Friday, November 9, 2007

2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR street-legal track car


The hottest Dodge Viper factory performance kit yet, the SRT10 ACR gives would-be racers something to talk about. In fact, the ACR is enough to turn would-be racers into actual racers - just supply the track. Now we can bring you the official word on the latest supercar from Dodge.

Confirming info leaked earlier today, the same deep-skirted aluminum block 8.4L V10 600hp, 560lb-ft (760Nm) of torque uber-monster that lives under the hood of the Dodge Viper SRT10 powers the ACR, but what makes this car special is not its power so much as its weight and tuning. The new Viper SRT10 ACR shaves considerable weight from the car - while keeping it street legal - with a focus on unsprung and rotating weight, the areas where weight savings are of most value. Add the ‘Hard Core’ package and you’ll delete another 40lbs by substituting door speakers for carbon fiber panels, deleting the radio and a significant portion of silencing material and carpet and getting rid of the tire inflater.

Suspension tuning is also a key element of the ACR, with adjustable coil-over racing dampers from KW Suspensions - and you don’t even have to remove the wheels to make the adjustments. Roll stiffness is increased with a new front stabilizer bar and downforce is brought to race-car levels, yielding 1000lbs (455kg) downforce at 150mph. When you do hit the track, you can change out the center-splitter of the grille with a track extension that fills out the ‘fanged’ splitter scallop. Doing so reduces overall drag and increases front downforce by almost a third.

Brakes are upgraded to handle the added stress of track use. Two-piece slotted StopTech rotors are mated to Brembo calipers to minimize unsprung weight and maximize stopping power. The combo shaves almost 60lbs from the weight of the stock Viper and brings the ACR to a halt from 60mph within 100ft.

Shifts are handled by the latest iteration of the Tremec T56 six-speed manual, the TR6060. Keeping all that power routed to the rear wheels under control is a GKN ViscoLok speed-sensing limited-slip differential.

Dodge’s ‘normal’ Viper SRT10 is rated at under four seconds 0-60mph time, so expect this model to shave a few tenths thanks to the decreased weight. Top speed is listed at 190mph, and lateral acceleration is rated at 1.5g. The price is not yet announced, but the article says it will start at under US$100,000. Start cashing in those CDs and selling those stocks. Amateur racers - your car is coming. Mikey

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fitch: Chrysler LLC Ratings Unaffected by UAW Agreement; IDR at 'B+', Outlook Stable

Fitch: Chrysler LLC Ratings Unaffected by UAW Agreement; IDR at 'B+', Outlook StableCHICAGONY-FITCH-RATINGS/CHRYSLR

Chrysler LLC's (Chrysler) (Issuer Default Rating (IDR) 'B+'; Outlook Stable by Fitch) ratings are unaffected by the recent ratification of a new labor agreement with the United Auto Workers (UAW). The Rating of 'BB+/RR1' on the $7.5 billion first-lien senior secured term loan, as well as the $2 billion senior secured second-lien term loan, based on expectations of full recovery in a stress scenario, is likewise unaffected.

Ratings for Chrysler reflect the intense competitive conditions in the North American auto market, an uncertain U.S. economic outlook entering 2008, declining market share, an unbalanced product mix, stresses in the supply base, high leverage in a high fixed-cost industry, and an ongoing restructuring program. Positives include the cost benefits and improved competitive position to be derived from the new UAW contract, Chrysler's relative success across a number of product segments, the benefits of its relationship with Daimler AG and international growth opportunities.

Fitch believes weakening economic growth in the U.S. has created an increasingly uncertain outlook for industry sales in 2008. In particular, the key pickup truck market will continue to be affected by depressed housing market conditions. Coupled with the pruning of its product line and a targeted reduction in fleet sales, share losses may continue and Chrysler will be challenged to halt revenue declines. Depending on the extent of the expected drop in industry sales, Chrysler will be challenged to reverse negative cash flows when factoring in restructuring costs. Incremental flexibility resulting from the new UAW contract, however, will allow Chrysler greater flexibility to size its production and costs to market conditions, thereby reducing downside risks and cash drains in a downturn.

Nevertheless, the current product pipeline -- including new minivans and the 2008 introductions of the Journey crossover, the Dodge Ram pickup and the low-volume, high-profile Challenger -- will help to support revenues and retail market share through 2008 and into early 2009. Although the minivan market continues to decline, the Exit of Ford Motor Company (IDR of 'B' with a Negative Outlook) and General Motors Corp. (GM) (IDR of 'B' with a Negative Outlook) from this market, and new features provided by the new Dodge and Chrysler offerings could further augment its market leading position. The new Journey crossover is aimed at one of the most rapidly-growing segments of the market where Ford and GM have both enjoyed recent success. Although the pickup truck market is not expected to rebound significantly through 2008, In line with expectations for the housing market, the numerous difficulties surrounding the Toyota Tundra launch lend confidence to the ability of the Detroit 3 to defend this highly-profitable segment. Dodge's new pickup offerings will also include a light-duty diesel product. Continuing double-digit growth in export sales will also provide marginal support to consolidated revenues. Quality issues remain a concern.

