Friday, April 18, 2008

Chrysler CEO: “We are still on plan relative to… the targets we established for 2008″

By Robert Farago
April 18, 2008 - 251 Views


So, just tell us what those targets are Big Bob and we'll cut you some slack. After all, like you said, times is tough. Over a plate of chilled shrimp [uninformed speculation], Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli told Automotive News [AN] that "U.S. light vehicle sales in 2008 are running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 15.5 million to 15.6 million, which was in line with the company's expectations." Uh, OK, yes, declining market. Got it. So… what about Chrysler sales, as in actual vs. planned? Crickets chirping. While Chrysler's private equity owner Cerberus doesn't have to tell no one nothing, we'd like to point out that ChryCo's sales are down 15.5 percent year-to-date. I wonder if that was part of Nardelli's plan, why AN didn't press the point and what the automaker's minions project for the rest of the year. You know; other than C11. Oh, Nardelli also said that whole Alfa - Chrysler hook-up thing is a crock of shit [paraphrasing Bob Lutz].

Supercharged 2008 Dodge Viper 850HP

Only the fastest boosted turbocharged and supercharged cars.

SC SRT Vert Viper Record broken?

SRT Paxton Vert
Mark Williams goodies
Stroker motor
etc, etc

Car ran 9.46@146 on motor/sc w/foot brake

backed it up with a 9.01@156 w/100 shot and foot brake

They were going to make more passes with the bigger shot but the converter is not holding.

Long story short, this guy wants me to ride in his Viper last year and see what I thought of it. I was not impressed and thought something was wrong due to the hp quoted on the car. Well their ended up being problems and the motor had to be pulled. So we ended up sending it to Kevin at UGR and it got a stroker motor due to some issues with piston damage. I am sure Nate will post up everything when he gets back. There is alot more in this car.
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The SR392 Roadster - Quality Metalcraft

Chrysler's low-speed GEM car slowly generates buzz

DAVID P. WILLIS, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

An all-electric GEM car, made by Chrysler's Global Electric Motorcars unit, sits outside of the Red Bank (N.J.) Municipal Building. by Keith J. Woods/Asbury Park (N.J.) Press)

Chris Cole's ride to work is fueled by electrons, not gasoline.

In warmer weather, Cole uses his all-electric GEM car to ride the mile or so to his office in Red Bank, N.J., or to go other places around town.

You can't call the car a speed demon. The GEM car, made by Chrysler's Global Electric Motorcars unit, is in a class of cars that travel no faster than 25 mph. Called low-speed vehicles, by law they can only travel on roads where the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less.

About 50,000 low-speed electric vehicles are in use worldwide. About 36,000 GEM vehicles, which sell for $7,500 to $13,500, are on the road in the U.S, according to Lawrence J. Oswald, chief executive officer at Global Electric Motorcars.

Low-speed vehicles are sold mostly for fleets, purchased for use by companies, municipalities and universities, says Jennifer Watts, a spokeswoman for the Electric Drive Transportation Association.

But as people become more concerned about high gasoline prices and the effects of global warming, low-speed vehicles, also called neighborhood electric vehicles, are an attractive alternative for some environmentally conscious individuals.

"I think the average American is really trying to figure out what they can do to positively affect the environment," says Ian Clifford, founder and CEO of Zenn Motor Co., maker of the ZENN car, which stands for Zero Emission No Noise. Since the Toronto company started selling them a year ago, it has shipped about 300 cars to the U.S.

It's important to understand what a low-speed vehicle is - and what it isn't.

It's not a golf cart, says Remsen Straub, owner of Remsen Dodge in Hazlet, N.J., a dealer that also sells low-speed vehicles.

Low-speed vehicles must have seat belts, automotive windshield glass, automotive brakes, a parking brake, headlights, turn signals and rear-view mirrors. They must travel at least 20 mph and are legal to drive on public streets in 40 states.

Golf carts, on the other hand, have a maximum speed of 12 mph, Straub says. Plus, carts cannot be driven on the road, only on private property and, of course, golf courses.

The looks of low-speed vehicles vary. For instance, a GEM car is available with or without doors. But both a ZENN car and a Miles Electric Vehicle look like a small car. Some come with options such as stereo systems and air conditioning.

A GEM car's battery can be recharged in six to eight hours by plugging the car into an electric outlet. An owner is estimated to spend $90 on electricity over a 3-year period driving 3,600 miles, the company says.

A low-speed vehicle isn't a replacement for a regular car. It is designed for short trips in settings such as a university campus or a gated community, says Al McDougall, Global Electric Motorcars' regional sales manager for the Northeast.

For example, the police department of Belmar, N.J., uses them to patrol the borough's marina. Meter readers in Red Bank ride in GEM cars to enforce rules in the borough's parking lots and streets.

Besides cutting down on gasoline use, low-speed vehicle have environmental benefits.

Electric cars have no tail pipe, so they don't produce emissions. Even when the pollution from electricity generation is counted, an electric car still has less of an impact on the environment than a traditional car does, says Paul Scott, a founder of Plug in America, an advocacy group.

Cole says he drives his GEM car to help the environment: "I know I'm not burning any fossil fuels and it's a clean way to get to work."

In Red Bank, GEM cars replaced three-wheeled noisy vehicles powered by gasoline.

"These are silent. They'll sneak up on you," says parking authority employee Audrey Berardo.

What do people say when they see them? "They're cute," Berardo says.

Auto job losses top 9,000 mark

Dave Hall, Windsor Star

Published: Friday, April 18, 2008

Despite losing 9,000 jobs over the past five years and more than $600 million in payroll, the auto sector across the Windsor region still produced $17 billion in vehicles and parts and pumped $1.2 billion into the local economy last year, according to a study released this week by the CAW.

But those numbers belie an industry in crisis.

"The crisis in our industry is affecting every part of our community," said Ken Lewenza, president of CAW Local 444 which represents workers at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant and in the parts sector.

"The health of this community is being directly affected by the closures and cuts within auto assembly, auto parts and the entire manufacturing sector."

It's still the most dominant industry in the region, employing more than 18,000 workers or one in every eight jobs, compared to 2002 when the industry employed 27,000 workers.

Closures, bankruptcies and layoffs have plagued the industry in recent years largely because "we are being hammered by the high Canadian dollar, the flood of imports and the impact of unfair trade agreements,'" said Mike Vince, president of CAW Local 200.

Conducted every bargaining year, the study also showed that Windsor autoworkers built an average of 717 vehicles and 2,151 transmissions each day last year while paying $846,000 a day in income and sales taxes.

CAW president Buzz Hargrove said it's important to remember the huge impact the industry has on communities across Ontario.

"Thousands of workers, their families and many, many communities depend on a healthy domestic auto industry," said Hargrove. "The paycheques of our members are spent in local communities and our members pay federal and provincial taxes that support critical public services."

