Chrysler's in a tough spot right now. The beleaguered automaker survived the Daimler fiasco only to be picked up by an indifferent Cerberus team before ultimately ending up in bankruptcy court. Chrysler came out of those proceedings with a new dance partner in Fiat, and while the new company has a healthier balance sheet, a lack of funding has left the Pentastar with a nearly empty cupboard when it comes to new 2010 products.
In fact, Chrysler's new-product roster for the coming model year can be counted on one finger. The heavy duty 2010 Dodge Ram arrives with new sheetmetal, a significantly improved interior, a new crew cab configuration, and upgraded gasoline and diesel engines. It'll eventually be followed by commercial versions, with model designations ranging from 2500 to 5500.
As for the rest of the lineup, Chrysler did the most it could with its limited resources. Among the running changes for the 2010 model year are an improved Dodge Caliber interior, an updated, smooth-hooded Chrysler Sebring (as if anyone's going to notice) and plenty of fuel economy-related updates. The Dodge Nitro, Jeep Liberty and light-duty Ram receive a fuel cutoff feature during deceleration. The Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot add entry-level 2.0L four-cylinder models that deliver nominal fuel economy gains (2 mpg in the Dodge, 1 mpg in the Jeeps). The 3.5L Dodge Journey, a car that we'd all but forgotten about, will also see tweaks that will allow it to pick up an additional mpg as well.
Finally, Chrysler hopes to entice buyers by making previously optional equipment standard for 2010, while also adjusting pricing. The Dodge Caravan cost of entry has been lowered by $2,180 to $21,800, giving families a budget-priced option in the minivan market. Oh, and one last thing -- a limited edition Dodge Challenger SRT8 will be offered in Plum Crazy for 2010. Now that sounds genuinely interesting.