The new UAW contract will help Chrysler transition to a more competitive wage and benefit structure over the next several years, although a structural cost Gap will still remain versus the transplants. The most significant cost savings will derive from a reduction in the hourly work force of approximately 30% from December 2006 to December 2008, along with a transition of as much as 20% of the remaining U.S. hourly workforce (Fitch estimate) to lower wage and benefit levels. This could result in a longer-term reduction in consolidated wage and benefit costs by more than a third when factoring in temporary workers. The transition of new hires to defined contribution pension and health care programs also reduces longer-term structural risks. Reductions in the hourly workforce have been accompanied by commensurate reductions in salaried and contract workers. Nevertheless, transplant manufacturers will retain a meaningful cost advantage resulting from platform and parts commonality, flexible manufacturing capability, capital investment efficiency and quality.

The establishment of a VEBA, and the associated transfer of healthcare liabilities represents a significant transfer of medical cost Inflation risk from Chrysler to the UAW. The funding of the VEBA through a combination of existing VEBA funds, wage and Cost of Living Allowance allocation (COLA) transfers, and debt was prudently funded to preserve required operating liquidity at Chrysler. The benefits, which will begin to be realized until 2010, are significant in relation to the upfront funding requirements. Net liquidity, however, may be modestly reduced, during a period of industry uncertainty.

Chrysler's market share has held up relatively well versus Ford and GM over the past seven years, although sales Performance has been habitually boosted through over-production, incentives and higher fleet sales. Relatively moderate declines in market share have resulted from better Performance across a number of product segments, which has aided capacity utilization and resulted in more modest capacity cutbacks than at Ford and GM. (Chrysler currently has one assembly plant scheduled for closure.) As a result, cost reductions should more directly translate into improved Margin and cash flow performance. In a more favorable industry environment then currently projected the combination of Chrysler's product performance and material cost reductions could put Chrysler on a path to positive cash flow. Chrysler's sales outside NAFTA (approximately 8% in 2006) is growing rapidly and could represent an important factor in sustaining capacity utilization if export growth continues at its current pace. Fitch believes the current U.S. dollar weakness could also support further export market gains.

The relationship with Daimler AG (which retains a 19.8% ownership stake in Chrysler) remains an important factor in the rating. Although cost synergies did not materialize to the extent forecasted following the Merger of the two entities, joint programs involving platform consolidation, parts commonality, purchasing initiatives, research and development, etc. remain intact and are expected to result in achievement of variable cost reductions over the longer term. Access to Daimler powertrain, safety, Emission and other technologies provides R&D scale that Chrysler would otherwise lack, and which is critical to remaining globally competitive. In particular, access to Daimler's diesel technology could represent an important competitive advantage as diesel products gain traction in North America, as expected.

Strategically, Chrysler has displayed an 'asset-lite' approach to its expansion plans. Chrysler has demonstrated this approach by contracting out manufacturing of its vehicles in Europe, utilizing its North American capacity to manufacturer non-Chrysler brands, and outsourcing on-site non-assembly operations. Fitch expects that Chrysler will continue to leverage its brands, engineering and design, technologies and products to expand its global presence through joint-ventures, alliances, etc. in a capital efficient manner. Chrysler's joint-venture with China-based Chery, expected to eventually manufacture exports to the U.S., is consistent with this strategy.

Over the intermediate term, legislative and regulatory risks across a wide spectrum of issues are rising, which could lead to changes in consumer demand, cost competitiveness, product standards, investment requirements, etc. Issues include fuel efficiency requirements, emissions standards, safety standards, tax policies and free-trade policies, etc. The majority of which could adversely impact operating performance at Chrysler.

Fitch's rating of 'BB+/RR1' on the first-lien and second-lien portions of the term loan reflects expectations of full recovery in the event of a restructuring event. The loans are secured by substantially all of Chrysler's tangible and intangible assets and is subject to a borrowing base. Fitch's recovery methodology model incorporates a scenario of materially reduced market share and revenues, a continuation of manufacturing operations, and a high level of cash remaining on the balance sheet to finance ongoing working capital obligations. Recovery values, as has been the pattern in the auto parts sector, reflect the substantial savings in wages, benefits, asset rationalization and other fixed costs than can be realized as part of the restructuring process. Fitch views Chrysler's gains in plant efficiency, the core strength of certain product lines, and the value of certain brands (particularly Jeep) and a growing global presence would lead to continued production by these plants, thereby enhancing the emerging Enterprise Value and supplementing recovery values obtained from other working capital and physical assets. Although Chrysler Financial remains a separate legal entity, incentives exist for Cerberus to keep Chrysler capitalized in order to retain the value and viability of Chrysler Financial.

