Ram pickup is only new Chrysler for ’10

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ram pickup is only new Chrysler for ’10

Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News

Chrysler Group LLC has only one all-new vehicle for 2010 but is adding fuel-efficient versions of existing products and making more features standard in a lineup that must carry it through next year.

The single new offering is the heavy-duty Dodge Ram full-size pickup. But the new Chrysler, in partnership with Fiat SpA, is hoping some pricing changes and fuel-efficiency increases will help bridge the gap until new vehicles arrive in 2011 and Fiat-engineered small cars are introduced.

Details of Chrysler’s 2010 model offerings, released today, pale against those of crosstown competitors. But consumers may not notice, said Jim Hall, with 2953 Analytics LLP in Birmingham. Ford Motor Co., for example, has already advertised new models, including the F-150 and Mustang, so consumers may not still think of them as new, he said.

"The saving grace for Chrysler is that it’s a crummy market," Hall said, adding the dearth would be more evident in a hot market.

The automaker must make the most of what it has, he said. Success will largely depend on how the products are marketed.

Even that is still being pinned down as Chrysler reviews its advertising contracts with Omnicon Group LLC’s BBDO and looking at what other agencies have to offer.

"As we launch a new company with a brand-focused organization, we are looking for fresh ways to communicate in the marketplace," said Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson. "As a result, we are currently soliciting creative input on a limited number of specific projects from a select group of agencies."

Jim Arrigo, a Florida dealer and co-chairman of the Chrysler Dealer Council, said promises of better marketing will make the difference. And dealers appreciate having more say in how vehicles are equipped as well as not having a glut of vehicles pushed on them that the company made on spec and often didn’t match what consumers wanted.

Entry-level versions offered

Among the changes for 2010 are the addition of entry-level versions of the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Patriot with a smaller 2.0-liter engine (2.4 liters was the smallest before) and five-speed manual transmission to provide 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway for the Dodge, slightly less for the Jeeps. These represent an improvement in highway driving of 2 mpg for the Dodge and 1 mpg for the Jeeps.

The Caliber also gets an upgrade to its interior with soft-touch materials, a new instrument panel, center storage bin, armrests and other accents.

Jeep Liberty, Dodge Nitro and the light-duty Ram pickup have a system for 2010 that turns off the fuel during deceleration to increase fuel efficiency. The driver will know it is happening when the "eco" button on the dashboard lights up. Much of the 2010 lineup, including all Jeeps, are equipped with the eco feature.

The Dodge Journey gains 1 mpg in efficiency with a 3.5-liter V-6.

Many of the tweaks to the lineup make optional features standard. Some vehicles come with a price cut, like the Dodge Caravan SXT minivan with a base price that is $2,180 lower for 2010.

The new heavy-duty Ram pickup comes as a crew cab for the first time, allowing Dodge to play in the highest volume part of the market. It will be followed up for 2011 with a new fleet of commercial trucks, as the Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs will debut.

And the 2011 model year is when the Jeep Grand Cherokee with Chrysler’s new Pentastar family of V-6 engines and the redesigned Chrysler 300 enter the market.

The outgoing Grand Cherokee drops the top-of-the-line Overland model for this year.

The Jeep Commander remains in the lineup in what could prove to be the final year for the slow-selling SUV.

The Chrysler brand will see changes to the creased hood on the Sebring sedan and convertible, which will be replaced with a conventional and smoother hood for 2010. New wheels complete the look. Inside, the gauges have been redesigned.

Chrysler’s new management decided to keep the Dodge Viper and extend the 2009 model year. There are four new colors, including a "snakeskin green" and a new interior with tan Nappa leather seats.

The Dodge Ram 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4×4 is Chrysler’s new offering for 2010. It comes with a crew cab.

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