Thursday, March 13, 2008

US: 2009 Dodge Challenger to premiere at New York motor show

Automotive World (subscription) - London,UK By Glenn Brooks Chrysler LLC has confirmed rumours that the 2009 Dodge Challenger will have its debut at the New York International Auto Show's media day. ...

DETROIT — Of the big American car companies, Chrysler has a well-earned reputation for extravagant marketing stunts.

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Rough RoadGraphic

Rough Road

Stan Honda/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The 2009 Dodge Ram pickup in a promotion at the Detroit auto show in January. James E. Press, Chrysler’s vice chairman, hopes the automaker will be remembered more for its vehicles.

The debut of the new Dodge Ram at the Detroit auto show in January was typically over the top, as cowboys on horseback herded 120 head of cattle through the city to publicize the rugged appeal of the pickup.

Chrysler’s new vice chairman, James E. Press, gamely played his part in a western-style jacket. “If you think that our truck is all hat and no cattle, keep an eye on yonder horizon,” he said to an audience chewing on beef jerky branded with the Dodge logo.

But Mr. Press, a veteran of 37 years with Toyota who distinguished himself as a serious salesman of sensible Camrys and Corollas, was visibly uncomfortable in the role. He acknowledged as much in a later interview as he discussed how Chrysler must change to survive.

“We need to be focusing more on the substance and less on sizzle,” he said. “Instead of being remembered for cattle, you’d like the Ram truck to be remembered for winning the showdown with the Ford F-150.”

Mr. Press surprised the industry last year when he left Toyota, where he had been a board member and the company’s highest-ranking American executive, to join Chrysler, smallest of the troubled Detroit Big Three automakers.

Steeped in Toyota’s customer-driven culture of continuous improvement, Mr. Press, 61, had been the steady hand behind the Japanese company’s methodical expansion in the United States. Now as Chrysler‘s vice chairman and president, Mr. Press is trying to bring stability to a company known for stomach-churning roller-coaster rides through boom and bust cycles — from the government-loan bailout in the late 1970s under Lee Iacocca to its failed marriage with German automaker Daimler-Benz.

Mr. Press clearly wants to improve Chrysler’s erratic image, whether he’s visiting dealerships, holding town hall meetings with employees, or answering e-mail messages from consumers.

At a seminar last month at the Levin Institute, an education and research institution in New York, he fielded questions about Chrysler’s struggles by comparing it with a certain Japanese juggernaut. “In some ways it reminds me a lot of what Toyota was when I went there more than 30 years ago,” he said.

But with a dwindling market share at home and a minuscule presence internationally, Chrysler may be running out of comebacks. Saddled with a model lineup that is heavy on gas-thirsty trucks, Chrysler lost $1.6 billion last year, leading to the breakup of its ill-fated, eight-year-long union with Daimler.

Then last August, the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management bought an 80 percent stake in Chrysler at the fire-sale price of $7.5 billion and immediately began cutting jobs and costs.

Cerberus brought in the former chairman of Home Depot, Robert L. Nardelli, to oversee the reorganization as Chrysler’s chairman, and then hired Mr. Press to overhaul its products and invigorate its sales and marketing.

“What the consumers are really interested in are the facts, the details, the bottom line,” said Mr. Press. “We’re going to have a very effective product line that will do the talking for us.”

That’s a tall order, even for an executive with Mr. Press’s experience. Chrysler’s sales in the United States have slid 13 percent so far this year, and its vehicles lag in head-to-head comparisons with rival automakers. Consumer Reports magazine recently ranked four Chrysler vehicles among its 10 worst cars sold in the United States.

Industry observers wonder where Chrysler fits in an overcrowded market led by General Motors, Toyota and the Ford Motor Company, which are much larger companies with far greater resources than privately held Chrysler.

“I view it as mission impossible,” said Jack Trout, president of the marketing strategy firm Trout & Partners. “Chrysler is such a distant fourth, and it lacks an identity. I mean, what is a Chrysler?”

What Chrysler is now is a shrinking entity with a 13 percent share of the American market and international sales of less than 250,000 vehicles a year, excluding Mexico and Canada.

Mr. Press says that Chrysler’s size can be an advantage if it can more quickly respond to changing consumer tastes. Its goal, he said, is for Chrysler to be the “best little car company in America,” with global sales of about three million vehicles, less than a third of what G.M. and Toyota sell.

Last month, Mr. Press announced Chrysler’s “Project Genesis” plans to its American dealers, which calls for reducing its current lineup of about 30 models and consolidating Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge franchises nationwide. The automaker had already announced plans to trim slow-selling models like the Chrysler Pacifica crossover vehicle and the Dodge Magnum wagon.

