Chrysler Corp. met with the media earlier this month to unveil its 1999 LHS and 300M sedans being shipped to showrooms.
While the LHS/300M took center stage, a little poking around found some interesting developments brewing at Chrysler, like maybe a station wagon off the same platform as these luxury sedans.Hmm. And maybe an all-wheel-drive on which to base a car/sport-ute hybrid like Toyota did in building the Lexus RX300 off the same platform as the ES300 sedan?
"No thoughts were given to an AWD version of these cars," said John Sloan, vehicle planning executive of large cars for Chrysler.
"But as for other products off this platform, nothing would preclude us from doing that. This would be a solid platform to build on," Sloan said.
And one of those could be a wagon.
"Audi, Mercedes and Volvo all have wagons and have rejuvenated that market so a case could be made for (Chrysler) having one," Sloan said.
"We're studying an LHS or 300M wagon. The question is how to make the economics work," he said.
Ironically, while Chrysler helped minivans replace station wagons, in some quarters minivans are drawing the same criticism that led to the station wagon's demise.
"With minivans you have to address the `Soccer Mom' label, the `Involved Mom' rather than the `With-it' Mom. We've been working hard to address that. A candy-apple-red Caravan says `With-It Mom' to me, but you can't ignore what's happening with vehicles like the Audi, Mercedes or Volvo wagon," Sloan said.
We asked whether a flagship model a step above LHS/300M is in the works.
"At some point maybe we'll have a $40,000 to $50,000 car, but we must earn our way to that level. The LHS and 300M are two blocks to build to that level," Sloan said.
"But you must follow a series of steps first and have a luxury-car pedigree and heritage in order to compete successfully. No one laughed when Ford Motor Co. spent $2.5 billion to acquire Jaguar because Ford had a luxury-car heritage, but Volkswagen, for example, has been known for economy cars for decades, which makes it a stretch in credibility to consider it would buy Rolls-Royce," Sloan said.
Sure would add another feather in the luxury cap to see a limited-edition LHS or 300M with retractable hardtop or a power soft top for open-air motoring.
Now that Chrysler has come up with hidden rear access doors for its Ram truck, why not hidden access doors on this sedan to give it the look of a coupe?
"These cars weren't designed either to add a convertible or retractable hardtop and neither is being considered," said Ron Boltz, general manager of large car operations for Chrysler.
-Now that the LHS and 300M are arriving, Chrysler officials said it's time to direct attention to the next design makeover, the compact Chrysler Cirrus and Dodge Stratus, which appeared in the 1995 model year.