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Chrysler in Groove With Sebring, Pacifica, Not 300

Chrysler will be judicious when choosing which vehicles will get the new hood design.

CHELSEA, MI – By all appearances, Chrysler Group designers are feelin’ groovy.

The ’07 Sebring sedan and Pacifica cross/utility vehicle have grooved hoods – a signature feature of the Crossfire 2-seater, which is on hiatus for the coming model year. But don’t expect the distinctive element to migrate throughout the brand’s entire lineup.

The grooved hood, also seen on the Airflite concept car that debuted in 2003 at the Geneva auto show, will not become a Chrysler trademark like the brand’s bold grille, says designer David C. McKinnon, whose responsibility includes passenger cars and family vehicles.

“We do stay consistent with our grille face,” McKinnon tell Ward's during an ’07 model preview at Chrysler’s proving grounds here. “And we probably will always do that, whether it’s a Dodge or a Chrysler. We’ll use (the grooved hood) where we feel we want a little spark of sportiness. I don’t think I would have to have it in all cases.”

That includes the broad expanse of sheet metal in front of the 300 sedan’s windshield.

“I don’t think it would work there,” says McKinnon, who doesn’t worry that Chrysler’s style might be diluted and less recognizable if its models feature disparate design cues.

“We put bright belts on some cars and we don’t put them on others,” McKinnon notes, adding Chrysler Group designers will do what is necessary to convey brand messages.

The Dodge Caliber, Chrysler Group’s entry-level car, features the most expensive door handle of any vehicle in the auto maker’s lineup. It is painted and adorned by a chrome insert.

Among the best attributes of the grooved hood is bang for the buck, McKinnon says.

“You get it for free when you put it in the stamping. So it’s not like having to add a piece of chrome or a piece of something that costs you money.”

How will vehicle shoppers react?

“It will pique their interest,” predicts John Berry, general sales manager at Hollywood Chrysler Jeep in Hollywood, FL. “People are always looking for something new before they put down their dollars.”

The design element might help Chrysler attract younger buyers.

“Down here, the younger generation want change,” Berry says. “They want sophistication and style.”

And it must be different, he adds.

Although a slow sales pace forced Chrysler to hold off on an ’07 Crossfire, Berry isn’t concerned a Crossfire-inspired hood might be bad luck for the all-new Sebring and freshened Pacifica.

“The hood had nothing to do with the Crossfire,” Berry says. “The coupe was just too small. The convertible did well for us. We still have people asking for the convertible. When you build the coupe and you don’t put in a T-top or a sunroof, it’s very claustrophobic.”

Through June, ’06 model-year Crossfire sales are down 25.9% compared with ’05 model-year deliveries, according to Ward's data.

Surprisingly, the eye-catching grooves don’t have a name.

“It’s just the grooves in the hood,” McKinnon says. “I guess we’ll have to think of one.”

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TAGS: Vehicles
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