Friday, June 15, 2007

Loveless leaves Chrysler to join Kia as sales chief

Jack Herman
Automotive News
June 15, 2007 - 2:49 pm

Tom Loveless will join Kia Motors America Inc. as vice president of sales, leaving the Chrysler group after 24 years.

Loveless will report to Kia COO Len Hunt, who had handled sales since February 2006, the company said today.

Loveless was Chrysler's director of U.S. market volume planning. He also had been Dodge brand marketing and communications director, a director of U.S. field sales operations and director of sales and service for the Washington, D.C., zone.

"We look forward to integrating Tom's strong sales and marketing experience and proven leadership approach into our executive management team," Hunt said in a statement. "Together we will work to achieve our short and long-term objectives."

RAG Says Ministers Chose Share Sale Over Cerberus Bid (Update1)

FORBES | By Thom Rose

June 15 (Bloomberg) -- RAG AG, Germany's biggest coal miner, said government ministers chose a share sale over bids of as much as 8 billion euros ($10.7 billion) from Cerberus Capital Management LP for the company's property, energy and chemicals units.

The offers from Cerberus ranged from 6 billion euros to 8 billion euros, Barbara Mueller, a spokeswoman for RAG, said today by telephone. Ministers have chosen to continue with the planned share sale instead, she said.

RAG needed government approval to sell shares of its non- coal businesses and ministers are debating the future of the German coal industry, including RAG. Should the share sale be completed, they'll need to create a foundation to handle the continuing costs of RAG's unprofitable coal unit.

``We know from the coal talks that the various federal ministers were aware of such offers in the range of 6 billion euros to 8 billion euros from Cerberus,'' Mueller said. ``The choice to approve the share sale for the integrated company was made in light of this knowledge.''

RAG owns Dusseldorf, Germany-based Degussa GmbH, the world's largest specialty chemical maker. RAG's owners include E.ON AG, RWE AG and ThyssenKrupp AG.

RAG agreed last year to sell its coal-mine equipment maker DBT GmbH to Bucyrus International Inc. as it prepares to shift away from mining. The company plans to list a combination of Degussa, the Steag AG energy unit and its real-estate assets.

Chop of the week: Vuda [Viper/Cuda]

Done by Mopr Performance

Chrysler still enthusiastic about the Chinese auto market

Jun. 15, 2007 (China Knowledge) – Recently, DaimlerChrysler underwent reorganization with Cerberus Capital Management LP gaining 80.1% of Chrysler Group and DaimlerChrysler retained the rest. "However, it will not affect Chrysler's business in the Chinese market and we will continue to release our models in China", remarked Simon Elliott, president and CEO of Chrysler (China) Sales Company.

Chrysler China is keen to continue the momentum built up by the successful introduction of the Chrysler 300C model. The model’s monthly sales averaged 1,300 per month and Beijing Benz-DaimlerChrysler is going to introduce another Chrysler model, the Sebring soon.
We are really keen on the Chinese market, and we will have 10 models including the Chrysler 300C here in China by the first quarter of next year", commented Eric Ridenour, chief operating officer of Chrysler Group. "Chrysler and Jeep brands will have more than 60 dealers for a total of 130 next year in China, while Dodge will have 60 independent dealers by the end of this year."

Film Notes: Chrysler wants you for movie

Friday, June 15, 2007

This weekend's Wings Over Pittsburgh will plug another form of transportation and allow visitors to have their moment in the cinematic sun.

The Chrysler Mobile Showcase, designed to promote the 2008 Sebring convertible, will give people the chance to star in a 30-second short that could win them a trip to Los Angeles and a walk-on part in the movie "Blue Valentine," along with other prizes. Visitors will get a chance to demonstrate their talent in "My Convertible Experience."

Go to for details about the event tomorrow and Sunday in Moon. You'll also find key information about performers, parking, traffic changes, arrival times and other details there. Also see for information.

AUDIO from Medialink and DaimlerChrysler: Share Your Favorite Jeep Story

    NEW YORK, June 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Many of life's funniest or most
memorable moments happen in our cars. One all-American auto brand is
celebrating its role in the lives of its owners with a special contest
involving country music's hottest couple and their own personal story --
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

This Day iin Auto History: 15 JUNE

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly
This Day in Auto History:

The first Italian speed hillclimb, the Consuma Cup staged near Florence is won by Nourry in a DeDion-Bouton
The first production Hanson Six is completed at the Atlanta, GA factory of the Hanson Motor Company
Ray Keech, winner of the 1929 Indianapolis 500 and former land speed record holder, is killed at age 30 when his Miller “Simplex Piston Ring Special” crashes while leading a 200-mile race in Altoona, PA – the event was terminated and Keech was posthumously declared to be the winner
Dallas E. Winslow, Inc. purchases the Auburn and Cord parts stock plus related equipment for $85,000
Racer Eje Elgh is born in Karlskoga, Sweden

Source: Automobile History Day By Day, by Douglas A. Wick

Canadian sales are in

General Motors
45,118 44,029 24.3% 26.2% -1.9% 2.5%
27,651 26,219 14.9% 15.6% -0.7% 5.5%
Ford Motor Co.
26,767 24,600 14.4% 14.6% -0.2% 8.8%
Toyota Motor Corp.
24,724 23,530 13.3% 14.0% -0.7% 5.1%
Honda Motor Co.
18,242 15,528 9.8% 9.2% 0.6% 17.5%
Hyundai-Kia Automotive
11,551 9,897 6.2% 5.9% 0.3% 16.7%
Nissan Motor Co.
8,132 5,273 4.4% 3.1% 1.2% 54.2%
Volkswagen AG
4,806 3,903 2.6% 2.3% 0.3% 23.1%
BMW Group
3,133 2,492 1.7% 1.5% 0.2% 25.7%

Getrag to build transmissions with Chrysler

Formal announcement for Indiana plant set for Monday

David Phillips
Automotive News
June 14, 2007 - 2:45 pmINDIANAPOLIS -- Getrag Corp. of Germany and the Chrysler group plan to join Indiana officials on Monday to unveil plans for a transmission plant 40 miles north of Indianapolis.

Getrag has acquired a 145-acre site in Tipton County for a joint-venture plant that is expected to begin supplying Chrysler in 2009.

In April, the German company filed plans with the county to build the 700,000-square-foot factory, with an estimated price tag of $560 million. Employment is expected to reach 1,200 workers.

The plant is part of a $3 billion product development push by Chrysler to offer more fuel-efficient powertrains and to meet future federal fuel economy rules. Chrysler spokesman David Elshoff says additional details will be announced at Monday's event.

The Getrag project marks the first time Chrysler has formed a joint venture for a large-volume transmission. The company has independently assembled automatic transmissions for front- and rear-drive applications in nearby Kokomo, Ind., for decades.

The new so-called dual-clutch transmission will replace Chrysler's current four-speed automatic transmissions used in minivans and other high-volume passenger vehicles.

Annual volumes could reach 1.2 million units.

"With the Getrag partnership, Chrysler is receiving transmission technology already proven in Europe, enhanced performance and fuel economy, the ability to come to market in a timely way, and significant cost savings," says Eric Fedewa, an analyst with CSM Worldwide Inc. in Farmington Hills, Mich.

DaimlerChrysler disclosed last fall that it was considering the Kokomo area for the new factory.