In centres such as Windsor, Toronto, Waterloo Region, London, Oshawa and St. Catharines, the industry employs more than 107,000 workers who earned $6.6 billion in 2007 and produced $79 billion in goods

DUB Magazine 'Dubs' the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger at Atlanta Auto Show

Automotive industry lifestyle leaders at DUB Magazine partner with Chrysler LLC to bring two limited-edition vehicles to the market

Chrysler 300 Touring and Dodge Charger SXT models will make their debut today at th ATLANTA, April 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The 2008 "DUB Edition"e Atlanta Auto Show. These special "DUB Edition" vehicles may be ordered today at Chrysler and Dodge dealers and will arrive later this spring.

"We know our customers are passionate about their vehicles, so partnering with automotive industry lifestyle gurus at DUB Magazine enables us to offer special-edition vehicles like these through our dealerships," said Deborah Meyer -- Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Chrysler LLC. "Loaded with unique interior and exterior features or 'bling,' the 'DUB Edition' Chrysler 300 Touring and Dodge Charger SXT models make a bold statement."

Chrome accents complement the intrepid exterior styling of the 2008 "DUB Edition" Chrysler 300 Touring and Dodge Charger SXT vehicles, including chrome mirror caps -- a first on a Dodge vehicle -- and a MOPAR(R) chrome honeycomb grille. The "DUB Edition" Chrysler 300 Touring models also feature chrome exterior door handles and side mirror caps. Special "DUB Edition" badges appear in three locations on the exterior of the vehicle: the deck lid and the passenger- and driver- side front doors. In addition, each 2008 "DUB Edition" Dodge Charger SXT also features a body-color spoiler and fog lamps.

Both models are powered by a 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine with a five-speed automatic transmission with Auto Stick. All 2008 "DUB Edition" models feature a performance-tuned suspension as well as Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) and Brake Assist.

Both models are equipped with 20-inch aluminum wheels with 245/45R20 all-season performance tires.
"DUB Edition" Chrysler 300 Touring and Dodge Charger SXT models are available in Inferno Red, Brilliant Black, Bright Silver and Cool Vanilla. The "DUB Edition" Dodge Charger SXT is also available in Dark Titanium.
"Working on a special edition production vehicle with Chrysler and Dodge is a great opportunity for the DUB brand," said DUB's President and Co-Founder, Myles Kovacs. "The Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 are hot vehicles to begin with. Once people see the 20-inch wheels and listen to the 13-speaker KICKER surround-sound system, they'll feel like they are in a show car, but with a factory-backed warranty."

Inside, the Dark Slate Gray interior of the 2008 "DUB Edition" Chrysler 300 Touring and Dodge Charger SXT models features leather-trimmed seats, embossed with the notable DUB logo. Premium-weight floor mats are also embossed with the DUB logo. The "DUB Edition" Dodge Charger SXT also features a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob.

A MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System with AM/FM/CD/DVD/HDD/MP3 radio in both models provides cutting-edge entertainment technology. In addition, the 13-speaker KICKER(R) surround-sound system with a 322-watt KICKER amplifier provides excellent sound quality. The "DUB Edition" Dodge Charger SXT also features a 200-watt KICKER subwoofer and the "DUB Edition" Chrysler 300 Touring features a 100-watt KICKER subwoofer.
The limited production run of the 2008 "DUB Edition" Chrysler 300 Touring and Dodge Charger SXT includes 1,385 Chrysler models and 2,180 Dodge models for the U.S. Both models will be built at Brampton Assembly Plant in Brampton, Ontario. Production begins next month and Chrysler and Dodge dealers are now taking orders. MSRP for the 2008 "DUB Edition" Chrysler 300 Touring is $33,140, which includes destination. MSRP for the 2008 "DUB Edition" Dodge Charger SXT is $30,235, which includes destination.

Chrysler's deal with Nissan aimed at international growth, Nardelli tells SAE


Chrysler’s announcement earlier this week to team up with Nissan to produce pickup trucks and small cars is part of the automaker’s strategy to pump up its small-car lineup and its international expansion, Chrysler LLC Chairman Bob Nardelli said Thursday night, according to a draft of his speech acquired by the Free Press.

“Expanding our global business also makes us stronger in our home market, because it helps balance out the ups and downs in the North American economy,” Nardelli was planning to say.

Under the deal announced Monday, Nissan will use its Oppama Plant in Japan to build a Chrysler-designed small car for the Auburn Hills automaker to sell in North America, Europe and elsewhere beginning in 2010. Chrysler plans to use its Saltillo, Mexico, plant to assemble a Nissan-designed pickup for the Japanese automaker to sell in North America starting in 2011.

“This small car will bring us into a new segment and will help us meet increased demand for better fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions,” Nardelli was to say in his first public comments about the Nissan deal.

Nardelli’s speech was scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Center as the keynote address of SAE 2008 World Congress, a four-day conference for automotive engineers.

The Nissan agreement is just one of several pending or potential partnerships between Chrysler and other automakers.

In January, Nissan and Chrysler agreed to a deal in which Nissan will build a small car based on the Nissan Versa for Chrysler to sell under one of its brands in Brazil in 2009.

The German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported Tuesday that Chrysler and Fiat Group are in talks for the U.S. company to make vehicles for Fiat subsidiary Alfa Romeo in its U.S. plants.

Chrysler also is working with Chery Automobile Co. on a deal that would have the Chinese company build small cars for Chrysler to sell under its own brand in markets around the world.

The deals also help Chrysler gain global scale. Chrysler, the smallest of the Detroit Three, operates 14 assembly plants, 10 powertrain plants, three stamping operations and seven technical centers — all in North America.

It also has seven manufacturing affiliates outside of North America.

“Alliances and partnerships play a big part in this international expansion,” Nardelli was to say Thursday night.

Chrysler on Track for 2008 Goals: CEO

Chrysler is on target to meet the goals set by its private equity owner Cerberus Capital Management, despite a weakening U.S. economy, the company's top executive said on Thursday.

"Through the first quarter we are still on plan relative to the pro forma and the targets we established for 2008, in spite of some of the economic winds that are hitting us," Chief Executive Bob Nardelli told reporters on the sidelines of a banquet in Detroit.

He added the No.3 U.S. automaker has tried to anticipate some of the economic headwinds ahead of time and the "team is responding very well so far."

Nardelli also said Chrysler is not in talks with Fiat A German newspaper reported earlier this week that the two car makers were negotiating a possible cooperation agreement to make Alfa Romeo cars at Chrysler's U.S. facilities.

Nardelli said U.S. light vehicle sales in 2008 are running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 15.5 million to 15.6 million, which was in line with the company's expectations.

Chrysler lost $1.6 billion last year and has been moving quickly to restructure its operations under the control of Cerberus, which bought an 80 percent stake last summer.

On Monday, Chrysler and Nissan Motor unveiled a production alliance that gives the U.S. automaker the small car it lacks and allows the Japanese company to stay in the competitive full-size U.S. pickup truck market.

Under the deal, Nissan will build a small car for Chrysler using the North American automaker's design in 2010, and Chrysler will build a new full-sized pickup truck for the Japanese automaker using Nissan's plans in 2011, the companies said.

"What I really am pleased with is the quid pro quo, the ability to purchase and sell and try to balance manufacturing capacity engineering technology between our two companies," Nardelli said.

"We have a void in the lower end, the compact end," he added.

"Our ability to meet the emerging market demand as quickly as we can would suggest we should look at partnerships, alliances ... and that's what we did."

