Thursday, May 22, 2008

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly
This Day in Auto History:

Charles LeRoy McCuen of Oldsmobile is born in Stockton, CA
General Motors management closes the Cartercar factory in Jackson, MI
Racer Sergio Mantovani is born in Milan, Italy
John F. Maxwell, founder of the Plymouth Factory Service School, dies in Lansing, MI at age 54
Lee Petty wins the 100-mile race at Charlotte, NC in an Oldsmobile, the last victory for the marque until 1978

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Oil prices jump over $130 a barrel after a dismal weekly energy report shows big drop in oil and gas supplies. More soon.

Chrysler Foundation Contributes $250,000 to Pentagon Memorial Fund

Posted by: philcrosby on Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chrysler LLC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Nardelli announced that The Chrysler Foundation contributed $250,000 to the Pentagon Memorial Fund during Military Appreciation Month activities at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

"September 11, 2001 was a terrible tragedy for this country. Our hearts go out to all those who lost a loved one on that tragic day," Nardelli said. "The men and women of the Pentagon, both military and civilian, along with the passengers on Flight 77 deserve to be honored for their sacrifice. Chrysler's contribution to the Pentagon Memorial Fund will ensure that those lives are never forgotten."

Following the September 11 tragedy, Congress enacted legislation authorizing the Secretary of Defense to establish a Pentagon Memorial dedicated to the 184 innocent victims, including Flight 77 passengers and crew, and military and civilian employees who were killed in the terrorist attack.

"I would like to applaud Chrysler for continuing their long tradition of supporting our nation's service members," said Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Most recently this support has been manifested through Chrysler's Honoring Those Who Serve program and through their latest donation of $250,000 to the Pentagon Memorial Fund. Our nation's men and women in uniform provide an invaluable service to this country. Chrysler continues to honor their bravery and sacrifice."

The memorial is scheduled to be dedicated on September 11, 2008 and features 184 engraved benches that will sit over an illuminated pool of water among clusters of trees on the Pentagon site near the point of impact. The position of the benches will follow the flight path of the American Airlines jet into the Pentagon and benches will be arranged chronologically from the youngest to the oldest victim. As a public monument, the Pentagon Memorial will be open to the general public.
"This is obviously very exciting and we are thrilled that Chrysler LLC wants to be a part of the building of this special memorial," said James J. Laychak, president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, who lost his brother David Laychak in the September 11th, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. "We have about $4 million left to raise before the dedication ceremony set to take place on September 11th, 2008 but with the generosity of groups like Chrysler I'm more convinced than ever that we are going to make it. I know I speak for all the family members associated with the Pentagon Memorial when I express our sincere gratitude to Chrysler."

Chrysler has a long tradition of support for the U.S. military that stretches back to the creation of the Jeep vehicle prior to WWII and continues today. As a part of its participation in Military Appreciation Month, Chrysler recently announced its military support initiative, "Honoring Those Who Serve," to recognize those men and women who serve in our armed forces. The initiative has three components: Employment, Transportation and Community.

For the Employment component, Chrysler is working with the Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs to assist current and former members of the military as they transition into civilian life with training opportunities and posting of available open positions at participating dealerships.

For the Transportation component, Chrysler offers special military-only benefits for its Chrysler, Jeep(R) and Dodge products, crafted specifically for members of the military. These benefits include cash rebates along with enhanced warranties and service plans.

To support the military and general communities, Chrysler has partnered with America Supports You (ASY), a Department of Defense program that connects nonprofit, home front support groups with military men and women and their families. Two organizations that the company has partnered with are the Freedom Calls Foundation and Operation Gratitude, each are ASY home front groups dedicated to improving morale for soldiers and their families. The Freedom Calls Foundation connects troops deployed in Iraq and their families in the United States through videoconferencing, and Operation Gratitude lifts troop morale through the delivery of care packages filled with items donated by citizens in the United States.

The Pentagon Memorial Fund (PMF) was established in 2003 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization to assist the Department of Defense with the construction, future maintenance, and financing of the Pentagon Memorial. The Washington Headquarters Service (WHS) holds overall responsibility for the project, with Pentagon Renovation & Construction Program Office (PENREN/C) serving as the project's construction agent.

Chrysler Ready To Share the Hemi?

Nissan's new deal with Chrysler may allow the Titan to share the robust Hemi engine. (Photo courtesy of Nissan Motors Corporation Inc.)

Portugal — Nissan announced last month that it's made a deal with Chrysler to build the next-generation Titan pickup at a Chrysler plant in Mexico. The question on our lips was simple: Does that mean the future Titan will get the famous Hemi V8?

The matter of whether the next Titan and Chrysler's Ram will share engines is "still being worked out," William J. Krueger, Nissan North America Inc.'s senior vice president for manufacturing, purchasing and supply chain management for The Americas, told Inside Line at a recent media event here.

Krueger concedes that Chrysler's invested heavily to build the Hemi's brand equity and may not be willing to share the engine, even though the next-generation Titan will be built on the same architecture as the new-for-'09 Dodge Ram coming this fall. Although Krueger will not comment further, other than to say of engine-sharing between the two trucks, "Initially, maybe it doesn't make sense," speculators have suggested Nissan may have insisted on the Hemi as part of the deal — despite the fact that Nissan developed its own 5.4-liter V8 for the Titan.

