By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT (WWJ) – The mid-size car market—long owned by two Japanese companies—is about to get a new player.

The new Chrysler 200, shown at the North American International Auto Show, may be the company’s most important introduction since it emerged from bankruptcy nearly five years ago. It’s so important that Chrysler recently put a billion dollars into its Sterling Heights plant to prepare for the new product.

That’s because the mid-size segment is where you can steal buyers from the competition.

LINK: Chrysler 200 Press Release

“Being competitive in the largest segment of the country, really gives us a lot of customers coming back,” says Chrysler 200 brand chief Andy Love. “They can get a 300. They can get a Town and Country. Really grow with the brand, really stay with the brand.”

The mid-size segment has been an area where Chrysler has not been competitive. The much-maligned Sebring sold mostly because of deep discounts. It was greatly improved and renamed the 200. But, it still was not considered in the same class as an Accord, Camry or Fusion.

The all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 is the company’s third vehicle based on a Fiat platform. It has an all new exterior styling, and a greatly upgraded interior.

“The reality is, this is all about the inside of the car,” said Chrysler brand CEO Al Gardner. “The inside of the car is the “wow” factor. That’s what Chrysler should be known for. That’s what Chrysler used to be known for in the past.”

There will be a sporty 200C and a luxurious 200S. All-wheel drive will be available. But weak sales and the expense of development have made Chrysler decide to discontinue the convertible version.

After a tepid reception, GM updated the Chevy Malibu after just a year. Toyota’s refreshing the Camry to help it defend its “best-selling car in America” title. Gardner promises that Chrysler will keep up with the competition.

“Very important to stay fresh,” he said. “That means the reality is you’re refreshing on a three-year cycle. That’s exactly what the imports do. That’s exactly what the top domestics do. We have to play head to head with them.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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