Chrysler won't profit in '08, Nardelli says


Chrysler Chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli said the Nissan deal will allow Chrysler to expand its global reach.

Nissan to help with small-car lineup


While Chrysler LLC hit all of its financial targets in the first quarter of 2008, the Auburn Hills automaker won't make a profit this year, the company's chief executive said Thursday.Bob Nardelli made the comments following his speech at the Society of Automotive Engineers annual banquet dinner in Detroit.

Chrysler executives were in New York City earlier this week to meet with officials of majority owner Cerberus Capital Management. Chrysler lost $2.9 billion on operations and restructuring costs last year, internal numbers seem to indicate.

Nardelli also discussed the announcement earlier this week to team up with Nissan to produce pickups and small cars. He said during the speech that the plan is part of the automaker's strategy to pump up its small-car lineup and its international expansion.

"Expanding our global business also makes us stronger in our home market, because it helps balance out the ups and downs in the North American economy," Nardelli said Thursday night.

Under the deal announced Monday, Nissan will use its Oppama plant in Japan to build a Chrysler-designed small car for the Auburn Hills automaker to sell in North America, Europe and elsewhere beginning in 2010. Chrysler plans to use its Saltillo, Mexico, plant to assemble a Nissan-designed pickup for the Japanese automaker to sell in North America starting in 2011.

"This small car will bring us into a new segment and will help us meet increased demand for better fuel economy and reduced CO{-2} emissions," Nardelli said in his first public comments about the Nissan deal.

Nardelli was the keynote speaker at the conclusion of SAE 2008 World Congress, a four-day conference for automotive engineers.

After his speech, Nardelli said he has a tremendous amount of respect for Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of the Nissan-Renault alliance.

"What I am really pleased about is the quid pro quo -- the ability to purchase and sell and try to balance manufacturing capacity, engineering and technology between our two companies," Nardelli said.

Nardelli also said Chrysler President and Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda is leading the effort to explore the possibility of additional deals with Nissan.

The Nissan agreement is just one of several pending or potential partnerships between Chrysler and other automakers.

In January, Nissan and Chrysler agreed to a deal in which Nissan will build a small car based on the Nissan Versa for Chrysler to sell in Brazil in 2009.

The German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported Tuesday that Chrysler and Fiat Group are in talks for the U.S. company to make vehicles for Fiat subsidiary Alfa Romeo in its U.S. plants.

But Nardelli quashed those rumors Thursday, saying there are no talks occurring between the two companies.

Chrysler also is working with Chery Automobile Co. on a deal that would have the Chinese company build small cars for Chrysler to sell under its own brand in markets around the world.

The deals also help Chrysler gain global scale. Chrysler, the smallest of the Detroit Three, operates 14 assembly plants, 10 powertrain plants, three stamping operations and seven technical centers -- all in North America. It also has seven manufacturing affiliates outside of North America.

his Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

The factory of the Sunset Automobile Company is destroyed by fire as a result of the San Francisco, CA earthquake - production of the Sunset never resumed, although the firm was not legally dissolved until 1909
The Hispano-Suiza driven by Charles Weymann and Robert Bloch defeats the Stutz Black Hawk driven by Tom Rooney and Gil Anderson in a match race staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Racer Gordon Spice is born in London, England
Archibald M. Maxwell of the Standard Oil Company of Ohio dies at age 53
The Ford Motor Company splits its Lincoln-Mercury Division into two separate divisions and establishes the Special Products Division

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

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ram Tough Choices - 2009 Dodge Ram sketches by Pickuptruck.Com

Ram Tough Choices: Other Designs Chrysler Considered for the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500
By: Mike Levine Posted: 04-17-08 03:30 PT
© 2008

Page: [1] [2] [3]

Redesigning any truck is challenging, but probably none more so than the Dodge Ram. Its dropped headlights and raised hood are iconic. When those traits first appeared in 1994 they opened the modern era of pickup truck style and created what’s arguably the most recognizable rig of any brand. Veteran Chrysler execs still talk about the positive impact the 1994 Dodge Ram had on the company and industry.

So you can imagine how much pressure and enthusiasm top auto designer Ralph Gilles and his team must have felt when they were tapped in 2005 to design the all new 2009 Dodge Ram. They had the responsibility to reinvent a legend, but how were they going to maintain what made it legendary in the first place?

"The Ram was a daunting project," says Mr. Gilles. "We wanted to remain true to what originally made the Ram popular but still bring it forward (in design)."

For inspiration, Mr. Gilles and company looked at the current Ram and Dodge’s concept trucks from the past decade.

The Dodge Power Wagon Concept debuted at the 1999 North American International Auto Show. Its edgy design combined the crosshair grille from the 1994 Ram with exterior cues and proportions taken from the historic 1946 Dodge Power Wagon heavy hauler. The Power Wagon Concept instantly became another styling win for Chrysler but its shape was never realized in a production truck. The name was eventually attached to an off-road version of the Dodge Ram 2500 in 2005, that’s still made today.

In 2000 Dodge unveiled its MAXXcab Concept. The four door snub-nosed pickup with cab forward styling was at the opposite end of the design spectrum from the retro Power Wagon. The MAXXcab prioritized moving people over cargo. For a time it was rumored that the MAXXcab would appear in production as a next-generation Dodge Dakota mid-size truck, which never happened.

Big truck concepts got attention but small rigs didn't have to be boring either. The Dodge M80 made a big splash in 2002. Its retro style was also influenced by the 1946 Power Wagon. But instead of being sleek like the 1999 Concept, the M80 was squared off and looked like a bulldog. It didn't reach production but major portions of its design were reused in the 2007 Dodge Nitro SUV.

In 2006, while work on the 2009 Dodge Ram was well underway, the Dodge Rampage Concept appeared at the Chicago Auto Show. It offered a sneak peak at one of the major themes the designers were considering. The Rampage evolved the MAXXcab Concept into a bigger, more functional yet decidedly unconventional half-ton pickup. The Rampage didn't surrender as much utility as the MAXXcab had to give its passengers extra space and comfort. And the Rampage broke full size truck tradition by using unibody construction instead of body-on-frame, front wheel drive instead of rear wheel drive and an independent rear suspension instead of leaf springs.

From Chrysler's deep heritage in production and concept trucks, many designs for the 2009 Dodge Ram began to be considered. Each design was digitally sketched and translated into scale clay models (like in the picture above) before the choices were narrowed down to the finalists.

"With designers, the temptation is to change the game. We looked at several versions – actually up to twelve different models. Then it became eleven. Then we were down to three that were wildly different (from each other)," describes Mr. Gilles.

As the team brainstormed and competed with one another, each of the ideas for the Ram’s exterior was identified not by its style but by the designers’ last names. "For example, we had the Pizzuti, the Williams theme, the Krugger - named after Scott Krugger, who we picked to do the exterior of (the final) truck, and others," says Mr. Gilles.

You can see the designers' names in the corners of many of the pictures that accompany this story.

But as the major exterior styling directions were firmed up and the models narrowed down, parts of designs that weren't carried forward still had an impact on the finalists. Describing that process, Mr. Gilles says, "What we did was mix and match. There were parts and research that people liked in each. So we did things like, grab the headlamps off the Williams, the nose off the Krugger, the body side off the Surel, and then the rest of it evolved as we developed the final design."