Fitch's Recovery Ratings (RR) are a relative indicator of creditor recovery on a given obligation in the event of a default. A broad overview of Fitch's RR methodology as it relates to specific sectors, including a Case Study webcast, can be found at

Fitch's rating definitions and the terms of use of such ratings are available on the agency's public site, Published ratings, criteria and methodologies are available from this site, at all times. Fitch's code of conduct, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, affiliate firewall, compliance and other relevant policies and proc

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly
This Day in Auto History:

Electric automobile pioneer William Edward Ayrton dies in London, England at age 61
The International Motor Company reorganizes as the International Motor Truck Corporation, with their principal business the manufacture of Mack trucks
Racer Peter Collins is born in Kidderminster, England
Ralph L. Busse, retired Vice President of the Timken-Detroit Axle Company and an employee of the firm since 1915-1951, dies at age 64
William Klein Jr., a chocolate manufacturer and noted collector of classic Rolls-Royce and Bentleys, dies in Harrisburg, PA at age 54

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chrysler to close testing facility, shut down shift

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

As part of the recently ratified labor agreement with the UAW, the Chrysler Group announced it would close the Sterling Heights Vehicle Test Center on Metropolitan Parkway.

“It is listed for sale for $7 million,” said Chrysler spokesman Dave Elshoff.

He said that the site, listed as an industrial warehouse, was one of four facilities named for closure under the recently ratified UAW contract. The other facilities slated to close are located in Windsor, in Detroit on Mound and and Van Dyke, and in Plymouth.

The 20 employees at the testing facility site, who are covered under a UAW contract, will be reassigned.

Chrysler announced Nov. 1 that it would eliminate the second shift at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant during the first quarter of 2008. The Avenger and Sebring are built there.

“We have to move now to adjust the way our company looks and acts to reflect a smaller market,” said Tom LaSorda, vice chairman and president of the Chrysler Group. “That means a cost base that is right-sized and an appropriate level of plant utilization.”

This move will result in a reduction of 1,100 jobs at the SHAP, Elshoff said.

“We are sorry to see it close, but the impact is minimal” on the tax rolls, Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool said of the testing facility. He noted that over the past few years, the carmaker has invested $300 million in facilities in the city.

“Chrysler remains committed to the city,” he said.

Chrysler announced plans to invest $38 million for new assembly lines at the Sterling Heights Stamping and Assembly Plants. The City Council recently approved a seven-year, $211,148 tax abatement in support of an $11.25 million distribution facility in the city — a move that will bring 99 jobs.

Vanderpool said that while the city couldn’t control the economic factors that spurred the elimination of the second shift at SHAP, and he feels bad for families that will be affected by the job cuts, 4,000 employees will remain employed at Chrysler in Sterling Heights.

“The economic spin-off on the city is enormous,” he said, adding that Chrysler officials confirmed Nov. 1 that the company was moving forward on the planned investments in city facilities. “The long-term viability is preserved.”

Vanderpool said that Chrysler officials told him that a number of the 1,100 jobs cut will be by attrition and voluntary. “They’re not closing the facility (SHAP). Hopefully, this will pave the way for the second-shift to return,” he said.

City Assessor Matt Schmidt said that total city taxes that the Test Center paid to the city — $26,300 — is less than 1 percent of the total $2.9 million in taxes that Chrysler pays the city on the manufacturing facilities located here.

The value of the 154,224-square-foot test center — valued at just under $5 million with a taxable value of $2.28 million — has not decreased, Schmidt said.

He explained that there was hardly any personal property in the facility, so closing it wouldn’t affect value.

Based on real and personal property, Sterling Heights has the second-highest state equalized value, or assessed property value, in the state, recently edging out Troy for the number two spot, second to Detroit.

All Photos In Chrysler Cuda Concept Gallery

Chrysler LLC kills re-badged counterpart to Dodge Journey


Earlier this week, Chrysler announced it would pull four slow-selling products from the market in 2008. But according to Leftlane sources, company officials also decided recently to kill off a product that hasn't even been built yet — a Chrysler-branded version of the Dodge Journey.

Chrysler recently introduced the Dodge Journey, codenamed JC49, at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It was widely known that plans existed for a Chrysler version of this vehicle codenamed JZ49. Originally the Chrysler model was set to go into production some time in 2009. Later, word came down of a delay, of up to a year, on the JZ49 program.

Now comes word from industry and supplier sources that the JZ49 program has been killed outright. Reasons for the cancellation of JZ49 are not clear, though, product overlap with the Dodge Journey is a likely motive. It's also not clear if this was part of the part of the recent product lineup thinning announced by Chrysler's new management team.

This revelation will prove to be quite significant to Chrysler's lineup. With the Pacifica going away at the end of its current life cycle, and the JZ49 canceled, the Chrysler brand will be left with no traditional crossover vehicle in the show room.

What, if any, new crossover plans there might be for Chrysler are not known at this point. However, it would be hard to imagine that the Chrysler brand would abandon this segment all together.

Dodge Demon, Hornet: Who Will Build These for Chrysler?

