ATLANTA - Chrysler has replaced the Vision sedan in Europe with the 300M. The new car slightly smaller and more European in ride and handling.
The 300M is 120mm shorter than the Vision. At just under 1900mm, the width is more US-style than European.
The 300M debuts with an all-aluminum, 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that makes 253hp. A 2.7-liter 200hp unit will follow. Both will be offered only with an automatic transmission, called AutoStick, that also allows manual gear changes.
Chrysler Europe plans to sell 5,000-6,000 units a year in Europe, competing with the Audi A6, BMW 5 series, Mercedes E-class and Volvo S70.
The segment accounted for about 720,000 sales in 1997. Chrysler said 50 percent of the volume is sold in Germany, and 60 percent of sales are from German makes. Mercedes led last year with 180,500 E-class sales.
Chrysler said the 300M fits into the small part of the segment with large engines: 3 percent of sales involve engines over 3.0 liters; 11 percent have 2.5-3.0 liters.
Pricing is tied to the Audi A6 2.8 Tiptronic. With the same equipment level, the 3.5-liter 300M will be 5-10 percent less. The 2.7-liter will be 10-20 percent lower, Chrysler said.
Despite the modest volume ambition, the 300M begins a new era for Chrysler in Europe.
'With the 300M the launch cycle of all-new Chrysler brand vehicles begins,' said Tom Kowaleski, vice-president for marketing and communications at Chrysler Europe in Brussels.
'In three and a half years everything will be new in Europe on the product side, with more body styles and powertrains designed to match European preferences.'