7 October 2004

The American Dodge brand is gearing up for an assault on Europe – and here’s proof. This scoop shot shows a test mule for the next-generation Neon, currently sold as a Chrysler in the UK, undergoing cooling tests in the Sierra Nevada in Spain. Although the car is clearly based on the current Neon, the prototype shows the trademark Dodge nose design and gives some idea of the increased size of the Ford Focus rival. The new platform underpinning the car will be co-developed with DaimlerChrysler ally Mitsubishi (note the Grandis in the background) and it will also underpin the new ’06 Lancer. The car is registered in Germany, suggesting Chrysler engineers are getting help from their Mercedes-Benz counterparts in preparing the car for European sales.

The all-new Neon is due in 2006 but won’t be followed by its Mondeo-rivalling sister car, the Dodge Stratus, until 2008. But the first Dodge-badged car into Europe will be the brand-defining Viper SRT-10, although it won’t be available in right-hand drive. Eric Ridenour (right), Chrysler’s executive vice president of product development, told Autocar that Dodge cars will be ‘bold and expressive. Dodge is known in the US for its visually striking trucks, so Dodge cars will be bold and expressive, too.’ Ridenour said right-hand drive and diesel engines were now part of product development from the beginning. ‘We are going to be a full-line producer with American flair and an American flavour,’ he said.

Ridenour also headed the development of the Chrysler 300C saloon and Touring models, which have been extremely well received in the US. These cars are being engineered for right-hand-drive production and the saloon is expected in UK showrooms in October next year. He said that the 300C didn’t need to be redesigned or brought up to scratch for sale in Europe. ‘When we started work on the project we wanted to ensure the handling, ride, NVH and even the panel gaps and design details were to world-class levels. We didn’t have to further improve the car for Europe, apart from tweaks to the brakes and tyres.’

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