Group LLC expects record attendance when it hosts a ’11 model preview for dealers Tuesday in Florida.
The event marks the auto maker’s first “dealer announcement” meeting since 2007 and more than 75% of’s 2,314 franchises will be represented – a new milestone, says spokesman Ralph Kisiel.
Dealers registered for the preview account for 90% of Chrysler’s U.S. sales volume, he adds. CEO Sergio Marchionne will deliver the keynote address. In addition, all brand chiefs will be present: Fred Diaz (Ram), Ralph Gilles (Dodge), Mike Manley (Jeep), Olivier Francois (Chrysler), Laura Soave () and Pietro Gorlier (MOPAR).
Marchionne has said Chrysler’s near-term product lineup will be at full strength by the fourth quarter. That marks the culmination of an initiative, announced late last year, to upgrade 75% of the auto maker’s vehicles.
“They aren’t just little changes,” says Bill Golling, president and CEO of Golling Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Bloomfield Hills, MI.
Expect the Dodge brand – which has accounted for 37.2% of Chrysler sales through August, according to Ward’s data – to be front and center with the redesigned-for-’11 Durango fullsize SUV. It shares a platform with the ’11 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Historically a top-six performer among U.S.-market brands, Dodge has fallen behind 6th-placethrough August, while dueling with Kia for 7th , according to Ward’s data.
Dodge now has a 5-3 edge over Kia in the 2010 monthly tallies, rebounding in August from a July shortfall to eclipse the Korean brand 35,364 to 32,465. Kisiel credits the performance, ni part, to Dodge Nitro SUV sales, which soared 72.5% compared with like-2009.
The Nitro is benefiting from package realignments marked by an aggressive, Gilles-inspired color and trim strategy, he says.
Golling is particularly keen on the Dodge Charger fullsize sedan, which – like its Chrysler 300 platform-mate is all new for ’11.
The auto maker has been mum on details but promises the Avenger midsize sedan and Grand Caravan minivan – along with their respective Chrysler-brand platform-mates, the Sebring and Town & Country – will benefit from “extensive” exterior, interior and powertrain improvements.
The Journey cross/utility vehicle gets the same treatment on its interior and powertrain.
Chassis enhancements to the Journey, Avenger, Grand Caravan and their related Chrysler cousins are described as “upgrades.”
Jeep products profit from a similar augmentations.
“When would you ever see that kind of speed out of (a major auto maker)?” asks Golling, whose interest also is piqued by Chrysler’s recent investments in powertrain technology.
The auto maker is pumping $300 million into its transmission manufacturing complex in Kokomo, IN, to accommodate production of a new 8-speed automatic gearbox starting in 2013.
The Florida dealer gathering comes hard on the heels of an Aug. 30 event, hosted by Soave in Detroit.
That’s when dealers got their first close-up glimpse of the500 destined for North America, along with the rundown of Chrysler’s requirements to sell the minicar, expected in U.S. showrooms by year’s end.