DETROIT — Two top Chrysler executives have confirmed recently that the automaker is on a global hunt to find a partner to help it build small vehicles, ones like the hot Dodge Demon sports car and the clever Dodge Hornet people mover. And that partner apparently won't be Chrysler's current Chinese partner, Chery.

Most recently, Simon Elliott, president and CEO of Chrysler Group China Sales Ltd., told The Wall Street Journal in Monday's edition that Chrysler is exploring how to fill the small-car holes in its China product portfolio, since those are the largest volume categories in the country. Chrysler's Chinese partner Chery will not plug the voids, he said, and Chrysler is shopping for a partner that can ensure pricing and quality. Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli has said Chrysler wants partners that can provide platforms upon which Chrysler can put its own "top hat."

Elliott's remarks echo those made by Chrysler's top designer Trevor Creed to Edmunds' AutoObserver at the Frankfurt auto show in September. Creed said Chery would not be Chrysler's partner in building the B-segment Hornet, a concept for an international people mover unveiled at the 2006 Geneva Auto Show. Creed said Chery's platforms were not appropriate for the Hornet, and the hunt for another partner was ongoing.

Before these comments from Elliott and Creed, Chrysler was thought to be working with Chery on a redesigned version of Chery's A1 model, which would be used as the basis for B-segment vehicles like the Hornet to be sold in Europe and North America.

However, that was then and this is now. Since DaimlerChrysler negotiated the deal with China's Chery to build small vehicles with Chrysler, the German company has become Daimler and sold Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management. Cerberus, in turn, has installed new management, including former Home Depot CEO Nardelli and a new chief of Asia operations, Phil Murtaugh, formerly of General Motors and GM's Chinese partner, SAIC.

Chrysler has been rumored to be talking with Korea's Hyundai and Japan's Mitsubishi on some projects. The trio already builds a global four-cylinder engine together.

What's not clear is what Chery's role is, if any, in the new Chrysler's future? We're awaiting an answer from Chrysler on that question.

Meantime, Daimler and Italy's Fiat are reportedly in talks on co-developing small A- and B-segment cars.

What it means to you: The wait for a Chrysler car smaller and less expensive than the Dodge Caliber stretches on as the automaker searches for a partner.

Chrysler LLC will soon be announcing the limited dragsters cars based on the 2009 Dodge Challenger production vehicle early spring. By MK

2008 Dodge Viper SRT10

Chrysler LLC has announced that production has begun on the new 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10.

2008 Dodge Viper SRT10

Each hand-built Viper is bestowed with the all-new 600hp (450kW) and 760Nm 8.4-litre SRT aluminium V10 engine.

2008 Dodge Viper SRT10

This additional horsepower - 90hp more to be exact - rockets the Viper to 100km/h in less than four seconds, setting a new benchmark for the all-American muscle car.

At the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit you won’t find any robots.Instead 48 workers attending 26 stations on a 214 metre assembly line build the Viper by hand.

2008 Dodge Viper SRT10

“Compared to our other manufacturing facilities, this is a very labour-intensive plant, but to build the Dodge Viper any other way wouldn’t be right. This small craft shop allows us to produce a true American legend.”


Each Viper is tested in place on the assembly line using a rolling road, where it is shifted through each of the six cogs to 90mph (150km/h) to verify vehicle function.

Normally reserved only for race cars, the suspension is adjusted by an alignment machine which sets caster and camber at normal ride height, at jounce and at rebound (upward and downward travel of suspension) - this is a first for a factory US production vehicle.

2008 Dodge Viper SRT10

In addition to the new engine, the 2008 Viper features increased levels of customisation with five new exterior colours, four new interior colour combinations and a new wheel design.

2008 Dodge Viper SRT10

Whilst Dodge have tested the waters in Australia with the Nitro, Caliber and Avenger models, there are no plans to add the left-hand drive only Viper to its line up.

Oil's march to $100 stalls

Crude comes within $1.38 of triple digit levels, but gains tempered after U.S. inventories fall less than expected.

By Steve Hargreaves, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- Oil prices fell Wednesday after inventories in the United States dropped less than expected last week, but only after the push toward $100 a barrel got as close as it has ever come, to within $1.38.

U.S. light crude for December delivery fell 10 cents to $96.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after setting a new trading high overnight of $98.62. The price stood at $97.60 just before the inventory report was released.

Traders were expecting oil prices to climb following the inventory report. But oil was at first little changed - then fell - after the report said supplies declined, but not as much as expected.

In its weekly inventory report, the Energy Information Administration said crude stocks fell by 800,000 barrels last week. Analysts were looking for a drop of 1.6 million barrels, according to a Dow Jones poll.

Distillates, used to make heating oil and diesel fuel, rose by 100,000 barrels while gasoline supplies fell by 800,000 barrels. Analysts were looking for a 500,000 barrel decline in distillate supplies and a 200,000 barrel gain in gasoline stockpiles.

