Friday, December 12, 2008

Nissan NV2500 Concept

>> Monday, December 15, 2008

Nissan is headed for the North American commercial-truck market.

Nissan isn’t coming to the North American International Auto Show this year, but that didn’t stop them from gathering a bunch of journalists in Detroit to show off a new concept. Although buyers of the Titan and Armada are growing scarcer by the day, there’s one sector of the truck market that isn’t disappearing quite as quickly: really big trucks.

The commercial trucking industry is one in which Nissan is a major player on pretty much every continent except North America—and Antarctica, where penguin unions make doing any sort of business nearly impossible. Starting in 2010, Nissan will enter the commercial market in the U.S. and Canada with a mix of existing products from outside North America and three all-new vehicles that will be introduced over a span of three years.

Why is That Post-Apocalyptic UPS Truck White?

The NV2500 seen here will not be one of them. A concept built on the Nissan Titan’s F-alpha platform, the NV2500 serves more as an announcement that Nissan is coming to the U.S. than any real indication of what those vehicles will look like when they get here. Even the platform will change. The next-generation Nissan Titan will be built by Dodge on the Ram assembly line—much like the Volkswagen Routan is really just a rebadged Chrysler Town & Country—and the probable scenario is that at least one of the new commercial-grade Nissans will share those bones. But Nissan officials stated clearly that nothing like the NV2500 would be built on the existing F-alpha structure.

The three new vehicles are said to cover classes 3–5 in the commercial market. The Dodge Sprinter, Ford E-series, and Chevrolet Express/GMC Savanna were mentioned, which means smart money is on one of the vehicles being a full-size van and accompanying chassis-cab. Class 3 is covered by heavy-duty pickups such as the Sierra/Silverado 3500 and Ford F-350, so it is likely that the Class 3 offering will be a rebadged version of the new heavy-duty Ram. Nissan says it has partnered with Cummins to provide diesel engines for its upcoming trucks and ZF for transmissions.

You Could Fit a Hockey Net in the Back

As for the third vehicle, this press conference was the first time in at least a few years during which we’ve heard the Chevrolet Astro mentioned. Nissan’s NV200 concept from the 2007 Tokyo show was also present, suggesting that the company is considering the mini-utility van market currently poised to explode to one whole entry with the Ford Transit Connect. Although such a small van falls well short of the load requirements for the commercial classes Nissan is talking about, the company does have nearly a full globe’s worth of products—including buses and flatbed cabovers—it could import to fill those gaps.

This Day in Auto History:

The first Brooklands Automobile Racing Club meeting is held with Lord Lonsdale as President
The Studebaker Corporation breaks ground for its new factory in South Bend, IN
Racer Emerson Fittipaldi is born in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Russell A. Firestone, a Director of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company and second son of Harvey S. Firestone, dies in New York City at age 50
F. P. Zimmerli of the Associated Spring Corporation dies at age 65

Chrysler holiday shutdown schedule announced

TOLEDO - The week beginning Dec. 15 is the last week of work for 2008 in all of Chrysler's Toledo area plants. Toledo South/Supplier park is scheduled to work the week of December 15. Holiday shutdown begins December 22 and workers are scheduled back on the job January 5.

The Toledo North Assembly plant will not run production on second shift the week beginning December 15. However, all second shift, non-skilled trades employees are to call (419) 727-7490 by 4 p.m. Friday, December 12, in order to receive instructions as to where to report to work. All skilled trades employees report to work to your normal shift.

Toledo North Assembly Plant and Toledo Supplier Park will also not run production on December 22 and 23. All skilled trades employees report to work to your normal shift.

Toledo Chrysler machining in Perrysburg holiday shutdown begins December 22 and all first shift workers are scheduled back on the job January 5.

If the auto industry cannot find the same loan of those of banks and investment businesses, it is time for Congress and the Senate not to endorse any further bailout of any business....

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NASCAR teams Petty Enterprises, Gillett Evernham in merger talks

Bobby Labonte
Paul Kizzle / Associated Press
NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Bobby Labonte has been released from his contract following an announcement by Petty Enterprises' that it has entered into merger talks with Gillett Everham Motorsports.

House Auto Bailout Bill Lifts 22-Year-Old Tax Restrictions

Provision Would Drastically Lower Tax Bill for Would-Be Buyers

By Kendra Marr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 11, 2008; 2:50 PM

The proposed $14 billion bailout for Detroit's automakers includes a provision that would shelter the companies' profits from taxation.

The bill, passed by the House last night, would allow the automakers to deduct their losses from future profits for 20 years in the case of an ownership change. It lifts 22-year-old tax restrictions that were designed to prevent firms from acquiring shell companies with big losses on their books in order to offset gains and avoid paying taxes.

A change in ownership is highly likely in the case of Chrysler. Its chief executive, Robert Nardelli, has said the company is "looking for alliances, partnerships, opportunities to get further synergies across the auto industry."

Himanshu Patel, a JP Morgan analyst, wrote in a note today that the provision included in the bailout bill might be "aimed at making the automakers more attractive to future takeover by a profitable enterprise which could both speed and make more likely repayment of government loans."

For instance, General Motors has $43 billion in debt. Its acquisition would be a huge boon to any successor company, said Robert Willens, a corporate tax expert.

Auto deaths down 10 percent so far this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal safety officials said auto fatalities dropped almost 10 percent in 2008 through October. If the trend holds up for the year's last two months, highway deaths could reach their lowest level in the 42 years that records have been kept.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday there were 31,110 auto fatalities the first 10 months of 2008. That's a 9.8 percent decline over the same period in 2007, when there were 34,502 fatalities.

The traffic safety administration has been tracking auto fatalities since 1966, when there were more than 50,000 deaths on the highways. The number of deaths peaked in 1972 at 54,589, then generally declined over the next two decades. The total has hovered above 40,000 the past few years.

