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Challenge for new Charger

The name switch is plausible and likely to receive greater attention here considering the four-door Charger is a no-goer for Australia.

This is Chrysler's brightest year in Australia for some time although its future has become uncertain with the split this week from the Daimler corporation.

Seven Chrysler Group products, from Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep, are to be launched here in total this year. The third model, the Chrysler Sebring, was launched last week and will be available in showrooms from next month.

But all of them would pale against the possibility of the return of the Charger.

The original Charger, which has a permanent place in the Australian lexicon with its "Hey, Charger" advertising campaign, was sold here between 1971 and 1978.

The most famous was the 1972 Bathurst supercar R/T E49 model

The Sebring will join the Jeep Compass SUV and Wrangler four-wheel-drive series, which was launched in March. Next on the list for Australia is the Dodge Nitro, which is based on the Jeep Cherokee but without a low-range gearbox. This will also arrive here in June and will fall in the mid to high $30,000 range.

It will be followed closely by the Sebring-based Dodge Avenger in July, which will carry a price tag just below the Sebring, which starts at $33,990.

In August, the more offroad-savvy Jeep Patriot will go on sale. It shares some similarities with the Compass, coming off this platform and also carrying a price tag around the same as the Compass, which ranges from $32,490 to $40,490.

The line-up will be rounded off by the Sebring folding-metal roofed convertible, in both soft-top and hard-top form. The cabrio will arrive in November or December and pricing will be released closer to the date.

It may also be available in a different engine to the current 2.4-litre in the Sebring sedan.

Chrysler Australia managing director, Gerry Jenkins says even though the vehicles fall into similar price ranges, it is trying to set the products up so the cars don't "cannibalise one another", offering different levels of specifications and pricing.

Early in 2008, the new Voyager people mover will make an appearance here, sporting a more muscular look and a 3.8-litre V6 and diesel engines.

The Sebring sedan will then have the option of a 2.7-litre V6 and a diesel.

The V6 may even come with a six-speed ZF automatic transmission.

Jenkins says that with all the new product, the company is aiming to increase its sales in Australia from the 9000 vehicles sold last year to about 13,000 vehicles this year. This will be a steady growth from the 6500 vehicles sold just two years ago.

He says the company is anticipating 2008 to be a much quieter year in product release, although he says there will still be some new offerings from these American brands.