Thursday, August 16, 2007

Advanced powertrains to play key role in Chrysler's plans

Author: RP news wires

Moving into a new era, The New Chrysler is banking on advanced powertrains – including hybrids and clean diesels – to meet demanding customer expectations for quality, performance and fuel economy, according to Frank Klegon, executive vice president for product development. Klegon outlined a $3 billion powertrain offensive and other aspects of The New Chrysler’s direction in a speech at the 2007 Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich.

“At The New Chrysler, our focus is on a strategy that will enable us to be competitive long into the future,” Klegon said. Private ownership will create advantages for The New Chrysler, “the most significant being an ability to bring more of our resources to bear on the ‘business of the business’,” he said.

Klegon’s presentation came just three days after employees of The New Chrysler celebrated “First Day,” marking the transfer of majority ownership to New York-based Cerberus Capital Management, while former owner DaimlerChrysler AG maintains a significant minority stake.

Blending traditional values, fresh perspective

As part of the transition, Bob Nardelli was appointed chairman and CEO, with Tom LaSorda staying on as vice chairman and president of The New Chrysler. “This is an ideal arrangement that brings fresh eyes to The New Chrysler, while providing the continuing leadership of an experienced team that thoroughly understands our company and our industry,” according to Klegon.

Klegon drew a parallel between the leadership team and The New Chrysler’s approach to its business, blending “traditional values” and “a fresh perspective” in order to reinvent the business.

“As we go forward, we remain connected to the same principles that have sustained Chrysler right from the beginning – namely, a commitment to innovation, the ability to act with speed and flexibility, and a passion to be the best,” Klegon said. “But we realize that we can’t just be the same company that we were before the 1998 merger with Daimler-Benz. The competition is tougher, and it’s global. We’ve got to be even better.”

The company’s new blueprint for success – its Recovery and Transformation Plan (RTP) – was unveiled in February and implementation is well under way. “Under the RTP, we’ve identified more than 22,000 ideas toward achieving our objective,” Klegon said. He cited other measures of progress including manufacturing efficiency, voluntary headcount reductions, quality, an improved market mix with less dependency on fleet, and expanded penetration in international markets.

Hybrids, diesels in future plans

A $3 billion commitment to new powertrains – including more fuel-efficient engines, transmissions and axles – supports The New Chrysler’s emphasis on new products. Two weeks ago, the company became the first OEM to announce a limited Lifetime Powertrain Warranty on most new Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles. “This new warranty demonstrates our commitment to customers and the confidence we have in our ability to produce quality, reliable and durable vehicles – starting with the powertrain,” Klegon said.

Within the next decade, hybrids and diesels will each account for up to 15 percent of the North American market, Klegon predicted. In the hybrid area, he identified these initiatives:

• As part of a joint venture with General Motors, Daimler and BMW, a two-mode hybrid system for the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen is planned for next year, mated to a 5.7-liter HEMI with Multiple Displacement System (MDS). The two-mode system leapfrogs current technology and is expected to produce a 25 percent improvement in fuel efficiency overall and nearly 40 percent improvement in the city.

• A mild hybrid system, with less of the cost/weight penalty incurred by a full hybrid drivetrain, will be offered on an upcoming vehicle within the next few years.

The New Chrysler intends to remain a leader in the application of clean diesel engines and in the promotion of renewable biodiesel fuel, Klegon said. The current U.S. diesel lineup includes Dodge Sprinter, Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Ram Heavy Duty. The BLUETEC Ram Heavy Duty, with a 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine, meets 2010 emissions standards for heavy-duty pickups for all 50 states, three years early. In addition, Dodge will introduce an all-new, 50-state Cummins turbodiesel engine in light-duty pickups after 2009. In the 2009 model year, the BLUETEC diesel-equipped Jeep Grand Cherokee also will meet emissions standards in all 50 states.

Klegon noted that the company has designed its European offerings to meet customer preferences there for diesel engines. “It’s safe to say that we’ll see a continued migration of some of those products brought here to the U.S. market, where we are also exploring additional penetration of our 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine, and the possibility of a four-cylinder diesel,” he said.

Conventional Engines

While demand for hybrids and clean diesels will grow in the coming decade, conventional gasoline engines will still make up an estimated 70 percent of the market. Klegon reviewed The New Chrysler’s initiatives in that area:

• The New Chrysler has significant volume and capacity to keep up with increasing demand for the four-cylinder World Engine. Klegon noted that engine is direct-injection capable.

• A new, more fuel-efficient version of the E85 flex-fuel 4.7-liter V-8 engine is being introduced, featuring a 30 percent increase in horsepower and a 10 percent increase in torque.

• A significantly upgraded version of the renowned 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, with gains in fuel efficiency, refinement, horsepower and torque, will debut in the 2009 model year.

• An all-new family of fuel-efficient “Phoenix” V-6 engines will join The New Chrysler lineup in 2010. The company has broken ground on several of its new plants including steel going up at its Trenton site. Among the engine’s features: MDS, an aluminum die cast block, dual variable valve timing and a two-stage oil pump which provides fuel efficiency gains.

The New Chrysler’s investment in fuel-efficiency gains also includes a new dual-clutch transmission that will be produced with Getrag and will appear in significant volumes on 2010 vehicles, and a common axle program with Mercedes-Benz. In addition, fuel efficiency will be improved by at least 5 percent more through initiatives such as weight reduction; aero drag improvements; reduced rolling resistance and brake drag to lower road-loads; optimized accessory loads by electric load management; and minimized drive train losses.

“We’re moving with real urgency to improve fuel efficiency across our lineup, with powertrain upgrades and innovations playing a big part,” Klegon said. “We’re driving into an exciting new era at The New Chrysler, with the support of a great new partner and with a solid plan. And we’re making the investments necessary to pave the way for future success.”

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