CHICAGO — The Dodge Nitro concept midsize SUV unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show here could come out in production form as early as 2006 for the ‘07 model year.
If so, some of the credit goes to a group of dealers' kids.
“Nitro was inspired by another concept, the Dodge M80,” says Dave McKinnon, vice president of design for Chrysler Group.
Based on the midsize Dodge Dakota, the M80 pickup concept was shown on the 2002 auto-show circuit as a highly stylized, but low-priced vehicle to attract youth.
The Nitro is based on the Jeep liberty platform and was developed alongside the M80.
McKinnon says, “We actually finished the small-scale model of the SUV before we were done with the fullsize M80 clay model, and everyone got excited about it,” he adds.
The Nitro concept went from virtual reality to clay model last summer, when sons and daughters of Dodge dealers were brought to Chrysler's Auburn Hills, MI, headquarters for a look.
“They were 18 to 40 years old in order to get a wide sampling of both ages and genders, and they unanimously loved the vehicle,” McKinnon says.
That earned Nitro a spot on the show circuit. McKinnon says he'll get dealer feedback from the Chicago Auto Show.
“Dealers who work the show are very observant and will report back what they hear,” he says.