"For the second year in a row we are seeing historic lows in deaths on our nation's roads," Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in a statement. "Every American can be more confident than ever they will arrive at their destination safe and sound."

NHTSA did not cite a cause for the dramatic decline in highway deaths, but it overlaps with several other trends.

The Federal Highway Administration, which counts the number of cars on the road, is reporting a significant decline in the number of miles Americans are driving every month beginning in late 2007 and continuing through the first three quarters of 2008.

High gas prices through most of the year accelerated a shift to more fuel efficient cars and to alternatives to driving. Subways, buses, commuter rail and light-rail systems are reporting record increases in ridership. Amtrak, the nation's intercity passenger railroad, said it carried more passengers and brought in more revenue in fiscal 2008 than in any other year in its 37-year history.

Acting NHTSA Administrator David Kelly said it's likely safety measures also played a role in the decline in fatalities: seatbelt use is at its highest level ever, greater numbers of SUVs and other lights trucks are equipped with technology that prevents rollovers, and the federal government has been working with state and local law enforcement agencies on anti-drunk driving campaigns.

"I'm thrilled about these numbers," Kelly said. "When you talk about reductions in traffic fatalities in one year you are usually talking about hundreds in a good year. The fact that deaths are down 3,000 so far this year is staggering."

Tire valve stem recall

Reported by: Shannon Cake
Photographer: Jim Sitton
Last Update: 5:01 am
Click on the video player to the right to watch the story

WEST PALM BEACH, FL -- There has been a recall on a tiny device that we count on to stay safe when we drive. It’s a tire valve stem, the rubber prong that allows the air to flow in and out of your tires.

Contact Five Investigators first warned you about a problem with a bad batch of these valves several weeks ago.

Sara Monk believes the faulty valves were on her S.U.V. and caused an accident on I-75 just north of Tampa last year. Sara and her husband Robert were expecting their first child when their car tire went flat. Their car flipped on the Interstate. Robert died in the accident.

"I just remember thinking, this isn’t happening to me. This isn’t real,” remembers Sara. "One day we were shopping for strollers and baby beds. The next day I’m sitting in a room with strangers and they’re asking me whether I know whether my husband wanted to be buried or cremated.”

Sara and her lawyers are blaming the accident on a bad tire valve, distributed by Dill Air Controls in North Carolina.

Sara filed a lawsuit against the company. Meanwhile, tire valve stem complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are adding up.

Between September 2006 and June of 2007, millions of the bad valves were installed on U.S. cars.

Reporters from our Scripps Sister Station found the distributor, Dill Air Controls, knew about the problem, even posted warnings on the website to help consumers, but the company never issued a recall, until now.

Brian Rigny is Dill’s General Manager. "Dill will honor legitimate claims of ozone cracking of valve stems within or outside the trimeframe,” said Rigny.

The company is issuing photos so customers can tell the difference between Dill’s stems and others and match it with the stems on their cars.

Meanwhile, it’s a good idea to check the valve stems on your cars. Shine a flashlight down onto your tires and look around the base for cracking or peeling.

The following national retailers will replace your valve stems if they are affected by the recall:

Sears, B.O. Tires, Tire Kingdom, Merchant's Auto Center, N.T.B. and Tires by Les Schwab.

For more information on the tire valve stem recall, go to: or call, 1-888-364-2982.


This Day in Auto History:

James E. Goodman of General Motors is born in Union City, IN
The Hudson Super-Six is previewed to dealers
The Goodyear Tyre & Rubber Company (Australia) Ltd. is established in Sydney, NSW, Australia
William Francis Powers of the Ford Motor Company is born in Philadelphia, PA
Willard A. Stearns an oil seal and synthetic rubber specialist whose automotive career included stints with Packard and Buick, dies at age 54

US: Chrysler recalls 108,429 Dodge Ram pick-ups

By David Isaiah
11 December, 2008
Source: Automotive World

Chrysler LLC has issued a recall, which affects 108,429 Dodge Ram pick-ups, due to a defect in the vehicles' engine compartment.

According to the recall notice, pick-ups from model years 2007-08 are affected, and this includes Dodge Ram 2500 and 2500 ...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s Top Safety Picks of 2009

Some hours ago, someone in a press room in Stuttgart put together a news release to announce to the world that the W204 Mercedes-Benz C-class was named in as one of 2009’s Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), adding another star to the C-class’ cap after receiving a five star rating by EuroNCAP. In essence, the IIHS’ crash test IS the United States’ answer to the EuroNCAP.

In the IIHS crash tests, cars are subject to frontal and side crashes, besides a rear impact test where evaluations to the cars’ protection against neck injury are evaluated. According to Mercedes, the W204 scored ‘top marks’ for each of the criteria, but whether the term is defined to mean maximum marks or highest marks among competitors could not be ascertained.

The US spec C-class which was tested had seven airbags, belt tensioners, belt force limiters and NECK PRO crash-responsive head restraints fitted as standard. Buyers can also opt for an anticipatory occupant protection system (dubbed PRESAFE) which pre-activates certain safety systems when it anticipates a collision to be imminent - a system that Mercedes claims would reduce the impact on occupants by as much as 40%.

