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With the Chrysler 200, automaker is looking to "redefine" a changing brand

Chrysler introduced the car it’s promising will “redefine the brand” at Detroit’s auto show Monday.

The “flagship” 2015 Chrysler 200 is the Auburn Hills-based automaker’s first venture into the highly competitive mid-size sedan market in more than a decade.

Chrysler officials say the model will go “head-to-head” with its competitors in terms of quality, design and – at just under $22,000 – price.

Chrysler brand CEO and President Al Gardner said the “discipline and consistency” of a “fully robotic assembly system” makes that possible.

“That is the only way we could know for certain that we built a car that would take on the best of the best, and beat them at their own game,” said Gardner.

The 200 is a product of Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit, where the company has invested more than $1 billion in upgrades. 

The car’s underpinnings are European; it’s crafted from the chassis of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which is now the model for all of Chrysler’s US-based architecture.

But Gardner said it also incorporates “classic American design,” and lots of technological features, including “active park assist” and blind-spot monitoring.

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said that’s representative of those two companies coming together.

He noted that since Fiat effectively absorbed Chrysler when that automaker went bankrupt in 2009, the American automaker has put “a large thumbprint” on the European brand – and that extends beyond the cars themselves.

“So how we balance this against the Italian heritage of Fiat, how we develop this against the premium brands of Europe and combine it with the distribution capabilities of Chrysler…is an interesting high-wire act,” Marchionne said.

Fiat and Chrysler will essentially merge later this month, when Fiat officially purchases the remaining shares of Chrysler stock.

The full, practical details of the merger remain unclear. But Marchionne has hinted that Fiat-Chrysler might have North American headquarters, and put forth a U.S.-based initial public stock offering in the near future.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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