Most of the decline in crude is being blamed on an outage from Pemex, Mexico's national oil company. Mexico, after Canada, is the second largest source of imported U.S. oil.

Prices hit a new record earlier in the day after the International Energy Agency said China and India will sap world oil supplies faster than previously thought.

A falling dollar also pushed prices higher. The dollar hit a fresh low of $1.4729 against the euro Wednesday on speculation that China would seek to diversify some of it's foreign currency reserves. Top of page

Hulk Hogan's son to be charged in serious wreck

Tb_crash300 CLEARWATER -- Nick Bollea, the teenaged son of professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, this morning was charged with reckless driving involving serious bodily injury in connection with an Aug. 26 wreck that left a passenger with serious brain damage.

Bollea turned himself in to Clearwater police and is being booked in to the Pinellas County Jail, officials said. He arrived at the jail handcuffed and accompanied by two Clearwater police officers. He did not answer any questions on his way into the booking area. (Watch video of his arrival)

Bollea, 17, was at the wheel of a speeding yellow Toyota Supra that went out of control and slammed, rear-bumper first, into a palm tree in the median on Court Street, officials say. The wreck critically injured Bollea's friend and passenger, 22-year-old John Graziano. The Supra, which was owned by Bollea's famous father, was totaled (see photo from the crash at right).

Reckless driving with serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony. In addition to that charge, authorities cited Bollea for using a motor vehicle in commission of a felony, being a driver under 21 operating a vehicle with a breath-alcohol level of .02 percent or higher and having illegal window tinting. The blood-alcohol level at which Florida law presumes a driver to be impaired is .08 percent.

Police said today that Bollea's car was going faster than 60 mph at the time of the crash. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 40 mph.

Authorities have said from the start that speed was a factor in the crash. In the days after the wreck, witnesses told the Times and investigators they saw Bollea's Supra racing a silver Dodge Viper on the rain-slicked road moments before the crash.

Today officials also issued a summons to appear in court for the driver of the Viper, 22-year-old Daniel Aaron Jacobs of Dunedin. He faces a charge of reckless driving. Police said that although Jacobs and Bollea were racing before the crash, Jacobs was not direct cause of the wreck.

Graziano, a Dunedin High School graduate and U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, suffered a broken skull and has been comatose at Bayfront Medical Center since the crash, according to medical professionals who examined him and submitted reports on his condition to court. He likely will need lifelong nursing home care and at best will only be able to open and close his eyes periodically, they say.

-- Tamara El-Khoury, Times staff writer

Photo by Jim Damaske | Times

Chrysler hates phone cams: 2009 Dodge Challenger revealed

Click image to see all three phonecam shots

Chrysler revealed the production Dodge Challenger to dealers in Vegas last week, and while we’re certain it banned all manner of cameras from the event, saying something’s banned and enforcing said ban are two entirely different things. Let’s just say that they failed on the enforcement part, because has phonecam pics of the car, and it is very true to the concept, overall. The main changes are the presence of a b-pillar under the side glass, a small lip spoiler on the trunk of the SRT8, and a slightly extended rear bumper to meet crash test requirements.

OntarioStreetCar reports that the Challenger arrives in March as a 2008 model. That first run of 5500 cars will all be 6.1L SRT8s equipped with automatic transmissions priced at $38,000. Starting in July, the MY09 Challenger will begin production, and the range will expand to include the 3.5L V6, the regular 5.7L HEMI, and of course, the SRT8 with the 6.1 HEMI. And finally, the best news of all: on the ‘09 Challenger, both HEMI flavors will be available with the T56 6-speed manual transmission. We’ll see the car in person at the Chicago Auto Show. Welcome to the 21st century ponycar wars. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Thanks to all who sent tips!

[Source: OntarioStreetCar]

Chrysler’s SRT division won’t be feeling the pinch


After having recently reported the cost cutting to take place at Chrysler we are relieved to bring word the exciting SRT (Street and Racing Technology) performance division will be hardly affected. Last week Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli announced plans to cull four models and cut up to 10,000 jobs but according to the director of the SRT these actions will have no affect on the performance division.

In a recent interview with Edmunds, SRT boss Michael Accavitti was quoted as saying, “I don’t see any change at all in the direction we’re going with SRT.” Accavitti went on to support Cerberus Corp’s move to place Bob Nardelli as CEO, despite his complete lack of automotive experience. “Even though he’s coming from outside the auto industry, this guy understands cars, he understands that these are emotional purchases and passionate purchases. Everything is going to be fine with Bob Nardelli driving this bus, I’ll tell you that right now.”