Merc C-class, one of 72 Top Safety Picks of 2009
Merc C-class, one of 72 Top Safety Picks of 2009

But, I was not going to just take Mercedes’ side of the story, and thus I went on to examine the claims at the IIHS’ official website (link here) where they listed no fewer than 72 Top Safety Picks for 2009 with another 26 ‘also-rans’. Here they are: (cars sold in Malaysia highlighted in bold)

Large cars
Acura RL
Audi A6
Cadillac CTS
Ford Taurus
Lincoln MKS
Mercury Sable
Toyota Avalon
Volvo S80

Midsize cars
Acura TL, TSX
Audi A3, A4
BMW 3 series 4-door models
Ford Fusion
with optional electronic stability control
Honda Accord 4-door models
Mercedes C class
Mercury Milan
with optional electronic stability control
Saab 9-3
Subaru Legacy
(previously sold in Malaysia)
Volkswagen Jetta, Passat

Midsize convertibles
Saab 9-3
Volkswagen Eos
Volvo C70

Small cars
Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
Mitsubishi Lancer with optional electronic stability control
Scion xB
Subaru Impreza
with optional electronic stability control
Toyota Corolla with optional electronic stability control
Volkswagen Rabbit (VW Golf)

Honda Fit with optional electronic stability control (Honda Jazz)

Honda Odyssey
Hyundai Entourage
Kia Sedona

Large SUVs
Audi Q7
Buick Enclave
Chevrolet Traverse
GMC Acadia
Saturn Outlook

Midsize SUVs
Acura MDX, RDX
BMW X3, X5
Ford Edge, Flex, Taurus X
Honda Pilot
Hyundai Santa Fe, Veracruz
Infiniti EX35
Lincoln MKX
Mercedes M class
Nissan Murano
(only unofficially availabe in Malaysia)
Saturn VUE
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota FJ Cruiser, Highlander
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs
Ford Escape (new generation not sold in Malaysia)
Honda CR-V, Element
Mazda Tribute
Mercury Mariner
Mitsubishi Outlander
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

Large pickups
Ford F-150
Honda Ridgeline
Toyota Tundra

Small pickup
Toyota Tacoma (Toyota Hilux)

These 26 vehicles earn good ratings in front and side crash tests. They have ESC, standard or optional. They would be 2009 Top Safety Pick winners if their seat/head restraints also earn good ratings:

Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler Sebring, Sebring convertible, Town & Country
Dodge Avenger, Grand Caravan
Infiniti G35, M35
Kia Amanti
Lexus ES, GS, IS
Mazda CX-7, CX-9
Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Endeavor
Nissan Altima, Pathfinder, Quest, Xterra
Saturn AURA
Smart Fortwo
Toyota 4Runner, Camry, Prius, Sienna

Top 10 Most Frequently Stolen Vehicles

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Do you think you have a hot car? If it’s on this list, there’s a good chance it will be someday.

The Highway Data Loss Institute of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has released its report on the most frequently stolen vehicles in the United States from the 2005-2007 model years, based on the number of claims per thousand vehicles insured.

Unlike a list of the overall number of vehicles stolen, the HDLI tells you the odds that your car will be snatched based on how many others are on the road. It’s like a bad lottery.

Car thieves must also steal their gasoline, because 9 of the top 10 vehicles are some of the largest cars and trucks on the market, including #1, the big daddy Cadillac Escalade ESV.

Except for the one, they’re all American, too. Go, USA!

Wait, don't go, come back with my car!

Rounding out the top five are the Ford F-250 pickup, standard Cadillac Escalade, Dodge Charger and the Ford F-350.

Least stolen? It’s a three-way tie between the Mercedes-Benz E Class 4WD, Buick Ranier, and Subaru Forester. Only .6

of each were stolen per 1,000 insured.

Ward's Announces 10 Best Engines Awards for 2009

Emotion, brute strength, refinement and fuel efficiency, without compromise

Last update: 11:00 a.m. EST Dec. 10, 2008
SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Dec 10, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Amid the auto industry's financial turmoil and resulting pleas for federal assistance, the winners of the Ward's 10 Best Engines for 2009 reflect the diversity of powertrains that will play a role in reshaping America's automotive landscape.
Selected by the editors of Penton Media Inc.'s Ward's Automotive Group, the 2009 list marks the 15th year for the Ward's 10 Best Engines program, the North American auto industry's only awards honoring powertrain excellence and considered by many to be the "Oscars" for automotive engines.
The Ward's 10 Best Engines for 2009: (Engine and tested vehicle)
-- Audi AG:                 2.0L TFSI turbocharged DOHC I-4 (A4 Avant)
-- BMW AG: 3.0L turbocharged DOHC I-6 (135i Coupe)
-- BMW AG: 3.0L DOHC I-6 Turbodiesel (335d)
-- Chrysler LLC: 5.7L Hemi OHV V-8 (Dodge Ram/Challenger R/T)
-- Ford Motor Co.: 2.5L DOHC I-4 HEV (Escape Hybrid)
-- General Motors Corp.: 3.6L DOHC V-6 (Cadillac CTS)
-- Honda Motor Co. Ltd.: 3.5L SOHC V-6 (Accord Coupe)
-- Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd.: 4.6L DOHC V-8 (Genesis)
-- Toyota Motor Corp.: 3.5L DOHC V-6 (Lexus IS 350)
-- Volkswagen AG: 2.0L SOHC I-4 Turbodiesel (Jetta TDI)

