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Chrysler Quietly Turning Heads

If you walked around the Detroit Auto Showduring press days Monday and Tuesday you heard some of the same comments over and over:

"Ford is on a roll."

"The Porsche 918 Spider is gorgeous,"

And "Check out Chrysler, you'll like what you see."

That last one might surprise you, but it shouldn't.

Chrysler grille
AP
Chrysler grille

Chrysler is no longer on death's door step. Under CEO Sergio Marchionne, the Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep brands are quietly getting back in the game of competing and winning over buyers.

No wonder Marchionne this week was the most relaxedwe've seen him since he took over the troubled auto maker.

Take a look at the fit and finish of the new Jeep Grand Cherokeeand you can see why the new Chrysler is doing better. It is every bit as attractive as its leading competitors. That's a huge improvement over the old Grand Cherokee and a sign Chrysler is once again serious about building cars, trucks, and SUV's that can win over buyers.

I won't re-hash the past, but suffice it to say, Chrysler under its previous owner was basically going through the motions. Building cars and trucks but not making the investments needed to make those models competitive. That's changing. U.S. sales last year were up 16.5% (above the industry average of 11.1%), once again topping one million vehicles.

Detroit Auto Show 2011 - A CNBC Special Report
Detroit Auto Show 2011 - A CNBC Special Report

Time and again this week, I heard reporters, analysts, and auto consultants talking about the improved models Chrysler was showing at the show.

Will they be home runs?

I'm not sure. But they will definitely do a better job connecting with buyers. Sit in the new Chrysler 300and tell me it's not a major upgrade over what Chrysler was cranking out three years ago.

It takes time to get up off the floor in the auto business. Slowly but surely, that's happening at Chrysler.

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