The LX platform-underpinned 300 series (above, range-topping 300C SRT8) will get a makeover next year, the project having been mostly completed under its previous owners.



Chrysler will also roll out specific versions of its model range during the first quarter of next year, including 300 Sport edition, Town & Country Fashion Edition, PT Cruiser Final Edition and the Sebring Ocean Edition.

In terms of products the cupboard is almost bare for the Chrysler brand and the presentation of its future plans by new CEO Olivier François in part focused on the upmarket luxury quality targets that will tie Chrysler closely into Fiat's own Lancia brand, the two now being linked together, and with the Frenchman in charge to steer the fortunes of both.

François told the audience yesterday that he aims to turn Chrysler into a world class luxury brand with its own distinct prestige and style. "The market is crowded. We need to be distinctive," he told the meeting in Michigan yesterday. "I have no intention to mimic any other car company."

With its own slimmed down model range Lancia has focused on "product, network and marketing" as François says Chrysler also will do, and the Italian brand has seen its fair share of recent success on home turf, on the Italian market it has seen its sales climbing from 4.1 to 4.8 percent (the latter a 2009 estimate) over the last four years despite a reduction in total models from six to four. Francois also likened Chrysler's 300 series to Lancia own, now discontinued, flagship model, the Thesis, emphasising that they both ironically shared similarities.

The short-term priority for the Chrysler brand will be to "expand product portfolio, improve quality and craftsmanship, create exciting design, leverage relationship with Fiat Group and share platforms and to create cars that embody timeless elegance."

Following the path François has beaten at Lancia of creating a string of unusual niche versions that are co-branded, in particular, with fashionable brands, Chrysler will also roll out specific versions of its model range during the first quarter of next year, including a 300 Sport edition that will "target youth", a Town & Country Fashion Edition minivan that will "target affluent young families", while the almost extinct the PT Cruiser will eke out a few more sales with a "Final Edition" that will be more distinctive and aimed squarely at "trend setters", while the Sebring Ocean Edition will curiously "target ocean states".

Chrysler has the most difficult job ahead of all the brands in the five year product plan and will have to wait longest for new models to arrive and is left to struggle on with an array of unpopular cars. The poorly received Sebring sedan will get an upgrade late next year which will be aimed at improving its marketing positioning which was sunk when previous owners Daimler abandoned upmarket pretentions for the brand when launching the current model. Also in Q4 2010 there will be a quick refresh for the Town & Country minivan. The LX platform underpinned 300 series will get a makeover next year, the project having been mostly completed under its previous owners. The phasing out of the PT Cruiser will leave Chrysler with just three key products through 2011 before a Fiat C-Evo platform-based C-segment "compact sedan" arrives in 2012 and that will herald the start of a new model revival for Chrysler. The picture will really pick up for Chrysler in 2013 with three new models planned: an all-new B-segment car built on Fiat architecture while in D-segment the Sebring will be replaced by a new Fiat-based car alongside a similar segment "crossover" offspring. The final model in the five year plan will be a new Town & Country, coming in 2014, which will be launched again with its platform sister, Dodge's Caravan.

Instead of new models now, Chrysler will have to make to with a robust new marketing strategy to reposition the brand and a focus on fashion in the vein of Lancia. The brand will see a new plan for the layout of its showrooms rolled out, glossier brochures, an intensive advertising campaign, an emphasis on stylish motor show stands, merchandising, a new logo, and new websites.

© 2009 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed