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Amidst all the wheeling and dealing going on at Chrysler LLC., the automaker still has a lineup of current cars that needs attending to. The Chrysler Sebring/Dodge Avenger duo have been underperforming in the marketplace since they were introduced in 2006, and in an interview with The Detroit Free Press, Chrysler's executive vice pres Frank Klegon reveals exactly what's going to happen to this company's midsize sedans in the future. Chrysler is readying a mid-cycle fix for the Sebring/Avenger that will include improvements that Klegon calls "cosmetic" and some "more functional things". Hopefully the quality of the interior materials is addressed, as well as the engine lineup of these vehicles featuring a four- and six-cylinder that don't match up well with the competition in terms of power or fuel economy.
But Chrysler is also looking beyond the five-year life cycle of the current cars to what comes next. It has formed a special task force dubbed Project D, which has begun work on the next Chrysler D segment platform that will likely spawn sedans, hatchbacks and CUVs and be sold the world over. We have no details yet on the car, which should first arrive around 2011/12 in the form of replacement for the Sebring and Avenger. And as far as we know, Chrysler is not testing on chimpanzees.

[Source: The Detroit Free Press]


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  • 28 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'd even go on to say that Chrysler's future rides on becoming a bargain version of Europes best. A half price Bimmer, Merc, or Jag. It's how Lexus and Infiniti took off and the blueprint for Hyundai.

      Chrysler at least has American heritage to draw upon to prevent the uglieness of Hyundai's Eurasian fusion design.
      • 6 Years Ago
      @John R:

      Anything mechanical carries the chance of breaking... So you're saying that because the transmission in your Intrepid took a dump, you're never going to buy another Chrysler product? I don't know what you're driving now... but let's just say it's a Toyota... If the transmission in your Toyota were to fail or your engine were to take a crap from say... I don't know... something like oil sludge - Would you never buy another Toyota product ever again? I'm going to go out on a limb and say not, because you would probably just chalk it up to a fluke.

      The same could be said about your Intrepid... the 42LE transmission is a very good four-speed automatic. When it was introduced, it was one of the most advanced autos in production and 15 years later it's still in production because it's proven to be a solid and reliable performer.

      Any early failures of the 42LE stemmed mostly from the use of improper transmission fluid... the whole Dextron 2 debacle was a real cluster-f. Going beyond that... most people.. even dealers thought that ATF was ATF and that just wasn't the case. With the proper tranny fluid, those 42LEs will go for hundreds of thousands of miles.

      So again... I have the feeling that if such a thing happened with an import, it would just be chalked up as a fluke... but since it happened to a domestic model, especially a Chrysler - they and all future models are automatically tarnished in your view.

      There's such a huge double standard... when an import breaks down, it's because things like that "just happen" from time to time... but when a domestic breaks down, it's because they're a horribly built POS.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Just posted a much shorter/condensed version of the same thing....

        Anyone who knows those Chrysler 4speeds, knows they're a very good transmission. Bad fluids, bad mechanics and dealers chalk up to a bad reputation.

        Chrysler says its a 2400$ rebuild
        Mr. Transmission says its a 40$ computer flash, 100$ sensor, and for the love of GOD put ATF3/4 in it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      re the engines perhaps we've heard of the phoenix engine family which has been talked about for several years.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Chrysler 4 speed is a good trasnmission when it is serviced properly and the car/van not driven like a racecar. I have a 96 caravan with 158Kms (100K) miles never been rebuilt. I change the oil and filter every year, I have an aux cooler combined with the factory cooler. Howerever I am now looking at replacing my head gaskets on this van 3.8 liter a $1500 plus, bill by time i replace the water pump,and do a valve job etc. I will sell it for scrap before I put that kind of money into it.
      My 93 3.3 chrysler had the same issue at 170 kms. So I am not sure I would by another Chrysler after these head gasket issues.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Derek

        The water pump is also leaking, the coolant has been changed every 2 years. The big cost in this jo is that it is a mini van no room to work and you have to take half of it apart to get at the back head.
        On the maintanence end of things I change my oil every 5000 kms 3000 miles. I change trans oil and filter every year, I maintain these things to the enth degree and they still don't last as long as they should. The last head gast job was in my car and I was able to do that one myself for under $500.00.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Head gasket issues are often caused by not changing the coolant often enough.

        A head gasket replacement also does not require a water pump replacement, nor a valve job. Don't run the bill up with unnecessary extras and then complain that the maintenance costs too much. Besides, that 3.8 is a pushrod motor, head gasket replacement should be simple with no timing belt to mess with.
      • 6 Years Ago
      LOL!!!
      • 6 Years Ago
      The poster was brilliant.

