It's a modified, re-engineered version of the Japanese model that appeared first at last year's Tokyo show. 'It's a vital car for us,' said a Mitsubishi spokesman. 'It's still our halo car; the car that sets Mitsubishi's image in Europe.'
Chrysler is aiming its redesigned Sebring sedan firmly at the European mid-size sedan market. With sales targets of 10,000 per year after its early 2001 introduction, the car will help establish Chrysler as a European brand, said James Holden, president of DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group.
The Sebring was designed with the European market in mind. A firmer suspension, brakes suited for more aggressive stopping, and an optional 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine are some of the features calculated to appeal to Europeans.
'Great product has given Chrysler a strong presence, a foundation, in Europe,' Holden said.
The Sebring should spark customers' curiosity about the Chrysler brand. DaimlerChrysler AG Chairman Jurgen Schrempp said boosting Chrysler's share of the European market is a 'major priority.'
The Sebring will compete with cars such as the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra and the Ford Mondeo. Chrysler's customers in Europe are people who want something different, said Thomas Marinelli, president of Chrysler Jeep Automotive SA.
'This car says Chrysler really does have a full line of vehicles,' Marinelli said.
Two gasoline engines will be available, a 2.0-liter in-line four-cylinder and a 2.7-liter V-6. An automatic transmission that can be shifted like a manual is standard with both engines. The 2.0-liter is available with a five-speed manual transmission.
Quality, long an issue among European consumers, is improved on the Sebring, Holden said. The Chrysler Neon was plagued with fit-and-finish problems after its introduction in 1994.
Holden freely admitted past problems in Europe. But the new Sebring should begin to answer the quality questions, he said. 'We are looking forward to the initial quality reports.'
Chrysler resumed European sales in May 1988 after a 10-year absence.
Sales reached 67,000 in 1994 and 96,700 in 1998, according to JATO Dynamics Ltd. and J.D. Power-LMC. About half those sales are Jeep Cherokees.