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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 02-13-2008, 09:40 PM Thread Starter
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Chrysler 300's flexible design a hit in urban markets

From Automotive News:

Chrysler 300's flexible design a hit in urban markets
Bernadine Williams
Automotive News
February 13, 2008 - 4:05 pm ET


DETROIT -- When Ralph Gilles designed the Chrysler 300, he had no idea that a specific group or culture would prefer the vehicle. But it didn't take long for him to realize that the sedan gradually had become the " it" car for the black community.

" We did not design the 300 with that in mind. We realized it was a flexible design once we received feedback from the aftermarkets," Gilles told Automotive News.

Gilles said DUB Magazine, which highlights the urban car customization scene, repeatedly featured the car. The attention generated major focus on the 300 in urban markets.

" The fact that you can put wheels on the 300 appeals to a younger market," said Gilles. The flexibility of the design, its oversized wheels and sporty appearance make it easy for owners to add their own style, he said.

Gilles, the chief designer behind the sedan, discussed the 300's cultural appeal after a report, released last month, found African-Americans to be five times more likely to buy a 300 than other ethnic groups.

The research firm Strategic Vision, of San Diego, suggested that customers have a " vehicle DNA," which encompasses their desires, needs and attribute priorities.

" We all have similar values," Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision's automotive division, told Automotive News. " For instance, we all look for a sense of security in a vehicle. We find out how strongly one wants those attributes filled. The way we fill emotional desires may be different."
Black car buyers place higher importance on expressing individuality and displaying accomplishments, the research found.

The study also examined the buying trends of Asian- and Hispanic-American buyers. The Acura MDX crossover ranked highest with Asian buyers for its modern design and technology. The Kia Sedona minivan appealed most to Hispanics for its aggressive and confident presence.

The Chrysler 300 quickly gained popularity when it hit showrooms four years ago. Motor Trend voted the 2005 300 its Car of the Year in 2004. In 2005, Gilles, then Chrysler's director of production design, received the president's award from the Black Engineer of the Year STEM Global Competitiveness Conference for the 300's development.

Gilles, now Chrysler's vice president of Jeep/truck and component design, has seen the 300 evolve into a vehicle appealing to different ages, races and cultural groups. The sedan has gained a reputation for being attractive in the urban market, but Gilles suggests that buyers come from a range of demographic groups.

" There is a subculture appeal to it. It is thought to be an urban vehicle, but it has linked people of different backgrounds," he said.
For example, the automaker's " Spin it Your Way" Internet contest revealed the diversity among Chrysler 300 owners. Since the contest began in December, the Web site has received postings from a mixture of demographic groups. Contestants can post video of their customized 300 sedans on the Web site, and voters rank the best vehicle improvements.

The winner of the contest will have his or her car displayed at the Los Angeles auto show in November.

Chrysler sold 120,636 300 sedans in the United States in 2007, down 16 percent from the 143,647 sold the previous year. Even with the decline, the 300 remained the top seller among all Chrysler car sales.

The Chrysler 300 received a slight makeover for 2008, with new fascias, moldings, taillamps and deck lid. A complete overhaul of the 300 is not due until 2011.
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