      Fixing the Sebring and Avenger just makes sense.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sounds like the people in charge of Chrysler are making great decisions.

      Music to my ears after years of intermitten in-attention by Damilar.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The head gasket issue was prevelent among many of the 2.0L and 3.xL engines in the early to mid 90s.

      The head gasket issues were resolved years ago..but I will admit should have never happened in the first place. My family has been buying all Mopars for DECADES and with a few small exceptions, we have never had problems with them. People talk like all Chrysler problems are junk, but there are LOTS f people out there who have nothing but good experiences with them. I like the Sebring style, even the interior...it's just the material quality that sucks. The 3.5L does 0-60 in 6.9s..about normal for a midsize car..so what's the problem?

      The Phoenix engines are due to start hitting vehicles in MY2010, and promise to have everything possible for a great balance of power and economy.

      My hope is that the new Ram (awesome) and Challenger (super awesome) will give Chrysler the boost/momentum it needs to get back in the game.

      One thing to note is that people blame the Germans and the US execs...but remember...the Germans FIRED all the US Execs and put Germans in charge...which is why Bob Lutz is at GM.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It isn't just the media who thinks that the Sebring/Avenger interiors are terrible -- Chrysler executives and insiders agree that they completely screwed up. From the Detroit News:

      "A top Chrysler Group executive said in a recent frank internal question-and-answer session with employees that the automaker seriously misjudged the market in developing the panned Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Nitro last year, and is swiftly moving to improve current and future vehicles.

      Answering often pointed questions from employees on Chrysler's internal Internet system, Bob Lee, head of powertrain engineering, acknowledged that many people at Chrysler are "outraged" over the issues with the Sebring sedan and Nitro SUV, according to a copy of the Q&A obtained by The Detroit News. Both vehicles received highly critical evaluations from Consumer Reports, which is influential with car buyers.

      Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda and Chief Operating Officer Eric Ridenour are "quite upset" and agree the company "missed where the market was to end up versus our projections," Lee wrote.

      Chrysler underestimated competitors, set standards too low in some areas and was not where it needed to be in areas such as fuel economy, interior quality, and limiting noise and vibration. "

      Full text is here: http://www.detroitnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070608/AUTO01/706080377/1148
      • 6 Years Ago
      Media/Journalists (with too much need for speed) have killed these cars. They are fine runabouts.

      I'm not saying the gripes are untrue, but blown way out of proportion.

      Glad to see they're fixing the issues.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That's fine. You don't have to agree.

        My father has an 06 (2nd gen) and I borrow it from time to time and I have no gripes other than it blends in.

        I have a beef with the plastics in the 3rd gen car, but it doesn't mean its a bad car - just a bland one.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I have to respectfully disagree as well. I drove the top-trim Sebring and Avenger back-to-back with their rivals at a media event last year, and the difference was painful. The trim quality and fit in both are worse than in most company's $15K compacts.

        Moreover, their cabins feel narrow, the seats are narrow, the visibility is pinched, the armrests are squared-off and positively rock-hard... these are the sorts of things non-enthusiasts notice straight off the bat, and have nothing to do with performance expectations. They're just horrifically outclassed.

        And with only "cosmetic" improvements coming in the next few years, their future doesn't look bright.
        • 6 Years Ago
        No. I can't agree.

        The Accord, Malibu, Altima, Camry (when you pick its best trim), the Mazda 6 & its (to me) lesser cousins, and even the 4th generation Hyundai Sonata are "fine runabouts".

        Sebring/Avenger was...something else.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Memphis, blog readership and the buff books are not only turning people at large off to this car. Prior ownership is too.

        I've owned an Intrepid. And I will never go back to a Chrysler product. I may be able to change my own oil, but I can't rebuild a transmission on my own.

        Being burned by prior ownership coupled with the fact that the car (Sebring/Avenger) brings nothing to the table when compared to its competitors domestic or foreign means it doesn't even enter the equation.

        Nobody is drinking Kool-Aid. The car needs major work. Chrysler made a so-so attempt in a hyper-competitive segment and you're surprised and upset with the results?

        Everyone in this segment excels at SOMETHING. What did the Sebring/Avenger excel at?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I agree completely.

        Whether or not people particularly like a car or not is irrelevant. The fact remains that no one (with the possible exception of some Chinese makes) really makes "bad" cars anymore... some are just varying degrees of better than others.

