17 February 2005

Dodge’s future UK product line-up is becoming clearer by the week. The company has revealed, in concept guise, two of the three core models that it hopes will give the American brand a foothold in the UK and mainland Europe. The Caliber, a sportier, taller and longer take on five door hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus and VW Golf, should appear in production form early in 2006. Whether practical features such as the Caliber’s removable rear interior lamp, speakers that can be angled and luminous cup-holders will make production versions is unclear. Showroom models, however, will provide more cabin space and higher seating positions than is usual in this sector. Dodge is also battling to match European cabin quality standards, though the low US price of the production version will make that a challenge. The Caliber concept – the production name is undecided – shares Mitsubishi’s next-generation front-drive Lancer platform, and will feature 1.8 and 2.0- litre petrol engines, as well as diesel and CVT options. Four-wheel drive may come later.

A second Dodge concept was revealed at last week’s Chicago show, and will come to the UK in early 2007. The Nitro (right) has a 210bhp, 235lb ft 3.7-litre V6, a five-speed auto and full-time four-wheel drive. It will be sold alongside a Ford Mondeo-sized Dodge.

All three volume models will be right-hand drive, with petrols and diesels. Diesel engines will be sourced outside the US, but will not come from sister firm Mercedes.

Parent company DaimlerChrysler describes Dodges as ‘bold, powerful, street-smart and capable’, as well as offering affordable performance. Dodge sold 1.4 million vehicles worldwide last year, and in the States it took a 6.9 per cent share of the market, roughly equal to VW’s share of UK car sales in 2004.

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