DaimlerChrysler Unveils All-New 2000 Neon at L.A.
30 December 1998
Combination of Substance and Fun Allows All-New 2000 Neon to Grow Up (But Not Old)
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 29 -- The engineering and design team for the new Neon are serious about keeping driving fun. That's why, while the 2000 Neon provides a substantial ride and refined appearance, it didn't lose the fun-to-drive characteristics that made Neon a benchmark among small cars.
"The 2000 Neon will be the first car of the new millennium and keeps all the aspects loved by customers while refining other elements to win new ones," said Thomas W. Sidlik, Executive Vice President and General Manager - Small Car Operations. "We've combined a higher degree of substance and sophistication with fun. The first-generation Neon gave us a great foundation -- best-in-class power, fun-to-drive handling, surprising room and comfort. We built the 2000 Neon on this foundation while also preserving its strong identity."
The first-generation Neon was introduced in January 1994 as an all-new, unique small car with unexpected features for its class. It set new standards for the small car market in roominess, horsepower and safety. Over the next five years, more than 1.5 million Neons were sold worldwide, making it one of the most successful small cars in the world.
The 2000 Neon becomes the next overall benchmark for the ever-changing small car market -- critical because small cars will represent nearly 30 percent of all cars sold in the United States by the year 2000.
Substance With Style
"The market for small cars has changed significantly," said Joe Caddell, General Product Manager, Small Car Operations. "The customer in the small car segment requires refinement and substance, not just good gas mileage and a low price. That's where the next Neon is a perfect fit."
The 2000 Neon, to be sold under both the Dodge and Plymouth brands, boasts an all-new exterior and interior, along with substantially improved ride and handling. The Neon's development team met a series of goals to enhance performance and customer comfort. In addition, the team improved the manufacturing and engineering processes, significantly contributing to quality by allowing more time for testing.
"We enhanced the ride characteristics of the 2000 Neon and made it quieter," said Cindy Hess, Vice President, Small Car Platform. "The customer will notice the enhancements, but will appreciate all the things we kept."
For improved customer comfort, hip room (1.6 inches front, 2.3 inches rear), interior volume (103.4 cubic feet vs. 101.7), rear head room (0.3 inches) and shoulder room (0.9 inches front, 1.5 inches rear) were all increased, keeping the 2000 Neon one of the roomiest cars in the entire segment. Customers also will appreciate the vehicle's increased trunk capacity (13.1 cubic feet vs. 11.8 cubic feet), particularly coupled with the standard 60/40 split rear folding seats.
"We've proven again that small cars can provide comfort and delight features," said Caddell. "More room and unexpected standard features make the new Neon the best value in its class."
Increased Manufacturing Efficiencies
Significant changes in the manufacturing and design processes have improved quality while keeping costs down.
The new Neon took 28 months to develop, reduced from 31 months for the first-generation vehicle. The total investment in the program was $703 million compared to $1.3 billion for the previous generation Neon. This was accomplished through the use of modified tools and processes in design and at DaimlerChrysler's Belvidere, Illinois, assembly facility.
Several state-of-the-art technologies also were employed in designing the next-generation Neon. The DaimlerChrysler team used the design system, CATIA (Computer-Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application) with DMA (Digital Modeling Assembly), a three-dimensional computer process that allowed engineers to build more accurate prototypes to ensure proper fit. In addition, the computer-generated images of Virtual Reality (VR) let engineers "experience" the interior of the Neon prior to build. DaimlerChrysler is the first automaker to apply this technology as an engineering tool with CATIA and DMA.
"Each tool increases quality through higher precision, and shortened creation time of prototype parts -- going from weeks to hours," explained Hess. "All of this allows for more testing time which, ultimately, creates a higher quality vehicle. For example, we logged the equivalent of more than five million miles during our tests on the vehicle."
Design enhancements and production efficiencies make the 2000 Neon even more environmentally friendly as well.
"Environmentally safer waterborne coatings were used, molded-in color fascias reduce the time and coatings necessary, and 98-percent returnable containers at the assembly plant save on disposal and landfill space," Hess said. "Plus, the doors' water shields are made from recycled plastic soft drink containers. Our commitment to the environment starts in design, continues through the manufacturing process and is seen in the final product.
"Efficiencies don't just make a corporation and its customers winners in the pocket book, but in the environment we all share," Hess said.
The 2000 Dodge and Plymouth Neon is made at DaimlerChrysler's Belvidere, Illinois, assembly plant and goes on sale in the first quarter of 1999.