Chrysler to sell new Fiat designs under Dodge nameplate

Chrysler Group LLC plans to introduce three new Dodge brand cars, and possibly a midsized truck as part of a larger plan to rejuvenate the brand and sell more vehicles. The beleaguered automaker also said its finances are improving, reporting it broke even in September and had $5.7 billion in cash on hand. That's up from $4 billion in June, the month in which the company exited bankruptcy protection following a deal with Fiat (FIATY) which gave the Italian automaker a controlling stake in Chrysler.

The three new cars -- a subcompact, a compact sedan and a midsized sedan -- are Fiat designs, the New York Times reported, citing advance copies of presentations given to reporters. The presentations are part of a daylong meeting Chrysler is holding Wednesday at its headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., to lay out its five-year plan to reorganize and once again become profitable.
The plan calls for the new car models to be introduced in 2012 and 2013. Chrysler previously announced it would phase out Dodge's current midsized sedan, the slow-selling Avenger. Sales of the Avenger, as with other Chrysler models, benefited from the U.S. government's "cash for clunkers" program, but were still down 45 percent in the year ending October. Sales of the Avenger's sister car, the Chrysler Sebring, fared even worse, having dropped 69 percent during the same period.

The midsized truck being considered would debut in 2011 and replace the Dodge Dakota. No details were provided about the design, but the model would likely be sold under the Dodge Ram brand, unlike the Dakota, and provide better fuel efficiency. Though smaller than a full-sized pickup, the Dakota gets about the same gas mileage.

Chrysler's new plan also stipulates how the company intends to improve sales under the leadership of Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne, who also serves as Fiat's CEO. "All expectations both internally and externally will be met," Marchionne told reporters.

"The success of Chrysler and the auto industry is important to U.S. economic revival," Chrysler Chairman C. Robert Kidder said in comments to reporters ahead of the meeting, according to The New York Times. "The problems that led to the bankruptcy of the pre-petition Chrysler can be solved."

The U.S. government owns 10 percent of Chrysler, which has received $12.5 billion since December to prevent its collapse. The automaker and its finance arm are two of the companies that received money under the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program.
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