"A decade ago, few consumers in the U.S. paid serious attention to hybrids or diesels. This year, they have to, if they don't want to be pinched the next time fuel hits $4 a gallon," says Tom Murphy, executive editor of Ward's AutoWorld magazine. "The diesels from VW and BMW and the Ford Escape Hybrid all got better than 30 mpg during our testing, and often they topped 40 mpg. And the diesels meet the strictest emissions regulations in the world. If Americans want to find a vehicle that consumes less fuel and is fun to drive, our list is a great place to start."
Some highlights of the winners:
-- Ford Motor Co.'s redesigned 2.5L 4-cyl. hybrid-electric powertrain, which is motivating President and CEO Alan Mulally's Escape Hybrid cross/utility vehicle to and from Washington D.C. for federal-aid talks, makes the cut and serves as a reminder of the innovative spirit found in the domestic auto industry.
-- BMW AG's new 3.0L inline 6-cyl. turbodiesel scores a slot on the list in its first year available in the U.S. Joined by the auto maker's twin-turbocharged and direct-injected gasoline I-6 engine, which returns for the third year, the diesel employs a sequential twin-turbocharger system that provides the 335d sedan with impressive fuel economy and a tire-shredding 425 lb.-ft. (576 Nm) of torque.
-- Volkswagen AG joins the clean-diesel party this year, as well, with its new 2.0L 4-cyl. turbodiesel powering the Jetta TDI sedan. Fun to drive and frugal at the pump, the TDI is an affordable and entertaining alternative to many larger gasoline and hybrid-electric powertrains.
-- Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. appears for the first time on Ward's 10 Best Engines list with its all-new Tau 4.6L DOHC V-8. Introduced in the new Genesis luxury sedan, the engine's velvety power delivery, competitive performance and attainable price epitomize the Korean auto maker's drive for world-class engineering.
Chrysler LLC's venerable 5.7L Hemi V-8 returns to the rankings with added refinement, power and variable-valvetrain and induction technology. Its guttural roar and low-end grunt serves double duty this year in the all-new Dodge Challenger R/T and Ram pickup.
Toyota Motor Corp. scores its fourth consecutive 10 Best Engines win with its Lexus 3.5L DOHC V-6, a brilliant design that employs a unique, combination direct- and port-injection fueling system that helps generate 306 hp and 277 lb.-ft. (376 Nm) of torque.
General Motors Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. also make return appearances with their high-volume V-6 engines exemplifying practicality balanced with precision engineering.
GM's high-feature 3.6L V-6 with direct-gasoline injection returns for the second time. Tested in the Cadillac CTS, yet flexible enough to proliferate through the auto maker's cross/utility vehicles, the advanced V-6 makes a hardy 304 hp on regular gasoline.
Honda underscores its longstanding reputation for great engines with the encore performance of its 3.5L SOHC V-6 in the Accord lineup. Merging exceptional performance with reasonable fuel economy, the engine employs advanced cylinder deactivation in the sedan and engaging power delivery in the coupe.
Audi AG's 2.0L TFSI turbocharged 4-cyl., freshly revamped with 211 hp and a mighty 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) of torque for the all-new A4, rounds out the list with a fourth-consecutive 10 Best Engines placing as one of the best all-around turbo-4s on the market.
This year, six Ward's editors nominated 32 different engines for the 10 Best Engines competition. The nominee list consists of the 2008 winners as well as all-new or significantly improved engines.
Over a nearly 2-month period, the editors evaluated and scored each engine against all others in a number of objective and subjective parameters. Each engine must be available in a regular-production, U.S.-specification model on sale no later than the first quarter of 2009 in a vehicle priced no more than $54,000, a price cap indexed to the average cost of a new vehicle.
The awards will be given at a Jan. 14, 2009, ceremony in Detroit during the North American International Auto Show.
Complete stories about the 10 Best Engines will be featured soon on and in upcoming issues of Ward's AutoWorld magazine and Ward's Engine & Vehicle Technology Update newsletter.
Ward's 10 Best Engines is a copyright of Penton Media Inc. Commercial references to the program and/or awards are prohibited without prior permission of Ward's Automotive Group.
Ward's Automotive Group is a world-leading provider of auto industry news, data and analysis, having served the industry's information needs for nearly 80 years. Ward's AutoWorld is a monthly magazine serving more than 68,000 automotive professionals. The twice-monthly newsletter Ward's Engine & Vehicle Technology Update provides analysis of engineering advancements and technical issues. is an online subscription service delivering virtually all the industry news, data and analysis compiled by Ward's Automotive Group, the world's leader in automotive industry information. A Southfield, MI - based division of Penton Media, Inc., Ward's Automotive Group also publishes the weekly industry newsletter Ward's Automotive Reports, the monthly magazine Ward's Dealer Business, and offers a wealth of other automotive information services including reference annuals, online databases, and customized data reports.
Penton Media Inc. is the largest independent business-to-business media company in the U.S., serving more than six million business professionals every month. The company's market-leading brands are focused on 30 industries and include 113 trade magazines, 145 Web sites, 150 industry trade shows and conferences, and more than 500 information data products. Headquartered in New York City, the privately held company is owned by MidOcean Partners and U.S. Equity Partners II, an investment fund sponsored by Wasserstein & Co., LP, and its co-investors. For additional information on the company and its businesses, visit
SOURCE: Penton Media Inc.

Chrysler to ship minivans from Canada to Europe

WINDSOR, Ontario -- Chrysler LLC will begin assembling Europe-bound Chrysler Grand Voyagers in January, Benjamin Winter, Chrysler's chief minivan engineer, said today.

Chrysler officials said left-hand-drive versions of the Grand Voyager will be produced first, and right-hand-drive models will join the mix in March.

Chrysler officials discussed the move today at a ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the production of the first Chrysler minivan.

The Chrysler Grand Voyager -- the European version of the minivan -- had been assembled since September 2007 at the automaker's St. Louis South plant, which was idled indefinitely on Friday. The previous generation of the Grand Voyager had been made for Chrysler by contract builder Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria.

Chrysler already is making the Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and Volkswagen Routan at its Windsor assembly plant. Windsor will resume operation on three shifts Nov. 10 after three weeks operating on two shifts.

The European Grand Voyager is virtually identical to the Chrysler Town & Country, But Chrysler offers a 2.8-liter diesel engine to European customers that is not offered in North America.

Chrysler's Windsor plant can make more than 1,400 minivans per day


Mike King, Canwest News Service

Published: Tuesday, December 09, 2008

MONTREAL - The situation with the automotive industry has become so dire, at least one Quebec dealer is resorting to a pizzeria-like promotion strategy in an attempt to clear out this year’s stock of expensive four-by-four models - two vehicles for the price of one.

Girard Automobile Inc., a Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep dealership in Repentigny, for the second time in a month is offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal: purchase a 2008 Dodge Ram, Dodge Durango, Chrysler Aspen or Jeep Commander until Friday and receive a 2009 Dodge Caliber valued at $17,500 at no cost.