The first of the final three themes was based heavily on the Power Wagon. Renderings and drawings show a truck with an extremely strong front end presence and the Power Wagon’s trademark bowed grille.

The second theme focused around the Dodge Rampage. In one of the renderings it’s identified as the Rhino SUT, or sport utility truck, a reference to its radically different proportions and shape. One illustration even shows a cargo box with a pass through door into the cabin, similar to the Midgate on the Chevrolet Avalanche SUT.

The last theme was derivative of the current Ram’s iconic shape, closely linking the exterior of the new truck with the shape of Chrysler’s best selling vehicle. This was the shape that Mr. Gilles and his lead designer Mark Allen chose as the theme for the production truck. Mr. Allen had also been involved styling the current Ram before joining the effort on the 2009 model.

The total time to review and determine the final theme took about two years.

Then, based on the iconic design, more clay models were created as rolling prototypes. This time they were full-size to compare against each other and the current Dodge Ram. Each had subtle variations to test different style headlamps, grilles, and body lines. They also tested the new exterior look with different cab configurations and even with dual rear wheels, according to Mr. Gilles.

Finally, the production design was determined. "We went with the one we felt was the most provocative, sporty, and luxurious," says Mr. Gilles.

But the design process didn't stop there. Style and aesthetics started to give way to practical considerations, like aerodynamics. "We don’t concern ourselves with aero too much when we’re doing theme searching. The thing that concerned senior management most was the grille. I wanted the cant-forward grille but management looked at it and thought it wouldn't work. So we went and built a second version with the grille leaning back but it didn't make a difference (in aerodynamics). By the time we were done we beat the aerodynamic stretch goal for (the new Ram)," recounts Mr. Gilles. Even though it’s prominent, the new Ram actually has less frontal grille area exposed to the wind than the exiting truck.

In contrast to the exterior design, the interior design was limited to only two themes and was locked down very early in the 2009 Ram’s design process, according to Mr. Gilles. "We did that to allow ourselves a lot of time to execute on the interior. We found in the past this had been our downfall because we didn't give ourselves enough time to understand all of the interior joins and how to have materials coexist," he says. A great deal of attention was also paid to ergonomics, like button sizes and controls placement moved closer to the driver.

The selected interior theme is truck-like while the other theme that was considered was more car-like, with softer organic shapes. "We wanted an interior that told the story of power and substance," says Mr. Gilles.

After three years of work and many tough choices, the end result is the next-generation 2009 Dodge Ram that carries forward the truck’s big rig looks but with a design that’s the most subtle and refined since its iconic shaped first appeared almost fifteen years ago.

The 2009 Dodge Ram and how it came to be

The 2009 Dodge Ram and how it came to be
has a story up on how the upcoming 2009 Dodge Ram came to be. I find these kinds of stories fascinating because of my interest in both vehicles and design. As you would expect it shows many preliminary design studies and goes into the thinking behind what they did and why they did it.

Full story here.

Posted by Bob Apr 17, 2008 6:52 am

Another Viper Crash - Crash leads to traffic woes

The investigation continues into the cause of the car verses big rig accident that snarled traffic in La Cañada Flintridge for more than eight hours on Saturday, April 12.

According to California Highway Patrol Officer Todd Workman, the accident occurred at 6:55 a.m. on Saturday when a Dodge Viper driven by a 52-year-old La Cañada man entered the westbound Foothill (210) Freeway at the Berkshire Avenue onramp. The driver of the Viper was behind a big rig truck driven by a 65-year-old Hesperia man. The Viper changed from lane four to lane three.

“For some reason, the [Viper] driver lost control of his vehicle and struck the center of the big rig twice,” Workman said.

After impact with the big rig, the Viper spun around and hit the freeway’s center divider. The truck driver applied his brakes and accidentally jack-knifed the big rig onto its right side, blocking all westbound lanes of the freeway.

Shortly thereafter, the Viper driver and his 11-year-old son were able to get clear of their vehicle, according to Workman.


“About five minutes after they were clear, the [Viper] caught fire,” Workman said.

The big rig driver escaped from his vehicle without incident. The two drivers and the boy reported minor injuries; no one was transported to a medical facility.

The accident stopped all westbound lanes from just west of Berkshire Avenue to Angeles Crest Highway and restricted eastbound traffic within the same area, from five lanes to three.

Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station personnel were at the “Play It Safe Expo” held at Verdugo Hills Hospital shortly after the accident occurred. According to Deputy Jeff Martin, many of the volunteers left the expo and were assigned to traffic control on Foothill Boulevard.

Prevented from traveling on the freeway, a solid line of cars traveled from the Berkshire exit to northbound Oak Grove Avenue and then to westbound Foothill Boulevard to Angeles Crest. Traffic was even more congested than it might have normally been following such an incident, because of a lane closure on Foothill due to ongoing street improvements from Beulah Drive to Angeles Crest.

“We had the command post at Flintridge Preparatory School,” said Capt. David Silversparre, the new commander of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station.

The stations’ mobile command post had been on display at the expo but was transported to Flintridge Prep to help coordinate the traffic units.

“We found that drivers were cutting through Trader Joe’s and Ralphs market parking lot to get back on the freeway at Gould Avenue,” Silversparre said.

Traffic was routed off Foothill, north on Hampton Road, west on Houseman Street then south onto Gould Avenue and back onto the westbound 210, Silversparre said.

He credited the experience of the watch commander and field unit deputies that were familiar with La Cañada’s streets and were able to devise a traffic solution quickly.

Crews continued to clean the freeway of debris and of any residual fuel from the crash or the vehicle fire. The big rig’s trailer had to be unloaded and goods transferred before it was cleared from the freeway.

The westbound lanes of the 210 were backed up to the interchange with the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway Martin said.

All lanes were reopened at 3:25 p.m. Saturday.

Ciotech up sign DaimlerChysler

Citotech Systems Inc. has entered into a proprietary rights agreement with DaimlerChrysler Corp. to develop automotive engine starter/restarter technology that could reduce the cost and weight of future vehicles, to provide increased function and improved fuel economy, and to reduce emissions

Chrysler team plans to develop midsize car

In his first public appearance since taking over as chief engineer for Chrysler LLC's midsize car development team, Mark Chernoby said the small "Project D" team is developing a global portfolio of products. He described the high-profile team as a "small, tight-knit" group of less than 100 engineers in Metro Detroit. The eventual replacement for a Chrysler Sebring or Dodge Avenger-sized car could take many forms, he said. That may include different designs for various regions. Chrysler vehicles sold overseas today are largely similar to their American counterparts. Top executives have said a midsize car that can be sold worldwide is key to Chrysler's turn around.

