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From the Detroit Insider:

Stratus out, Avenger in at Dodge

Name change may not be enough to battle Asians

By Brett Clanton / The Detroit News

Chrysler is expected to yank the Stratus name from its Dodge midsize sedan when the car's replacement arrives in early 2007.

The new vehicle will be called Avenger, a moniker last used on a Dodge coupe that was killed off in 2000, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Chrysler officials declined to confirm the name change, which comes as the DaimlerChrysler AG unit is moving to toughen up the image of Dodge cars to mesh with the bold marketing of Dodge trucks.

Analysts say the car, even with a new name, will face challenges as it prepares to enter the ultra-competitive midsize passenger car category now ruled by the popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

"It's going to be difficult to make as big of a splash as they have in other segments," said Erich Merkle, an industry analyst at IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids.

In 2004, Dodge passenger car sales plummeted by more than 25 percent, ending the year with 1.8 percent of the U.S. market, even as Chrysler's overall sales improved, according to Autodata Corp.

But the truck-heavy Dodge brand is hoping to revive car sales with vehicles like the recently launched Charger full-size sedan and upcoming Caliber, a small sport wagon due in early 2006.

"We always want to be competitive in these categories," said Chrysler spokeswoman Beth Ann Bayus. "That's certainly a priority for us."

The Avenger name was last seen on a coupe built for Dodge by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. that was on the market between 1995 and 2000. The nameplate also appeared on a 2003 concept vehicle.

Avenger is an improvement over Stratus, a name that reinforced the blandness of the current vehicle, said Jim Hall, an analyst with AutoPacific in Detroit.

"When the name is a punch line in a 'Saturday Night Live' skit, you got problems," Hall said, referring to a sketch starring Will Farrell as the father of a dysfunctional family who repeatedly screams "I drive a Dodge Stratus!"

Chrysler will spend $240 million to renovate a factory in Sterling Heights for the launch of the next generation Chrysler Sebring sedan and convertible and the four-door Avenger. The first Sebring is expected next summer.

The Sebring-Stratus lineup hit its peak in 2001 with sales of 251,000, according to industry consultant Global Insight. But the Sebring-Avenger combo is expected to fall short of that mark.
 

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Too bad the name Avenger also has somewhat of a bad rap. I hated those cars. They were under powered and made by mitsubishi (I hate mitsubishi cars).

I like the names Cobalt and Caliber though
 

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Stratus dies, Sebring lives. The current JR27 becomes the new JS (Sebring).
As for the no more Neon...
- PM49 is the Dodge Caliber. Launch begins in Belvedere in 12/2005.
- MK49 is the Jeep Compass (4-door version) Launch is set for 6/2006 at Belvedere.
- MK74 is the Jeep with Commander styling. Also launched at Belvedere six months after the MK49.
... with front control arms courtesy of yours truly :)
 
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