“When I first came to the company, the orientation was about wholesaling cars to the dealers as opposed to retailing cars,” Mr. Press said. “That change has occurred, and now we can be responsive to what out customers want.”

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly
This Day in Auto History:

Torkild Rieber, Chairman of The Texas Company (Texaco) 1935-1940, is born in Voss, Norway
Racer Joe Kelly is born in Ireland
Donald Nelson Frey of the Ford Motor Company is born in St. Louis, MO
The Marmon-Herrington Company, Inc. is incorporated in Indiana
The Playboy is introduced at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City

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

Chrysler buyout count short


UAW Vice President General Holiefield

declined to say whether Chrysler will

make its minimum goal of 8,500 workers.

Automaker had hoped 10,000 would exit


Chrysler LLC, which is trying to reduce its hourly workforce, is unlikely to meet its goal of cutting 10,000 workers through its latest buyout and early retirement packages, a top UAW leader said Wednesday, further illustrating challenges Detroit automakers face convincing people to leave good-paying jobs during tough times.

I don't think we will get quite 10,000," UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who heads the union's Chrysler Department, told reporters while on a visit to the automaker's Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit. "With the economy the way it is, people are trying to hang on to what they have."

He declined to say whether the automaker will make its minimum goal of getting rid of 8,500 hourly workers. He said it will be clearer in a few weeks how well the program has worked.

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, agreed that workers contemplating buyout packages may have concerns about what they would do next.

"The environment today is such that a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush: I've got a job, even though I get the money, it may not be that easy to get a job that is close to what I have here," Cole said of people's thinking. "The other part of it is if I wait a little bit more, I may get more" as an incentive to leave.

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. also are trying to trim their hourly workforces. Ford hopes to reduce its workforce by at least 8,000 while GM has not said how many workers it hopes to cut.

Some Ford workers have told the Free Press they don't think the automaker will reach its buyout goals.

Holiefield said the union and Chrysler might have to talk about getting creative with the buyout packages to get more people to accept them. "So far I think they are doing pretty good," he said.

In November, Chrysler announced it wanted to eliminate as many as 8,500 to 10,000 hourly jobs. The eliminations come on top of a February 2007 plan to eliminate 11,000 hourly jobs over three years.

"We're working closely with the UAW to offer additional programs," Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson said, noting that workers at the automaker's Mopar parts division have not yet been offered packages. She declined to talk about how many people had signed up for buyout packages.

Deadlines have passed for thousands of Chrysler workers who were offered packages, which included lump-sum payments of $70,000 or $100,000.

The plan offered in February also called for Chrysler's Newark, Del., assembly plant to be idled in 2009.

On Wednesday, Holiefield said he hopes the union will be able to convince Chrysler to keep the plant going. "As long as that plant is running, there is hope -- we never say die," he said.

Tinson said: "We're always willing to explore a business case, however at this point in time it still remains the plan on record to close the facility by 2009. There's no future product for that facility at this time."

Holiefield was at the Conner plant Wednesday to celebrate the 25,000th Dodge Viper to roll off the assembly line, which was presented to NASCAR driver Kurt Busch.

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli handed Busch the keys after greeting workers. He left without answering questions from reporters.

Before doing so, Nardelli said he would like a Viper. "I aspire -- someday -- to own a Viper. Now, I don't know who I have to see to try to get an order placed," he joked.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spy Shots: Dodge Nitro SRT8???

Click above for high-res gallery of Dodge Nitro SRT8 spy shots

When one of KGP Photography's crew happened on a fairly innocuous looking Dodge Nitro in downtown Detroit, it was only a small badge on the rear lift gate that gave notice to this Nitro's hidden secret. Sporting the "SRT8" emblem, this high-po Nitro is likely packing the automaker's 6.1L HEMI V8 underhood. From what we can tell, the vehicle appears to be wearing the 20-inch wheels from the Mopar accessories catologue. Also, those front fender events that are usually capped with three chrome cross bars may be mesh on this particular vehicle and imply (gulp) actual functionality. Other than that, this Nitro SRT8 looks to have been modified very little on the surface, and unfortunately the camera man couldn't get a shot of the front end, which might be festooned with vents, slats and perhaps a deeper chin spoiler.

While the badge on the rear lift gate could be a ruse, we do know Chrysler is trying to do as much as possible with the vehicles that remain in its line up, and the Nitro could use some attention, for sure. A 425-horsepower Nitro, however, is just kind of nuts. Perhaps it's the poor man's Grand Cherokee SRT8.