While in development, the joint venture between Gertrag and Chrysler has been embraced by Cerberus Capital Management LP, which is acquiring an 80.1 percent stake in Chrysler for $7.4 billion.

Such global alliances in manufacturing, product development and distribution are expected to play a key role in Cerberus' recovery plan for Chrysler.

Chrysler is overhauling its North American business after posting a $1.5 billion loss last year. Under the restructuring, it is closing plants and cutting 4,700 U.S. hourly workers.

The plant is an integral part of what Chrysler calls its latest powertrain initiative. The company is spending $3 billion on new axle, engine and transmission plants, and upgrades to existing plants in Mexico and the United States.

In recent weeks Chrysler announced plans for three V-6 engine plants in Trenton, Mich.; Saltillo, Mexico; and Kenosha, Wis.

"With the consumer shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles, we are introducing new powertrains at an optimal time," Elshoff says. "At the same time, we are consolidating and simplifying our family of V-6 engines, resulting in lower tooling, supply and manufacturing costs."

Chrysler dealers are happy about Daimler divorce

US carmaker to add 100 stores in Europe by 2009

Amy Wilson
Automotive News Europe
June 11, 2007 - 1:00 amMUNICH -- Don’t expect many changes in Chrysler group’s European dealer network even after the US automaker finalizes its divorce from DaimlerChrysler.

Chrysler executives expect to continue the automaker’s European expansion even after buyer Cerberus Capital Management takes control. Chrysler has about 1,000 European dealers and plans to add another 100 in the next two years, said Thomas Hausch, Chrysler vice president of international sales.

Dealer contracts will not change, Hausch said. Chrysler will continue to use the same wholesalers and importers in its European markets. “We have an as-good or even better future with this decision,” Hausch said.

Some dealers are praising the split.

Chrysler’s 56 dealers in Spain are more optimistic than ever, said Francisco Salazar Simpson, president of the Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge dealer council in Spain. Dealers in Spain expect Cerberus to invest more heavily in international growth, which should improve dealer profits, Simpson said.

An analyst also said the breakup could help Chrysler.

“Assuming the European expansion remains a priority for the new Chrysler, then I would think it would actually benefit from not being linked to Mercedes-Benz,” said Philip Wade, managing partner of HWB International in Warwick, England. “They got rather lost when they were joint importers dealing with both brands.”

Michael Manley, Chrysler’s executive vice president for international sales, marketing and business development, said dealers will continue to deal with the same people.

But analysts warn that some dealers that sell both Mercedes and Chrysler products will want to drop their Chrysler franchises after the sale to Cerberus is complete. About 20 percent of Mercedes dealerships in western Europe also carry Chrysler products.

Willi Diez, director of the Institute for Automotive Research at the University of Applied Sciences NĂ¼rtingen-Geislingen said that 10 percent to 15 percent of Germany’s Mercedes-Chrysler dealerships could drop the US brands.

Chrysler executives say they don’t anticipate a surge of dropouts.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cerberus joins group of financial investors to bid for Jaguar and Land Rover

AUTOBLOG.COM | Posted Jun 14th 2007 3:35PM by John Neff

While poring over the RSS feeds today, we noticed a tiny article in Automotive News about Ford's desire to sell off both Jaguar and Land Rover. The potential sale has been in the news as of late, but this article caught our eye because it reveals a potential bidder with which we're all familiar. According to Automotive News, three private equity groups including Blackston, Cinven and... Cerberus (!) have shown interest in joining the auction for two of Ford's Premiere Auto Group brands. Cerberus, of course, is the same private equity group involved in the purchase of Chrysler from DaimlerChrysler.

While the news that Cerberus has thrown its hat in the ring for the purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover is not necessarily surprising (this is what private equity firms do, they buy stuff), the thought of a new American automaker housing the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands along with both Jaguar and Land Rover certainly changes the landscape of the domestic auto industry in the near future. While Land Rover isn't in near as dire a straits as Jaguar, neither brand are performing at their peak potential. Unfortunately, neither is any Chrysler Group brand. Cerberus must really believe it has the magic touch to be getting involved with so many down but not out automakers.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]

Enter to win 2-year lease on 2008 Sebring convertible

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 11:13 AM CDT

You are invited to take a ride with your Journal Online, JO, and you just might win a 2008 Chrysler convertible from Crown Motors.

That's right. Just click the link below. You can register to win the 2008 Chrysler convertible from Crown Motors. It's that easy. A total of 2,008 additional winners will be selected to receive other JO prizes including T-shirts, atlases, travel mugs, keychains and more.

Just think, while others are getting around town in their conventional vehicles this summer, you'll be enjoying your customized convertible, the wind blowing in your hair, free from all cares.

JO's grand-prize
winner will receive a two-year lease from Crown Motors on the all-new Chrysler Sebring convertible, which has been completely redesigned for 2008.

It offers Chrysler's sleek and elegant design, exhilarating performance with excellent fuel efficiency, a spacious interior that comfortably sits four adults and enough room in the trunk to hold two golf bags, even when the top is dropped.

To take a closer look at the new Sebring Convertible, visit Crown Motors, a five-star Chrysler dealer located in Farmington.

The Journals Online can help you get through the summer with stories about local entertainment and features on the people and places that make your neighborhood special. Journal photo galleries contain images that are online exclusively.

In addition, you'll find opportunities to exchange ideas with others by commenting on any story on the site.

The 10 Best Chrysler Vehicles of the Past 25 Years

The second in a series; click here for the 10 Worst Chryslers of the past 25 Years. These are in no particular order.

Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger/Dodge Magnum (2005-present)
The LX cars are probably the best cars that Chrysler has ever built. They're big, stylish, bold, and are available with optional 6.1 liter 425-horsepower Hemi V8s. Plus, they have high-tech features like independent rear suspension (on a chassis derived from the Mercedes-Benz parts bin), five speed automatics, available all wheel drive, and more. The cars are also very popular with tuners; one of my favorite upgrades is the Bentley-style grille, but another common one is Lamborghini-style scissor doors. The platform is apparently very flexible, because a modified version of it will underpin the Dodge Challenger coming out in year or two. Further evidence of its success is the fact that GM and Ford are either producing, or considering producing, large RWD competitors to the Chrysler LX cars (Pontiac G8, Chevy Impala, and Ford Interceptor, for example). The only chink in their armor is an interior that doesn't match the promise of their powertrains, chassis, or exterior style, but Chrysler is aware of the problem and is working on it.

Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager/Chrysler Town & Country (1996-present)
While Chrysler invented the modern minivan in 1984 and spawned an entire segment of copycats, and I give them credit for that, I cannot in good conscience rank the 1984-1995 original minivans among Chrysler's best efforts (severely underpowered, underdeveloped transmissions, sub-par fit and finish). However, the 1996 models ushered in the vans' first complete redesign, which meant a new platform, new shape, and new interior. Even though the 1996 vans look similar to 2007s, there was a pretty major mid cycle enhancement in 2001, and the vans were continually improved each year. These vans have deservedly proven to be a cash cow for Chrysler. The minivans also pass the "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" test; Honda's and Toyota's vans weren't successful until they finally decided to copy Chrysler's formula.

