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Future models - Dodge - Caliber

First look: Caliber turbo debuts as Dodge nears

Hatched Dodge: The Caliber range will compete with small cars like Mazda3 from around $25,000 and could extend to the turbocharged SRT-4 version revealed at the Chicago motor show last week (above).

Dodge promises a new model every six months from mid-2006, alongside hot new SRT-8s

14 Feb 2006

DAIMLERCHRYSLER has put its Dodge money where its mouth is by announcing a multi-year new model rollout for the historic American brand on the eve of the Melbourne motor show.

As well targeting a 20 per cent sales increase by the end of 2006, Chrysler Group Australia has confirmed its will relaunch the Dodge marque locally earlier than expected in mid-2006 via the Caliber five-door, which made its Australian debut at the Melbourne motor show on Thursday.

CGA has committed to introducing an all-new Dodge model in Australia every six months for three years, with the mid-sized Nitro SUV – which makes its world production debut at the Geneva motor show on February 28 - to follow Caliber on sale here in early 2007.

The unashamedly brash Dodge brand, which admits it’s "not for everybody" and will employ the "Grab Life" slogan here, will be CGA’s third marque Down Under, joining Jeep and Chrysler – future model plans for which were also revealed last Wednesday.

"We can’t wait to unleash Dodge in the marketplace," said CGA managing director Gerry Jenkins. "Dodge is very unique – it is bold and in your face, edgy, unapologetically masculine and unapologetically American and it’s for those with a real zest for life."Dodge’s public preview in Melbourne was accompanied by the launch of Australia’s official Dodge website (www.dodge.com.au), ahead of the brand’s availability through 39 certified five-star Chrysler-Jeep dealers around Australia.

The second oldest brand in the DaimlerChrysler portfolio, the 90-year-old Dodge marque is also the Chrysler Group’s leading brand in North America (where the majority of its 1.2 million vehicles sales were sold in 2005), the fifth most popular brand in the US and the world’s eighth-largest brand.

The front-wheel drive Caliber will be the first new Dodge sold here since the 1972 Phoenix sedan, as well as CGA’s first small-car contender since the unloved Chrysler-badged Neon sedan was discontinued in July 2002.

This time round, CGA says Australians’ demand for edgy new vehicles and the ability to leverage an existing dealer network will give Dodge the incremental sales growth potential it needs to survive.

Parent company DaimlerChrysler used the Melbourne show to exhibit a near-production concept of the compact Caliber five-door, which is set to enter Australia’s congested and fiercely-fought small car segment in just four months, priced from around $25,000 to rival the likes of Mazda3, 307, Golf and Impreza.

"The compact car segment is competitive, but our research tells us that customers are tired of the bland offerings in this segment," said Mr Jenkins.

A key plank within Dodge’s ambitious global expansion plans, Caliber is expected to help lift CGA sales to around 9000 vehicles in 2006, when the importer will release no fewer than seven new models or variants.

The company upped sales by 13 per cent last year, when it sold a record 7500 vehicles, but expects further new Dodge models to increase its annual sales beyond 10,000 in 2007.

41 center imageLeft (from top): Chrysler 300C SRT-8, Dodge Nitro and Jeep Commander.Featuring Dodge’s signature crosshair grille, broad shoulders and a sweeping roofline, Caliber will be differentiated from what its makers describe as "vanilla" rivals by MusicGate Power - a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics premium sound system with two articulating speakers packaged in the liftgate Chill Zone – a storage bin that cools up to four bottles/cans a flat-folding 60/40-split rear seat a front passenger seat that folds into a table and a dual forward to create a table-like surface for versatility and a headlining-mounted, dual-purpose, self-recharging removable torch.

"The Dodge Caliber is not your typical compact car," said Mr Jenkins. "And with fuel efficient cars booming in Australia it is a perfect time to be entering this segment.

"The Caliber will appeal to owners looking for a compact car that stands out from the crowd and gives them the flexibility to do more in terms of seating friends and storing gear."CGA has confirmed two four-cylinder petrol engines will be available from Caliber’s launch (a 106kW/169Nm 1.8-litre and a 110kW/190Nm 2.0-litre), with a 100kW/310Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and a 128kW/224Nm 2.4-litre version (possibly with all-wheel drive) to follow. Expect the diesel to be mated to a six-speed manual and the others to a CVT transmission.

A range-topping turbocharged 200kW-plus SRT-4 version of Caliber is also likely to become available locally following its debut appearance at this month’s Chicago motor show, where Dodge’s full-size Rampage SUV concept also emerged.

The latter is a possibility for Australia if approved for right-hand drive production, as is Dodge’s Detroit show-stopping Challenger coupe concept (based on the next-generation 300C platform dubbed LY) and a yet-to-appear mid-sized sedan dubbed Avenger.

While Australia’s Caliber will be produced at DaimlerChrysler’s Belvidere plant in Illinois, the 2007 Dodge Nitro will be built at Toledo, Ohio.

While full specifications are not yet available for the 1867kg Nitro crossover, CGA says a 157kW/319Nm 3.7-litre SOHC V6 (with a four-speed auto) is likely and admits that while 20-inch chromed alloy wheels, performance suspension and a sliding Load’n’Go cargo floor will set it apart from the medium SUV pack, some Nitro sales will come at the expense of Jeep’s more hard-core Cherokee.

To be priced slightly higher than its compact SUV rivals in the mid-$30,000s, Nitro represents the biggest sales growth potential for CGA.

Meantime, CGA has confirmed on-sale dates for the gob-smacking 317kW/570Nm 6.1-litre HEMI V8-powered SRT-8 versions of the popular Chrysler 300C (April, circa $75,000 – 250 units) and Jeep Grand Cherokee (late 2006, circa $85,000).

It also announced a third-quarter release for the 160kW/510Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel 300C CRD sedan and a mid-year release for the 300C Touring (to be available in 3.5 V6 petrol, 3.0 V6 diesel and 5.7 V8 guises at a $4000 premium over the sedan). Diesel variants are expected to add 300 sales to the 300C’s tally.

Finally, Jeep’s seven-seat Grand Cherokee-based Commander has also been confirmed for Australia and will go on sale here in diesel and V8 form by mid-year – shortly after the 2.4-litre Chrysler PT Cabrio is released.

What's coming from Chrysler Group Oz:
BrandModelVariantRelease Date
Chrysler300CSRT-8April 2006
ChryslerPTCabrio2nd qtr 2006
Chrysler300CTouringMid-2006
Chrysler300CCRD3rd qtr 2006
JeepCommanderMid-2006
JeepGrand CherokeeSRT-84th qtr 2006
DodgeCaliberMid-2006
DodgeNitroEarly 2007
JeepCompass2007
JeepWrangler2008

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