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200 sedan is key car in Chrysler comeback

Automotive News reports on Chrysler's upcoming 200 sedan.

Chrysler 200
The 200: 80,000 a year?
Chrysler 200
The 200: 80,000 a year? Chrysler

DETROIT--Chrysler Group, an also-ran in the crucial mid-size car segment for several years, is pinning hopes for a revival on the 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan.

The 200, a reskinned and re-engineered version of the slow-selling Sebring, reaches dealerships late this year. At a meeting in Orlando last month, Chrysler told dealers it expects to sell about 80,000 200s annually, not including fleet sales, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Chrysler sold 33,606 Sebrings through September, fleet and retail.

The mid-size sedan segment, which includes the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Ford Fusion, is ferociously competitive. The Sebring is selling at about 1.5 percent of the segment through September, according to IHS Automotive.

Said Rebecca Lindland, an IHS analyst: "They have a lot of ground to make up in terms of restoring that product."

IHS forecasts that Chrysler will sell up to 50,000 200s in 2011 and again in 2012, including a convertible version. The 200 convertible will arrive next spring.

Bill Golling, owner of Golling Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep in suburban Detroit, is optimistic about the 200's prospects.

"The 200 is radically changed" from the Sebring, he said. "I certainly expect big things to occur as far as volume. The Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion--you look at that whole segment; it's well over 1 million cars. We'll have a very competitive entry in that segment to go after it."

Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham declined to comment on volume projections but said, "Current owners love their Sebrings, but the 200, we believe, will interest additional consumers as well."

Before Chrysler's 2009 bankruptcy, the company's owner at the time, Cerberus Capital Management, had given up plans to do midcycle improvements on the slow-selling Sebring.

When Fiat took over after bankruptcy, CEO Sergio Marchionne decided to breathe new life into the car. At the 2010 Detroit auto show, he told Automotive News that the Sebring would be so extensively retooled that the Sebring name would go away.

Chrysler has transformed the car's exterior with new front and rear fascias, fenders, grille (with the Chrysler brand's new blue-winged badge), hood, rear decklid, headlights and taillights.

Chrysler also will offer the 200 with the new Pentastar V-6 engine teamed with a six-speed transaxle. The 200 also gets an upgraded suspension and interior.

(Source: Automotive News)