Sales manager Michel Leduc concedes there’s no money to be made with the promotion; it’s simply meant to cut losses next year.

2008 Chrysler ecoVoyager Concept

RSS feed
2008 Chrysler ecoVoyager Concept
2008 Chrysler ecoVoyager Concept
Enlarge Photo

2008 Chrysler ecoVoyager Concept - more photos

At the 2008 Detroit auto show, Chrysler rolled out three concepts, each pairing exciting design and glimpse-of-the-future features with environmental friendliness.

All three deliver power through an electric motor system and advanced, yet-to-be-developed lithium-ion battery pack, but each model has a different type of “range extender for the powertrain” — a gasoline or diesel engine that cycles on only when the battery has little charge remaining.

This modular electric/lithium-ion technology that all three employ is being developed by Chrysler’s new ENV1, an in-house organization at the company that’s focused around developing electric-drive vehicles and advanced-propulsion technologies.
The Chrysler ecoVoyager concept is a sleek, rounded one-box design — looking like a low-sling crossover vehicle — that’s said to celebrate the “romance of automobile travel embodied in a four-door, four-passenger distinctively American design.” Chrysler design chief Trevor Creed named elegance, simplicity, and serenity as design priorities. With an overall length of about 191 inches and width of 75.2 inches, its footprint is similar to that of a mid-size four-door sedan.

Without the powertrain occupying its traditional place in front, the Chrysler promises to be extremely roomy inside and “really makes the most of cab forward once again,” according to design chief Trevor Creed. The entire propulsion system in the ecoVoyager — a fuel-cell stack, electric motor system, and lithium-ion battery — are stored below the floor for maximum utility.

A 200 kW (268-hp) motor system would drive the wheels and power the ecoVoyager with enough gusto to reach 60 mph in 8.8 seconds and go on to a top speed of 115 mph. Regenerative braking would recapture energy lost in braking or decelerating, increasing efficiency. Range from the battery system would be about 40 miles, while total range of the hydrogen fuel cell system in combination would be about 300 miles.

Inside, the ecoVoyager has four bucket seats, with the location of everything rethought for ‘pampered’ passengers — with the rear seats especially roomy — and the instrument panel is of a very smooth, minimalist design, with only current information displayed and other controls normally hidden from view. The instrument panel is designed to be viewed over the steering-wheel rim rather than through it, and a “Direct Sound” feature inside allows personalized entertainment to be focused toward each occupant, without the use of headphones and without disturbing other occupants.


This Day in Auto History:

John F. Dodge weds Matilda Rausch in his second marriage
Thomas Aquinas Murphy, Chairman of General Motors 1974-1980, is born in Hornell, NY
Automotive historian Huw Beynon is born in Eddw Vale, Wales
Racer Price Cobb is born in Dallas, TX
Lee Iacocca is elected President of the Ford Motor Company

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

Cerberus is under fire in Congress

Lawmakers: Why doesn't equity firm aid Chrysler?


Members of Congress are turning up the heat on Chrysler's majority owner, Cerberus Capital Management, asking why the global private equity firm doesn't open its books and provide some support to the automaker itself.

"Congress should demand an accounting of Cerberus' assets and why those assets cannot be used to bail out Chrysler Corporation before using taxpayer dollars," U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a letter Tuesday.

Cerberus, a leading New York private equity firm, invested $7.4 billion in August 2007 to acquire 80.1% of Chrysler.

At the time, executives said one of the benefits of being privately held is that Chrysler does not have to make its finances public.

Publicly traded companies, such as General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., must regularly file financial information with federal regulators.

GM and Chrysler warned Congress that their companies are in danger of reaching minimum levels of cash needed to sustain operations.

Chrysler is seeking a $7-billion bridge loan while GM is seeking a $12-billion loan and a $6-billion line of credit.

Congress is crafting a plan that would give GM and Chrysler $15 billion in short-term loans until federal leaders can agree on a long-term course of action.

Senator wants explanation

However, Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, wrote that he would not support giving money to Chrysler until Cerberus does a better job explaining why it cannot help the automaker.

"Due to its private nature, there is no public information about its financial position," Grassley wrote in his letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Cerberus responded in a statement by James Olecki that Chrysler has and "will continue to provide Congress with full transparency as to its financials."

The firm said its investors are no different than the shareholders of GM and Ford and noted that in July "Chrysler's shareholders invested an additional $2 billion in the form of loans" to Chrysler.

Cerberus also said that it has promised government officials that it "would contractually agree to forgo any profits that could be earned, directly or indirectly, relative to Chrysler LLC as a result of any financing that the government may choose to provide" and its "investor consortium will accept dilution of their equity interests in Chrysler LLC to facilitate additional necessary concessions."

Grassley noted that Cerberus' Web site lists some of its investments, which include several foreign corporations.

"If Congress does award taxpayer funds to Chrysler, it must ensure that Cerberus and its other investors are not able to access those funds," he wrote.

Grassley also pointed out that Cerberus' investments include 51% ownership of GMAC, GM's financing arm.

A case of double dipping

"As you may know, GMAC recently applied for assistance under the Troubled Assets Relief Program," Grassley said referring to the $700-billion aid package passed earlier this year to help troubled financial institutions. "If Treasury approves GMAC's application for TARP funds, it would seem that Cerberus would be benefiting under both" the bridge loan package and Troubled Asset program.

Rep. Steven Kagen, D-Wis., sent out a similar letter to his colleagues Monday, noting that Cerberus-owned NewPage Corp. recently closed Wisconsin paper mill operations that resulted in job losses and it refused to sell the mills.

Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Weil also called on Cerberus to open its books.