When asked whether every future Chrysler model could get an SRT version, Accavitti expressed his opinion saying that the SRT name was not something that could be earned easily. Each car would have to satisfy the ‘five pillars’ that needed to be upheld for any SRT vehicle, that is good ride, excellent handling, performance braking, outstanding levels of power, and an interior and exterior fit for a racetrack. “We don’t want this to just become a badge we hang on every single car. I’m very protective of that as the brand manager,” he said.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Chrysler LLC Posts Records for October 2007 Certified Pre-owned Vehicle (CPOV) Sales

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Nov. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Chrysler LLC reported that its Five Star(R) dealers sold a new October record of 9,660 Certified Pre-owned Vehicles (CPOV) in 2007, a 4 percent increase from 9,324 units sold in October 2006. For the month, each of the automaker's brands posted increases; Chrysler brand sales rose 4 percent to 2,986 units; Jeep(R) brand sales were up 2 percent to 2,681 units and Dodge brand sales advanced 4 percent to 3,993 units.

Year-to-date sales also set a record with 103,929 units delivered. This was a 6 percent increase from YTD sales of 97,800 units set in 2006. Sales increases were posted for the following vehicles year-to-date: Chrysler 300 & 300C sales rose 44 percent to 5,684 units, Jeep Wrangler sales accelerated 25 percent to 3,185 units and the Dodge Magnum had a healthy sales improvement, moving sales up 24 percent to 2,444 units for the year.

"The numbers speak for themselves, CPOV has a positive impact on dealership traffic and customer loyalty," said Peter Grady, Director - Remarketing. "Our CPOV brand draws shoppers into our dealer showrooms, and once they are part of the Chrysler LLC family of vehicles, it is our intent that they consider a Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge product when shopping for their next vehicle."

Chrysler offers one of the most comprehensive Certified Pre-owned Vehicle programs in the industry. For a vehicle to be certified under Chrysler's used- vehicle program, it must be a 2002 through 2007 model pre-owned vehicle with less than 65,000 miles and pass a stringent 125-point mechanical, safety and condition standard inspection. Chrysler CPO vehicles are backed by an eight- year/80,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, 24-hour, 365-day full roadside assistance with a $35 per day rental car allowance and a three-month or 3,000- mile Maximum Care warranty, in addition to a Carfax Vehicle History Report and buyback guarantee.

Marketed as "Brand Spankin' Used(R)" Chrysler CPO vehicles are sold only through Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealerships that have earned the automaker's Five Star certification. Five Star certification is a comprehensive validation of the dealership's facilities, operational processes, salesperson and technician training accreditation as well as customer satisfaction survey ratings. Approximately 2,000 Chrysler dealerships in the United States are certified Five Star dealers.

Used vehicle shoppers can learn more about Chrysler's Brand Spankin' Used Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle program as well as find detailed inventory and dealer listings online at or by searching independent used vehicle search engines including,, and

Chrysler LLC

Clinton proposes that autos get 55 mpg by 2030

November 6, 2007 - 12:01 am ETWASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton on Monday proposed an auto fuel efficiency target of 55 miles per gallon by 2030, substantially more ambitious than what Congress is wrestling with now.

The goal is a cornerstone of Clinton's sweeping energy and climate change plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a projected 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 and reduce oil imports by two-thirds -- more than 10 million barrels per day -- from 2030 projected levels.

"This is the biggest challenge we've faced in a generation, a challenge to our economy, our security, our health, and our planet," Clinton, a former first lady who leads national polls for the 2008 Democratic nomination, said in a statement.

Gasoline demand accounts for nearly half of the average daily U.S. consumption of 20.9 million barrels of oil.

The 55 mpg mileage plan for cars and trucks would be offset for manufacturers by a $20 billion bond program to help them finance factory overhauls to make cars and trucks that run on fuels other than gasoline.

To spur increased production of ethanol and other renewable fuels to reduce oil demand, Clinton would extend the national renewable fuel goal from the current target of 7.5 billion gallons per year by 2012 to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022 and to 60 billion gallons by 2030.

The plan would also accelerate battery research and production of plug-in hybrids -- a gasoline-electric vehicle that can be recharged by plugging into a typical electrical outlet. Automakers, including General Motors, are testing this concept.

Most major automakers are fighting a proposal approved by the Senate that would require vehicles achieve 35 mpg by 2020, a 40 percent increase over the current standard. Under Clinton's plan, the target would be 40 mpg in 2020.

Automakers call the standard unachievable or nearly unachievable, especially Detroit-based GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. All three want Congress to soften the Senate bill or support a less stringent plan in the House of Representatives.

Clinton's rivals for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, former Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, also support tough fuel economy standards.

Leading Republican candidates have not committed to specific increases in fuel economy.

Oil hits another record above $96

Fears of dwindling stockpiles in the United States and a falling dollar push crude closer to $100.

NEW YORK ( -- Oil prices jumped over $96 a barrel Tuesday, setting another record high, as traders bought on fears of dwindling supplies in the United States.

U.S. light crude for December delivery gained $2.15 to trade at $96.13 a barrel in electronic trade, surpassing the previous intraday record of $96.05 set Friday.

Analysts expect a 1.6 million barrel drop in domestic crude supplies when the government issues its weekly inventory report Wednesday.