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

Robert C. Enos of the Eaton Axle & Spring Company is born in Ashtabula, OH
The first Ballot race car is completed
Racer Brian Gubby is born in Epsom, England
Racer Riccardo Patrese, holder of the record for most Formula 1 starts, is born in Padua, Italy
M. S. “Matt” McLaughlin is named General Manager of the Ford Division of the Ford Motor Company, succeeding Donald N. Frey

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

Chrysler opens engineering office in China


Chrysler LLC has opened an engineering office in Shanghai, China, part of a much larger expansion by the Auburn Hills automaker to beef up its product design efforts outside the United States.By the end of the year, Chrysler plans to hire about 1,000 new engineers outside the United States, Frank Klegon, Chrysler executive vice president for product development, told the Free Press in an interview.

"When you start being able to do your product development ... it shows our commitment. ... It's not just import and hope to sell," Klegon said. "We're going to localize and develop for those customers."

The new hires will be part of the efforts to create so-called Centers of Excellence in China, India, Mexico and Eastern Europe. The hiring spree comes as the automaker is cutting jobs in the United States and Canada -- as many as 25,000 by next year.

Just this month, for example, Chrysler announced an outsourcing deal with two computer companies that will lead to several hundred information-technology jobs being lost at its Auburn Hills headquarters -- a move the company says will not only save money but allow the companies to better serve computer users.

As Chrysler makes plans to sell more vehicles in countries outside Canada and the United States, the automaker wants to have engineers working on projects for those markets, Klegon said. It also helps the company work with local suppliers.

Chrysler's operation in Santa Fe, a business district in Mexico City, is the template for how the automaker wants its centers to run, Klegon said.

"They're already doing unique product for Mexico that's designed and developed in Santa Fe and for sale in Mexico by themselves," Klegon said. "It's a resource center that we're building upon. They started out as more of a vehicle development and test facility and moved them into design."

Chrysler says it already has about 200 product development workers in its Mexico office and wants to add around 450 more by year's end.

In China, the automaker wants to add 250 more people to its product development staff, which is now around 100.

Klegon visited Chrysler's new Shanghai office earlier this month where engineers are working on a unique update to the Chrysler 300 to suit local Chinese tastes, he said.

The Chrysler 300 in China is primarily driven by chauffeurs so Chrysler is putting new attention on the backseat, he said. Next the group is to work on local emissions standards, powertrains and supplier development.

"For China, I want to have people who can do local design and development for our products that we build and design in China," Klegon said.

Chrysler needs to have 40% local sourcing in China to be considered a local vehicle, he added. "Now with my growing team there, they'll be doing the analysis" and finding local suppliers.

In India, Chrysler already has about 200 engineers and wants to double that number by the end of the year, according to the company.

Chrysler's product developers in India have been primarily doing analysis work and will begin to do some supplier development, Klegon said.

"The bigger step will depend on what we choose to do ... in India," he said.

Klegon said the company is still looking for a site for an engineering office in eastern Europe, noting that Romania, Poland and Russia are options.

Dodge predicts brisk sales for Challenger

Dodge expects hot sales for the first two years with its new Challenger sport coupe and has built a business plan in which the car will make money over its life cycle if sales fall off then.The forecast is refreshingly realistic. Performance coupes, with the notable exception of the evergreen Ford Mustang, generally sell strongly for a couple of years, then fall sharply as new models take the spotlight in the trend-driven market segment. Despite decades of history, most automakers seem surprised when their new coupes follow that pattern, making Dodge's strategy refreshingly realistic.

Chrysler expects to sell 20,000 to 30,000 Challengers a year once it has the full model line in production. Chrysler will build a limited edition of 6,400 425-horsepower Challenger SRT8 versions for the 2008 model year. The full model line hits the road this fall as 2009 models, adding a 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and 370-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Production of 2009 Challengers begins this summer at Chrysler's Brampton, Ontario, plant.

The Challenger's projected sales graph looks like a hockey stick, level for a couple of years and then declining.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Review: 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4

By Graeme Fletcher

Driving towards Putnam Park race track, a regional facility about 80 kilometres west of Indianapolis, my mind is running double time – how is a front-drive car with a compliant, comfortable ride going to handle a 2.9-kilometre, 10-turn thrashing?

After all, a front driver puts the bulk of the mass over the front wheels, which invariably ends in terminal understeer whenever driven enthusiastically. Comfortable rides also equate to equal amounts of body roll and the problem weight transfer brings in its wake. Likewise, firing a ton of power through the front wheels usually brings gobs of torque steer. Vices, vices, vices.

The Dodge Caliber SRT 4 not only handled 12 hot laps with ease, it banished the questions leaving just a very large smile and a sweaty scribe.

The work the Street and Racing Technology group – a bunch of likable gear heads who stress the most important word in their name is and – is nothing short of remarkable. They start with a stock car and turn it into a street-legal track demon. The Caliber is probably the least likely candidate in Chrysler’s portfolio to pick for the SRT transformation – when the base car is married to the CVT, it is, to be polite, a tad pedestrian.

However, by building on the five pillars (exterior styling, race-inspired interiors, ride and handling, benchmark braking and a standout powertrain) the team has produced a blinder – one that will earn an enviable reputation.

The exterior styling is both bold and functional. Up front the large grille openings allow the car to breathe, cool the massive eleven-row air-to-air intercooler (yes, the SRT 4 uses a large turbo to deliver on the final promise) and supply cold air to the brakes via ducting. The front end is also shaped to reduce lift at speed. There’s also a function hood scoop that floods the engine bay with the cool air. Around at the back, the roof-mounted spoiler is 30% larger than the base car and so provides better down force, there’s a drainpipe-sized tailpipe and an under-car defuser. It serves two functions: it helps reduce lift and hides the ugly muffler that sticks out like a sore thumb on the base car. The rest of the body kit makes it look all the more macho.

Inside, the deep-dish front buckets feature large bolsters and a fabric insert, which stops the driver from sliding around, a boost gauge and racer-boy pedals. The rest is all pretty much Caliber right down to the split folding seats and hatchback versatility.

The ride and handling comes from a completely reworked suspension, lowered ride height (28-mm up front and 22-mm in back) and oversized P225/45R19 tires. Everything from sway bars and springs to the ZF Sachs shocks are turned to deliver on both ends of the spectrum. As mentioned, the ride is comfortable. The handling is in a word, fantastic. The dreaded understeer only surfaces when the driver finally reaches the car’s extraordinary limits and even then the SRT-tuned electronic stability control system (it allows more latitude before jumping in) rights the wrong before it gets out of hand.

The brakes? They come right off the 1,860-kg Charger R/T – bolting them onto the 1,447-kg SRT 4 works wonders. The 13.4-inch front (remember when wheels measured 13 inches?) and 11.9-inch vented rotors deliver fast stops while remaining impervious to the effects of heat. Around Putnam, they worked time and again without fading or chattering (normally beating stock brakes on a race track warps them beyond repair).

And so to the motivational spirit that gives the SRT 4 its personality. The 2.4L, turbocharged engine features variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust cams, a ported and polished head, free-flow intake system and a set of headers that lead into that drainpipe exhaust. The work brings 285 horsepower and 265 pound-feet at just 2,000 rpm. The latter is brought to a roaring boil by a progressive turbo-boost strategy (at full gale the turbo pumps the air into the engine at 15 psi). The result is a car that rockets to 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds – factor in the base $24,995 price tag and you have world-class bang for the buck.

