Charger Orders Pile Up By Brett Clanton / The Detroit News Chrysler may soon have another hit on its hands. The Auburn Hills unit of DaimlerChrysler AG says it has taken 20,000 orders and identified 85,000 potential buyers for the 2006 Dodge Charger sedan, which goes into production this week. Not even the Chrysler 300 sedan, the automaker's biggest hit in years, posted such strong early numbers. "To us, it's a good indication of the interest level in this vehicle," said Chrysler spokesman Rick Deneau. But the four-door revival of the classic muscle car will face stiff competition in the midsize sedan category now ruled by the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Industry forecaster Global Insight predicts annual sales at 70,000 for the Charger, which would make it a hit but not a home run. The Accord sold more than that in the first three months of this year. But Andre Tadros, general sales manager at Northwestern Dodge in Detroit, says early customer response tells him the Charger will be a strong seller. "I haven't seen this much excitement for a Dodge in a long time," he said. Chrysler will build the Charger at its plant in Brampton, Ontario, and expects to have the first models in dealerships by early next month. ------ The Anti-Camry: Dodge to market Charger to buyers who want performance, edgy design MARY CONNELLY | Automotive News Posted Date: 4/18/05 DETROIT -- Forget chasing Honda Accord and Toyota Camry buyers, Dodge says. They won't "get" the 2006 Dodge Charger. Instead, Dodge will market its new sedan to Dodge owners, domestic buyers and import buyers looking for high performance and edgy design, says Judy Wheeler, director of Dodge marketing. Advertising primarily will stress performance. Styling and value are the other key messages, she says. Advertising begins in May. "Advertising is going to be about the way the vehicle makes you feel when you drive it," Wheeler says. "And it's a Dodge vehicle, which means it doesn't look like everybody else's vehicle sitting in the driveway." The Charger's image won't resonate with Accord and Camry shoppers seeking "a more vanilla" model, Wheeler says. "Dodge is being realistic" says Jim Hall, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific Inc. in Southfield, Mich. "There was a time when they would have said, 'Yes, it will compete with everything.'" The Accord and Camry defined the mid-sized car in the late 20th century, Hall says. The models are front-wheel-drive, primarily equipped with four-cylinder engines. In contrast, the Charger is a larger, rear-wheel-drive sedan equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 or a 5.7-liter V-8. Dodge has found a "clear space" in the market, Hall says. Charger's performance/design/pricing formula is similar to that of the successful Chrysler 300 sedan, he says. The Charger will appeal primarily to domestic buyers, Hall says, citing the sedan's styling and Dodge's image. "Dodge is heavily known for in-your-face trucks," he says. "They are definitely American." That's OK with Wheeler. Customer research shows that owners of competing domestic brands gave the Charger the same purchase consideration as did Dodge owners, she says. Dodge will not say how many Chargers it expects to sell to Dodge owners or to owners of competing brands. Wheeler says the brand is reaching Dodge owners through direct mailing and Internet marketing. Truck image Charger is crucial to the Dodge brand, she says. Dodge is trying to rebuild its image as a carmaker. In 2004, trucks represented 78.0 percent of its U.S. sales. In consumer research, "When they think about the Dodge brand it is very much associated with trucks and minivans," Wheeler says. Hall says rebuilding the image of Dodge cars will take more than a single model. "You have a company that let the passenger-car side of the business go over decades," he says. Charger "is another step they have to take to get to where they want to be." Wheeler says reviving the Charger name was part of the strategy to reinforce Dodge's image as a car brand. Company monitoring of Internet blogs shows the strategy is working based on the Charger citations, she says. Seeking men Advertising will be geared toward men, Wheeler says. Strong, independent women will respond to the advertising message of performance, styling and value, she says, but men wouldn't accept ads geared to women. "We've found if we focus advertising toward women we are going to turn off men," Wheeler says. About 65 percent of Charger buyers are likely to be males, she says. The buyers are expected to be in their mid-40s. Charger's heritage is not part of the advertising message.