Chrysler Group Goes For UK Growth

Chrysler 300C

Chrysler 300C

Speaking at this week’s UK press launch for the new Austrian built Chrysler 300C E sector executive saloon, Simon Elliott, the UK managing director said, Chrysler Group are looking to sell around 32,000 vehicles in the UK by the end of 2007 with each of the three brands accounting for one third of the Group’s UK sales.

Chrysler Group is now the overall name given to the individual Chrysler, Jeep and the new Dodge brands.

This year around 16,000 Chrysler Group UK sales are expected but Elliott describes 2006 as the ‘breakthrough year’. The 300C, additional Chrysler models and the first volume-selling Dodge vehicles will drive sales up to 24,000 units. More new models in 2007 should achieve the 32,000 sales target.

Instead of the current nine right hand drive model ranges, including the new 300C, by the end of 2007 the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands between them will consist of 16 right hand drive model line-ups.

Official imports from the US of European specification, left hand drive, Dodge RAM Pick-Ups with full warranty cover have just been added to the Chrysler Group UK model line-up. The initial batch of 50 vehicles is already accounted for by dealer sales. The Dodge SRT-10 (Viper as it is know in other countries) remains in the range but only accounts for an average of 12 UK sales a year.

Chrysler Group say 400 units of the 300C Saloon will be available to UK customers this year with around 2,500 units, which will include additional Touring (estate) versions, available in 2006.The engine line-up and prices of the Touring models have yet to be decided but they will go on sale in April or May of next year. The 300C SRT-8, 6.1-litre, V8, 425bhp Saloon and possibly Touring models will be added to the line up at the same time.

300C retail prices are £25,750 for the volume selling 3.0 V6 CRD diesel model that goes on sale early next year. On sales from now, also priced at £25,750, are the 3.5 V6 petrol variant and the flagship 5.7 V8 Hemi version priced at £32,995.

Seventy-five per cent of sales are expected to be accounted for by the diesel variant with its Mercedes sourced engine. The next best seller will be the ‘hero’ Hemi version. A lesser number of sales are expected for the 3.5-litre model, which is included in the line-up specifically for customers who will only buy a car with a petrol engine, but do not want the huge V8 unit.

The Chrysler Group’s UK dealer network, currently standing at 86 outlets, will grow to 100 dealerships next year. Each dealership will sell all three brands with the new Dodge franchise costing each dealer between £5,000 and £10,000 for corporate signage and to create a Dodge sales area within their existing showrooms.

Elliot said, "With the launch of the new 300C executive range, we have to educate and train our dealers to look after customers efficiently. In future they will be selling to new types of customers they haven’t seen before. These customers are likely to becoming from other executive brands. They might well be Mercedes owners who expect to receive a cup of coffee in a crockery cup and saucer not a plastic beaker."

"Our dealers must remain profitable but they have to invest in the future. We know demand for the 300C will outstrip supply. We will not over supply the cars so we will not ruin residual values and dealer profitability."

Elliott added, "We have not finally received residual value figures for the 300C Saloon but our leasing figures show the car will retain 60 per cent of its value after two years so it is reasonable to expect a 50 per cent value retention over the traditional three year period."

"No customers is going to loose £40,000, as they might with a certain executive German brand, during that period - the 300C doesn’t cost that much in the first place" said Elliott.

Steve Mirfin, the UK’s Chrysler product executive said, "The 300C will sell in the E or executive of the UK new car market which last year showed a 16 per cent decline in sales. Competitor models are typically the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class which take 50 per cent of the sector sales with the Audi A6, Jaguar S-Type, Volvo S80 and the Saab 9-5 accounting for most of the remaining volume."

"Because of the decline in the market these days, the price entry models traditionally have a low level of specification but with high cost option prices. The 300C has a low on the road price but it is fully equipped. In comparison with its competitors, after you take into account the adjustment in price of adding options, the 300C CRD for instance is 31 per cent less expensive than the Mercedes E-Class 280 CDI, 30.6 per cent less than the BMW 530d SE, 21 per cent less than the Audi A6 2.7 TDI, 25 per cent less than the Jaguar S-Type 2.7, 10 per cent less than the Volvo S80 and 8.3 per cent less than the Saab 9-5. The 300C 5.7 and 3.5 petrol models show similar cost analysis savings."

He added, "Our brand is not yet as strong as other premium brands so we have to undercut them on price and include most options as standard. For instance leather upholstery will cost in excess of £1,300 from the competition, it’s standard on the 300C."

New models to bring future Chrysler Group growth in the UK

In addition to the new Chrysler 300C range and revised PT Cruiser models, the Jeep range will see the seven-seat Jeep Commander, a version of the Grand Cherokee, launched in the UK in March 2006. The Grand Cherokee SRT-8 and top of the range Grand Cherokee Overland will also join the range next year. The Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot, value led off-roaders based on the smaller Dodge Caliber platform, should be coming to the UK in 2007.

The Dodge range, in addition to official imports of the left hand drive Dodge RAM Pick-Up and SRT-10 (Viper), will see right hand drive Caliber hatchbacks in July 2006. The engine options will include the VW sourced 135bhp diesel unit as used in the new Mitsubishi Grandis. The Dodge Nitro 4x4, based on a Jeep Cherokee platform, will be added to the range in the first half of 2007.

Published 28 October 2005 Melanie Carter

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