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Caliber rises from Phoenix's ashes

The Caliber will be the hero car on the stand for the American brand, which is part of the DaimlerChrysler empire worldwide.

In Australia, Dodge will be on the road as a car brand - for the first time since the death of the Phoenix in the 1970s - alongside the Chrysler and Jeep line-ups.

The Caliber (above) has high-rider looks but is actually pitched against compact cars including the Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus.

It will be on sale in the third quarter of 2006 after its preview at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

"We're letting the cat out of the bag a bit earlier than normal so people can see the Caliber," says the managing director of Chrysler Jeep Australia, Jerry Jenkins.

"We want to get aggressive - even though it won't be launched until the third quarter of the year."

The Caliber at the show is a bright, burnt orange with a petrol engine but Dodge will also include diesel power for local sales and will be pushing the technology in the company.

Jenkins believes there is plenty of potential for the Caliber and the vehicles that will follow.

"We are looking to establish a brand that's young and mobile and a bit alternative. And a bit macho," Jenkins says.

There will only be one Dodge at the show, because production of the Caliber does not even begin until April. But Jenkins says there will be plenty of action in coming years.

"Soon after the Caliber we will have the Dodge Nitro. Towards the end of 2007 there will be a third car and by early 2008 there should be four Dodges sold in Australia," Jenkins reveals.

"They will have the same bold style and a signature grille you will see on the Caliber. The disposition is very macho, very masculine.

"That will be both inside and outside, with big wheels and fender flares. We're also striving to have best-in-class engine performance."

While Dodge is only just firing, Chrysler is doing well in Australia and the motor show stand will feature the heavyweight 300C and the Crossfire sporties.

"The next two years are going to be extremely busy for the whole Chrysler Jeep family. If the reaction to the 300C is any indication, it's all going to be extremely positive," Jenkins says.