"If a company is so desperate and devoid of dignity that it's willing to beg for a government bailout, the least it should be required to do is disclose its latest financial statements, fully footnoted, independently audited, and sworn to by each of its officers and directors," Weil wrote Tuesday. "It's the only way for taxpayers to know if the mess is as ugly as Chrysler says."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Agreement reached on $15 billion plan to rescue GM, Chrysler

Agreement reached on $15 billion plan to rescue GM, Chrysler

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The White House and congressional Democrats on Tuesday night reached an agreement in principle on a $15 billion proposal for bailing out U.S. automakers and forcing them to restructure or fail, officials said.
A Bush administration official and a Democratic leadership aide said the outline covered key points but final issues needed to be resolved and put in writing.
Democrats have arranged to have the House of Representatives vote on a bill as early as Wednesday and send it to the Senate for consideration.
President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama were both urged by a key lawmaker to help rally support by Democrats and Republicans for the pending measure.
"Bipartisan hard work has paid off," said Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan whose home state headquarters General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC.
"I understand an agreement has been reached," Levin said in a statement.
The bailout is designed to allow GM and Chrysler to avert threatened bankruptcy through March with short-term loans. Ford Motor Co. is not requesting immediate help but would like a $9 billion line of credit in case its finances worsen.
The parties that negotiated the tentative deal agreed last week that the money would come from an Energy Department fund established in September to help Detroit make more fuel-efficient cars. ...



This Day in Auto History:

Ernest Marples, British Minister of Transport 1959-1964 and a proponent of legislating older vehicles off public roads, is born
Victor and Mildred Bruce begin a record-setting 10-day endurance run at the Montlhery track in France in their 2.0-litre A.C. - the type would later be marketed as the A.C. Montlhery
Richard Goodyear of the Chrysler Corporation is born in New Haven, CT
Hudson announces their intent to produce a “light car”, the Jet
The last United States-built Studebaker is produced as corporate officials announce the closing of the South Bend, IN factory

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

Chrysler turns up the heat on Canada

Car maker warns production from two Ontario plants could be transferred to U.S. as it presses governments for emergency funding

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

OTTAWA, TORONTO AND WASHINGTONChrysler Canada Inc. has warned Ottawa and Queen's Park that it could close its two assembly plants in Canada, eliminating more than 8,000 direct jobs, and shift the work to the United States if the two governments fail to provide $1.6-billion in emergency financial help.

In a 14-page restructuring plan filed with officials last week, Chrysler compares the two assembly plants in Canada with facilities in the United States that could make the models now being produced here, according to people who have been briefed on the document. “In the context, it could be seen as a veiled threat,” said one of the people. The document talks about the challenges of maintaining a “Canadian footprint” and notes the company has the “same type of plant, set up exactly the same” on both sides of the border, the source said.

Government and industry sources have been worried that the U.S. government would attach strings to its final aid package that, in the absence of Canadian assistance, would favour the companies' operations south of the border.

As officials in the two governments digested the requests by Chrysler, Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. and General Motors of Canada Ltd. for $6-billion in loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit, U.S. lawmakers reached a deal yesterday that would give their parent companies a $15-billion (U.S.) lifeline.

It is hoped these funds would keep the car makers alive until after the new administration of Barack Obama takes office in late January. The amount is about half of what the car companies are asking for, and the deal gives Washington the right to buy up to 20 per cent of the companies and would put the government ahead of other shareholders in getting its money back. Congress is expected to consider the legislation this week.

The U.S. deal increases the pressure on the Canadian governments to come through with a rescue package for the companies' Canadian arms, which submitted proposals for assistance that could amount to as much as $7.2-billion (Canadian) if the auto slump deepens and GM Canada needs to draw down an additional backstop of $1.2-billion, which would be on top of a $2.4-billion initial request.

Chrysler spells out the grim prospects for its Canadian operations in its restructuring proposal. The company said it could switch minivan production out of Windsor, Ont., to a plant in St. Louis that is now idled, the sources said. Production of large sedans made in Brampton, Ont., could be transferred to a plant in Detroit.

Closing the two Canadian plants would be a devastating blow to Ontario and especially to Windsor, which has already been battered by thousands of job losses at Ford and GM operations in the city.

It would also lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs at auto parts makers in the two cities and elsewhere in the province. Chrysler Canada president Reid Bigland said last week that 420 suppliers in Canada account for 50,000 jobs.

“Everything depends on whether there are strings attached to the U.S money,” according the person who had been briefed on Chrysler's proposal. In the initial round of assistance so far in Washington, the Canadian side is not seeing the U.S. government insist on conditions that would disadvantage assembly plants in Canada.

Democratic lawmakers in Washington said yesterday they have a draft $15-billion (U.S.) bailout bill they believe both the White House and Congress will support. The compromise would require the Detroit Three to produce detailed restructuring plans by March 31. The government would also designate a “car czar” to oversee the rescue, according to a draft of the bill.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said last night that he has not seen the restructuring plans proposed by the Canadian subsidiaries of the Detroit Three. “We have to ensure that whatever the outcome of the arrangement in the United States, that it doesn't prejudice the footprint of the auto sector here in Ontario,” he said. “But we will be there to do our fair share.”

Mr. Duncan said the Canadian governments will be asking the auto makers to make a commitment to produce certain vehicles in this country in return for financial aid.

“I think one of the challenges is that any package may not guarantee everything we want guaranteed on either side of the border,” he said.

It would be relatively easy for Chrysler to switch minivan production to the St. Louis plant, which closed this fall amid the slump and a decline in the minivan market. One problem in gearing it back up, however, would be in restoring the supplier base, because some companies, such as Magna International Inc., closed nearby plants that shipped components to the Chrysler factory.

The Windsor plant outperformed St. Louis in productivity last year according to the Harbour Report, an annual study of North American auto assembly plants.

Chrysler's Brampton plant ranked fifth of six in its category – large, non-premium conventional cars. The auto maker's Jefferson North Assembly Plant's performance on the Grand Cherokee topped the mid-size non-premium utility vehicle category.

