Roughly 18 percent of the people who came to look at Chrysler's new subcompact Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon last week had never been in a Chrysler dealership before.

That means the new model is attracting the customers it ought to attrack, Robert McCurry, Chrysler's vice president for U.S. auto sales, said yesterday.

He said Chrysler hopes to sell 200,000 of the new cars this year, maybe even 220,000, and sales executives are counting on most of that to be "plus business."

First week's sales for the Omni/Horison, which officially went on dealers' floors Jan. 16, were about 3,500 units - despite blizzards that kept buyers out of many showrooms and even closed the production line for three days, McCurry said.

Chrysler executives, who have been hosting coming-out parties for the new cars for the past two months and showed it to 4,000 guests at the Capital Hilton yesterday, are counting on the car to booster their compact car sales and increase their market penetration.

The number three automaker sold 1.3 million cars last year, but saw its sales pace lag toward year's end.

Thanks to Omni/Horison, Chrysler projects 56 or 57 per cent of its volume this year will be in small cars.

Already picked as the car of the year by two automotive enthusiast publications, the Omni/Horizon, is Chrysler's answer to the imported economy car.

But because "an import buyer is an import buyer" McCurry said the company doesn't expect its Omni/Horison sales to be at the expense of the Japanese imports now already sold by Chrysler dealers.