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Hot Neons go cold

Neon no-go: The SRT-4 will not be seen in Australia anytime soon, says Chrysler's local boss.

Chrysler go-fast small cars are in doubt because of exchange rates

19 Feb 2002

PLANS for a brace of hot Chrysler Neon sedans to go on sale in Australia seem certain to go on-hold because of the poor exchange rate between the Australian and US dollars.

The decision to hold-off import plans for the R/T - which was actually shown at the Sydney motor show last year and has done a tour of Australian dealerships - and the SRT-4 which made its world debut last month at the Los Angeles show - were revealed by Chrysler Jeep Australia boss Judith Wheeler.

She confirmed her regional managers were having discussions about the sporty Neons with their dealers and she expected the result to be a decision to wait until 2003 to see if pricing could be improved.

Ms Wheeler suggested the price of the R/T would be about $35,000 if it were imported at current exchange rates, while the SRT-4 would be $40,000 or more.

She said a more appropriate price would be $30,000 for the R/T and $35,000 for the SRT-4. An additional impediment for the SRT-4 is that right-hand drive production is yet to be confirmed.

"Quite frankly, you don't do these projects ... to sell a few hundred," Ms Wheeler said. "If you are going to do it you need to be selling a thousand at least.

"The jury's still out - I've sent the regional managers out to have discussions with their dealers, then we'll regroup and make a final decision at least for this year. We'll see again where we are at in 2003 and see if it makes more sense at that time." The RT is a mildly tweaked version of the cooking Neon, with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine's power boosted from 98kW to 112kW, while torque rises from 177Nm to 183Nm.

A five-speed manual transmission with shorter final drive, stiffened suspension, quicker steering, 16x6 alloy wheels, four wheel disc brakes and ABS complete the mechanical package. The sports looks are created by a spoiler kit and dual exhausts.

The SRT-4 is a much more aggressive package - boasting a 160kW 2.4-litre turbo four-cylinder engine capable of flinging it to 100km/h in around 6.0 seconds - making it only slower than the V10 Viper in the Dodge line-up.

The power boost is backed up by sports suspension, low-profile 17-inch tyres, a suitably aggressive bodykit, dual exhausts with polished stainless tips and larger ABS-assisted brakes.

Luxury touches includes sports seats, a high-performance audio system, air-conditioning, power locks and windows, remote keyless entry and a lighting group package.

* Ms Wheeler is expected to announce concrete right-hand drive conversion plans for the Dodge Viper and Chrysler Sebring convertible at the Melbourne motor show. "We're hoping we'll have an announcement there, although it will be really tight. If we don't make the announcement there it will be in the next 30 days after that," she said.

* An all-wheel drive Voyager people-mover is now on sale in Australia, retailing for $74,590. Its equipment level is equivalent to the Grand Voyager Limited, which at $70,090 was previously the most expensive model.

* A new Cherokee model called the Renegade will go on sale here in the last quarter of 2002. First shown at this month's Chicago show, the Renegade has a unique "activity light bar" with four halogen lamps giving the lighting power of 150,000 candles. Other features include removable side steps and flared wheel arches.

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