The six-speed manual box, one specifically designed for the SRT 4, then puts the power to pavement through short shifts (25-mm shorter than the base Caliber) and a progressive clutch. The latter does feel a tad heavy at first, but as soon as you get used to it, it works well putting the bite point in the right place for an exuberant launch. On that note, just watch the early torque steer. If you stand on it from a standstill, it will pull. Let the car get up to around 15 km/h in a reasonably mellow fashion and then gun it – this all but eliminates the trait.

Around the track the SRT 4 proved to be very adept. The 2, 3, 4 track (second gear for one slow corner, third gear for the rest of the lap except the straight, which calls for fourth gear) the suspension and tight steering bring delightful road manners and a rapid response to driver input. The brakes allowed the Caliber to be driven deep into the corners before hammering the pedal and once at the apex, pouring on the power brought an adrenaline-induced smile. In one section (a fairly fast left hander leading into a short straight), the SRT 4 managed to put about 160 km/h on the clock before hitting the binders for a sharp right. On the main straight, the Caliber pulled an effortless 185 km/h!

All to often the halo car in the showroom is the expensive piece that only a lucky few can aspire to – the Viper is still Dodge’s halo car. However, the Caliber SRT 4 is a halo we poor working stiffs can afford to shine. Thank you.

Chrysler talking to Fiat to produce Alfa Romeo in USA

Posted on 04.16.2008 08:58 by Simona

Chrysler started to talk with the Italian carmaker Fiat over a possible cooperation between the two companies: the production of the Alfa Romeo model in Chrysler's U.S. factories. Chrysler could produce the cars for Fiat subsidiary Alfa Romeo," the newspaper wrote in an excerpt on Tuesday. "Industry sources say the talks are moving forward." In Italy, Fiat declined comment. A Chrysler spokeswoman saying the report is speculation, but adds: "There could be other partnerships with other (...)


Oil prices hit record of $114.68 a barrel as government report shows crude and gasoline supplies fell more than expected last week. Nothing to do with demand but output to refineries are now at 81 percent capacity.

Recall: Chrysler Sebring And Dodge Avengers

Posted April 16th, 2008 By Steve Nardone

Chrysler just annouced that it will be recalling 2007-2008 Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avengers. Vehicles sold during that time need to have an electrical defect fixed that affects unused connectors on the tire pressue monitoring system. Apparently, corrosion can cause a short, and owners could experience their vehicles failing to start, stalling once underway, or some other affectations of the electrical components, including the cruise control. Formal notices are going to be sent out later this month.

When you receive your notice, be sure to give the Franklin Sussex Automall Service Department a call so we can schedule a time for you to bring your vehicle in and have the problem corrected!

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

John Dykstra of the Ford Motor Company is born in Stiens, the Netherlands
Ernest W. Seaholm is named Chief Engineer of Cadillac
Professor E. H. Lockwood of Yale University, an authority fuel usage in internal combustion engines, dies at age 63
Joseph C. Coulombe, Canadian-born holder of 200 patents relating to fuel feeding equipment for automobiles, dies in Del Mar, CA at age 63
Ford Motor Company officials select the basic design for the Continental Mark II

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

Revised Chrysler lineup takes form

Team working on key midsize car


Perhaps the most important part of the newly private Chrysler LLC's future -- its vehicle lineup -- is beginning to take shape.

An important piece was announced Monday, in the form of a deal with Nissan Motor Co. for the Japanese company to make small cars for Chrysler to sell in North America beginning in 2010.

The deal promises to address one of Chrysler's most significant shortcomings: a weak lineup. But more than just needing a small car, Chrysler executives realize they need to address problems with their midsize cars as well; to equip the automaker for overseas growth, and to balance a truck-heavy lineup when gasoline is pushing $4 a gallon in the United States.

In an interview with the Free Press, Frank Klegon, Chrysler's executive vice president for product development, said the automaker has dispatched a special team to work on a new midsize vehicle -- known in the industry as the D-segment -- that is to be able to compete in the United States and elsewhere.

The automaker's current offering, the Chrysler Sebring, was redesigned and launched in 2006 to poor reviews and sluggish sales.

"From a volume perspective and an importance perspective, it's very, very important. It's a big segment worldwide. We've got to grow our presence in these other markets. And D's and its derivatives of D's, whether they're sedans, or hatchbacks or CUVs or other things ... is huge," Klegon said.

They've dubbed the effort Project D.

Team takes global view

In the meantime, Klegon said the automaker is working on a revamped Sebring that is to debut before the vehicle's 5-year life cycle ends.

"We're going to do something to the current car in between. You're going to see a significant improvement even in the mid-cycle of that car," Klegon said. "We're going to do some things ... some cosmetic, but" also "more functional things that we want to do to improve the dynamics of the vehicle."

Klegon insisted that Project D was not hampered by the abrupt departure of Michael Donoughe, the Chrysler vice president appointed soon after the company was acquired by Cerberus Capital Management last August to lead Project D.

Donoughe quit in March after reports that he left as a result of a dispute with senior managers, a claim the company denied.

"It didn't affect it at all," Klegon said of the departure.

Mark Chernoby was appointed to replace Donoughe in leading the charge to develop a new midsize car. The team is looking across the global marketplace -- including in China, India and Russia -- for how the vehicle can better compete, Klegon said.

"One of the key things we wanted to do with Project D is to give that team, a small group of individuals, the time and the tools to look at the front end of the product development and the front end of product design," he said.

"This is a global platform that needs to serve a global market and maybe be manufactured in different places as well," Klegon added.

Small-car deals in the works

Adding small and midsize cars is important for Chrysler if it truly wants to compete internationally, experts say.

"They're not going to sell Caravans and Ram pickups and Durangos globally, at least not very many of them," said Erich Merkle, director of forecasting for IRN Inc. "They're just too big. ...

"Smaller vehicles certainly work out better for the international markets just because there is more congestion and they need the fuel efficiency. We gripe about the price we pay at the pumps, but it is nothing compared to what the international markets pay."

Part of Chrysler's strategy as a private company under Cerberus has been to partner with other automakers in an effort to save money.

In addition to the small-car deal with Nissan announced Monday, Chrysler plans to assemble a pickup for Nissan to be sold in the United States. Chrysler has a similar manufacturing deal with Volkswagen to make minivans for the German company.

Also, the German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported Tuesday that Chrysler and Fiat Group are in talks for the U.S. company to make vehicles for Fiat subsidiary Alfa Romeo in its U.S. plants.

Chrysler also is working with Chery Automobile Co. on a deal that would have the Chinese company build small cars for Chrysler to sell under its own brand in markets around the world.

Daimler AG continues to keep a 19.9% stake in Chrysler and will share technology with the Auburn Hills automaker.

At this time, Klegon said, Chrysler has not partnered with another automaker for the creation of a midsize car. "They could, but there is nothing in play to do that," he said.

He seemed to indicate that part of Chrysler's discussions with Chery involve the possibility of a midsize car. "Whether this is the right product for that, don't know yet," he said.

Another industry insider said Chrysler and Nissan could have the option of making a Chrysler vehicle based on Nissan's popular Altima sedan.

