Chrysler said on Tuesday it was set to unveil a renamed and upgraded version of its Sebring sedan as the automaker readies its first restyled vehicles since emerging from bankruptcy under the control of Fiat SpA.
Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne, who also heads Fiat, made the announcement at a meeting with Chrysler dealers in Orlando, Florida, the company said.
The Orlando meeting, which was closed to outsiders, was Chrysler's first dealer event that featured a glimpse of coming products since 2007.
Through August, Chrysler had sold 28,955 Sebrings mostly to fleets, up 81 percent for the same period in 2009. Toyota had sold 220,061 Camry sedans through the first eight months of 2010, down 7.8 percent from the prior year.
Chrysler has had one new vehicle launch in the past year -- a new version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
More than 75 percent of its 2,314 U.S. dealers attended as well as 700 Chrysler Group dealers from Canada, Mexico and other international markets, the automaker said in a statement.
Marchionne has described his strategy for Chrysler as one of hibernation, preserving cash until the automaker could complete a raft of upgrades to its existing line-up.
He has said Chrysler's strategy would be to compete more aggressively in the family sedan category where it has long been an also-ran.
Other elements of the Fiat-driven product plan for Chrysler include bringing Fiat platforms and cars to the U.S. market -- led by the Fiat 500 city car.
The Chrysler Sebring, which had never gained traction against top-sellers like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, will be renamed the Chrysler 200, the company said.
It promised the 200 will have a softer ride, better handling, reduced noise and other improvements over the Sebring, which has been long a target of critics for its handling and interior.
Chrysler will build the 200 at the Sterling Heights, Michigan, assembly plant where it produces the Sebring and expects to deliver it to dealers in the fourth quarter of this year.
The automaker also said there would be powertrain improvements for its Town & Country minivans and interior and exterior changes to its Jeep Patriot crossover.
(Reporting by David Bailey)