One of the main reasons Nissan wanted to build the next-gen Titan on the Ram chassis was to broaden the number of configurations for the Titan, which currently is limited to a single engine — the 5.4-liter V8 — and just two body styles. So it's likely the next Titan will have access, at the very least, to Chrysler V6s, which have nothing like the dominating market presence of the Hemi.

Krueger says the Chrysler-built Titan, slated for a 2011 launch, will have Nissan-specific sheet metal and most of the consumer "touch points" will be unique to Nissan as well. The Titan will be built at Chrysler's assembly plant in Saltillo, Mexico.

What this means to you: If Chrysler gives Nissan access to the Hemi, it's another indication that V8 dominance is coming to an end — or private-equity-owned Chrysler is past the point of caring. — Bill Visnic, senior editor, Edmunds AutoObserver

Chrysler selling Pacifica Design Studio to Mercedes-Benz

Tax relief OK'd for Chrysler upgrade

Eric Morath / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- The City Council approved a $22.8 million tax exemption for Chrysler LLC on Tuesday, clearing the way for the automaker to invest $373 million to upgrade its Jefferson North Assembly Plant on the city's east side.

Chrysler's investment would create 419 new jobs, and the plant updates are expected to be completed in June 2010, according to documents filed with the city. The planned improvements will allow Chrysler to produce the next generation of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and two other unnamed models at the plant.

The City Council unanimously approved the measure without discussion. The 50 percent tax exemption is valid for 12 years, beginning in 2009. Chrysler is seeking a tax abatement on $280.6 million of its investment, which would be spent on machinery and equipment.

The plan to add jobs comes three months after the company eliminated the 900-person second shift, citing falling sales of the sport utility vehicles that plant produces.

In city documents, Chrysler said the improvements may allow two shifts to run at the plant, depending on market conditions. If a second shift were added, employment at the plant could increase to 2,500 workers from 1,531.

Chrysler applied for the tax exemption in October. In March, the council challenged Chrysler with at least 12 questions, asking about its plans to hire city residents and why previous tax breaks have failed to keep automotive jobs in Detroit.

City Fiscal Analyst Irvin Corley Jr. said that after repeated questioning, the company had addressed the city's concerns. Chrysler will pay $9.7 million in additional tax revenue over the life of the exemption, he said.

"The additional revenue was important to council," Corley said. "As was Chrysler's commitment to hiring Detroiters."

In Corley's report to the council, he wrote that the "investment would help Chrysler to be more competitive in the global auto market place" and allow the automaker to produce up to four different models of the same assembly line.

"Today's council action reinforces the long-standing partnership between Chrysler LLC and the city of Detroit," said Patrick Lindsey, Chrysler's senior manager for state relations. Improvements to the plant "will enable us to produce a new generation of world-class vehicles in Detroit."

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

The Nesseldorf Prasident makes a test run from Nesseldorf, Moravia to Vienna, Austria – this was the first car built in what is now the Czech Republic, and is also often cited as the first car to be equipped with a front bumper
Charles Valton, a designer of automobile mascots, dies in Chinon, France at age 67
The Ford Model A Fordor sedan is introduced
Hudson Motor Car Company President A. E. Barit announces that the Fisher brothers, having resigned from General Motors in August 1944, are attempting to gain control of Hudson
Racer Enrique Contreras is born in Mexico

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

Futuristic vehicle designs blast off

Sci-fi style saves fuel, adds cool


Those Jetsons -- the forward-looking cartoon family of the 1960s -- were on to something with their bubbly, teardrop-shaped space car.Given the changing public consciousness surrounding high gas prices, which now hover around $4 a gallon and seem to be moving onward and upward, people are not just going to want more fuel-efficient vehicles.

A group of top designers at the nation's largest automakers also predicted that consumers will want vehicles that look fuel-efficient, too -- not unlike the Toyota Prius, which makes as much of a design statement with its aerodynamic kidney-bean shape as it does with its 46-m.p.g. fuel rating.

So expect the cars of the future to look a lot more like the futuristic, vehicles from yesteryear's science fiction films and cartoons.

"Everything is going to be aerodynamic," Patrick Schiavone, director of design for Ford Motor Co.'s North American trucks and SUVs, said during a Tuesday luncheon at the Detroit Athletic Club hosted by the Automotive Press Association.

The event was sponsored by the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, which will host its annual "Eyes on Design" show June 15 at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. The show is a benefit that supports the visually impaired with education and research.

"Gas prices will change taste," agreed Greg Howell, exterior design manager for Jeep at Chrysler LLC.

Howell is also the designer of the 2008 Chrysler Eco Voyager, an aerodynamic family vehicle of the future, which looks a bit like a modern interpretation of the Jetsons' flying car.

Schiavone, who narrated the panel discussion, said aerodynamics can improve a vehicle's fuel efficiency by 3 to 4 miles per gallon. Those are important gains when you consider that they come just by changing the vehicle's sheet metal and without major improvements to the powertrain, which tend to be far more expensive for the returns they offer.

"This might be one of the cheapest ways to get better fuel economy, just to reshape the vehicle," Schiavone said.

