Who says there’s safety in numbers?

The risk that comes with redesigning the Chrysler 300 midsize sedan is “very high,” says Imre Molnar, dean of Detroit’s College of Creative Studies.

But early reaction to photos of the pentastar brand’s flagship suggest design changes for model-year ’12 add up to success.

“It seemed to look fine,” Molnar says, describing his impression of photos released by Chrysler Group LLC. “I’m curious to see what it looks like in the flesh.”

The redesigned 300 makes its debut next month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Chrysler says key exterior changes include:

  • An all-new grille
  • A windshield angle that affords a 15% improvement in outward visibility.
  • A “distinct windswept A-line” that highlights the sedan’s long wheelbase.
  • Jewel-like tail lamps.

The rear decklid also features a lip spoiler to accentuate the brand’s redesigned badge.

The car also benefits from interior upgrades that include wider use of soft-touch materials and a new corporate steering wheel.

The changes establish the 300 as “the American luxury sedan,” claims Alfred Flores, vice chairman of the auto maker’s national dealer council and principal of Spring Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Spring, TX. “(Dealers) are all anxiously awaiting its arrival.”

But Molnar notes Chrysler had a lot to work with.

“That vehicle hasn’t aged at all,” he says, adding it ranks among his all-time favorite American car designs. “It’s spectacular in its original guise.”

Despite the don’t-mess-with-success business credo, Chrysler is compelled to make changes, having made few since it launched as a rear-wheel-drive car in 2004.

Named North American Car of the Year in 2005, annual U.S. sales of the 300 exceeded 100,000 units from 2004 through 2007. Twice it ranked among the nation’s top 15 best-selling cars, according to Ward’s data.

Through November, deliveries are tracking below 40,000 for full-year 2010.

The 11-month tally of 35,613 sales represents a 4.3% boost over like-2009. But same-period sales of all large cars is 10.8% ahead of last year.

emayne@wardsauto.com