The next-generation Dodge Neon will continue to be built at the Belvidere, IL, plant, but is unlikely to bear much resemblance to the current small car — or even continue to use the same name, a top Chrysler Group official tells WAW.

“Belvidere will make Neon successors,” confirms Richard Schaum, Chrysler Group head of product development, quality and passenger car operations.

They still will be C-segment in size, derived from Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s small-car platform. But as for the styling and look, “it's time to go in a new direction,” Schaum says. And the new direction is “not a 3-box car” along the lines of a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic.

There are no plans for Mitsubishi products from the shared platform to come out of Belvidere, says Schaum. “Mitsubishi will do their own unique vehicles, their own manufacturing.”

The car could be powered by an inline, 4-cyl. engine from a global family of small gasoline engines produced jointly by the Chrysler Group, Mitsubishi and Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd., ranging in size from 1.8L to 2.4L, for vehicles of all three car makers.

Schaum says final approval of the new world engine still is pending. Production likely would begin about two years after approval.

In other news, Schaum says there is no decision yet as to which Dodge Ram pickup plant will add assembly of the SRT-10 performance version, a product of the newly created PVO (Performance Vehicle Operations) division. “Either plant (St. Louis, MO, or Dodge City, MI) could handle it,” says Schaum of the souped-up Ram due in a year.

As for a Chrysler product from PVO, expect something in the '05 time frame, Schaum says.