UPDATE: We're fairly certain this is a fake perpetrated with a spare "SRT-8" badge and some super glue, having gotten confirmation from a number of sources that there's no way the 6.1L HEMI would fit in the Nitro. Thanks, Dodge.

[Source: KGP Photography]

Chrysler may fall short of 10,000 buyouts-UAW

DETROIT (Reuters) - Chrysler LLC may fall short of its target of 10,000 unionized workers accepting buyouts or early retirement offers, a senior union official said on Wednesday.

"I don't think we will get quite 10,000," General Holifield, a United Auto Workers vice president, said at an event at Chrysler plant in Detroit that makes the Viper sports car. "With the economy the way it is, people are trying to hold on to what they have ... Jobs are not that easy to find."

Holifield said Chrysler, majority-owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP CBS.UL, might have to negotiate richer buyout offers if it fell short of its target. "We may have to enhance the packages some or get more creative in that area, but so far I think they are doing pretty good," he said.

Chrysler has set a target of cutting between 8,500 and 10,000 hourly jobs through this year as part of its turnaround effort.

Holiefield declined to say how many Chrysler workers could take buyouts as the struggling automaker attempts to cut costs and winnow slower-selling models from its lineup.

He said it would be several more weeks before the union had a more complete view of the number of buyouts. "I would think that maybe in another couple of weeks or so we may have a better barometer," he said.

Holifield, the UAW official charged with negotiating a four-year labor contract with Chrysler last year, said the union was also talking to the automaker about reversing a decision to close its Newark, Delaware, assembly plant.

Chrysler said last year it planned to close the facility, which makes the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen sport utility vehicles.

"As long as that plant's running, there is hope. We never say die," Holiefield said.

(Reporting by David Bailey, Kevin Krolicki, Soyoung Kim; editing by Gerald E. McCormick/Jeffrey Benkoe)

New 2008 Chrysler 300C CRD Car

Saint-Genis, France - It's always nice to get a gift from your rich German uncle.

Mercedes-Benz has handed off a 215-hp, turbocharged and intercooled, 3.0-liter diesel V-6 to the Chrysler Group, which has stuffed it under the hood of the 300 sedan. With 376 lb-ft of torque, just 11 lb-ft less than the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, this engine propels the 300 to62 mph in 7.6 seconds, only 1.2 seconds slower than the Hemi. And it returns an average of 29 mpg when cruising at 80 mph. Unfortunately, the 300C CRD (common-rail diesel) isn't offered in America.Since few drivers employ maximum-acceleration takeoffs in daily driving, you really don't notice the difference between the 3.0-liter turbo-diesel and the 5.7-liter Hemi most of the time. The diesel's abundant torque, available from idle, means that the car always feels lively. The 300C CRD's top speed is 141 mph, but we stayed at legal speeds except for a few uphill autoroute stretches, where the big sedan easily rocketed to 120 mph before we backed off. Fuel consumption was 27 mpg--city, highway, and uphill sprints combined--whereas we averaged only 19 mpg during our year with a Four Seasons Hemi-powered 300C. Not surprisingly, European-market sales of the 300 have risen sharply since the diesel became available. The CRD is markedly faster and more agreeable to drive than 300s with the anemic, unrefined 2.7- and 3.5-liter gasoline V-6s (the thirsty Hemi simply is not a reasonable choice for Europeans), and it is by far the cheapest to run in the range. It is also truly satisfying to drive. Chrysler now offers the Mercedes diesel in the U.S.-market Jeep Grand Cherokee, but Americans should also be offered the 300C CRD. When low-sulphur diesel fuel and the latest wave of emissions controls arrive in the States, people will be seriously surprised by just how good diesels have become while they weren't looking.

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

Erwin George “Cannon Ball” Baker is born in Lawrenceburg, IN
Kurt Volkhart takes the Opel RAK-1 rocket-powered car for its first test run in Russelsheim, Germany
Albert G. Partridge of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company dies at age 71
Racer John Andretti is born in Bethlehem, PA
Racer Gareth Rees is born in Great Britain

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

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly
This Day in Auto History:

Eugene F. McDonald Jr., a onetime Franklin official who later became President of the Zenith Radio Corporation, is born in Syracuse, NY
Andrew L. Pomeroy of Thompson Products Inc. is born in Philadelphia, PA
Racer Arturo Francesco Merzario is born in Civenna, Italy
Peter M. Heldt, German-born automotive journalist whose 1902 Horseless Age editorial led to the formation of the Society of Automotive Engineers, dies in Miami, FL
Racer Lee Shepherd dies at age 40 when he crashes during a race in Ardmore, OK

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

The American Axle dispute could affect up to 2,000 workers here.