Chrysler PT Cruiser (2001-present)
Though the PT Cruiser is getting a little long in the tooth, when it was introduced, it looked like nothing else on the road. It drew waiting lists and dealer markups on what was basically a taller version of the Neon chassis. The interior managed to strike an upscale, art deco tone with body-colored accents and nicely-grained plastics. The car's 2006 refresh cheapened the interior to knock it down to the level of other Chryslers, but the car is an icon and has likely exceeded all of its original sales goals. My mom wanted one when they first came out, but my parents never ended up getting one; they wound up with a 2004 SSR eventually instead.

Dodge Intrepid/Eagle Vision/Chrysler Concorde/LHS/New Yorker (1993-2004)
These cars made their debut under much hype at a time that Chrysler was in yet another financial crisis. They received much adoration and praise from customers and the automotive media. They were the first Chrysler vehicles to feature a "cab forward" design, which pushed the wheels to the corners of the car and the base of the windshield forward, partially over the engine. The result was a more aerodynamic, more modern look and increased passenger space. Having the wheels at the corners also improved handling, and the cars had extremely competitive engine offerings for their day. A close friend owned a 1995 Intrepid ES that he bought as a used demo model, and he put nearly a quarter million miles on it. Sure, by the end of its life with him, plenty of things stopped working, but it took a whack into a raised concrete median to finally bend the suspension and motivate him to sell the car. Last I heard, it's still on the road with its new owner.

Dodge Stealth (1991-1996)
The Dodge Stealth wasn't really a Dodge, but rather a rebadged Mitsubishi 3000GT sport coupe. On paper, the car was pretty awesome, especially in the top-level R/T guise: 300 horsepower, twin turbo, 5-speed manual, all wheel drive, four wheel steering, active aerodynamics, and tunable suspension. The Stealth carried Dodge's performance flagship banner admirably until Viper production began. The only downside with the car, other than high insurance premiums for the twin turbo models, was the extreme weight that all of the techno-goodies added to the car. Still, they were really neat cars, if perhaps a little boy racerish in a 1990s Pontiac sort of way.

Dodge Viper (1992-present)
What can be said about the Viper that hasn't already? For a while, it was the most powerful production car sold in the US. It made its debut with 400 horsepower, no air conditioning, no glass side windows, no ABS, and functional side exhaust at a time when the Corvette was just reaching the 300 horsepower mark. The 2008 version, once it finally goes on sale, will produce 600 horsepower! Visually, I prefer the first version, which had a much more aggressive shape than did the toned-down second generation models (which debuted in 2003). Carroll Shelby, though I think he's a huckster in many ways, had a hand in the development of the first Viper, and he truly did make it a spiritual successor to the Cobras of the 1960s.

Jeep Cherokee (1984-1991)
Jeep misses the XJ Cherokee so much that it's now tried three times (unsuccessfully) to replace it. First, the Liberty was supposed to be its replacement; it turned out to be more of a chick car than a credible Cherokee successor. Next, the Commander became a caricature of the Cherokee's styling, except it lacked the short overhangs and clean proportions of the original. Finally, the Patriot has a lot of the Cherokee's boxiness, and looks better than the Commander, but is based on a front-wheel drive car chassis. The XJ Cherokee had a huge following and was the vehicle that started the four door compact SUV craze. Sales grew every year, and the model survived long past its original cancellation date. In fact, they're still built in China.

Chrysler Crossfire (2004-present)
The Chrysler Crossfire was more or less a rebodied version of the R170 (1997-2004) first generation Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster. The interior (including instrument panel) is almost identical between the two cars, but the Crossfire has more silver-appearing parts while the Mercedes went for a wood look. The Crossfire SRT-6 even had a 330 horsepower AMG built engine. The looks weren't bad - certainly better than the Sebring that appears to be inspired by it - and it is a great way to get a Mercedes (more or less) for bargain prices. Unfortunately, they are very slow sellers and this model's days are numbered.

Plymouth/Chrysler Prowler (1997-2002)
The Prowler was a concept car come to life. It kept nearly all of the concept's good looks, except some compromises had to be made for the Prowler to be street legal and meet current safety standards. Although the front bumpers were a little awkward, many owners simply removed them. The car also had many aluminum components in the chassis. The only real problem with the Prowler was its V6 powertrain, which didn't quite line up with the promises its fantastic appearance made. This was addressed somewhat in later years with an upgraded engine, but imagine how awesome this car would have been with a Hemi. Only 11,702 were produced during a five year run.

Dodge Stratus/Chrysler Cirrus/Plymouth Breeze (1995-2006)
The so-called "cloud cars" were Chrysler's midsize sedan offerings, and were the third installment of the cab forward push at Chrysler Corporation (following the larger LH cars and the smaller Neon). Other than meteorological names, the cars also had pleasing designs inside and out - the wheels went to the edge of the fenders, even in lower trim levels, the dashboard had pleasant shapes, and they looked unlike any other car on the road in 1995 (well, the prominent grille did remind me of a 1992 Pontiac Grand Am). The cloud cars' styling later manifested itself in the 1996 minivans, and looked pretty good on those as well.

Coming up in the next installment: one of us will make fun of a different manufacturer, and then a few days later talk about some of the good cars it's made.

Pardus Joins Appaloosa In Delphi Investment Plan -Sources

Dow Jones

DETROIT -(Dow Jones)- Hedge fund Pardus Capital Management, which has recently launched efforts to become a potential lead investor in Delphi Corp.'s (DPHIQ) Chapter 11 exit, has joined what had been a rival team of investors led by hedge fund Appaloosa Management, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, a separate hedge fund - Highland Capital - filed a disclosure with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying it was dealing directly with Delphi and General Motors Corp. (GM), the auto supplier's former parent and largest customer. Highland had been working with Pardus, but the pair have gone separate ways, these people say.

The breakup between Pardus and Highland draws clear battle lines among deep- pocketed investors for stakes in a re-organized Delphi, which filed for bankruptcy in October of 2005. At stake is an opportunity to hold a significant portion of equity and control of Delphi, which hopes to emerge from bankruptcy this year with a lower cost base and more attractive product line than it had two years ago.

Until recently, it appeared a team led by Appaloosa was the clear-cut winner in the race to control Delphi. However, private-equity giant Cerberus Capital Management - a huge source of funding for the Appaloosa team - dropped out of the $3.4 billion bid abruptly earlier this year and turned its full attention to a successful drive to acquire DaimlerChrysler AG's (DCX) Chrysler Group. Cerberus's exit left Appaloosa and partner Harbinger Capital looking for a new partner, opening the door for Pardus.

Delphi's effort to find equity backers is a critical step in realizing its bankruptcy-emergence plans. The auto supplier, which is cooperating with former parent GM on several key issues, is also negotiating a wage and benefit package with its unions.

Even as Appaloosa fortifies its bid with the addition of Pardus, which holds a large chunk of Delphi shares, sources say that Highland could be capable of mounting a considerable challenge for various reasons.

In its Wednesday filing, Highland said it has been granted meetings with GM and Delphi leaders, representing a significant launching pad for its rival bid. A GM official said the auto maker expects Highland to likely present a concrete investment plan soon and the auto maker is interested to see of Highland could indeed be a suitable Delphi backer.

