Chrysler Unveils New Midsized Sedan to Dealers

Chrysler 200Officials from Chrysler Group unveiled a new midsized sedan at an event with some 1,800 dealers Tuesday in Florida as the struggling automaker continues to revamp its aging fleet of cars and trucks.

The new Chrysler 200 sedan, which replaces the slow-selling Sebring, goes on sale later this year and will compete with some of the most popular cars in the U.S. auto industry, including Toyota Motor's (TM) Camry and the Accord from Honda Motor (HMC). In naming the sedan 200, Chrysler hopes to build on branding scheme established by the 300 full-sized sedan.

Chrysler unveiled a few teaser photos to the media, showing the car's swept-back headlights and a new logo on the grille. Though newly styled, the 200 makes due with the Sebring's underpinnings. The 200 is just one of 15 new or revised models the company is unveiling at the event, being held in Orlando. They include freshened versions of the Chrysler 300, Jeep Patriot compact SUV and Chrysler Town & Country minivan, which features a new V6 engine.

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Chrysler began selling a new Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV in July, and took the wraps off the 2011 Jeep Wrangler last month. Plans also call for Fiat to begin selling its Fiat 500 small car early next year. Chrysler dealers who want to sell the 500 in the U.S. should have new showrooms up and running by the end of February, a Chrysler spokesman told Bloomberg News on Monday.

Tuesday's meeting gave CEO Sergio Marchionne his first chance to meet with such a large group of Chrysler dealers since he took over the Auburn Hills, Mich., automaker's operations last year. Marchionne, who also heads Italy's Fiat, has committed to replacing or updating 75% of Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles by year's end.

Despite the freshening of its lineup, Chrysler has a long way to go to once again become a viable company. Like its much-larger crosstown rival, General Motors, Chrysler succumbed to a government-sponsored bankruptcy last year, which it emerged from in June 2009.

Unlike GM, however, Chrysler has yet to return to profitability. In the quarter ending June, Chrysler reported a loss of $172 million, though that was smaller than the near-$200 million loss it saw in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, GM has seen two profitable quarters and has filed to once again become a publicly traded company, with a stock sale expected by November.
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