A strike at a Detroit parts plant is threatening to idle more than 2,000 London-area workers.

American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. supplies parts to Presstran and Formet in St. Thomas. Those plants may be shut down within two weeks if the strike drags on.

"If the axle strike continues we will be forced to have a layoff," Tracy Fuerst, director of corporate communications with Magna, said yesterday. "We are taking it day by day, but it will happen within two weeks if it continues. That is the timing."

But the good news is that negotiators for the United Auto Workers and American Axle returned to the bargaining table yesterday after a full weekend of bargaining.

"We are just hoping the two sides come to an agreement soon," Fuerst said.

About 3,600 UAW workers at five Michigan and New York American Axle plants, which make axles, driveshafts and stabilizer bars, have been on strike since Feb. 26.

Presstran employs 500 and Formet, also in St. Thomas, has more than 1,500 workers. Formet makes pickup truck frames and Presstran stamps underbodies for vehicles.

"Every time we lose jobs to layoff, whether short-term or not, I am concerned," said Dave Kerr, chair of the St. Thomas and District Labour Council. "It means money is being taken out of our economy. It impacts everything."

The impact may also widen throughout London as several parts plants supply General Motors, which accounts for nearly 80 per cent of American Axle's business. The London and area plants that sell to GM include Magee Reiter, Copperweld, Intier Automotive Inc., TDS Automotive, Thyssen-krupp Budd Systems and Amino, also in St. Thomas.

GM has said parts shortages from the strike -- mainly for GM's pickup trucks, large sport utility vehicles and vans -- are forcing it to shut down part or all of 28 plants, affecting 37,000 hourly workers, including its plant in St. Catharines.

The strike also could affect Chrysler. American Axle makes components for Dodge Durango, Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Ram vehicles.

The UAW has said American Axle is demanding wage reductions of up to $14 an hour and elimination of future retiree and pension benefits. The company says the union should agree to the same wage concessions it has with other suppliers and automakers.

It wants wages and benefits cut from $73.48 an hour to $20 to $30 an hour, and also said its original U.S. locations have lost money for three years.

A Whole Lot of Snakes: Dodge Builds 25,000th Viper

Written By: Seyth Miersma


More than 17 years after Dodge turned the American motoring world on its head with the lunatic Viper sports car, the automaker has reported that car number 25,000 will roll off the line at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant on Wednesday, March 12, 2008. Dodge has planned a number of events in celebration of the milestone, including handing over the keys to a new 2008 Viper SRT-10 ACR to NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch.

The Viper has played the role of America’s primary super car since its inception in 1991, bringing and sometimes besting, the performance of the finest European exotics for a fraction of their cost. Even today, with a base price of $87,000 the Dodge coupe offers speed and acceleration figures that make a Porsche 911 look tepid. Of course it also has the fit and finish of a Chrysler product, but we digress.

Celebrate the 25,000th snake off the line with a browse through our gallery of the SRT-10 ACR below, and be sure to tell us your favorite Viper memory in comments.

(Click through the jump to read the official Dodge press release.)


Chrysler certified pre-owned vehicles sales increased 15% in February>

Automotive Business Review - USA
By Staff Writer During February 2008, Chrysler brand sales rose 13% to 3697 units, Jeep brand sales advanced 19% to 2878 units and Dodge brand sales spiked ...

Monday, March 10, 2008

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

Byron J. Carter is issued a United States patent for his three-cylinder steam engine
Andrew L. Freeman, the inventor of the headbolt heater, is born in Upham, ND
Racer Charles Crichton-Stuart is born in London, England
Walter M. Nones, founder in 1914 of the Norma-Hoffmann Bearings Corporation and its Chairman until 1941, dies in New York City at age 67
The Gordon (later Gordon-Keeble) GT is introduced as a new marque at the Geneva (Switzerland) Autoshow

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

2009 Dodge Challenger Production Details Emerge, You Want A Shaker Hood With That?


JALOPNIK.COM - It's been almost a full day since we've posted on the 2009 Dodge Challenger, so we assume all of you are getting the shakes. According to our tipster, orders for the new Challenger can be placed starting next month (that's April) with a total of 45,000 initially built. This same source also claims that there will be a total of 40,000 rt/sxt models and 5,000 SRT8's built. Interestingly, the Challenger RT is supposed to get all of the color options and a shaker hood for those that want a classic RT look.