In addition, Highland's ideas for an equity plan are seen as being fairer to some significant current Delphi shareholders, sources say. Current Delphi shares could be wiped out when the company emerges from bankruptcy, and Highland and Appaloosa are at odds over how the new equity should be distributed among stakeholders.

Highland may find a partner in Brandes Investment Partners, which is a top Delphi shareholder that does not appear to be on board the Appaloosa plan.

One person said that while Highland's offer may be more optimal for shareholders, "this is a far more complex situation with a lot more constituencies."

A GM spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter, and Delphi officials could not immediately be reached late Wednesday.

Texas-based Highland, which owns a 7.8% stake in Delphi, first signaled interest in the parts supplier last December by launching a rival $4.7 billion investment plan to the Appaloosa-Cerberus-Harbinger deal. Highland's plan, however, was largely ignored by Delphi, and the investment firm was told to go back and try to get more support among other Delphi investors. In April, Highland reiterated its interest in participating in a Delphi investment plan.

Highland in the past has estimated Delphi's earnings would skyrocket after it emerges from bankruptcy, thanks to lower costs and other factors.

Delphi, which lost nearly $5.5 billion in 2006, said recently that its monthly net loss was $66 million in April. Pardus has experience in the automotive sector with major stakes in Visteon Corp. (VC) and French supplier Valeo SA ( VLEEY).

The firms that back the Delphi deal promise to take home large fees and would profit if their investment stake in what likely will be a publicly held company were to increase as Delphi's financial performance improves.

But a condition of the original $3.4 billion investment agreement is reaching a consensual labor agreement with Delphi's unions, the largest of which is the United Auto Workers.

People familiar with the labor talks say the sides are edging closer to an agreement.

GM is expected to supplement wages for its former employees working for Delphi, and the parties are trying to agree on how many Delphi-UAW jobs GM will guarantee by committing to buying products from certain Delphi plants in the United States.

Dodge Remains Committed to NASCAR

AP | DETROIT - - Dodge's director of brand marketing and communication says Chrysler's sale to a private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management, won't change the carmaker's long-term relationship with NASCAR.

"I had the pleasure of going to Manhattan last week and I met the leadership team at Cerberus," Mike Accavitti said in a NASCAR teleconference.

Though the racing program wasn't specifically addressed, Accavitti said the 16 members of the Dodge dealers council also at the meeting were very supportive.

"They're our sounding board for the thoughts and ideas we have for all of our operations, including motorsports," Accavitti said. "The dealer council was very appreciative of our effort in motorsports. They're very supportive. They shared that with the gang at Cerberus, so I don't anticipate any change in our commitment in NASCAR.

"I've (said) before that it's a very important part of our marketing mix, that our participation in this sport brings brand awareness and attention and consideration and favorable opinion to the Dodge brand and all those things are very important.

He noted that a lot of NASCAR fans are also Dodge customers.

"I'd like a whole lot more of them to be Dodge customers," Accavitti said. "That's really where our focus is from a marketing and a support perspective and we continue to plan on being in NASCAR for the long term."

FBI Breaks Up East Coast Auto Theft Ring

AP | San Diego Ca - - The FBI said it has broken up an East Coast auto theft ring that retagged and sold hundreds of stolen vehicles.

The ring had been operating since 1999, stealing vehicles and creating phony certificates of title to match altered vehicle identification numbers, the FBI said. The defendants would then either use or sell the vehicles, said Jim Margolin, an FBI agent in the New York field office.

He said six people were arrested Monday and charged with trafficking in motor vehicles and related offenses.

One suspect lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania, two are from New York City, one is from New Jersey and two are from Georgia. A seventh suspect, from New York City, is still at large.

The FBI has been investigating the ring for two years.

Spied: 2010 Chrysler 300 four-door Convertible

Folding steel roof means the best of both worlds

By Editors of Motor Trend
Photography by the Manufacturer

While foreign automakers are in a race to catch up with Mercedes-Benz's CLS "four-door coupe," Chrysler could become the first automaker to bring a four-door retractable-top sedan to market. Plans are for such a car based on the next-generation Chrysler Group LX platform, no earlier than the 2010 model year.

Think of the update Chrysler made to its LH full-size front-drive platform in the 1998 model year, and you've got an idea of the type of evolution the LX will undergo. The basic architecture will remain unchanged, but updates will improve refinement. It's too early for Chrysler to have a locked-in design for the next 300. If the two generations of LH (Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Intrepid) are any guide, the next 300 will be a more mature, refined version of the current car. Trendy design cues like the "gangster"-style roofline and Bentley-like eggcrate grille will be updated.

Chrysler launched the LX platform in early 2004 with the 2005 300 and Dodge Magnum and later added Charger. The next-generation LX must support more models and create new trends. Both the retractable-top convertible and a new Dodge Challenger expected in the 2009 calendar year are examples of how Chrysler Group plans to remain hip and competitive.

Specialty builder and supplier ASC Incorporated unveiled its Helios concept, based on a 300C four-door sedan, at the Detroit show last year. The Helios is a ragtop with a lattice structure to provide expected levels of body rigidity. The structure cut into trunk space and turned the five-seat 300 into a four-seater. ASC said it could be profitable to Chrysler at $4000 above the sticker of a 300 sedan.

But Chrysler has rejected the ASC design and chosen Austro-Canadian specialist manufacturer Magna Steyr instead to build its 300 retractable sedan in North America. Magna Steyr is the combination of Canada's Magna International and Austria's Steyr-Daimler-Puch. Magna International's president is Mark Hogan, a rising corporate star and lifer at General Motors until he left for the supplier in late 2004.

A complex folding steel roof covering four doors in a large sedan seems difficult, but Magna Steyr is one of the biggest suppliers in the business. If Chrysler can carry this off, a retractable sedan top will add more prestige to keep it at the forefront of leading-edge design.

Steel Magnolias
Europeans call them "vario-roof" cars, and although they've been around for a long time, they're not easy to do. The ASC-built Chevy SSR launched in 2003 with a short first-year production run because of development problems. The retractable-roof Pontiac G6 four-seater is about to launch after several delays.

But vario-roof cars are clearly the Next Big Thing as automakers strive to deliver the evocative wind-in-the-hair sports-car driving experience without the downsides of noise, leaks, and lack of security.

Retractable Firsts
1937 Peugeot Eclipse
Peugeot built more than 100 examples of this four-seat retractable-roof coupe, based on its 402L model.

1957 Ford Skyliner
The full-size, V-8-powered retractable-roof car was produced for three years.

Hasta la Vista, SSR
It's official. Chevrolet ends production of the SSR sport truck after a buildout of 700 units on March 17. ASC assembles the SSR for General Motors. Going into the 2006 model year, Chevy and ASC had built about 19,400 since its launch in 2003.

1957 Ford Skyliner
Chevrolet SSR

Spied: 2010 Chrysler 300 four-door Convertible

This Day in Auto History: 14 JUNE

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly
This Day in Auto History:

Erwin A. Weiss of Packard is born
Henry Banks, racer and USAC official, is born in London, England, although he moved to Royal Oak, MI as an infant
The first Plymouth is produced
Racer Jim Busby is born in the United States
The Zavod Imieni Molotova (Molotov Automobile Plant) in Gor’kiy, USSR, manufacturers of the luxury ZIM, changes its name to the Gor’kiy Automobile Plant, with its product now called the Volga

Source: Automobile History Day By Day, by Douglas A. Wick

Post 17 trooper gets stealthy new Hemi Charger for patrols

TFC T.D. Webb says his new Dodge Hemi Charger is more comfortable, quicker, and safer than the Ford Crown Victoria it replaces. "It's a little sneaky," too.
The Washington post of the Georgia State Patrol has a stealthy new tool with which to patrol its five-county area.