Switching production of full-sized sedans to Detroit from Brampton “is not something you could do overnight,” said one industry source.

But the source noted that both plants are operating at less than full capacity.

The third shift at the Brampton plant was eliminated earlier this year amid poor demand for the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger models made there. The reborn Dodge Challenger muscle car has been a hit for Chrysler, but not enough to sustain a full shift of production.

Windsor is producing minivans on three shifts a day, but some of that is production of the Volkswagen Routan, a vehicle Chrysler is building for Volkswagen AG.

The Windsor plant will cease production for all of January because of poor sales, union officials said.

Dodge EV Spy Photos

by Joe on December 8, 2008

Dodge EV photo from Left Lane News

Dodge EV photo from Left Lane News

Will the 2010 Dodge EV look like a Dodge? It appears so.

The concept car unveiled at the L.A. Auto show left onlookers feeling that the front of the car was uncharacteristically un-Dodgelike, with design influences coming from the Lotus Europa. That issue appears to have been resolved in photos taken during a series of double-secret nighttime road tests.

Our friends over at Left Lane News have spy photos of the new Dodge that puts the traditional front face on the car.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chrysler, Chery go separate ways


Chrysler's plans to get into the small-car market with the help of Chinese automaker Chery Automotive Co. are finished.


Chrysler announced Monday the two companies had mutually agreed to stop their discussions on a strategic cooperation under way since July 2007 -- a month before Cerberus Capital Management took control of Chrysler.

The automakers had previously agreed to work together to develop, manufacture and distribute Chery-made small cars in North America, Europe and other major automotive markets under a Chrysler brand.

At the time, Chrysler executives praised the partnership as a way for the Auburn Hills automaker to quickly and less expensively augment its vehicle lineup.

"The economic situation and market environments around the world have changed significantly since the agreement was signed," Mike Manley, Chrysler executive vice president of international sales and marketing, said in a statement. "Moreover, both companies have since gone through major internal changes and evolution, resulting in different business directions and priorities versus a year ago. As a result, many of the original premises the two companies had when entering into the agreement no longer apply."

Earlier this year, Chrysler signed a deal with Nissan Motor Co. for the Japanese automaker to build small cars for Chrysler.

Chrysler submits restructuring plans for Canada

RP news wires

In response to a joint letter from the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, and the Honourable Michael Bryant, Economic Development Minister for Ontario, Chrysler Canada submitted its detailed operational and restructuring plan on December 5 to both ministers. Federal Minister Tony Clement and Ontario Minister Michael Bryant had sought further information to support Chrysler Canada's request for assistance.

In its submission, Chrysler Canada provided an overview of its Canadian operations, its impact on the Canadian economy and its plan for long term viability. This information was supplemented with information submitted to the United States Government earlier in the week.

According to Reid Bigland, president and CEO of Chrysler Canada, “Our request for a temporary and fully repayable loan from the Ontario and Canadian governments is really two-fold. First, to ensure Chrysler has sufficient funds to complete our restructuring activities during what is an unprecedented downturn in vehicle sales caused by the global financial crisis and second, to ensure Chrysler Canada's substantial Canadian manufacturing and operational footprint is protected.”

Chrysler Canada is a major Canadian corporate citizen. The company has been, and will continue to be, a mainstay of the Ontario economy. Nevertheless, challenges within the global economy in general and the automotive industry in particular present significant obstacles which Chrysler Canada must surmount in order to remain a vibrant pillar of the Canadian and Ontario economies. As a predominantly NAFTA-based manufacturer and distributor, Chrysler is facing continued risk with the tightened credit markets and the resulting slumping auto industry.

During the first six months of 2008, Chrysler was on target with respect to its recovery and transformation plan. In July 2008, prior to the full onslaught of the global credit crisis and the company's forced withdrawal from the leasing market, Chrysler Canada had experienced 23 consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth – unprecedented in the history of the company and notwithstanding the restructuring initiatives throughout the same period.

The global credit crisis intervened, creating a liquidity crisis that reduced or eliminated customers’ access to credit, leading to a dramatic and historical downturn in North American vehicle sales, and placed the company's restructuring plan in jeopardy.

Chrysler’s strategic plan is three-fold:

· Reduction of fixed costs

· Investment in new vehicles and technologies

· Formation of strategic alliances and partnerships

This year, Chrysler Canada celebrated its 83rd year as a senior member of Canada’s industrial community. During the last eight decades, the company has grown from 181 employees to the current 9,800 employees making Chrysler Canada one of the largest employers in Ontario and Canada, and in particular the communities of Brampton and Windsor.

For every employee at Chrysler Canada, the company supports more than one retiree. Retirees now exceed 13,000 Canadians who draw direct retirement benefits from Chrysler Canada.

The financial support of the current and former employees of Chrysler Canada, and their families and dependants, make up a population of more than 50,000 Canadians who rely on the health and well-being of Chrysler Canada.

Chrysler Canada’s network of 454 Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealers across Canada employs more than 24,000 Canadians.

Chrysler Canada is headquartered in Windsor. The company operates vehicle assembly plants in Brampton and Windsor, Ontario and a casting plant southwest of Toronto. Collectively, the plants assemble more than half a million vehicles a year of which 86 per cent are exported to the United States. For the past several years, the assembly plants have supported three shifts, although recently a shift was eliminated at Brampton Assembly Plant to adjust production to the current reduced sales levels in the U.S. market. The Windsor Assembly Plant, the largest plant in the Chrysler manufacturing network, still supports three shifts.

Chrysler Canada's award-winning research and development centre, located in Windsor, is a partnership with the University of Windsor and has provided engineering support for design analysis and testing for more than 20 years. The University of Windsor/Chrysler Canada Automotive Research and Development Centre has led and supported many advanced technology development programs such as propane fuelled vehicles, natural gas powered vehicles and electric vehicles.

