Chrysler (finally) gets in gear

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Fiat 500 Sport

Chrysler Group had a flurry of news released on it's corporate blog yesterday as CEO Sergio Marchionne met with dealers in Orlando, Fla., during the 2010 Chrysler Dealer Show. This was the first announcement show since 2007, and thus it brought out more than 75 percent of the nation's dealers.

Chrysler is sorely in need of some new products, and it's beginning to look like the automaker is getting new life after all.

A couple of sneak peak photos were posted for the public, including two Chryslers, one Jeep and one Fiat.

Chrysler 200: This midsize sedan will replace the rental car ringer called the Sebring. Thank, goodness. The 200 will offer two engines a 2.4-liter I-4 and a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. This will be all-new for the 2011 model year and will be built in the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Sterling, Mich. Chrysler was pretty stingy with the photos of this vehicle, only releasing 3 sneak peaks that barely give you a glimmer of what the car will look like. But anything's gotta be better than the Sebring, so stay tuned for more ... Hopefully coming soon.

Chrysler Town & Country: Frankly, Chrysler has the best minivan out there, so I've got to figure that whatever they do to this car is going to be pure icing. For 2011, SafetyTec becomes a standard feature and boats 40 safety and technology features, including blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection. Yeah, standard. Other improvements include a more refined Stow 'n Go system, more horsepower, a new instrument cluster and upgraded interior.

Jeep Patriot: This is probably the least inspiring announcement released yesterday, as the Patriot gets exterior tweaks and "significantly upgraded touch points." Woo-hoo for the touch points. OK, so front and rear fascia also get a face lift and ride height increases by an inch. Interior upgrades include steering wheel controls, new cloth seats and a new center armrest. Built at the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Belvidere, Ill., the 2011 model is slated to be at dealers in Q4 of 2010.

Fiat 500 Sport: Fiat makes it's return to America with the 500. While Chrysler Group had previously conquered midsize cars, minivans and trucks, they were sorely lacking on the small car front. Enter the new partnership with Fiat. If you went to the Chicago Auto Show, you couldn't help but notice the Fiat 500 (and the Spanx-wearing models). Now as launch time nears, more details are being released. The 500 Sport comes equipped with a 1.4-liter engine with MultiAir technology. Chrysler Group claims this technology reduces emissions, while improving fuel economy and power by up to 10 percent when compared to similar engines. The 500 will enter the U.S. with 3 models: Sport, Pop and Lounge. These will be available for ordering in late 2010. Plus in the spring of 2011, look for a cabrio model. Watch out Mini, you might just have your first real competitor.

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