Trooper First Class T.D. Webb took delivery last week of one of GSP's new Dodge Charger patrol vehicles, and he's seen quite a reaction from citizens who are used to seeing troopers in their distinctive gray-and-blue Ford Crown Victorias.

"With the low profilelights and solid gray color, it's a little sneaky," Webb said. "Drivers look real hard, and are a little surprised when they realize who I am. The car is a little intimidating."

The new Charger is equipped with the latest in lightbar technology that eliminates the distinctive roof light bar. Blue lights are located at the top of the windshield, inside the grille, on the side mirrors, and below the bumper.

A brightly lit sign in the windshield says "State Patrol" in reverse, so that drivers at night can tell that the vehicle in their mirror is a legitimate GSP vehicle.

Although the look is subtle, the new Chargers aren't unmarked. The standard orange "GEORGIA STATE PATROL" is emblazoned on the side and on the front fenders.

A large heavy-duty brush guard surrounding the front allows troopers to bring chases to a end using the PIT maneuver without damaging their vehicles.

The four-door Charger is larger inside than the Ford it replaces, Webb said. "It's more comfortable, and the door openings are larger so it's easier to get in and out, especially if you're six-foot-eight like me."

And, although troopers don't make a big deal out of it, the new Charger is equipped with a 340-horsepower Hemi V-8, making them significantlyquicker than the old Fords, able to reach pursuit speeds from a stop several seconds sooner. The Hemi-powered Charger has a top speed of 155, some 25 mph faster than the Ford.

"That's what they say," Webb said. "I haven't done anywhere near that. Yet."

Each trooper who gets a new Charger will return to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsythe to learn the limits of the new vehicle in a controlled environment.

Troopers around the state have been getting the new Chargers since last year, and testing the car for some time before that. "Troopers across the state tested the Dodge and offered their input before the decision was made to purchase the vehicle," DPS Commissioner Colonel Bill Hitchens said. "We wanted to make sure the vehicle was suited for our needs while patrolling and it met that challenge."

The new Chargers should provide greater control and safety with an electronic stability program, traction control and a four-wheel anti-lock brakes. The longer wheelbase on the Charger provides for a more secure and balanced ride with better stability, troopers say.

"Safety is the number one concern anytime you consider a vehicle for law enforcement use," Colonel Hitchens said. "The Dodge Charger features enhanced safety and crash protection technology that are vital to our troopers' safety."

The new Charger costs slightly less than the Ford Crown Victoria that comprises the majority of the GSP fleet. Plans are to purchase additional Dodge Chargers in the coming year.

Are the other troopers a little envious of Webb's new ride? "Oh yeah, we sure are," said Trooper First Class Brent Marxsen, "but we'll get ours soon."

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Cerberus CEO Plays Up "Possible" Synergies Between Chrysler Financial and GMAC

Posted by Marcie Belles on Jun 13 2007 06:07:16 PDT
In a face-to-face meeting with 16 Chrysler dealer council members, Cerberus Capital Management Chief Executive Steve Feinberg laid out his plan for reviving Chrysler Group, and that includes "possible" synergies between the carmaker's finance unit at GMAC LLC..

Cerberus agreed last month to buy an 80.1% stake in Chrysler for $7.4 billion.

In the meeting, held yesterday at Cerberus headquarters in New York, Feinberg outlined the private equity firm’s commitment to the auto industry. He discussed Cerberus’s primary challenges with the U.S. automaker: poor product-quality scores and an excess of dealerships for dwindling marketshare.

Feinberg also mentioned possible synergies between Chrysler Financial and GMAC LLC, the captive financing company Cerberus bought from General Motors Corp. last year.

Dealers were upbeat about the meeting’s outcome.

"I think Chrysler is in the best hands it’s been in years," said John Schenden, of Pro Chrysler Jeep in Denver and a member of the Chrysler dealer council.

The acquisition is slated to close next month.

Click on "Read More" below for the full article by Detroit Free Press.

Latest National Gasoline Demand for the third week drops -what about pump prices?

-- Oil prices edge higher despite crude stockpiles growing a surprising 100,000 barrels. Gasoline supplies unchanged bu the demand is lower due to the consumers rejection of high-priced refined gasoline products. As we do some analysis on different states it is quite disturbing to see what is happening at the pump. We maintain that is has nothing to do with usual media lackeys contention of 'Supply & Demand' but future speculation from presumed problem areas of the world that this country does not import from. Amazing how people fall for this...

Log on to for the latest news.

This Day in Auto History: JUNE 13

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly
This Day in Auto History:

Lester Lum “Tex” Colbert of the Chrysler Corporation is born in Oakwood, TX
The first Circuit of Mugello (Italy) race is won by Giuseppe Campari in an Alfa Romeo, the first racing victory for that marque
Sir Henry Segrave is killed at age 33 when his boat Miss England II crashes shortly after officially raising the water speed record to 98.76 mph on Lake Windermere, England
Racer Bob Swanson dies at age 27 from injuries suffered the previous day during a race in Toledo, OH
Racer Dick Brown is killed at age 40 during the Can-Am-trials in Mosport Park, ON

Source: Automobile History Day By Day, by Douglas A. Wick

Team Mopar Pro Stock qualifying report - Topeka

Round 8 of 23
O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals
Heartland Park Topeka (Kansas)
June 1-3, 2007


Judy Stropus, 203-438-0501; cell 203-243-2438;
Darren Jacobs, J.R. Thompson 248-553-4566;

Richie Stevens Jr. posted two good runs out of only three available to him
to qualify the Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T in No. 8 for the
O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals. His quickest pass came in the first Pro
Stock session today, in which he registered a 6.74-second elapsed time at
204.20 mph.

Stevens completed only one pass on Friday, a 6.761/204.51, before
intermittent rain showers cancelled the rest of the second round after only
seven cars made it down the quarter-mile.

In today's final attempt, Stevens shut it down after experiencing tire shake
in the less-desirable right lane, and coasted to a 12.795/67.67.

"I think we were maybe a little too aggressive," he said of that last try.
"It shook out there. Luckily, we hung on to lane choice tomorrow against Tom
Hammonds first round, so that's going to be a plus. I think the left lane is
definitely worth a little bit. As far as the numbers go I don't know if
there's a difference, but the left lane is definitely worth having.

"We're here, we missed the King Demon Crown 'shootout' by a little bit. I
was hoping to come here and maybe pull one out of the hat on that one, but
we missed that (No. 8) spot.

"Hey, at least we qualified here. We'll stay in it, try to keep going
rounds, try to pick up a win tomorrow. It would be nice. Allen and I are
both in the top half and we're not on the same side of the ladder, so we'll
see what we can do tomorrow."

