By RICK KRANZ | Automotive News (08:30 Oct. 15, 2003) Dodge has dropped its family sedan, the Intrepid, and will replace it next spring with a V-8 powered, rear wheel drive, high performance wagon targeted at men. The strategy is risky, say some dealers, who want Dodge also to offer a sedan sibling of the 2005 Magnum for more conservative buyers. Dodge executives say they have made no decision about a sedan, although they have discussed the possibility with dealers. The Magnum, which Dodge calls a sports tourer, will offer outstanding performance plus ample cargo space, the executives say. Dealer Ken Zangara of Zangara Dodge in Albuquerque, N.M., says he would rather have both a wagon and a sedan. "I have driven the Magnum, and it's fantastic," he says. "It could be one of those segment busters like PT Cruiser - at least that is what we are praying for." The Magnum wagon reflects DaimlerChrysler's apparent intentions to put less emphasis on sedans, says Jeff Schuster, director of product analysis at J.D. Power and Associates. Instead, he expects that the automaker likely will offer a wide range of wagonlike vehicles throughout its product lines, including the next-generation Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Neon. "There is an undertow at Chrysler, and at some degree at Mercedes, to live and die by this tourer body style that they essentially launched with the Pacifica," Schuster says. The 2005 Dodge Magnum and a sister car, the 2005 Chrysler 300 sedan, are the first high-volume cars developed since Chrysler Corp. was acquired by Daimler-Benz AG in 1998. Twenty percent of the Magnum's components, by value, come from Mercedes-Benz products. Dodge does not refer to the Magnum as a station wagon to avoid a comparison with the poor-handling, underpowered station wagons of the past. Company officials want the high-powered Magnum to build on Dodge's image for power and performance. Dodge is offering an optional V-8 engine that the company has dubbed the Hemi. "The Magnum is very masculine," said John Sloan, senior manager of Dodge car marketing plans, at an Oct. 7 press event in New York. While about 80 percent of Magnums sold will have either a 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter V-6 engine, the key option is the 340-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, producing 365 pounds-feet of torque. Dodge promises acceleration of 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and a top speed above 150 mph. The ride and handling are expected to emulate a sport sedan, a far cry from the Intrepid's rental-car image. The Magnum's message is "Nothing else has this performance, nothing else has this driving experience, nothing else has this convertibility of space and nothing else looks like this," Sloan said. Among the Magnum's upscale options will be stability control, a navigation system, all-wheel drive and high-intensity discharge headlamps. Dodge dealers were aware that the four-door Intrepid would be dropped and the rear-wheel-drive Magnum wagon would be added in 2004. But in recent meetings with dealers, Dodge executives also had discussed the possibility of offering a sedan based off the rwd LX platform that the Magnum shares with the Chrysler 300C. Last month, Chrysler group executives talked with dealers about adding a Dodge rwd sedan. But the executives made no commitment to build it, says dealer Zangara, who attended that dealer meeting. Willie Yuhas, sales manager at Yonkers Avenue Auto Park in Yonkers, N.Y., says: "I'm still leery of the whole concept because, let's face it, it is still a station wagon." Says Jim Arrigo, president of Dodge's national dealer council: "I don't think it is a huge burden that we don't have a sedan at this point. But we would like to see one, and, hopefully, they will bring it back into the mix." Schuster says the decision to offer one Magnum model, a wagon, reflects the European market, where wagons are popular. But Schuster doubts that U.S. buyers will have the same interest in wagons. "I don't know if that is where middle America is moving," he says. "There is certainly a portion of the population that is attracted to these type of vehicles (which offer a flexible interior), but I don't think it is your volume vehicle. I think that is where the difference lies right now." While the Chrysler group has not discussed the Magnum's sales potential, Schuster estimates sales volume at around 70,000 units annually. Dodge sold 111,356 Intrepids in 2002, including a large number to rental fleets. Dodge's Sloan points to research supporting the decision to offer one model, a wagon. While some clinic subjects preferred a sedan because it has a trunk, giving it a more secure storage area, others praised the Magnum's styling. "There were a number of people, and a significant number of them, who said, 'I always liked this look, and they stopped making it; this is cool,' " Sloan says. "So all the research didn't say, or even hint at, big mistake, need a sedan."