Howell noted that Chrysler is pushing stricter aerodynamic rules internally as one way to improve fuel economy, a decision that has designers like him spending a lot more time in wind tunnels, where they are figuring out clever ways to reduce wind drag on tires, side mirrors, bumpers and the like. Wind drag reduces fuel efficiency by forcing the vehicle to use more energy to pass through the air.

In the past, consumers in focus groups haven't been too interested in purchasing extremely aerodynamic designs, despite their fuel efficiency, likening them to science projects.

But the panel of designers -- which included Robert Bauer of Nissan Motor Co., John Cafaro of General Motors Corp. and Dave Marek of Honda Motor Co. -- seemed to agree that these air-friendly shapes might be more welcome in light of higher gas prices and help create a new design aesthetic for the 21st Century.

"People will identify with cars that they wouldn't have in the past," Howell said. "I think the scientific-looking car niche will be growing."

Schiavone said the time has come to start testing out these wildly aerodynamic vehicles, like the Ford Probe V, in the marketplace.

"Isn't it time?" Schiavone asked. "America right now is in such a transition. ... The auto industry is about to change at lightning speed."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

New York City makes the world’s first speeding arrest, as Jacob German is stopped for driving 12 mph
Automobile textiles manufacturer Jerome Morton Comar is born in Chicago, IL
Racer Aldo Gordini is born in Bologna, Italy
The Playboy Motor Car Corporation goes public, offering twenty million shares of common stock at $1 per share
The Ford Motor Company completes a highly modified Lincoln Continental convertible sedan for the United States Secret Service to be used as a presidential limousine – it was in this car that John F. Kennedy was riding when he was assassinated in Dallas, TX in 1963

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

Update to the next gen 300

The next 300 model replacement, will incorporate design cues from the latest Nassau but with a smaller width frontal grill and rounder rear window and deck design.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chrysler extends $2.99 gasoline deal

Customer response is high, deal extended to July 7
Chrysler LLC on Monday extended its $2.99 a gallon gasoline promotion by another month, citing gasoline price-weary customers who have flooded Chrysler dealerships and Web sites asking for more time.

The program, launched May 7, was slated to expire June 2 but now will expire July 7.

Chrysler showroom traffic increased as much as 10 to 20 percent in certain markets at its 3,511 dealerships, Chrysler spokesman Stuart Schorr said. During the promotion’s first week, Web site activity increased 25 percent from the week before. Internet leads jumped by 34 percent.

“Customers and dealers across America have told us they like the gas guarantee incentive option, so we are providing a second month for shoppers to take advantage of it,” Chrysler Co-president Jim Press said in a statement.

Customers who purchase or lease a Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge vehicle included in the promotion can choose among three incentive packages: Cash back, 0 percent financing or the gasoline guarantee program, which freezes the price of gasoline at $2.99 a gallon for three years, up to 36,000 miles.

Fuel-efficient vehicles most popular

Chrysler said the highest take rates for the gasoline incentive have been on the Dodge Journey crossover, Dodge Caliber, Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring sedan.

“The most incremental incentives in this gas program are on the company’s most fuel-efficient vehicles, which typically do not have this level of incentive available,” Press said. “Our customers who buy smaller vehicles put great value on being protected against rising gas prices.”

At first, it appeared that a customer buying one of Chrysler’s less fuel-efficient vehicles would be drawn to the promotion--which has a 12,000 mile limit for each of the three years. But Chrysler’s customers with the most concern about fuel economy have shown a greater interest in the deal, spokesman Schorr said.

“These customers may pick our brand versus other brands, or it may convince people who weren’t in the market to enter the market,” he said.

The highest take rates by region have been in California, Connecticut, Indiana, Ohio and Washington, which are among the 12 states with the highest fuel prices, Chrysler said.

Card issued

Consumers who opt for the gasoline deal receive a gas card linked to their personal credit card about six weeks after taking delivery of their new vehicle. The card can be used at most filling stations nationwide.

Customers enrolled in the program will pay the pump price the day they refuel. Chrysler and its partner on the project, Dallas-based Pricelock, will then split the invoice. Chrysler will be charged the difference above $2.99 a gallon.

Chrysler vehicles not included in the program are the Chrysler Crossfire, Dodge Viper, Dodge Challenger, Dodge Sprinter, Dodge Ram, Jeep Wrangler and the entire SRT lineup.

Chrysler Announces Drag Pack For Challenger

Dodge Challenger

Who here doesn’t love a good thrill ride? Chrysler knows how much the average consumer loves to drive fast with as much power behind the wheel as they can muster (or is legal). That is why they are providing a drag package on the up and coming Challenger - which was shown off at the SEMA back in 2006.

If rumors are true we can expect the drag pack to be equipped with the hi-po version like that found on the Hemi V8’s and the 5.9 liter Magnum. The National Hot Rod Association will be inspecting the package themselves and determine whether or not it is ready to be certified for racing.

Once it passes it will be entered into the Stock Eliminator class. Patricia Georgevich a spokeswoman from Chrysler stated that Chrysler is plannind on introducing the new car in July.

