It turns out Sergio Marchionne brought a gift when he spoke with Chrysler dealers down in Florida earlier this week. Can we guess what it was? No, the rumored Jeep truck was a bonus (and a no-brainer). High fives all around if you said 2012 Dodge Viper. The company showed dealers an early prototype of the next Viper finished in a candy-apple red color. According to one dealer present at the meeting, the Viper concept "resembled the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione with a Viper face." We shall see.
According to sources, the next Viper will play the role of a proper halo car, not just a high-end racer. That means a more luxurious performance car to be the icing on Dodge's cake instead of the visceral attack on the senses that was the previous Viper.
Dodge's lineup is also going to get a "sportier" Caravan in yet another attempt to convince dads that mom didn't just talk them into a minivan. Ralph Gilles also confirmed a "Man Van" with an all black interior. Love the guy's work, but "Man Van"? Grow up. Also, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Dakota will be replaced with a "lifestyle" truck, whatever that means.
Chrysler, as we've recently shown you, will get the refreshed Sebring / 200 in order to fill the gap before a proper 200 is developed. Internet rumors indicate that the next mid-size Chrysler could be underpinned by a shortened RWD platform, so huzzah! Other than that, there's the revamped Town & Country that we told you about, as well as the redesigned 300.
As for Ram, there's not much going on right now. We could see a smaller pickup to fill the entry level gap once the Dakota disappears, but that's about it.
Jeep is about as lively as Ram. Other than the new Grand Cherokee, the rest of the lineup gets some updates before the new vehicles are revealed. Once all is said and done, we're probably going to see a Fiat-based small model (and say goodbye to the Patriot/Compass), the Wrangler, the Liberty, and the Grand Cherokee. Also, if dealers push for it, there could be a Gladiator-like Jeep truck coming; apparently Marchionne teased one at the dealer meeting.
Lastly, Fiat will drop the 500 Stateside in January after its US debut in L.A. We'll get Sport and Lounge versions of the little accessory car, as well as a ton of interior/exterior color combos. Bottom line on this one is that it's just too damn cute to pass up hopefully, Chrysler won't fumble it.
Chrysler and Fiat, both under the cost-cutting grandfatherly wing of Sergio Marchionne, working together to try to build world-class cars...who would have thought this would ever happen?
By Phil Alex