Stevens and Allen Johnson tested their Mopars during the NHRA POWERade Drag
Racing Series recent three-weekend hiatus. "We did a lot of testing since
St. Louis," Stevens explained. "We tested in St. Louis after the race, we
tested in Chicago, we tested in Denver. We're just trying to gain data. It's
a brand-new car. We had it since Atlanta, but we're still trying to gain
data on it, to see what it likes and what it doesn't like. We got a lot of
positive things out of it in Chicago, and we gained some good ground in
Denver last week. The Denver setup is totally different to here, so we can't
use it.

"We just kind of goofed up on this last run. We were trying to creep up a
couple of spots and get a little bit higher in the field, but it bit us."

Stevens will meet No. 9 qualifier Tom Hammonds in the first round of
eliminations on Sunday.

Allen Johnson drove the Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T smack into the
No. 3 spot in qualifying for the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals.

Despite only having three of four rounds of qualifying because of rain,
Johnson sailed expertly down the quarter-mile in each session, producing
first a 6.760-second pass at 204.29 in Friday's only pass, then followed up
on Saturday with a 6.728/204.88 and his quickest in the final run of

"It's the first time we had the good lane," he said of his final lap. "We
knew that left lane was going to be good and we thought we could step it up
when we got over there. It sort of it proved it too with what Richie did.
That's the fist time he's had the right lane, and it just blew the tires off
of it and it shook.

"But I feel good about it. I think we got something for them tomorrow. We
both got lane choice. Our game plan, remember, is to just get lane choice,
and go a round, and take it from there."

As for missing Friday's night session: "Didn't miss it. We did well in the
heat and that's what we're going to race in and that's what we need to
qualify in."

Johnson faces Justin Humphreys in first round of eliminations on Sunday.

TV Reminder:
Sunday, June 3 ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA Race Day, at 11 a.m.
Sunday, June 3 ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of eliminations
at 4 p.m. (ET).

Q&A: Mike Accavitti Director Dodge Brand


MIKE ACCAVITTI (Director Dodge Brand and SRT Marketing and Communication)

OPENING REMARKS “It’s a very busy week for us here at Auburn Hills with the things going on at Dodge of course. We’ve got some new product introductions coming and the race coming to Michigan, our home track. I apologize for being late and I hope to make up for it with the quality of my responses.”

DID THE NEW NOSE FOR THE CHARGER AND THE AVENGER PUT YOU BEHIND? “The more change you have in an organization, the more change you have in a racecar, the more things you have to work on. I guess in all honesty I guess the teams underestimated the impact both of those changes were going to have. We tested the nose together several times last year. We all came to a conclusion. We all reached an agreement that it was the right thing to do. Every team had an input and every team agreed to that. When we put the nose on the car, it affected the suspension setup more on those downforce tracks than we had anticipated. It’s taken a little while to get our arms around what the issues were and get some action plans in place. At the same time, we’re trying to figure out the COT, so that’s really what kind of got us behind the 8 ball. We feel like we’re really picking up some steam now in our performance, average finish performance is showing it.”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN KASEY KAHNE’S PROBLEMS? “Kasey is the real deal. We have the utmost faith in Kasey and the Evernham Motorsports Organization. They’re a class act team, and they’re going to do what they need to do to get Kasey back in victory lane. You guys are more familiar with this sport than I am. It’s very difficult to explain how people can go from winning a whole boatload of races one year to not winning any races for a little while. We’ve seen it over and over again. Sometimes it’s called the sophomore jinx. Sometimes it’s called other things. Is it a surprise? I guess I’m always optimistic and I guess I always believe Kasey’s performance if he won six last year that’d he’d win 12 this year. The realities are this is not how this sport works. It’s a very humbling sport. It’s more humbling that golf as far as I’m concerned. Will Kasey get back on track? Absolutely, and we’re working with Ray to make that happen.”

WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU ABOUT NEWMAN’S SUCCESS WHILE THE OTHER DODGE TEAMS STRUGGLE? “This is one of the biggest issues we’ve had. We can go incredibly fast as a group for one lap. We saw this actually last year. Last year the hypothesis was that it’s a clean air issue. When the car it out in the clean air it can really kick some butt, but when it gets in the pack it has problems. That really is the genesis of what led to the nose redesign because the drivers describe the former nose, as while it provided a hell of a lot of front downforce, it led to a car that was somewhat unstable in the pack. The new nose was supposed to rectify that issue. Last year we did very well in poles. This year we’re doing equally as well. I think we have one less pole this year than we did at the same time last year. At some of the races we’ve had six guys qualify in the top 10, so we’ve figured that part out. What we’re working on now is how do we figure out the other 499 or 500 laps so that we can get these guys up in the top 10 where they really belong. It’s something we’re working on. We really don’t know the answer to that question, but we understand it’s not an issue that our cars don’t go fast because they do and we’re taking poles. During the race, is it something that’s happening on adjustments being made during the race? Is it tire wear? What is causing us to move back through the pack rather than stay up there in the front.“

DO YOU THINK YOU’RE MAKING PROGRESS? “Absolutely, and what I point to is average finish by manufacturer. We’re closing gap. We’ve actually have a downward trend particularly over the last five races. We feel that based on discussions we’re having with our teams, we’re making progress in the right direction. It’s just going to be a matter the time. The last couple of weeks Ryan was in there and but for another three minutes of rain, one way or the other, the other way would have been preferable, would have really helped him out. We’ve had some other situations this year where our guys just pitted at the wrong time. That’s a part of the sport that makes it exciting yet frustrating. It’s the stuff you cannot control, the breaks, and we just haven’t been able to catch a break this year. We’re not going to count on breaks. We’re going to count on performance and our performance is improving.”

DO YOU HAVE ALL YOUR MULTI-CAR CUP TEAMS SIGNED FOR NEXT SEASON? “Pretty close. We don’t talk about length of contracts, so I can’t talk specifically, but we have the current family either under contract or we’re in negotiations with them to lock them in for the next go-around.”

DO YOU EXPECT ANY DODGE TEAMS TO EXPAND NEXT SEASON? “We’re encouraging it where it makes sense. Not everybody is ready to expand to three or four cars, but it’s something we realize the benefits associated with multi-car teams and the guys that have approached us we’re certainly supportive of that and working with them in that regard. Those that can afford it, there’s economy to scale associated with it and then there’s the ability to get the feedback from three or four cars you can share. That’s why we’re seeing success we think, particularly with the Hendrick organization and the ability for them to share information with those four great cars they have.”

WHAT MAKES A TEAM READY TO EXPAND? “Internal resources generally. In order to field another car you’ve got to have another pit crew, you may have to have another engineering function. It’s not so easy to say ‘we’re already making 20 cars, why don’t we slap another number on it and find another driver.’ There are obviously resources. They have to have sponsors lined up. Some of the guys, it’s their strategic plan to expand their lineup and those guys that are the ones that are ready go do it and we could see it next season. Others, they really want to focus on what they have and improve the performance of the vehicles they have, so it’s really a team call and something we encourage. From our standpoint, our engineering work load and our resources, we’re capable of handling that. From our standpoint, it’s all good news, but we don’t want to push our teams into it. It’s got to be right for the groups and they have to have all those situations lined up I just described from the personnel standpoint, sponsor standpoint and efficiency standpoint.”