Chrysler LLC Responds to Customer and Dealer Feedback, Extends $2.99 Gas Guarantee for 2nd Month

 - Chrysler, Jeep(R) and Dodge dealers' feedback drives mid-month extension
of new incentive program
- Consumer interest high for the Let's Refuel America program as average
gas price in U.S. rises to $3.80
- Alaska, California, Connecticut and Hawaii now average over $4 a gallon

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Chrysler LLC today extended
to July 7 the Let's Refuel America $2.99 gas guarantee program, which
offers customers the opportunity to lock in their gasoline purchases at
$2.99 a gallon for three years, up to 36,000 miles. The program was
launched on May 7 for the month of May only, but extended for a second
month in response to dealer and customer demand for additional time.

Even before the full impact of the national and local advertising has
been realized, the Let's Refuel America program already has created a high
level of word-of-mouth consumer awareness, with increased traffic coming
into Chrysler's 3,511 dealerships and onto its Web sites. After one week,
Chrysler's Web site activity is up 25 percent versus the previous week,
with internet leads increasing by 34 percent.

"Customers and dealers across America have told us they like the gas
guarantee incentive option, so we are providing a second month for shoppers
to take advantage of it," said Jim Press, Chrysler LLC Vice-Chairman and
President. "Let's Refuel America, the Lifetime Powertrain Warranty and the
New Day Packages are all examples of our commitment to deliver more value
and peace-of-mind to our customers."

Let's Refuel America Program Details

Through July 7, Let's Refuel America is available on virtually all
Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge compact vehicles, SUVs, sedans, minivans, and
pickup trucks, including its five vehicles that get 28 mpg on the highway
for an MSRP under $20,000. Not included in the program are the company's
high-performance vehicles such as the Dodge Viper, Dodge Challenger,
Chrysler Crossfire, and the entire SRT(R) lineup as well as the Dodge
Sprinter, Dodge Ram Chassis Cab and Jeep Wrangler.

Customers who purchase or lease an eligible Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge
vehicle have a choice of one of three incentive packages of similar value:
Cash back; 0 percent financing (for eligible customers); or the gas
guarantee program, which on some vehicles also includes up to $3,000
additional cash back. Only the Let's Refuel America incentive grows in
value if gas prices rise. Upon purchase, customers can evaluate the three
options with their dealer representative to determine which incentive best
meets their personal financial preference and tolerance for risk related to
rising gas prices.

"What our customers and dealers like best about this program is the
flexibility of three incentive options, each with a unique benefit," Press
said. "Some customers need cash back immediately for a down payment; others
don't like paying high interest rates; and many are tired of worrying about
rising gas prices and want to be protected. We are pleased to offer every
customer a choice of what's best for their individual situation."

Customers who select the Let's Refuel America $2.99 gas guarantee
program will receive a gas card (linked back to their own Visa or
MasterCard) that is valid at 97 percent of gas stations in the United
States. Purchases at the gas stations will be for the full price being
charged that day, but only $2.99 per gallon will be billed back to the
customers' credit card. Chrysler picks up the rest, regardless of how high
gas prices rise.

Initial Results

After the May 7 launch of Let's Refuel America and before the full
impact of the advertising has been realized, the highest take rates have
been on the new Dodge Journey crossover, Dodge Caliber, Dodge Avenger and
Chrysler Sebring sedan.

"The most incremental incentives in this gas program are on the
company's most fuel-efficient vehicles, which typically do not have this
level of incentive available," Press said. "Our customers who buy smaller
vehicles put great value on being protected against rising gas prices."

From a geographical perspective, the highest take rates have been in
the states of California, Connecticut, Indiana, Ohio, and Washington. These
five states are among the 12 highest fuel price states in the country.

"We are pleased that Let's Refuel America seems to resonate with many
Americans during this time of gas price volatility," Press said.

From a marketing perspective, Let's Refuel America is supported by
national television spots, Dodge Journey ads tagged with the program
information and national print, radio and Internet presence.

Fuel Economy Solutions

Chrysler currently offers six models that get better than 28
miles-per-gallon on the highway: Chrysler Sebring, Chrysler Sebring
Convertible, Dodge Avenger, Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot and Dodge Caliber.
Through April, these six models combined have higher sales than in the
first four months of 2007.

The recently launched 2009 Dodge Journey comes with an available
173-horsepower, four-cylinder engine, helping it achieve best-in-class fuel

The Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel 3.0-liter engine provides a
class-leading driving range of approximately 450 miles and gets an
estimated fuel economy of 18 mpg/city and 23 mpg/highway for 4x2 models and
17 mpg/city and 22 mpg/highway for 4x4 models. Outside of North America,
where fuel-saving diesel engines are in higher demand, Chrysler offers 17
models with diesel powertrains.

This fall, Chrysler will launch in the United States, two new hybrid
SUVs -- the Dodge Durango Hybrid and Chrysler Aspen Hybrid -- boasting a
fuel economy improvement of more than 25 percent overall and 40 percent in
the city. In 2010, the Dodge Ram Hybrid will reach the market.

Chrysler currently is in the midst of a $3 billion powertrain
investment offensive to develop new fuel-efficient powertrains and axles
for its next-generation models.