"The oil market is really supported by the tight inventories in the U.S. market, and the general expectations for the inventory report this week are that the crude inventories will likely fall," Victor Shum of Purvin & Gertz in Singapore, told the Associated Press.

Most of the decline is being blamed on an outage from Pemex, Mexico's national oil company. Mexico, after Canada, is the second largest source of imported U.S oil.

The drop would follow last week's decline of more than 5 million barrels. It would also come while refineries are shutting down for planned maintenance - a time that should see rising supplies of oil as refineries turn less of it into gasoline.

The continuing weakness of the U.S. dollar, which hit $1.4556 against the euro earlier Tuesday, also contributed to climbing oil prices.

Analysts think some traders and investors will try to push oil prices to the psychologically important $100 level this week.

Crude prices are within the range of inflation-adjusted highs set in early 1980. Depending on the how the adjustment is calculated, $38 a barrel then would be worth $96 to $103 or more today.

"The market remains bullish and seems to be on an upward trend to hit the psychologically important $100 level," said Shum. "While it is on the uptrend, there is a tremendous amount of volatility," he added.

Crude prices have spiked more than 20 percent in the last three weeks. The jump is unusual because this time of year is known as a shoulder season - marked by slack demand - between the summer driving and winter heating months.

Fighting between Turkey and the Kurds in oil-rich northern Iraq, reports showing demand outpacing supply in the fourth quarter, a falling dollar and speculative investing have all been cited as reasons for the runup.

Crude oil prices have surged nearly five-fold since trading below $20 a barrel in 2002. Analysts say surging global demand combined with limited new supply is the main underlying factor.

The surge in prices has also attracted lots of speculative investment money, further driving prices higher.

And the tight supply and demand situation magnifies the effect that geopolitical tensions have on prices, as there is less spare supply available globally to cover disruptions from places like Iran, Nigeria or Venezuela.

The falling U.S. dollar has also played a role, as oil worldwide is priced in dollars.

Oil-producing nations have less incentive to ramp up output if the buying power they receive per barrel is declining, and foreign consumers have less incentive to reduce demand if oil is, relatively, getting cheaper for them.

Cerberus Chairman Positive On GMAC, Sees Chrysler Turning Around

Dow Jones

CHICAGO -(Dow Jones)- Cerberus Capital Management Chairman John Snow remains optimistic about the potential of GMAC Financial Services despite problems in the housing market that are expected to last well into 2008.

"We think GMAC is a terrific property. It will reward our investors over time. We don't time the market," Snow said in an interview Monday following a presentation sponsored by the Executives Club of Chicago.

"Would you rather have housing strong? Absolutely. But the housing market will come back and ResCap will be a big part and GMAC will be a big part of housing finance," Snow said. "So, we're still very positive about it (GMAC)."

GMAC, in which Cerberus owns a controlling stake, last week announced that it posted a $1.6 billion loss in the third quarter due to losses at its ResCap residential mortgage business. ResCap, like other large lenders and companies with exposure to the housing industry and subprime loans, has seen its operations suffer amid falling housing prices and increased numbers of defaults.

Snow, the former U.S. Treasury Secretary, noted that most economists expect it will take about 12-18 months for the excesses in the housing market to be resolved. He said during his speech earlier that the adjustment process in the housing sector is just beginning and that the slowdown will cut into economic growth.

Growth will likely moderate to about 1.5% in part because of reduced consumption stemming from falling housing prices, Snow said. But he said in the interview he expects that by late 2008 or in 2009 that the U.S. economy will return to growth rates of between 2.5% and 3%.

The revival of growth rates would also provide a boost to Chrysler LLC, which Cerberus acquired in August. Chrysler - which posted a $680 million loss last year that prompted a major restructuring effort and former parent DaimlerChrysler to put the company up for sale - last week announced expanded job-cut plans to address worse-than-expected auto market conditions in the U.S.

"I'm very optimistic about the American economy and about autos as a significant part of the American economy," Snow said in the interview Monday.

Asked if the recent slowdown in the auto industry has changed Cerberus's view on when profitability at Chrysler will be restored, Snow said, "Not really."

He wouldn't comment on when profitability will be achieved, saying, "We don't have artificial deadlines." Snow said it isn't important if profitability is achieved by a particular quarter.

"What's important is 'are you getting this thing turned around?' " Snow said. "If it takes a little longer or a little less, it doesn't really affect the long-term cash flows. And what we're in it for is long-term profitability and long-term cash flows.

"This is a big engine. If you get it working right, it'll reward our investors," Snow said. Asked if the company was getting turned around, Snow said, "Absolutely," citing recent executive appointments and steps to improve productivity and products.

Snow said that Chrysler is focused on producing vehicles that buyers want, with a special emphasis on building relationships with dealers.

"I think you're going to see a much more customer-responsive company in Chrysler," he said. "It's the new mantra at Chrysler," he added, noting that it will likely result in changes in the company's product mix.

