebring.

It’s been a busy year for the folks at Chrysler.  Almost exactly a year ago, new CEO Sergio Marchionne outlined an aggressive plan to turn the once-bankrupt company around.

And if anyone doubted him, the proof will soon start rolling into showrooms – starting with a new compact car called the 200 that took less than one calendar year for the Chrysler design and engineering teams to create.

After spending an afternoon in the new 200,  the much-needed replacement for the dreadful Chrysler Sebring, we came to see that the maker finally has found a credible new competitor for the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry.

The new 200 looks very much like a sedan version of the 2011 Town & Country minivan, with many of the same visual cues in the grille, headlamps, air intakes and front bumper.

Compared to the old Sebring, the 200 is much sleeker and more rounded at the nose, and carries a better aerodynamic drag coefficient thanks to steps such as lowering the front end 12 millimeters and the rear end six millimeters.

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At the rear, there’s a cross-car chrome bar between the new LED taillamps and another chrome bar down between the exhaust outlets that serve to widen the look of the car.  All Chrysler models will have a new “wing” logo in brushed metal and blue paint to replace the old traditional wing logo and signify the birth of yet another version of Chrysler.

The roof and doors of the 200 came from the Sebring, but the entire nose, decklid, rear fascia, interior and chassis have been replaced with better and more modern stuff, and the old V-6 engine has been tossed in favor of the new corporate 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which puts out 283 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque, coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission.


First Look: 2011 Chrysler 200

Midsized model to replace much-maligned Sebring.

by on Oct.12, 2010

Chrysler releases the first detailed pictures of the new 200 midsize sedan.

Chrysler has released the first full pictures of the 200 sedan, a new midsize offering that will replace the much-maligned Chrysler Sebring.

The upcoming launch of the Chrysler 200 marks a critical step in the planned revival of the Detroit automaker, which went through bankruptcy last year, emerging only with the help of a massive government bailout – which, in turn, was based on the U.S. maker’s effective takeover by Italy’s Fiat Automotive.

The once-popular Sebring largely crashed and burned following an ill-fated redesign a few years back.  Though it can cost as much as $100 million to launch an all-new nameplate, Chrysler officials decided they needed to start fresh and initially planned to name the redesigned sedan Nassau, in honor of a popular concept vehicle.

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But ultimately, they shifted gears and went with the Chrysler 200, a logical progression as the little brother of the brand’s full-size 300 sedan.

The new 200 will have a relatively short shelf-life, however, as it will be replaced, in several years, by a ground-up alternative sharing one of Fiat’s global platforms.  But the 2011 200 gives a good indication of where the brand is now going.


Marchionne: Chrysler Rushing New, Fiat-Based Models to Market

CEO believes U.S. maker on track to beat 2010 targets; IPO could be coming.

by on May.11, 2010

Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne wants to rush more product into U.S. showrooms ASAP.

Desperately short of new product, Chrysler may get a helping hand from Italian partner Fiat sooner than originally planned, according to the man who heads both companies.

Several compact-based Fiats could be on the market by the end of the 2011 calendar year, said Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne, in a conference call.

Meanwhile, said the Canadian-educated Marchionne, Chrysler is on target to beat its financial targets for this year, which could make it possible to push for an IPO, or public stock offering, “as quickly as we can.”

After a series of significant setbacks, Chrysler has been reporting a smattering of positive news, including an unexpected first-quarter operating profit of $143 million and an April sales increase that was the maker’s biggest year-over-year gain since 2005.

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But analysts contend that the maker still needs an infusion of new models to truly move ahead.  The plan calls for relatively little in the coming months, though the replacement for the Grand Cherokee is considered a first critical step.


Sebring Name Survives

Chrysler thinks twice about Nassau name change.

by on May.10, 2010

Chrysler apparently will stick with the Sebring name despite the failures of the current model, shown here at its 2007 model-year launch.

Chrysler Group LLC has apparently had some second thoughts about replacing the Sebring name.  Despite a flurry of speculation in the press that the name was history, the change from Sebring to Nassau has been scuttled.

Instead it now appears, after  some internal debate, Chrysler is prepared to keep the Sebring badhr around  for at least a little while longer, according to one inside source with first-hand knowledge of the naming  debate.

“As of last week, the name was still Sebring,” the source said.

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The proposed name change was widely reported but was never confirmed officially by anyone at Chrysler after the stories first appeared. Insiders indicated that the “new” Chryler had hoped to make a break with the past, a strategy that seemed simple and logical considering the abject failure of the latest-generation midsize sedans and convertibles, a product of a now-abandoned joint venture between Chrysler and Japan’s Mitsubishi.


New Name, New Look For Chrysler’s Midsize

Sebring soon to make way for new Nassau.

by on Apr.29, 2010

The look of the 2007 Chrysler Nassau concept will influence the next-generation midsize sedan, but the 2012 Chrysler Nassau won't be its clone.

The “new” Chrysler is likely to look but sound a lot different from the old version of the automaker.  Indications of the grand transformation conceived by Chrysler’s new and secretive CEO Sergio Marchionne will start coming into view later this year.

In the months to come, the market will get its first look at new versions of both the Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as the Chrysler Sebring.  The SUV will be new almost from  the ground up, but while the revised version of the midsize sedan is largely a re-skinning, it will also get a brand new name: Nassau.

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The move is a critical one, say analysts, in cutting the company’s ties to failed past products.  Once a strong part of the Chrysler line-up, the most recent version of the Sebring was a market disaster, an ill-fated execution that emerged from a now-abandoned partnership with the struggling Japanese maker, Mitsubishi Motors.


Chrysler Buying Back Plant Tossed in Chapter 11

But no clear plans for Sterling Heights facility after 2012.

by on Feb.19, 2010

The plant builds sedans, including Chrysler Sebring. Sales are down since its 2007 debut.

As part of its bankruptcy, last year, Chrysler abandoned seven factories; but now the automaker wants one of those facilities back, and plans to buy back the assembly line, in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

The move, if approved by a U.S. bankruptcy court judge, next month, would give the automaker a place to produce midsize sedans like the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger – both of which are due for “significan” redesigns as part of Chrysler’s upcoming product blitz.

The updated models are scheduled to remain in production through the 2012 model-year.  The following year, the U.S. maker switches to an all-new platform developed by its Italian partner, Fiat.

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Chrysler will not say whether Sterling Heights would pick up any new products based on that new platform but going forward, the company intends to increase the flexibility of its plants, according to CEO Sergio Marchionne.  That would make it possible for the Sterling Heights plant to produce any number of future Chrysler offerings, indeed, numerous platforms simultaneously.   (more…)