Chrysler is committed to doing its share in meeting the nation's energy
and environmental needs. Recently, Chrysler joined the U.S. Climate Action
Partnership, to help find solutions to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Customer Advisory Board

In February, Chrysler created the industry's first Customer Advisory
Board to encourage a direct dialogue with customers and gather insight and
feedback. A recent Advisory Board survey generated the following results:

-- 76 percent of the community is "very concerned" or "extremely
concerned" about fuel prices.
-- 83 percent of the community responded that fuel prices will affect
their summer vacation plans.
(Note: the poll shows that 19 percent responded "extremely," 22 percent
responded "very much," 30 percent responded "somewhat," and 12 percent
responded slightly, 17 percent responded that it won't affect their

Program Development (As told by Mike Keegan, Chrysler LLC Vice
President Volume Planning and Dealer Operations)

As part of our constant pursuit of innovative ways to deliver value to
customers, Chrysler's incentive group put together a brainstorm session to
create the next important incentive program that would tap into consumers'
needs. In early March we hosted 25 Sales and F & I managers from our
dealerships across the country in Detroit for meetings at the Royal Park
Hotel in Rochester, Michigan. The first night the group got together at the
Walter P. Chrysler Museum to soak up Chrysler culture and history. It was
the first time we ever invited this group in and they were very
enthusiastic. We told them we really want to hear from you since you are
the closest to our customers. Tell us what their concerns are. They were
separated into two groups with each group responsible for presenting three
ideas each at the end of the day.

Both groups identified customer concern about the volatility of rising
gas prices as a top issue in the marketplace today and suggested we find a
way to alleviate customers concerns. These managers were really ahead of
the curve, as the rise of gas prices had not yet become the national news
story it is today. They really had the pulse of the market.

So we at Chrysler left with our assignment and immediately created a
30-40 person working group of Marketing, Sales, Incentives, IT, Legal, and
Finance people that met every day for the next two months. The meetings
were 5 pm every day conference calls, where each group reported out their

Because we were doing something that had never been done before, there
were hundreds of speed bumps along the way, but the team spirit drove a
"how do we solve it" attitude with a commitment to working through
challenges and not giving up. That is in the DNA of Chrysler, whether we
are inventing the minivan, Viper, PT Cruiser or the Lifetime Powertrain
Warranty. We were especially focused on making sure it would be a seamless
process for the customer, which took a great deal of IT work. It is very
exciting to have launched the program and to have gotten such a rousing
reception from dealers and customers.

Going forward, we will continue to look for innovative ways to deliver
value and satisfy the needs of our customers.

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

Racer Christian Werner is born in Stuttgart, Germany
The Packard Motor Car Company Board of Directors approves the purchase of a factory site in Detroit, MI
The Dodge Senior Six is introduced
The Frankfurt-Darmstadt (Germany) Autobahn opens to the public
Masten Gregory makes his Formula 1 debut finishing third at the Monaco Grand Prix in his Maserati 250F – Stuart Lewis-Evans makes his Formula 1 debut in the same race finishing fourth in his Connaught-Alta, although the remainder of his career would with the Vanwall team

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

Canadian Auto Workers ratify new deal

Charmaine Noronha / Associated Press

TORONTO — Canadian Auto Workers at Chrysler ratified a new labor agreement Saturday, wrapping up this year’s round of negotiations between the CAW and other major automakers Ford and General Motors.

CAW members at Chrysler’s three Ontario-based plants voted 87 percent in favor of the new agreement Saturday, making it the strongest approval rating among the three giant auto companies. General Motors workers voted 84 percent in favor of its new agreement earlier Saturday, and Ford workers voted 67 percent in support of its new contract two weeks ago.

CAW President Buzz Hargrove said that the strong approval rating by the membership is evidence that the union did the right thing in negotiating an early settlement.

"I have no doubt in my mind that going into early bargaining with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler was the best thing for our members," said Hargrove in a statement Saturday.

"With the new product commitments contained in the agreement, our members will be better equipped to weather the economic storm currently devastating the auto industry."

The Chrysler agreement, which closely follows an agreement reached with Ford two weeks earlier, includes a commitment to launch the new C-series vehicles in 2010 at its Brampton, Ontario, plant. The new agreement also confirms that the Windsor, Ontario, plant will continue to be the lead producer of minivans in North America.

Chrysler also agreed to keep the Etobicoke Casting plant open in Ontario until June 2011, with the intention of selling the plant or making it into a joint venture. Chrysler had threatened to close the plant.

As with an agreement ironed out with Ford two weeks ago, the union said the three-year deal keeps the automaker’s labor costs essentially the same as they are now, preventing a two-tier wage system used in the United States where new hires would be paid about half the hourly wages of older employees.

The agreement also includes cost of living wage adjustments in the second and third years of the agreement and improved benefits for the 8,000 Chrysler workers in Ontario.

A telephone call seeking comment from Chrysler about the ratification Saturday was not immediately returned.

The union reached historically early tentative agreements with both General Motors and Chrysler on Thursday, more than four months before the contract expiration.

Robotic Welding Gives Chrysler and Dodge Motorsports Competitive Edge in NASCAR 'Car of Tomorrow

Manufacturer Finds 75-Percent Productivity Increase, Teams Pay Roughly 50 Percent Less for Frames

Company: The Lincoln Electric Company
Submitted by: Deanna Postlethwaite
Application: Arc Welding
Industry: Automotive

NASCAR drivers work under extreme conditions – making split-second decisions while traveling at speeds nearing 200 mph and precariously looking to move ahead when the next car is mere feet away. The safety, integrity and performance of the car are crucial to the driver and his team. These factors were also front and center with NASCAR when in January 2006 it announced the launch of a universal car design tagged the ‘‘Car of Tomorrow’‘ (COT) for its Sprint Cup Series.

