AUBURN HILLS – Chrysler Group says it is looking at providing de-contented versions of its popular Chrysler 300 sedan to coachbuilders for conversion into long-wheelbase models.

The auto maker does not expect to make a final decision soon because retail demand for the car remains strong, a top executive says.

Long-wheelbase Chrysler 300

Talk of building a long-wheelbase 300 started when Accubilt Inc. and Quality Metalcraft Inc. approached Chrysler with a completed version of the 300 that was stretched 6-ins. (15.2 cm) The vehicle debuted at the Specialty Equipment Market Assn. show in Las Vegas last month.

To provide a sedan ready for conversion, Chrysler would build 300s without headliners or door panels. The longer roof and doors needed to accommodate the added length of the vehicle would require coachbuilders to design a unique headliner and door panels.

Quality Metalcraft President Michael Chetcuti tells Ward’s he envisions production of up to 500 units of the long-wheelbase 300s annually for livery fleet and retail customers.

With or without Chrysler we would probably build 500 units or less,” he says.

Currently General Motors Corp.’s Cadillac Div. and Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln brand hold the lion’s share of the livery vehicle business. Cadillac sells as many as 750 units of its DeVille extended sedan, while Lincoln does approximately 1,000 units of its Lincoln Town Car L sedan. Chetcuti says the total market for extended-wheelbase cars is approximately 2,000-3,000 units annually.

One thing is certain: Chrysler will not build a stretched version of the 300 itself, according to design chief Trevor Creed.

He says Chrysler is intrigued by the idea of providing the de-contented sedans, although the auto maker currently is concentrating on meeting the retail demand for its rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

“We can’t build enough cars to satisfy normal customers, so we’re not looking at this point in time to expand into areas where it just means the average customer cannot get a car from the dealership,” Creed says. “There’s not a rush timeframe on that. It’s just an interesting business proposition that has come our way.”

Besides meeting demand for the current line of RWD cars, Chrysler is in the final stages of preparing its Brampton, Ont., Canada, assembly plant for production of the Dodge Charger in early 2005.