Future of SUVs unclear

Chrysler's lineup was thrown into confusion in February when Jim Press, a Chrysler president and vice chairman, told dealers that the future product lineup was going to be dramatically cut to fall more in line with what Chrysler is becoming: a small-car company.

For example, Press has said Chrysler has too many SUVs among its Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands, and told Bloomberg News that the automaker needs to halve its 11-SUV lineup.

Klegon said executives are talking about their future SUV program, in particular the Jeep Commander, which is built at Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit.

"What I don't know is whether we'll have another vehicle called the Commander in the next generation," Klegon said.

Chrysler will look at the market and ask, "Is there a need for a Jeep vehicle that is three rows? If the customer says 'yes,' we'll make one. What I don't know is whether we just call it a Jeep Grand Cherokee or whether we have two body styles and all of the marketing and the things that goes with that, or do you have a Jeep Grand Cherokee that's offered in a couple different ways? I don't know."

Klegon said those are issues the company is discussing.

"We're looking at what's the next generation of sport-utility vehicles got to be," he said

A look at Chrysler's changes

Since last August when Cerberus Capital Management took majority control of Chrysler, the Auburn Hills company has undergone sweeping changes as the first privately held, major U.S. automaker in more than 50 years. The company:

• Installed a new top management team, including naming former Home Depot Chief Executive Officer Bob Nardelli as Chrysler's chief executive.

• Announced plans in November to cut as many as 12,000 jobs, on top of 13,000 planned for elimination over the next three years.

• Changed employee and retiree benefits, such as eliminating company-sponsored life insurance plans for 14,000 white-collar retirees while also giving them a onetime pension payment that could be used to help pay premiums on new policies.

• Signed a new 4-year labor agreement with the UAW that shifts retiree health care obligations for union members off the company books to an independent trust at a savings for the automaker.

• Cut four products, including the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler Pacifica, and announced plans to cut more.

• Began a beefed-up effort to consolidate its franchise dealer network.

• Saw its U.S. market share slip. After holding steady at 12.9% in 2007, its share in the first quarter of 2008 has fallen to 12.7%, down from 13.8% in the first three months of 2007.

By Tim Higgins

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2010 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 Six Speed Caught On Cobo Roof [Challenger Srt-8]

Amusing, it's taken a little over two years but the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 has gone from a concept revealed on the show floor of the 2006 Detroit Auto Show to parking on the roof of Cobo during the 2008 SAE World Congress. This shiny red one was parked staring straight at the GM RenCen buildings almost like some bruiser looking for a fight with a Camaro. This one even has a little battle scar on the front passenger side fender to prove it can hang with the tough kids.

galleryPost('challengersrtsix', 9, 'Challenger SRT8 Six Speed On Cobo Roof');

Report: Chrysler in cooperation talks with Fiat

BERLIN (Reuters) -- Chrysler LLC is in talks with Italian carmaker Fiat on a possible cooperation agreement for the production of Alfa Romeo cars in Chrysler's U.S. factories, a German newspaper reported.

In a report to appear on Wednesday, Handelsblatt newspaper said the talks between the two companies are advanced.

"Handelsblatt has learned Chrysler could produce the cars for Fiat subsidiary Alfa Romeo," the newspaper wrote in an excerpt on Tuesday. "Industry sources say the talks are moving forward."

In Italy, Fiat declined comment.

The newspaper quotes a Chrysler spokeswoman saying the report is speculation, but adds: "There could be other partnerships with other carmakers."

On Monday Chrysler and Nissan Motor Co. unveiled a production alliance on Monday that gives the U.S. automaker the small car it lacks and allows the Japanese company to stay in the competitive full-size U.S. pickup truck market.

Chrysler and Nissan built on a smaller agreement the companies announced in January, but executives from both companies said the new arrangement was purely a production deal and declined to say whether they plan further financial ties.

Chrysler, Nissan to build trucks in Fenton

St. Louis Business Journal

Chrysler LLC and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. announced Tuesday new agreements for the supply of products between both companies that is expected to bring increased production to Chrysler's north assembly plant in Fenton, Mo.

Under the agreement, Chrysler will manufacture a full-size pickup for Nissan at its Saltillo, Mexico, assembly plant. In order to accommodate that production, Chrysler will shift volume from Mexico to its U.S.-based pickup truck assembly plants, including the north plant in Fenton.

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler operates two assembly plants in Fenton employing about 4,000 workers. The company's north plant manufactures Dodge Ram light- and heavy-duty pickup trucks and the south plant manufactures the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans.

Sales of the pickup in North America will start in 2011.

"I am very pleased this partnership between Chrysler and Nissan will bring more work to our St. Louis plant," Gov. Matt Blunt said in a statement. "This is a testament to the skill and devotion of the men and women who work at the Fenton Chrysler plant and it shows that the pro-jobs, pro-growth changes we have implemented are helping employers and entrepreneurs succeed in Missouri."

The companies did not specify how much more work or jobs will be brought to the Fenton assembly plant as part of this arrangement. Spokespersons for Chrysler and Blunt were not immediately available for comment.

As part of the agreement, Tokyo-based Nissan agreed to supply Chrysler with a new car based on the Nissan Versa sedan for limited distribution in South America on an Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM) basis in 2009.

Nissan will manufacture an all-new, fuel-efficient small car based on a unique Chrysler concept and design. This car will be sold in North America, Europe and other global markets in 2010, and will be manufactured at Nissan's Oppama Plant in Japan.

This latest OEM supply agreement extends a long-standing product exchange relationship between the two corporations; Nissan affiliate JATCO has supplied Chrysler with transmissions since 2004.

A peek inside Chrysler's new HEMI

By Justin Pritchard,

Chryslers updated HEMI V8 makes more power using less fuel. How's that work? Pritch asks the engineering team for a closer look.

The 2009 Ram is nearing launch, and a recent powertrain update sees its 5.7-liter HEMI V8 more powerful and efficient than ever before. Horsepower is rated at 380, a ten percent increase, while torque peaks at over 400 lb.-ft.

2009 Dodge Ram

It's also less thirsty than the outgoing model. Truly, it's probably never been more environmentally friendly to run a truck with enough torque to pull a tree out of the earth's crust. But how do engineers create more power with less fuel? And how much better on fuel could the HEMI actually be made, anyhow?

According to Chrysler, making more power with less gas has a lot to do with breathing. Imagine an engine as being similar to an Olympic runner. For either to achieve top performance, a huge volume of air needs to make its way in and out easily- and any restrictions can have a negative effect. Imagine the runner trying to race while breathing only through their nose, for instance.

The air intake system of an athlete is less physically complicated than that of a HEMI V8, but it remains that opening things up in the name of airflow can bring positive benefits. Additional power for the new HEMI was achieved primarily through three areas: reduced air flow restriction, an active intake manifold, and Variable Valve Timing (VVT).

Head ports, the engines equivalent of a windpipe, were redesigned using a sophisticated computer which helps engineers determine their optimal shape and size. They've even gone so far as to use a finer grain of sand in the casting process, which improves the surface finish inside of the head ports themselves. The valves have been made larger too- all in the name of allowing the air-fuel mixture in and out of the engine more easily.

