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Chrysler shows off updated models

Chrysler revealed updated models at a closed-door meeting yesterday, though it didn’t release photos. Despite demand for smaller vehicles, the company’s sales still rely on trucks like the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which arrived at dealers in June. Chrysler revealed updated models at a closed-door meeting yesterday, though it didn’t release photos. Despite demand for smaller vehicles, the company’s sales still rely on trucks like the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which arrived at dealers in June. (Carlos Osorio/ Associated Press)
By Antonio Gonzalez and Tom Krisher
Associated Press / September 15, 2010

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Chrysler executives revealed 15 new or updated models to thousands of dealers yesterday, hoping the new models will boost sales and make the company profitable for the first time since it left bankruptcy protection last year.

The models, shown at a closed-door meeting in Orlando for about 2,400 dealers from across the world, included a revamped Chrysler Sebring midsize sedan that was renamed the Chrysler 200.

Also shown were updates of the Chrysler Town & Country minivan and Jeep Patriot small sport utility vehicle that look similar to 2010 models.

The gathering was Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne’s first large-scale meeting with dealers. He has run Chrysler since it left bankruptcy in June 2009.

The event was attended by about three-quarters of the company’s US dealers.

Many of the dealers are hurting as customers bypassed their showrooms for newer models from other automakers. That is most evident in midsize cars, a big part of the market in which the Sebring and Dodge Avenger fell far short of competitors.

“In the past, the factory kind of begged you to take the Sebring. If you did it, you were kind of just doing it to be a team player,’’ said dealer Frank M. Byers Jr. of Stuart, Fla. “I think the 200 will really change that.’’

New cars are important to Chrysler because it still is heavily reliant on truck sales, even though the US market has been shifting to smaller vehicles.

Because it takes three or four years to bring new cars to showrooms, all Chrysler can do is update its vehicles and survive until it can roll out totally new products with Fiat, said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executiveof Edmunds.com, an automotive website.

“They’re stuck with these sorts of refreshes,’’ Anwyl said. “I’m not sure if it’s enough to actually start to steal back some (market) share.’’

Chrysler said it reworked virtually everything in the 200, restyling the outside and upgrading the interior. The car is also quieter and has a new, more efficient V-6 engine and improved handling, the company said.

Chrysler’s sales are up 10 percent through August, but retail sales to everyday drivers dropped 18 percent. Less-profitable sales to rental-car companies made up much of Chrysler’s business. The automaker lost $369 million in the first half of the year.