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Detroit show: Chrysler 200 not for RHD

All about US: Chrysler won’t make the brand new 200 sedan in right-hand drive yet.

Bold new Chrysler 200, a rival for the Mazda6, no chance for Australia yet

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Chrysler logo14 Jan 2014

By MIKE COSTELLO in DETROIT

CHRYSLER this week revealed its much improved, more youth-focused rival to the Mazda6 and Ford Mondeo, but don’t expect to see it in Australia any time soon.

The new-generation 200 made its debut, as expected, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit overnight, with Chrysler also claiming to have addressed quality issues courtesy of a state-of-the-art new manufacturing plant.

The new, more robotised facility in Sterling Heights, Detroit, is said to improve quality control exponentially. Chrysler spent more than $1b in cash-strapped Detroit to update the plant.

But while production capacity exceeds early demand, Chrysler refuses at this stage to tool-up for right-hand-drive production.

This puts a mocker on any plan from Fiat Chrysler’s fast-growing Australian arm to add to its Chrysler range in Australia, currently limited to the Grand Voyager and 300 - at least for the time being.

But, in good news for all those potential 6, Mondeo, Camry or Malibu buyers who fancy a bit of American action, all is not lost. A RHD version of the 200 is on the cards, albeit a little down the track.

Those are the sentiments of Chrysler CEO Al Gardner, speaking with GoAuto on the show floor in Detroit.

“Would I like to have RHD? Yes,” he said. “But the reality is there are a limited number of places we can put it - Australia, UK, Japan, New Zealand - and today that’s not in the plan, but doesn’t mean it’s not in the future.

“It’s designed to potentially go international, but the plan today is for it to be a North American product. Do we have the ability to do that? Absolutely. Are we looking at all those opportunities? Yeah.

“It simply comes down to regulations and the amount you want invest to get it right on day one. We’re very focused right now on a huge market: If you think of the mid-sized sedan market right now in the US, it’s 2.3 million units annually.

“If we could crack a number in this market, fantastic, we win. I’ll talk to Mike Manley (head of international sales) and we’ll certainly look at opportunities, but today I’ll tell you the plan is to hold it in North America.

“If we did it (RHD), we’d do it in Detroit at the new Steeling Heights facility, we have the capacity.”

Chrysler’s new mid-sized player has a number of new features over the lackadaisical predecessor. The ‘CUSW’ (Compact US Wide) platform, either in front-or all-wheel-drive form, shares much with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and the new Jeep Cherokee.

Under the bonnet is a 137kW/235Nm 2.4-litre Tigershark inline four-pot petrol or a 220kW/355Nm Pentastar V6. Being an American car, there’s no diesel. Base cars are front-drive, while luxury and performance versions are snow-friendly AWD (this system has a unique fully automatic disconnecting rear axle).

These are matched to an industry-topping - for better or worse - nine-speed automatic transmission shared with the Cherokee.

The better-made new cabin features a rotary dial instead of a conventional gear-shifter, which frees up large storage spaces both inside and under where a regular transmission lever normally sits.

The new 200 apparently debuts the new “face of Chrysler.” The grille and headlamps are integrated for the first time and the updated Chrysler badge has an emphasis on the wing, which is more defined. The signature light-pipe or available full-LED daytime running lamps, LED foglights and standard LED tail-lights add some flair.

The cabin features an 8.4-inch central display (or a small screen on base version) with all the requisite features plus the ability to integrate apps such as Pandora.

Available for the first time are features such as adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a full stop, a collision warning system with autonomous braking and a lane departure warning.

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