SRT8 Live Reveal

Chrysler to close Calif. design studio

DETROIT -- Chrysler LLC is closing its Pacifica Advance Product Design Center, the studio near San Diego where several key vehicles -- such as the 300 sedan, Dodge Challenger and Pacifica crossover -- took shape in recent years.

All of Chrysler's future design work will take place at Chrysler's headquarters in Auburn Hills, north of Detroit.

"Increasingly, we are leveraging resources worldwide, forming new joint ventures and alliances and consolidating operations in order to better achieve global balance and manage fixed costs. These moves are designed to help Chrysler become a more globally focused manufacturer, with design, engineering, sourcing and a local presence to serve local customers," Chrysler said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear how many employees would be affected by the closure of the Carlsbad, Calif., studio.

In the late 1980s, Chrysler was one of the first automakers to open a California design studio. A number of automakers have studios in California because of the state's influence on culture and automotive styling trends.

Chrysler spokesman David Barnas said the move was consistent with the automaker's strategy of controlling costs and consolidating operations where it can.

Manual for Challenger waits until '09

ETROIT — Driving enthusiasts who want a Dodge Challenger with a manual gearbox will have to wait.

All 7,100 2008 Challenger SRTs — the initial production run — will be equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission and a 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 engine.

The powertrain cranks out a tire-smoking 435 hp and 420 pounds-feet of torque.

Company and industry sources provided a peek at the Challenger's equipment. More information will be available at the New York auto show next week.

The six-speed manual gearbox, a Tremec 6060, will not be available until the 2009 Challengers arrive later this year. The Tremec box is a modified version of the same 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 unit.

The first production Challenger will be built April 14 at Chrysler LLC's Brampton, Ontario, plant, according to a Canadian Auto Workers official who declined to be identified.

To stoke excitement for the retro muscle car, Dodge has adopted an unusual rollout plan.

Chrysler usually introduces the SRT performance versions of its vehicles only after it has rolled out the high-volume version. But with the Challenger, the SRT comes first in the short 2008 run, with the lower-priced units arriving for the 2009 model year.

Also in the 2009 model year, Dodge will offer a lower-priced version with a 3.6-liter V-6.

By offering a V-6, Chrysler has decided to go toe-to-toe with its rivals, the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, to appeal to a wider audience.

Chrysler may build vehicles in Russia

GENEVA — Chrysler LLC aims to double vehicle sales outside North America by 2012 with help from an assembly plant in Russia.

Chrysler is negotiating with at least two automakers to build vehicles there and wants to make a deal this year.

Last year, Chrysler sold 238,000 vehicles outside the United States, Canada and Mexico. It sold 5,636 vehicles in Russia last year, up 40.2 percent from 2006.

"I would not rule out going into Russia and installing our own manufacturing facility or our own capacity," said Mike Manley, Chrysler's head of sales, marketing and business development. But the preferred choice is to "find a partner that has excess capacity or is looking for a partner."

"We are talking with some potential people," said Manley, who was interviewed at the Geneva auto show.

Russia's auto sales are booming and so are its auto suppliers.

"The supplier base in Russia is developing tremendously," Manley said. "The more manufacturers that are localized, the quicker you can get your production up and running. The time horizon I'm looking at for localization would be over the next two to four years."

Manley did not name models but said vehicles the size of the Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Caliber or smaller would be assembled in the plant.

He also said vehicle decisions are being made from a global sales perspective. Models might be dropped from the United States but sell outside North America. For example, despite talk that the Jeep Compass could be dropped in the United States, the small crossover sells well in Italy.

The Jeep Liberty SUV is Chrysler's top seller outside North America. Next year, Manley expects the new Dodge Journey crossover to be the No. 1 seller.

Manley expects sales outside of the NAFTA region to double in about four years. Chrysler has about 1,600 dealers outside North America and wants to boost that by 15 to 18 percent this year. The main regions targeted are China and countries in Asia, eastern Europe and Latin America.

US: No manual option for initial run of Dodge Challenger SRTs


Automotive World (subscription) - London,UK The Tremec gearbox is a modified version of the unit in the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10. Production of the new Challengers will begin in mid-April at the OEM's ...
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Goodyear OE for Dodge Challenger SRT8

The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 is said to be one of the most anticipated high-performance cars to be released in the US this spring, and Goodyear reports it will supply the OE rubber. Two products from the manufacturer’s stable will be fitted, either the Eagle RS-A all-season tyre in a 245/45R20 size as standard, or the Eagle F1 Supercar in a 245/45R20 size up front and 255/45R20 in the rear as an optional enhancement.

The 425 horsepower 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 draws its name from the now highly sought after Hemi Challenger of the 1960s, which also ran on Goodyear tyres.