Sparked in large part by Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s fatal, final-lap crash at the 2001 Daytona 500, NASCAR set out to create a universal design that would improve safety features, provide for more cost-effective maintenance and level the playing field between fiercely competitive teams. The COT design standardizes a number of components, ranging from sections of the frame to crumple zones, across all manufacturers and race teams.

With NASCAR’s rules in hand, Dodge Motorsports initated a COT chassis manufacturing program. The four, factory-supported Dodge race teams use Dodge Motorsports provided chassis as a basis to build their individual race cars.

Similar to every passenger car manufactured, race cars incorporate thousands of welds. Dodge teams were spending many hours manually MIG welding the frame, middle section and front and rear clips that make up each car frame kit. Wanting to reduce man hours, as well as increase weld consistencies for the teams, Chrysler investigated robotic welding options and decided on a Lincoln Electric/Fanuc robotic welding cell.

The result: Chrysler realized a 75-percent decrease in chassis assembly time when compared to hand welding the chassis. The Lincoln Electric/Fanuc robotic welding cell offered other benefits as well, a more consistent chassis for the teams and the cost savings associated with the reduced man hours to weld the chassis by hand.

In the Not-So Old Days
Before installing the Lincoln Electric/Fanuc robotic welding cell, the COT center and rear sections of the frame were constructed by the teams using manual welding and assembly techniques.

‘‘This was extremely time consuming and very inefficient,’‘ says Tom O’Dell, Specialty Vehicle Engineer – Dodge Motorsports Engineering. ‘‘Manual welding also caused variations in the process, making each COT center and rear section slightly different than the one before.’‘

O’Dell explains that the consistency of the weld, including torch angles and travel speeds, was difficult to keep consistent during manual welding, especially if different people welded different sections of the chassis. This translated into variations in weld quality, which could result in lower strength welds. Too often, an inconsistent weld pattern resulted in distortion on the center and rear sections that were unpredictable and resulted in a dimensionally unstable assembly.

The Robot Takes The Driver Seat
The Lincoln Electric/Fanuc system consists of a six-axis robotic arm and controller, powered by a Lincoln Electric Power Wave® 455M. The system includes several subassembly fixtures and one final assembly fixture.

‘‘We saw the benefits of the robotic cell immediately,’‘ O’Dell explains. ‘‘The new process gave us a competitive advantage in the repeatability, weld quality, cost, accuracy and part consistency at the end of assembly. This is why we chose the Lincoln Electric/Fanuc robotic weld cell.’‘

It now takes the robotic cell just 39 minutes to weld the frame. Even when you add in the fixture change out and final assembly, it takes less than two hours to complete the center and rear sections.

When compared to the manual welding, Dodge Motorsports decreased the assembly and weld time by approximately 75 percent.

The car frames have to perform under extreme speeds and conditions, making quality and weld integrity crucial. With the robotic weld cell, welds are made in the same sequence and position every time, resulting in better consistency, travel speeds, torch angles, depth of penetration, bead size, heat input and bead shape. This allows for greater predictability in cage stiffness, bending and twisting standpoint for the cage, eliminates variation and increases weld accuracy.

The fixtures control the geometry of the subassemblies and final assembly, further controlling the accuracy of the overall piece.

What It Means for the Teams
‘‘Moving to robotic welding allows us to deliver a more standardized and complete kit,’‘ O’Dell says. ‘‘The result is less welding required on site in the team’s shop and a more efficient manufacturing process.’‘

The roughly 50 hours the teams previously spent welding the center and rear sections can now be used to focus on other aspects of assembling the car.

‘‘We want to see our teams succeed and win. We’re focused on building the best, most consistent car kits in the industry,’‘ O’Dell says. ‘‘The move to the Lincoln Electric/Fanuc robotic cell allows us to do that.’‘

To view a video of the NASCAR Car of Tomorrow being welded, visit

Reader Spy: 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T Interior

Click image for a gallery of Challenger spy photos

As we get closer to the official unveiling of the Dodge Challenger, tips continue to arrive in our inbox from readers who’ve eyeballed the car themselves. One such reader is Darryll, who encountered a still-camouflaged Challenger R/T 6-speed as it took a breather from winter testing. The open hood left the 5.7L HEMI plainly visible, and the interior was not shrouded, allowing Darryll to snap off a couple of photos of the instrument panel from outside the driver’s side window. Combine this view with the shots published last week to get a good ballpark estimate of what to expect.

As we saw before, the car uses a pistol-grip shifter for the manual gearbox and an uncomplicated three-dial HVAC control setup. As with the Challenger concept car, the instrument cluster is trimmed out in the same metallic finish as the center console area, and the gauges themselves appear to be the same white-faced ones used in the Charger. The steering wheel is also the same unit found in the Charger. The instrument binnacle, based on the photo here, appears to take the same trapezoidal shape previewed in the Challenger concept. The wait to see the real thing will be over soon, but the spy photos indicate that Chrysler has taken a non-glitzy, straightforward interior design approach here, using existing parts-bin materials where it can instead of creating a unique-to-the-vehicle environment as Ford did with the Mustang and GM is with the Camaro. Thanks to Darryll for the new photos!

