California Autos Examiner

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How does Chrysler / Fiat solve the Avenger / Sebring problem?

The stunning Chrysler 200C EV concept

I remember when I first saw the Dodge Avenger: It was at the Paris auto show. I was in town to visit my mother-in-law and couldn't resist the opportunity to catch a major international exposition. After a few minutes of looking at the Avenger, it became clear that I could easily resist this mid-size sedan. Where the 300C had made waves on the show circuit, the Avenger couldn't manage a ripple. A drive in the Avenger months later would confirm things, the Avenger and Sebring were not competitive cars. One automotive scribe went so far as to say that the new Sebring was actually a step backwards from its predecessor. No manufacturer wants to hear criticism like that!

Enough about the past. So much has happened since these sedans were released that its not even worth trying to write a recap. We're at the dawn of a new era and it is time to think about the future. Fiat does have offerings in Europe, the so-called "Evo" platforms, that could spawn new Chrysler models. However, as many a manufacturer can tell you, European models don't always play well to American crowds. Just ask Ford about its Contour or Mazda about its previous generation Mazda6. Most European designs have to be pulled and stretched like taffy to enlarge them to American standards. Fiat simply isn't sure that its platforms, even if enlarged, can satisfy Americans. What to do? Well, using an Opel platform now appearing to be off the table, so the product teams must continue to rummage around the corporate cupboards to find something else.

According to Automotive News, one idea on the table is to manufacture a variant of the 200 C EV show car from this year's Detroit show. In case you are not familiar with that design, it is a stunning sedan based on a shortened version of the Chrysler 300's RWD LX platform. I remember my first encounter with the 200 C EV. It was on the last press day of the Detroit show. I was walking around in my usual last day stupor when all of a sudden my eye caught a glimpse of a stunning sedan. I felt like Jack Nicholson's Joker in the Batman movie when he saw Vicky Vale, "Stop the presses! Who is that?"

Could a rear wheel drive mid-size sedan compete with a herd of front wheel drive competitors? With looks like the 200 C EV, priced competitively and with an AWD entry, I say absolutely! Hopefully Chrysler and Fiat product teams can see the wisdom of such a unique entry and will not be tempted to meddle with its design.

For more info: Check out my January post on the 200C EV

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