Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Challenger, ENVI Coming from Chrysler

Musclecar, electric car on the way, Chrysler says.

Chrysler LLC officials have confirmed the production version of the two-door Dodge Challenger will be unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in February.

Camouflaged Challengers have been spotted driving around Detroit, and the car's retro exterior lines are making it easy to spot. Chrysler officials, however, declined to comment on when the new Challenger will reach showrooms.

Deborah Meyer, who joined Chrysler in mid-August after a tour of duty with Toyota, said it was going to be an exciting year for Chrysler. Meyer, in her first public appearance since joining Chrysler, told reporters she was looking forward to her mission with the new Chrysler.

Meyer did not have a hand in designing the marketing campaign for the Chrysler minivans that will go on sale Oct.1. The campaign is significantly toned down from recent ad runs for vehicles like the Nitro and Caliber. Those ads, and their controversial themes, left dealers bewildered and alienated some audiences, particularly the gay market.

The minivan campaign is family-oriented and takes deliberate aim at consumers in their 30s and 40s, who have children living with them at home and have very active lifestyles. The campaign also designed to spark some new life in a segment that some analysts have written off as dying.

ENVI for electrics

Chrysler also announced it is setting up a new organization to focus on bringing electric vehicles and related advanced-propulsion technologies to market. No date has been set for launching an all-electric Chrysler, but Chrysler will have hybrid SUVs ready in 2008.

The new organization, ENVI, will be headed Lou Rhodes, a Chrysler veteran. Rhodes will report to Frank Klegon, Chrysler executive vice president of product development, and Simon Boag, executive vice president of procurement and supply, who will serve as ENVI's co-chairman.

"The creation of ENVI allows us to focus on the development of a new generation of environmentally responsible Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles," said Robert Nardelli, Chrysler chairman and CEO. "Under Lou's leadership, ENVI will develop electric-propulsion vehicles that will provide customers with more fuel-efficient vehicle options."

Even though it is located within the company, ENVI will have an opportunity to create a unique, entrepreneurial culture all of its own, Chrysler officials said.

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