He noted that Chrysler, under Cerberus ownership, is able to move much more quickly on strategic decisions - such as production levels or job cuts - than it could as a public company. With regard to a recent decision to cut production levels, Snow said that the decision took seven minutes, when in the past it might have taken weeks.

Snow didn't comment on possibility of combining operations of GMAC and Chrysler Financial.

He also wouldn't comment on potential interest in troubled mortgage bank Northern Rock PLC (NRK.LN) of the U.K. Sources have said that Cerberus is conducting due diligence on Northern Rock, as are Virgin Group and J.C. Flowers.

Banks to offer $10B in Chrysler debt

Report: Wall Street banks will to sell the debt after having postponed the sale in July because of instability in the credit markets.

NEW YORK ( -- Wall Street investment banks are planning to launch an offering of up to $10 billion in loans for Chrysler LLC's automotive business on Wednesday, according to a report published in the Wall Street Journal.

The loan offering is a sign of improvement in the corporate loan market, according to the Journal. The paper reported that the loans were part of the automaker's sale to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP.

The offering constitutes a "second try" at a similar debt sale that was postponed in July amid credit market turmoil, according to the Journal.

At that time, the underwriters, which included J.P. Morgan Chase & Co (Charts, Fortune 500)., Citigroup Inc., (Charts, Fortune 500) Goldman Sachs Group Inc (Charts, Fortune 500)., Morgan Stanley (Charts, Fortune 500) and Bear Stearns & Co., (Charts, Fortune 500) were faced with weak investor demand for the loans and decided to postpone that sale, taking $10 billion of the loans onto their own books

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly
This Day in Auto History:

Clyde M. Vandeburg, Assistant to the President of the Packard Motor Car Company 1939-1942, is born in Montrose, CO
Production begins at the Moscow (USSR) Automotive Plant
The Rolls-Royce Ltd. Repairs and Service Departments are relocated to new premises in Willesden, England as the Derby works are entirely devoted to World War II government contract work - the Willesden works would be utilized for special coachwork construction after 1984
The Kuwait Oil Company (London) Ltd. is registered
Edwin Foster Blair, a Director of the Packard Motor Car Company 1950-1957 (the Studebaker-Packard Corporation after 1954), dies at age 68

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

Monday, November 5, 2007

Chrysler Buys Ford's Arizona Proving Grounds


Maybe Ford just needed the dues. Whatever the reason, Ford's decided to sell off their Arizona Proving Ground testing facility to "The New Chrsyler." The pentastar brand recently bought the facility for $34.9 million and will spend around another $10 million in upgrades to the facility, including a new 70-foot-high test grade along with other new test surfaces. The test facility is expected to open in the second quarter of 2008 as a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day a week facility. Sounds like fun, when do we get the first spy shots from nearby? [via Mohave Daily News]

What Chrysler needs now is a product wizard

David Sedgwick is editor of Automotive News.


David Sedgwick
Automotive News
November 5, 2007 - 12:01 am ET

Don't blame Chrysler's production cuts on $96-a-barrel oil. Granted, it's tempting — but wrong.

Instead, blame the product gurus who produced unsellable vehicles even when they were positioned in a hot market segment. Chrysler's product development is broken, and it desperately needs to be fixed.

Want proof? Last week, Chrysler announced plans to eliminate a third shift at its Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant. That plant produces the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Patriot and Jeep Compass — vehicles that ought to appeal to households on a budget.

Likewise, the company is cutting production at its Toledo North assembly plant in Ohio, which produces the Dodge Nitro and Jeep Liberty.

Think about it: Chrysler correctly figured out that oil prices would rise and that the market would shift to compact cars and small SUVs. And what happened? Unsold inventories of the Caliber, Compass, Liberty and Nitro have piled up on dealership lots.

As of Nov. 1, Chrysler reported, it had a 150-day supply of the Compass and a 93-day supply of the Caliber. A 60-day supply is considered optimal.

What went wrong? Last April, Consumer Reports published its annual evaluation of new cars and trucks. Its list of the most disappointing vehicles included the Nitro, the Chrysler Sebring, the Caliber and the Compass.

Among other things, the magazine blasted their cheap interiors, noisy powertrains, poor quality, poor visibility and lack of refinement. Is it any wonder Chrysler has dumped vehicles into daily rental fleets?

And here's the really bad news: Lousy sales would be understandable for a model that has been on the market for seven or eight years. But those vehicles are relatively new.

OK, that's the bad news. The good news is that the company finally has taken drastic action. Bob Nardelli is living up to his reputation as a cost cutter who moves fast.

But how will he overhaul product development? By his own admission, Nardelli isn't a car guy. And Jim Press, who has great product instincts, knows more about selling cars than designing them.

Chrysler needs a product guru like Wolfgang Bernhard. Uh, wait a minute — it already tried that guy. In fact, one can safely attribute many of Chrysler's disastrous product decisions to Bernhard.

Productwise, Chrysler needs a complete makeover. And Chrysler's new bosses need someone to push those changes. I wonder if they could rehire Tom Gale.