Chrysler may drop Avenger, focus on 200 sedan

DETROIT Mon Jan 9, 2012 6:03pm EST

DETROIT (Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC may drop the Dodge Avenger within three years as it readies a redesign of the better-selling Chrysler 200 sedan built on the same platform, a Chrysler executive said on Monday.

"Chrysler Group will likely consolidate around one midsize car in the future," Reid Bigland, head of the Dodge brand, told Reuters in a Monday interview at the Detroit auto show.

By focusing on a single model, Chrysler can lower marketing and development costs. The move also removes the risk that one model might steal sales from the other in the same showroom.

The Dodge Avenger and the Chrysler 200, formerly known as the Sebring, are built at the automaker's Sterling Heights, Michigan, plant and were overhauled in 2010.

"If we have two cars that are very similar, it does split dealer focus," Bigland said. "Consolidating around one very competitive entry certainly has its advantages."

A lackluster vehicle lineup and an untenable cost structure pushed Chrysler to the brink of collapse before its federal bailout in 2009. Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy under the management control of Italian automaker Fiat SpA.

Under Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive of both companies, Fiat and Chrysler are fusing their operations and developed a joint platform based on Fiat engineering that will underpin many of the group's future vehicles.

Chrysler unveiled the Dodge Dart compact car, which is the first vehicle off this platform, during the Detroit auto show. In the future, the Dart's roomy interior could win over some consumers who might have considered the Avenger, Bigland said.

Chrysler already offers its trademark minivans under the Dodge and Chrysler brands. But Bigland described the Avenger and 200 as "more closely aligned."

"Post-Fiat, there's a lot more product delineation," Bigland said.

Last year, the Avenger sold more than 64,000 vehicles in the U.S. market. The 200 sold about 87,000 in 2011.

The 200 was featured in Chrysler's 2-minute Super Bowl advertisement last year that featured performer Eminem and the tagline "Imported from Detroit."

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman, editing by Matthew Lewis)