Although daily rental sales can harm a brand by diminishing residual values and public opinion of a vehicle, Gardner says large rental companies such as Enterprise will play a role in the new model’s launch.

Plans call for a number of high-contented Chrysler 200s to be sold to Enterprise’s top 100 U.S. outlets, allowing Chrysler to introduce the car to an audience that otherwise may not experience it.

“The only way that happens is if they rent a 200 and say what a spectacularly cool car it is and they’ll consider us in the future,” Gardner says. “So there’s a balance between having too few and too many (rental sales).

“It will be less fleet than the previous model, but we’re going to maintain what we need to in the fleet and rental business.”

The deal with Enterprise will be just one part of the 200’s marketing campaign, which Gardner says will be the largest of “any product we’ve launched over the last four to five years.”

Rolling out in the second quarter, it will involve TV, print, radio and social media elements.

Gardner says the automaker learned many lessons on how to launch a vehicle with the recent debuts of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram fullsize pickup.

“We know what worked and what didn’t,” he says. “So it’s a fairly methodical marketing launch plan that’s been set in stone now for the best part of six months. We’re working through the creative side of it right now.”

While Chrysler put considerable effort and expense into upgrading the new 200, product planners decided not to invest in some options and technologies.

One was offering a manual transmission, which some 200 competitors, such as the Fusion, make available. Gardner says the 200’s paddle shifters and 9-speed automatic gearbox outperform manual transmissions and adds few people seek manuals anymore.

The same can be said for a diesel engine, which currently is a tough business case, though Gardner doesn’t rule out adding one in the future.

A hybrid version of the 200 is being considered, but there are no concrete plans to offer one, he says.

As for discontinuing the convertible, Gardner says it came down to a choice of where to best spend the money.

“It’s a niche segment, expensive to get in, and the volumes aren’t going to be there,” he says. “Would I like to play in that segment? Maybe. But the reality is, if I’m going to do something, I want to do it right.”

bpope@wardsauto.com