LANSDOWNE, VA — Chrysler Group marketers still are deciding whether to use the name “Nitro” for a forthcoming Dodge midsize SUV.
The Jeep Liberty-based SUV bowed in concept form earlier this year at the Chicago Auto Show with the name Nitro.
While the vehicle is a sure thing in Dodge's future product line, the name could change for the production model, Joe Veltri, director-Dodge truck marketing and product planning, tells Ward's at a media drive event here.
The Nitro would compete against a field of cross/utility vehicles including the Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent, and likely assist Dodge's attempt to expand the brand among the 25-year-old and under “Millennial” crowd.
But the moniker could launch under a negative cloud due to a recreational drug also called Nitro.
Veltri says the auto maker puts a lot of effort into choosing vehicle names. At the drive event here, he was overheard asking at least one journalist what they thought of the Aspen name, which reportedly is the tag for a Dodge Durango-based SUV headed for the Chrysler lineup.
Veltri gives no indication whether Chrysler plans to build such a product.
When the production version of the Nitro bows, likely in 2006 for the '07 model year, it launches in a middle SUV segment in need of an energy boost. Sales of middle SUVs were off 6.9% through the first half of 2005 vs. like-2004, according to Ward's data.
But most of its competition is in the middle CUV segment, which Ward's shows as being up 27.8% through June.