Chrysler dealers see second push of new models since bankruptcy

Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:22am IST

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* Dealers shown two Alfa Romeo models to come to U.S.

* Chrysler 100 subcompact, Chrysler 200 that looks like Dart

* Most Jeep models to take on Grand Cherokee's look

* CEO Marchionne: "We cannot afford to rest"

By Bernie Woodall

Sept 10 (Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC dealers came away from a day-long company show led by CEO Sergio Marchionne in Las Vegas on Monday confident that they will be selling a lineup of more competitive cars and trucks over the next two years, several dealers said.

Marchionne and chiefs of brands including those of Chrysler's majority owner Fiat SpA, showed 66 different cars and truck model variations to be introduced by 2014, up from 29 shown two years ago at a similar dealer meeting in Orlando.

At Orlando in 2010, Marchionne introduced the first wave of new models since the bankruptcy that have helped lead Chrysler to 29 consecutive months of year-on-year monthly sales gains and a rise of the U.S. market share this year to 11.1 percent from 8.9 percent at the end of 2009.

The 66 cars and trucks shown on a two-tiered stage at the MGM Grand on Monday represented the fulfillment of promises made by the manufacturer in Orlando, Marchionne told representatives of 2,600 dealerships from around the world, several dealers and the company said. Some 2,353 of those dealerships are in the United States.

The 178 U.S. Fiat dealers were shown two Alfa Romeo models that will come to their showrooms and Chrysler dealers were shown an all-new Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan that is markedly different than the current version and looks a lot like the 2013 Dodge Dart, several dealers said.

Chrysler dealers will also have a subcompact, the Chrysler 100, dealers said.

Jeep dealers were shown a subcompact version of a crossover vehicle and future versions of the Patriot, Compass and Liberty that all take the more aerodynamic shape of the current Grand Cherokee, said Chuck Eddy, a dealer from Ohio.

The company would not comment on the vehicles shown on Monday.

"Compared to the show two years ago, this was like a lovefest," said Don Lee, president of Lee Auto Malls, which has two Chrysler dealerships in Maine.

"Two years ago I came away with the feeling that Marchionne had a good solid plan and that he needed to put a team in place to implement it. Now, he's done just that," said Lee, in a telephone interview with Reuters from Las Vegas.

In recessionary 2009, Chrysler faced liquidation before a government-sponsored bailout and bankruptcy and elimination of hundreds of U.S. dealerships.

Fiat and Marchionne took over management of the No.3 U.S. automaker in June 2009, after two years of ownership by a private equity firm left showrooms with products that were rated near the bottom of quality ratings.

"We cannot afford to stop now," Marchionne told dealers on Monday, according to a video provided by Chrysler. "We cannot afford to rest. We need to stay focused and engaged."

Longtime dealer Eddy, said executives from the company's brands, including Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram Truck, SRT, and Fiat, were much more humble than were Chrysler executives of the past after several-year runs of success.

"You can tell who their boss is," said Eddy, indicating that Marchionne sets the tone. "They are not resting on their laurels.

"I can remember the days when previous management, through the 1970s, the 1980s and 1990s, would rest on their laurels," said Eddy. "They would see growth and profit and they would rest and not reload the pipeline with new products." (Reporting By Bernie Woodall; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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