Little orphan fury

Little orphan fury

Plymouth joins Desoto at the orphan car show
It has come to this: Plymouth vehicles are now eligible to join other defunct, abandoned and dissed brands of the past at the Ypsilanti Orphan Car Show.

The 12th annual show, June 1 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, welcomes Plymouth owners, for the first time, to join Hudson, Studebaker, Nash, Kaiser, Edsel, Rambler, AMC and numerous other shuttered brands remembered fondly by showgoers and preserved lovingly by doting owners.

Plymouth was created in 1928 alongside DeSoto to fill in the young Chrysler Corporation's lineup. Both marques are celebrating their 80th anniversaries, and both are featured at this year's show.

DeSoto, shut down in 1961, has been eligible since the show started in 1996. The general rules say that a brand has to be out of business in the U.S. market for seven model years, and the car itself must be at least 15 years old. For Plymouth, that restriction is a little tougher: Only Plymouths built between 1928 and 1959 are eligible.

"The committee decided there are lots of places where you can show a Road Runner or a Barracuda," explains Jack Miller, a cofounder and organizer of the show. "To keep in the spirit of the meet, they decided to limit it to the earlier models."

In other words, even though the show has a big all-are-welcome spirit, you don't want to crowd out something special for just another '92 Sundance.

The last Plymouth, a 2001 Neon, rolled off the line on June 28, 2001.

This year's Orphan Car Show is still accepting entries ($18 fee). All show vehicles join in the "pass in review," during which a team of experts explains each car's significance, hardware and place in history.

Next year, the show will feature Hudson during its centennial year. Another recently orphaned U.S. brand, Oldsmobile, won't be eligible until 2011.

Admission is $5, and the show runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting. For more details, visit

The Chrysler Foundation Awards Michigan Educators for Closing the Technology Gap

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Educators were honored at the 2008 Walter P. Chrysler "Closing the Technology Gap in Education" awards ceremony on Saturday evening sponsored by The Chrysler Foundation, in partnership with the Detroit Science Center. The award program recognizes Michigan public school teachers who have taken extra steps to stimulate students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Now in its third year, the program recognizes teachers who inspire students to pursue careers in technical and scientific fields.

"Chrysler LLC supports education because it is vital to our state, and our industry's future, thatMichigan continues to produce the best and brightest minds in science, technology, engineering and math," said Frank Klegon, Executive Vice President - Product Development, Chrysler LLC. "Great teachers can bring out a passion for these subjects in their students that directly impacts the careers they choose, and we would like to congratulate each of these teachers for making this possible by providing an inspirational environment and challenging curriculum for their students to excel."

Of the 250 applications submitted, 10 winning schools were selected in the elementary, middle and high school categories for a total of 30 winning schools and the sum of all 30 financial awards totaled $87,000.

First, second and third-prize winners received $15,000, $7,500 and $3,000, respectively. The first place elementary school category winner was Jon Aaron Phillips of Jayno W. Adams Elementary School inWaterford, Mich. Phillips used innovation and engineering concepts in his classroom to introduce the concept of matter changing state to his students. They designed "snow creatures" first as mock-ups made out of clay, then as creations made of snow, all while measuring and monitoring how their snow creatures changed with time. The students learned to observe, measure and record data as if they were scientists working on a specific project and acquire valuable lessons in the process.

Yandal Waugh of George Washington Carver Academy inHighland Park, Mich., placed first in the middle school category. As a mathematics instructor, Waugh's rocketry program introduced the fields of aerospace and aeronautical engineering to students by incorporating physics, engineering and complex math into a fun, hands on experience for his students. The students designed, developed and tested rockets with an opportunity to launch their rockets at the end of the project. Furthermore, the school's America Rocketry Challenge Team qualified to compete in the National Finals, which has encouraged other students throughout the school to join the program.

The high school category winner, Kyle Hughes, of Clarkston High School's OSM Tech Academy, introduced a robotics club program at her school to teach students invaluable and high-level skills. Club members strive to communicate the importance of science, mathematics, engineering and technology to younger students and the community. First, students observe, then, they handle the tools before they're finally ready to operate highly complex machines.

Winners who placed fourth through tenth place received $500 grants. The awards support new educational programs in science, math, engineering and technology curriculums at each respective school. In addition, winners were honored at a reception at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum.

"Teachers have wonderfully innovative ways to get their students enthused about engineering, science and technology. We're glad to be part of recognizing outstanding teachers who seek to inspire students to pursue careers in these fields, much as we do at the Detroit Science Center," said Todd Slisher, Vice President - Science Programs, Detroit Science Center.

"We have to put the right tools in the hands of our children to help them attain the education and training they need to succeed in the future work environment ofMichigan," said Jennifer Granholm, Governor -Michigan. "These teachers help us move one step closer to achieving this goal each time they enter the classroom. I want to congratulate and thank these award recipients for their dedication to teaching and inspiring our future engineers, scientists, and mathematicians, and leaders."