The variable intake manifold is able to switch between different 'runners', which are passageways that air is drawn through on its way into the engine. A flap-valve directs air into the powerplant from one of two runners- depending on the situation. Longer runners aid low-RPM torque, while shorter runners rush air into the engine for high-RPM horsepower. A single manifold represents a compromise- but the variable unit allows for a performance-oriented manifold and a more economical manifold to occupy the same physical space.

Variable Valve Timing, (VVT), manipulates the valve timing to operate the engine in the most efficient manner for the situation. For instance, by closing the intake valve later, the engine has to do less 'pumping' as the piston travels down on the intake stroke. Optimized exhaust valve timing allows more of the combustion energy to be transferred to the crankshaft, rather than simply ejected as heat.

Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System (MDS) in on board as well- saving fuel through cylinder de-activation when full power isn't needed. Chrysler engineers estimate that MDS has saved about 100 million litres of fuel since hitting the road in 2005. For 2009, MDS has a wider operating range and an indicator light in the information display to tell drivers when it's engaged.

All said and done, fuel savings are in the neighborhood of 4 percent- respectable considering the extra power. Thing is, I was left wondering just how much more fuel-efficient he HEMI engine could be made. Is the new one as good on gas as it can ever be? Is there some technology or system that a gas engine can employ to save significantly more fuel, but that isn't affordable yet?

Chrysler's team says that they're reviewing technologies that can improve fuel efficiency of current engines by another 10 to 15%. Trouble is, they're very expensive and need to be introduced in low volumes to gage customer response. A technology that can save $1,000 worth of fuel won't sell if it costs $2,500.

That said, will the world ever see gasoline-powered full-size trucks get 50 miles per gallon? Or is some mathematical minimum amount of fuel needed to make a full-sized truck move?

Chryler's engineers say that there is a theoretical limit for fuel consumption in a full size pickup with attributes similar to those sold today- and that it's considerably less than 50MPG. Not to say that it's impossible- but the vehicle would need to be considerably lighter, far more aerodynamic and offer a huge reduction in rolling resistance, as a start. These attributes would come at the cost of strength, size and traction, which are vital for a pickup.

It was an interesting question nonetheless, but it still looks like today's consumer will have to take their fuel-savings a few percent at a time. The 2009 Ram HEMI goes on sale later this year.
Photos: Chrysler

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

Racer Peter DePaolo is born in Roseland, NJ
The first issue of Ford Times is published
Racer Graham Whitehead is born in Harrogate, Yorkshire, England
Klaus Liesen of Volkswagen is born
Drag racer Sam Miller is born in Wayne, NJ

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

Chrysler and Union Face Crucial Talks in Canada

Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

A DaimlerChrysler plant in Windsor, Ontario. Contract talks begin this summer and the company wants to slow the growth in labor costs.

WINDSOR, Ontario, May 25 - Overtime is a familiar word to Chrysler workers in Canada, who build the Chrysler 300 sedan, the flagship of Chrysler's recent revival, at a plant near Toronto. And in this city, across a bridge from Detroit, they build a briskly selling crop of minivans known for their two rows of seats that fold flat.

Skip to next paragraph
The New York Times

So, the stakes are high for Chrysler in summer contract talks with the Canadian Auto Workers union. Executives of Chrysler, a division of the German automaker DaimlerChrysler, contend that their Canadian workers are fast becoming uncompetitive in the global economy. While Canada's nationalized health care helps Chrysler undercut labor costs at its plants in the United States, Canadian workers have in the last three years become more expensive than workers at nonunionized plants in the United States run by Toyota Motor, Honda Motor and other Asian automakers. Chrysler's Canadian workers are aware of both the competitive burdens that the company faces as well as its recent spurt of success. By contrast, both General Motors and the Ford Motor Company are struggling to keep customers and hold onto profits.

"Everyone basically wants to keep their jobs, that's the biggest thing," said Dean Getty, a 37-year-old who works in the paint shop of Chrysler's Windsor plant. "We make good money and we have good benefits. You can't ask for much more."

But Denis Caza, a 58-year-old millwright, wants more. Chrysler's sales in the United States, where the vast majority of Canadian-built vehicles are sold, are up 6.6 percent this year.

"To me, they should be able to get more than they got last time because they have three hot sellers now up in Bramalea," he said, referring to the Toronto-area plant that produces the Chrysler 300 sedan, the Dodge Magnum and the Dodge Charger.

"If you don't get any marbles now, you won't be able to give any back later, you know what I'm saying," he added, before heading to his car, blue Thermos in hand, to beat the traffic streaming from the plant.

Chrysler executives say a series of generous contracts granted to Canadian workers have offset the roughly $4-an-hour advantage over the United States resulting from Canada's health care system. One factor is that Canadian Chrysler workers get roughly 11 weeks of paid time off, compared with more than 8 weeks off for an American Chrysler worker and more than 7 weeks for workers at the nonunionized American plants of foreign automakers.

Chrysler contends that Canada should be compared with the plants of the Asian automakers because they are the fastest-growing competitors. The company would like overall labor costs to grow by no more than 2.5 percent annually in the new contract, compared with 5.8 percent in the last contract.

"We need to craft an agreement that slows down the growth of these costs and contributes to the long-term viability of the auto economy in Canada," Dave Elshoff, a Chrysler spokesman, said.

Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, is unmoved and says the financial woes of G.M. and Ford have less to do with labor costs and more to do with a trade policy too favorable to Asian automakers. He said he would like his workers to get even more time off and richer pension benefits.

"My advice is not to get their expectations too high," he said in an interview this week. "The Big Three have some serious problems but they aren't problems we can resolve in bargaining. We can work for nothing, and they'd still have the problems."

Jim Stanford, the economist for the Canadian union, said much of the shift since the last contract was simply due to the strengthening of the Canadian dollar, which has moved from about 63 cents on the American dollar in 2002 to 80 cents now. "In a way," he said, "they should be telling this to the Bank of Canada."

Last year, Ontario passed Michigan for the first time to become the largest auto producing state or province in North America, though much of the increase has come from nonunionized plants producing brands like Honda. Still, the Canadian union covers 39,000 active workers, a fraction of the roughly 280,000 workers covered by the United Auto Workers union, which negotiated a separate four-year contract in 2003. Both unions pick out one of the three companies, negotiate a contract with it and use that as the pattern for the others. The talks open in mid-July.

Posturing ahead of labor talks is standard procedure, of course, and Canadian auto workers seceded from the United Workers union in 1985 because they wanted to take a harder line.

But the Canadian talks follow the recent downgrade of both G.M. and Ford by Standard & Poor's, which put their debt rating below investment grade for the first time.

In the 2003 talks with the U.A.W., that union's president, Ron Gettelfinger, struck an unusually conciliatory tone with the Big Three, indicating that the union and the American automakers were increasingly seeing companies like Toyota and other Asian automakers as their main adversaries. Now, G.M. is pressing the U.A.W. to take the unusual step of reopening contract talks on health benefits.

Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said the C.A.W. "can't ignore the reality of the industry."

"The C.A.W. was formed as an anticoncession breakaway," he said. But "they can't argue with the overall trends. It's very easy to make a case that it's time to break from the past."