Monday, April 14, 2008

Chrysler plans hybrid Dodge Ram

DETROIT -- Chrysler LLC plans to release a hybrid-electric powered Dodge Ram pickup in 2010, the automaker's product development chief said here today.

Frank Klegon, Chrysler executive vice president of product development, told the SAE 2008 World Congress in Detroit that the hybrid version of its high-volume hauler is part of the automaker's plans to reshape its product portfolio in the coming years.

Less than a year since being acquired from Daimler AG by Cerberus Capital Management LP, Chrysler is under pressure to revive its vehicle portfolio amid a major downturn in North American sales.

Klegon -- today and in recent public remarks -- says help is on the way as the automaker beefs up features in many of its vehicles.

Klegon also mentioned company plans to introduce UConnect, a system similar to Ford's SYNC system. Chrysler's UConnect would wirelessly connect to a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone and allow the user to dial hands-free using voice activated software.

Frank Klegon

Another key initiative: The automaker's 2009 minivans will have blind-spot detection systems and a cross pass system, which alerts a driver to oncoming traffic when backing out of a spot in a parking lot.

Dual-clutch coming soon

In a statement, Chrysler also said its new dual-clutch transmission -- developed in partnership with German supplier Getrag -- debuts this spring. The new technology -- available in international markets on the all-new 2009 Dodge Journey, the 2009 Dodge Avenger and the 2009 Chrysler Sebring -- improves fuel economy and reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

"Chrysler's new dual-clutch transmission is the next step in transmission technology, offering consumers improved fuel economy along with smoother and quicker shifting," Klegon said in a prepared statement.

"This important new Chrysler technology is one of several initiatives we have in place to directly focus on improving fuel efficiency across our vehicle lineup."

The dual-clutch technology eliminates the torque converter and uses synchronizers instead of shift clutches.

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