Klegon presented the awards to the following teachers and their respective schools:


First place: Jon Phillips, Jayno W. Adams Elementary,Waterford,Waterford School District

Second place: Mary Lou Krause, Post Oak Elementary School,Lansing, Lansing School District

Second place: Linda Mondol, Post Oak Elementary School,Lansing,Lansing School District

Third place: Lynette Baumann, Cherokee Elementary,Clinton Twp., Chippewa Valley Schools

Fourth to Tenth Place:

Fourth place: Erik Cliff,Central Woodland 5/6 Elementary, Ada, Forest Hills Public Schools

Fourth place: Holly Hanson,Central Woodland 5/6 Elementary, Ada, Forest Hills Public Schools

Fifth place: Cristi Jackson, Fisher Elementary,Redford,South Redford School District

Sixth place: Heather Bochenek, Fox Elementary School Macomb, Chippewa Valley Schools

Sixth place: Beverly Fanelli, Fox Elementary School,Macomb, Chippewa Valley Schools

Sixth place: Suzanne O'Brien, Fox Elementary School,Macomb, Chippewa Valley Schools

Seventh place: Kristina Rider, Brimley Area Elementary School, Brimley, Brimley Area Schools

Seventh place: Sherry Hutchins, Brimley Area Elementary School, Brimley, Brimley Area Schools

Eighth place: Jill Murphy, Ruth Fox Elementary School,North Branch,North Branch Area Public Schools

Eighth place: Lucinda Mitchell, Ruth Fox Elementary School,North Branch, North Branch Area Public Schools

Ninth place: Gary Koppelman, Blissfield Elementary School,Blissfield, Blissfield Community Schools

Tenth place: Lori Sparks, Commerce Elementary School,Commerce Twp., Walled Lake Consolidated Schools

Tenth place: Barbara Morley, Commerce Elementary School,Commerce Twp., Walled Lake Consolidated Schools

Middle School

First place: Yandal Waugh, George Washington Carver Academy,Highland Park,Highland Park Schools

Second place: Jill Amico, Avondale Meadows Upper Elementary,Rochester Hills, Avondale School District

Second place: Laura Amatulli, Avondale Meadows,Rochester Hills, Avondale School District

Third place: Jessica Kallenbach, Centennial Middle School,South Lyon, South Lyon Community Schools

Fourth to Tenth Place:

Fourth place: Steven Jacobs, Dundee Middle School, Dundee, Dundee Community Schools

Fifth place: Jeffrey Bradley, Slauson Middle School,Ann Arbor,Ann Arbor Public Schools

Sixth place: Patrick Berry, Bloomfield Hills Middle School,Bloomfield Hills,Bloomfield Hills Schools District

Sixth place: Allen Birkholz, Bloomfield Hills Middle School,Bloomfield Hills,Bloomfield Hills Schools District

Seventh place: Meredee Vaughan, Dwight Rich Middle School Magnet Academy for Math, Science, and Engineering,Lansing,Lansing School District

Seventh place: Ray Freeze, Dwight Rich Middle School Magnet Academy for Math, Science, and Engineering,Lansing,Lansing School District

Seventh place: Mary Davis, Dwight Rich Middle School Magnet Academy for Math, Science, and Engineering,Lansing,Lansing School District

Seventh place: Mary Villegas, Dwight Rich Middle School Magnet Academy for Math, Science, and Engineering,Lansing,Lansing School District

Seventh place: Bill Curtis, Dwight Rich Middle School Magnet Academy for Math, Science, and Engineering,Lansing,Lansing School District

Seventh place: Pat Pendarvis, Dwight Rich Middle School Magnet Academy for Math, Science, and Engineering,Lansing,Lansing School District

Eighth place: Dwight Sieggreen, Hillside Middle School,Northville, Northville Public Schools

Ninth place: Herb Wansitler, Grand Blanc East Middle School,Grand Blanc, Grand Blanc Community Schools

Tenth place: Mary Tarrien, Earhart Middle School,Detroit,Detroit Public Schools

High School

First place: Kyle Hughes, Clarkston High School - OSMTech Academy, Clarkston, Clarkston Community Schools

Second place: Mark Supal, Macomb Mathematics Science Technology Center, Warren, Warren Consolidated Schools

Third place: Tim Loney, Tuscola Technology Center,Caro, Tuscola Intermediate School District

Third place: Richard Tinsey, Tuscola Technology Center,Caro, Tuscola Intermediate School District

Third place: Greg Bukoski, Tuscola Technology Center,Caro, Tuscola Intermediate School District

Third place: Jason Strunz, Tuscola Technology Center,Caro, Tuscola Intermediate School District

Fourth to Tenth Place:

Fourth place: Emily Polnski, Novi High School, Novi,Novi Community School District

Fifth place: Scott Spry, Henry Ford II High School,Sterling Heights, Utica Community Schools

Sixth place: Sean Hickman, Pinckney Community High School,Pinckney, Pinckney Community Schools

Seventh place: Lori Kleinow, Monroe High School, Monroe, Monroe Public Schools

Eighth place: Geoffrey Clark, Utica High School,Utica,Utica Community Schools

Ninth place: Christine Trent, Lakeland High School, White Lake, Huron Valley Schools

Tenth place: Nick Blackmer, Hartford High School,Hartford,Hartford Public Schools