EXPLAIN HOW YOU UNDERESTIMATED WORK LOAD ON THE COT “What we underestimated was the workload both the new nose and the COT was going to challenge us with. On the COT, we really didn’t have as good a grasp as we should have on that vehicle and how it was going to perform in a pack. We can only test so much. It really wasn’t until late January that we had a lot more work to do and of course there wasn’t a lot of time to do that work. We’re learning as we go along, the teams are, taking actions to identify what the issues are. Again, I think they’re all making tremendous progress, particularly the Penske Organization. They’re doing quite well. Ganassi seems to have figured it out in some races. Ray’s group has had some moments of success in the COT and the Pettys are coming along. I think we’re making the right moves. The move to go 100 percent Dodge Avenger next year is welcomed by us so we can focus and the teams can focus on improving one model. We did initially like the idea of racing the Charger and Avenger, so from a marketing standpoint it was the right thing to do and a great thing to do, but now that the COT is kinda showing it actually can work, we’re fully supportive of NASCAR’s decision to go 100 percent next year.”

HAS THE COT DELIVERED LIKE YOU EXPECTED? “One of the biggest benefits we saw from a marketing perspective is that the COT resembles the production car we sell more so than the current Charger does, so from that standpoint, it has really over delivered. The camera shots from the bumper cam of the Dodge Avenger grille in the front is bringing us tremendous exposure and awareness to a brand new nameplate, and we’re excited about that. From a performance standpoint, one of the biggest reasons we support the COT is the safety it provides the drivers. The car of yesterday, the current Charger, we’ve seen guys spin around and flip on their roofs and they’re able to come out of there without a scratch and that’s great, but the COT really provides that extra safety we’re looking for. From a performance standpoint it does level the playing field. There’s no question about that. Unfortunately the playing field is a little tilted right now, but we believe in time we’re going to figure out what’s going on there and we’re going to close that gap and end up in victory lane in one of those Avengers.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT TEAMS GETTING PARTNERS? “It can be an expensive sport and if bringing in new partners can help on a couple of fronts. You bring in new capital, which will help. You develop either people, processes, to make your cars go faster, so from that standpoint, that’s one reason you want to bring in a partner. The other, which is kinda related, these partners that these guys are bringing in, they’re professional sports team managers and their network with other companies and other high rollers, you can actually leverage, and in Ray’s case, you’ll be able to bring new opportunities to his partners that he couldn’t before on a B to B basis. My participation in NASCAR as a sponsor is not only the exposure that I get on the track on Sunday with the association of the drivers on an ongoing basis but is also the ability to hook up with other partners, and it might not even be in racing. They might be other business partners that I can sell cars to or chewing gum to or sell headache powders to. I think it really does open up opportunities from that perspective.”

WHAT CAN YOU TELL THE FANS ABOUT KASEY KAHNE AND THE DODGES? “Like any sport, what you hope for is that you don’t have fair-weather fans and your fans understand you’re not going to hit a hole in one every time. You’re not going to win every basketball game. You’re not going to win every race. You go out there and you try and you make an exciting show for your fans and you give them something to root for. In Kasey’s case, and all the Dodge teams’ case, that’s what we’re focusing on. That’s what we’ve done this year. We’ve had some exciting moments. There’s been no question this has been an exciting season. Has it been a successful season? If you define success as the times you stand in victory lane, then we’re not having as much success as we’d like. From a standpoint of providing fans with exciting racing, good entertainment and something to root for, something they can watch on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon and not take a nap because it’s so exciting, I think we’re delivering that. For those Kasey Kahne fans out there, this kid is the real deal. We all know that. Just stay tuned because it’s just a matter of time until he’s back in victory lane.”

TALK ABOUT WHAT IT TAKES FOR A MANUFACTURER TO SUPPORT A NASCAR EFFORT “It’s a lot more from a car manufacturer’s standpoint than it is from just a regular sponsor who just provides money to the team and lets the team do kinda what they feel with it. From our standpoint, we do provide teams with some financial support, but we’re responsible for coming up with the gold standard for the engine as well as the vehicle itself. We have to work with the teams to make sure we get the consensus the right thing to do for the engine and for the body. It takes a heck of a coordination effort, not just outside the company with those race teams, but also within the company. We have 80,000 people working here at Chrysler and we have products we’re trying to develop for our street production cars. Some of those resources we use for racing, we either share with the street production folks or we take from the street production folks. There’s wind tunnel time we’re using. There’s engineering shaker post time we’re using, proving ground time we’re using to help our race program. It requires coordination and sales effort within the company to make that stuff happens.”

HAVE YOU TALKED WITH CEREBUS YET? “I had the pleasure of going to Manhattan last week and I met the leadership team there at Cerebus. We didn’t talk specifically about the racing program. Until the closing they’re still a potential buyer until the papers are signed. We’re reasonably confident it’s going to end up that way, but in meantime they can’t take an active involvement in our business. We’re sharing with them what our thoughts and ideas and strategies are. Again, we didn’t talk to them specifically on the motorsports program, but we talk about our marketing portfolio and our marketing effort. At that meeting I went to with the guys from the private equity firm, we brought in guys from our dealer council. Our dealer council consists of 16 of our dealers from throughout the country. They represent Dodge and Chrysler and Jeep. They’re our council. They’re our sounding board for the thoughts and ideas we have for all of our operations, including motorsports. The dealer council was very appreciative of our effort in motorsports. They’re very supportive. They shared that with the gang at Cerebus, so I don’t anticipate any change in our commitment in NASCAR. I’ve shared with you guys before that it’s a very important part of our marketing mix. That our participation in this sport brings brand awareness and attention and consideration and favorable opinion to the Dodge brand and all those things are very important. A lot of those NASCAR fans out there are Dodge customers. I’d like a whole lot more of them to be Dodge customers. That’s really where our focus is from a marketing and a support perspective and we continue to plan on being in NASCAR for the long term.”

COMMENT ON TOM LASORDA’S ROLE WITH NEW COMPANY “Chrysler LLC will be the name of the new company if everything goes through. Absolutely, Mr. Tom LaSorda is going to be the chairman and CEO of that company. He is supportive of the racing program. The last race he was able to go to was Bristol. It was a great race. Unfortunately, he’s got a lot of other things going on right now with the completion of the sale. He’s been unable to spend more time at the track, but our COO Eric Ridenhour will be at the Michigan race this weekend. He’s been to a few races this weekend as well. We enjoy support of our racing programs at the highest level of this organization. That’s really great because it helps us get some things done internally that might be a challenge if we didn’t have that kind of support. We’re committed to NASCAR. We believe it allows us to talk to customers and potential customers and we want to continue to participate in that.”

ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH TOYOTA’S STRUGGLES IN NASCAR? “This is a humbling sport, and I’m not surprised. This is tough. No one is going to come in and it’s not so easy. I get proposals from guys all the time. They tell me they want to start a NASCAR team and they want to have Dodge sponsor them. ‘It’s like you’ve never raced in this series before. You’ve never built a NASCAR. You’re really never been on a track. What makes you think this is not so easy. This is not just cars going around and around. This is a very difficult, very technologically important sport.’ So, is where Toyota’s at a surprise? Not at all. When will they be there? One thing I’ve learned in watching Toyota in the auto industry over the last 30 years is that they might not get it right out of the shoot but they learn very quickly and they change and they make tweaks and they improve. When that isn’t quite right, they make some more tweaks and they’ll change and they’ll improve and they’ll do that until they get it right. I can’t tell you if it’s going to be this year. They’ve had some pretty good success in the Busch Series and of course they’ve had some tremendous success in the truck series, so I know they’re a very capable organization. It’s just a matter of time until they make it to victory lane. Hopefully Dodge does it before, that’s all.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO FINISH WELL AND MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION AT MICHIGAN? “Any race is of equal importance. Ah, I shouldn’t say that. I’ll be honest with you. Obviously the big races, the ones that get the biggest viewership, those are the ones you really want to win. The Daytona 500, the Pepsi race in the summer, the Indy race, the Chase races, the races where they’re getting a lot of viewership. The Michigan races, it becomes kinda like a personal pride thing. This is our backyard. I grew up here. This is where you really want to win, and it’s really not from a manufacturing company standpoint. I want to win anywhere. When it comes to Michigan, I want to win here because this is where I live. I’ve got neighbors that will either give me crap about not winning or give me compliments about the good performance. We get a lot of factory folks and a lot of employees that come in and watch this race on their own dime. We owe it to them as a motorsports organization to deliver a good show, so when Kasey won last year, even though it was a rain-shortened deal, it was huge. It was a huge deal for us, and we’ve had some good success at Michigan. I’m going to knock on some wood or something, but hopefully we’ll have a good show there on Sunday.”


“From the A-pillar back they’re pretty much a similar looking car. We do have some unique character lines on the front clip that differentiate. I’ve got a little bit different perspective than the other guys do. Our Charger, while it’s a fierce looking vehicle, it really does not resemble the production car at all, so from a marketing perspective, that COT looks more like a production Avenger. When you see it from the front on, it’s really an identifiable grille and head lamp and the front splitter, we have a front spoiler on the production car. It really looks like a production car, so from that perspective, I’m really more excited about it more than continuing with the Charger. The Charger is a great car. I think it’s real fierce looking and it’s intense and it’s real dramatic to see the thing on the track, but from a marketing perspective I’m really all right about the COT.”

HOW DO RAINOUTS AND TV RATINGS CHALLENGE MANUFACTURERS? “That’s a big issue. I don’t want to say it’s a show stopping issue, but no pun intended, it’s really come on to our radar screen the last couple of weeks. It’s really ridiculous. You can’t control it. You’re not going to build domed stadiums, so you’re going to have to race outside. How do you manage that? Do you schedule more races on Saturday with the spill over on Sunday. The rainouts and Monday races just aren’t good from a fans’ perspective and an advertisers’ perspective. You’re not going to get the same rating points you really wanted to, so it’s going to affect your return and it’s going to affect the equation of how much you should invest in a sport or the marketing media. I don’t know if this is unusual. It seems unusual. They’re saying no chance of rain up here on Sunday, but we’ll see about that. Hopefully we’ll get a dry one in. I’m kind of perplexed. In some parts of the country I’m reading there’s a drought. It needs to be fixed. I don’t know what the solution is, but it is something we’re looking at from an advertising perspective. It’s going to take some analysis by the network folks and the NASCAR folks to identify. Maybe they hedge their bets. There’s all kind of data available nowadays. While you can’t predict whether it’s going to rain in Atlanta on March 20, you can look over history to see if it’s more likely or not that it’s going to happen there. I don’t want to get too scientific about how they do it, but some of the things they’re going to have to weigh out. One way is we just don’t do anything and we roll the dice and if it rains, it rains. Last year we didn’t have this issue. I don’t know if this is just an anomaly or if it’s a sign of things to come.”
PaddockTalk Perspective

op car fire-bombed during the night

June 12, 2007 03:24 PM

The search is on for a fire starter. For police, the case takes a personal turn as a cop car goes up in flames.

The case is a real whodunit, but one small Valley town must fight crime with one less tool.

Crime scene tape and a police car: a typical situation...with a twist.

"My morning has been terrible," Triana Mayor Marvelene Freeman shakes her head. "It's got me now where my stomach is upset. To think that someone would go in there and do that is awful."

This time, the car is behind the tape. It's the center of the investigation.

A City of Triana police cruiser burned. Door handle--melted. Light bar--charred. Inside--gutted.

With sheriff's deputies on scene, Freeman says she knows exactly what happened.

Her small town is the victim of arson. It's new police car was fire bombed.

During the night, the car sits past a padlock and behind barbed wire. Freeman says someone either climbed onto and off of a nearby roof or slid under the fence. Investigators agree, but still must figure out who did it and why.

That Dodge Charger? Brand new, less than 5000 miles, one of two in a fleet now cut in half. The Triana Police Department must now rely on the old car.

It still works--sometimes. The 500 citizens of Triana hope sometimes includes right now.

"We're down to one car at this point in time," Freeman says. "But hopefully that we're covered."

Covered for the next time a police car and crime scene tape actually equal a typical situation.

The mayor says the City of Triana will offer a reward for information that leads to the arrest of whoever set that car on fire.

DCSA launches Chysler Sebring

DCSA launches Chysler Sebring
Light on fuel and heavy on features, the Chrysler Sebring has arrived on the South African market.
DaimlerChrysler is taking its latest tilt at the highly competitive compact saloon market with the launch of the 2007 Chrysler Sebring.The company hopes to tap into a market segment where consumers are looking for an economical car that is spacious, well-equipped and has a dash of distinctive design.

The exterior styling carries a number of the company’s signature design cues, especially the nose, with its distinctive egg-crate grille, scalloped headlights and straked bonnet echoing the styling of the Crossfire. The Sebring comes in Inferno Red Crystal Pearl, Linen Gold Metallic, Marathon Blue Pearl, Modern Blue Pearl, Silver Steel Pearl, Bright Silver Metallic, Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl and Stone White exterior colours.

According to the company, the Sebring’s interior is inspired by the clean lines and functionality of it’s 2003 Airflite concept vehicle. The two-tone interior can be specified in a number of different trim materials ranging from Tortoise Shell to various Chrome accents depending on the model. In keeping with the model’s brief of practicality, the cabin features an array of pockets and storage spaces, as well as 60/40 split folding rear seats and a fold-flat front passenger seat that can double as a table.

DaimlerChrysler has pulled out the stops when it comes to security and safety features for the Sebring with such features as (deep breath now) ABS, ESP with Traction Control, dual multi-stage front airbags, side airbags, LATCH Child seat anchors, energy-absorbing steering column, tyre pressure monitors and alarm/immobiliser to mention just a few.

In a bid to improve NVH levels, DaimlerChrysler has also included a number of sound deadening touches to the engine and bodywork of the Sebring.

The Sebring is available in two models for the South African market; the Sebring Touring and the Sebring Limited, both of which are powered by the company’s 2,4-litre four cylinder World Engine. Featuring dual variable-valve timing and mated with a four-speed automatic gearbox, this powerplant delivers 125 kW at 6 000 r/min and 220 N.m of torque at 4 400 r/min. DaimlerChrysler claim impressive in-class fuel economy figures of 9,8l/100 km in town driving and 7,4l/100 km on the motorway.

Options available on the Chrysler Sebring Limited model include the MyGIG Harman/Kardon navigation, infotainment and navigation system, a rear-seat video system and power moonroof.

The Sebring Touring sedan is now available from South African dealerships for R219 900, while the Sebring Limited costs R239 900.

Both models come with a three year / 100 000km warranty and maintenance plan as standard.