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Chrysler’s New Sedan Will Have Aftermarket ‘Bentley’ Grille

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Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Chrysler Group LLC, which redesigned its namesake 300, will sell grille accessories based on the older version to appeal to fans of the previous model.

Chrysler will offer six grilles, including the so-called Bentley and heritage, through its Mopar service, parts and customer division, Pietro Gorlier, chief executive officer of the unit, said today in an interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“We have a large following of enthusiasts that like the old” grille, Gorlier said. Previously, Mopar offered two to three grille options, according to Chrysler.

The grilles will be sold for $450 to $550 each, said Bryan Zvibleman, a Chrysler spokesman. The heritage grille has vertical and horizontal lines which look like an egg crate, while the new grille has only horizontal lines. The Bentley grille, also known as the cross hatch, is called so because it resembles the one made by Volkswagen AG’s Bentley.

Mopar plans to offer more aftermarket accessories after the unit doubled accessory sales in 2010, Gorlier said. The growth was helped by adding new products and pushing dealers to sell more accessories and display them in their dealerships, he said.

“One of the ways we add value to the brand, is to give the possibility to every customer to personalize his own car,” Gorlier said.

Chrysler introduced the redesigned 300 sedan at the auto show yesterday.

The company, operated by Fiat SpA, is more than one year into its five-year turnaround plan, which includes returning the automaker to profitability this year. Chrysler’s global sales last year rose 15 percent to 1.5 million vehicles, including 1.09 million in the U.S., according to the automaker. The plan calls for Chrysler’s global sales to rise to 2.8 million in 2014.

‘Important Vehicle’

Chrysler, based in to Auburn Hills, Michigan-based, worked to improve the 300’s interior and refine its distinctive exterior design, the company said.

“This is a very important vehicle for them,” Rebecca Lindland, an industry analyst with IHS Automotive, said in a telephone interview before the auto show.

Ralph Gilles, head of Chrysler’s design, said during a press conference yesterday that the heritage grille and “what we call the Bentley grille” would be available through Mopar.

Sales of the 300 peaked in 2005 at 144,000, Lindland said. The sedan’s U.S. sales fell 3.9 percent last year compared with 2009 to 37,116, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

The 300 is one of 16 redesigned or refreshed vehicles that Chrysler has brought out within the past year. Chrysler has also brought its refreshed Jeep Compass for an auto show debut.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Higgins in Detroit at thiggins21@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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