        I'd gladly drive an Avenger R/T AWD... the 3.5L has always been a fine motor and in this car, it's finally coupled to a six-speed, not to mention AWD. The exterior is far more exciting than most of its competition... and the interior isn't as bad as the many aficionados of AB make it out to be... it's actually a fairly handsome design - but then we have to hear about the quality of the materials... find me a sedan in the $20-25K price range that doesn't use plastics in the interior.

        I don't ask that everyone should say only nice things about every car featured on AB... but just gain a little perspective. Are these Chrysler mid-sizers the best cars on the market? Absolutely not... but automotive history is littered with cars more poorly made than these and even today there are some cars that pale in comparison.

        They're not "bad" cars... because again, none of the major players really make bad cars anymore... there are just those that are better.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Oz: yes, unfortunately, I've driven one. And I've recently driven a number of other cars, including current generation Camry, Corolla, and Civic. I'd take either of those three, in base specification, long before I'd take a Sebring/Avenger.
        • 6 Years Ago
        So, Jared, you drove one, then?

        I had a rental Avenger last week, and it was at least a better car than the rental Accord I had. I don't really have much else to compare it to, except for the previous generation Altima, which had a horrible interior filled with hard plastic. The Avenger wasn't speedy as a 4 cylinder, but it was a comfy car and handled quite well for a near-base model.
        • 6 Years Ago
        AMGoff:

        Falling on deaf ears. Apparently being a satisfied OWNER (not renter, not getting someone's abuse) means nothing. I can't count on my fingers and toes how many 'better' cars there are in this segment, but you're right - its not bad by any means.

        Reliability is moot. I can change my own oil and do my own brakes. There's no mechanical deal-breaker in this car. People like to spread fear, and the internet is a great brewing ground for that. The people that fire off on me personally on those who have never owned one, or another Chrysler (or American) car. They tend to lease and trade in after 2 years.

        Oh well. At the end of the day, its your money - I'd rather spend 10k on this, than 20k on the used accord just because its 'better'

        As a new car, I'd definitely pass - but only because I don't buy new cars.
        • 6 Years Ago
        John R,

        Not saying you're wrong - but neither am I. I've written many many times about my 1996, 400,000+km, Chrysler Intrepid that had no major, deal-breaking problems - and would definitely purchase another Intrepid as long as it was up to my standards of a used car : Documented history, low mileage, good price, and addressed recalls. I also know that in an Intrepid, the 2.7 is NOT a good fit because of weight, gearing, etc - in the Sebring, especially a 2004-2006 where most sludge problems were addressed - the motor is just fine. Transmission as well. Chrysler 4 speed horror stories are from the past, and do not apply today. Besides, most 4 speed problems were computer and shady-mechanic related anyway.

        Two of my sisters has been collectively burned 4 times by Honda. This is extreme and totally NOT common, I know. But between sh!t service from the dealership, and 4 lemons in a row, it's enough to sour my family.

        Just saying is all.
        • 6 Years Ago
        So, Jared, you drove one, then?

        I had a rental Avenger last week, and it was at least a better car than the rental Accord I had. I don't really have much else to compare it to, except for the previous generation Altima, which had a horrible interior filled with hard plastic. The Avenger wasn't speedy as a 4 cylinder, but it was a comfy car and handled quite well for a near-base model.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Good luck to them. They'll sure need it if they try to stay the course. But I expect Chryslerbus will sell out to Nissan entirely before Project D is completed. Then Nissan will just kill it, along with 2/3 of the Chrylserbus product line.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Is this the a sequel to Project D, or is it the Initial D?
      • 6 Years Ago
      The latest generation of these cars have always sucked and looked too ugly to compete with even the most mundane of sedans. The last gen Sebring/Stratus were much better and more aerodynamic. The 2 door versions were even sleeker looking than the 4 door counterparts. Of course most of the help came from their partnership with Mitsubishi that they've had for many years (going back to the late 70's) until Daimler and other Dodge execs screwed the company up so badly that they are in the shape that are in now.

      Chrysler desperately needs help in the design department as well as improving their quality control a little more. They also need to stop living so much in the retro ages and get with the times. They need to be more bold with their designs, like how they were in the 90's when they had the LH designs. I would still take a 300M over anything they currently have now because I love how it was designed, even though that car is quite large. heck even the 2nd gen Intrepid was a great looking car, even though it was plagued with all kinds of quality control issues. And who can forget the 1st gen Avenger and the Stealth. They did design cars that I had favored over other domestics.

      Right now it just looks like they are giving up on everything except the Ram and the Challenger, sort of like Ford with the F series and Mustang.
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