Game-Changing Dodge Ram 1500 Is Designed to Protect and Perform

All-new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab Earns Top Five-Star Safety Ratings in U.S. Government's Crash Tests

Last update: 9:38 a.m. EST Dec. 8, 2008
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Dec 8, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ --
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Dec 8 /PRNewswire/--

- Five-star Front-Impact Ratings Accentuate Chrysler LLC's Commitment to
Safety and Security
- Dodge Ram 1500 Offers 35 Safety and Security Features
- Standard features include side-curtain air bags and Electronic
Stability Program (ESP) which includes all-speed traction control,
trailer sway control, hill-start assist and anti-lock brake system

The all-new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab earned 5-star ratings for driver- and front-passenger protection in a frontal crash, the highest ratings in the U.S. government's safety crash test program. The all-new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 is available now at local Dodge dealers.
"We built safety and security into our all-new game-changing truck," said Scott Kunselman, Vice President - Jeep / Truck Product Team. "Our all-new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 offers a truck-load of advanced safety and security features including advanced multi-stage driver and front-passenger air bags, Electronic Stability Program (ESP), with traction control, hill-start assist, trailer sway control and brake assist."
When it comes to safety and security, the all-new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 employs a two-fold approach: passive features including pre-tensioning seat belt retractors and supplemental side-curtain air bags are combined with accident-avoidance features including responsive steering, braking, handling and ESP.
35 Safety and Security Features
The all-new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 offers more than 35 safety and security features including:
-- Advanced Multi-stage Air Bags: Inflates with a force appropriate to the severity of an impact
-- Anti-lock Brake System (ABS): Senses and prevents wheel lockup, offering improved steering control under extreme braking and/or slippery conditions - advanced ABS modulates each of the four brakes individually for optimum control and stopping performance
-- All-speed Traction Control: Senses drive-wheel slip and applies individual brakes to a slipping wheel(s), and reduces excess engine power until traction is regained
-- Auto-reverse Sun Roof: Advanced sensing system that automatically engages and reverses the sun roof to the open position when an object that restricts glass movement is detected
-- Auto-reverse Window: Automatically engages and reverses the window to the down position when an obstacle that restricts glass movement is detected
-- BeltAlert: Periodically activates a chime and illuminates an icon in the instrument cluster to remind the driver to buckle up if a vehicle is driven without the driver being properly belted
-- Brake Assist: In a panic brake condition, the system applies maximum braking power, providing the shortest possible stopping distance
-- Brake/Park Interlock: Prevents an automatic transmission or transaxle from being shifted out of Park unless the brake pedal is applied
-- Child Seat Anchor System: Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH) is designed to ease installation of compatible aftermarket child seats
-- Child-protection Rear Door Locks: Disables the rear doors' inside-release handles via a small lever on the door-shut face
-- Crumple Zones: Designed to compress during an accident in order to absorb energy from an impact, decreasing transfer of that energy to occupants
-- Digressive Load-limiting Retractors: A two-stage load-limiting feature that limits the maximum force on the belt webbing in order to help absorb the energy of the occupant's upper torso during an impact
-- Electronic Stability Program (ESP): Enhances driver control and helps maintain directional stability under all conditions. Provides the greatest benefit in critical driving situations, such as turns, and is especially valuable when driving on mixed surface conditions including snow, ice or gravel. If there's a discernible difference between what the driver asks through the steering wheel and the vehicle's path, ESP applies selective braking and throttle input in order to put the vehicle back onto the driver's intended path
-- Energy-absorbing Steering Column: The manual-adjust steering column utilizes two hydroformed coaxial tubes that move relative to each other in order to allow the column to move forward for enhanced energy-absorption during an impact
-- Enhanced Accident Response System (EARS): Makes it easier for emergency personnel to see and reach occupants in the event of an accident by turning on interior lights and unlocking doors after air-bag deployment. Also shuts off the flow of fuel to the engine
-- Height-adjustable Front Seat Belts: Allows the driver and front passenger to raise and lower the shoulder belt. Encourages seat belt usage by offering a comfortable fit
-- HomeLink(R) Universal Home Security System Transceiver: Stores three separate transmitter radio-frequency codes to operate garage-door openers, security gates, security lighting or other radio-controlled devices
-- Hill Start Assist (HSA): Assists drivers when starting a vehicle from a stop on a hill by maintaining the level of brake pressure applied for a short period of time after a driver's foot is removed from the brake pedal. If throttle is not applied within a short period of time after the driver's foot is removed from the brake pedal, brake pressure will be released
-- Inside Emergency Release: A glow-in-the-dark release handle, which may be activated in the event of an adult or child being inadvertently trapped inside of the RamBox
-- Interior Head-impact Protection: Interior pillars above the belt line and instrument panel, including areas around windshield and rear window headers, roof and side-rail structures and shoulder-belt turning loops are specifically designed to limit head-impact force
-- Knee Bolsters: The lower instrument panel and the glove-box door are designed to properly position the occupant, enabling air bags to work effectively
-- ParkSense(R) RearPark Assist System: Assists at low speeds in Reverse to detect stationary objects. Consists of visible (interior lights seen with rearview mirror) and audible warnings for the driver
-- ParkView(R) Rear Back-up Camera: Provides a wide-angle view of the area immediately behind the vehicle, giving the driver greater peace of mind before backing up. Also aids in lining up a trailer to the vehicle's trailer hitch, when so equipped. The image automatically displays on the navigation screen when the transmission is shifted into Reverse
-- Power-adjustable pedals: Allows brake and accelerator pedals to move toward or away from the driver in order to achieve a comfortable seating position for improved vehicle control
-- Remote Keyless Entry: Locks and unlocks doors, and turns on interior lamps. If the vehicle is equipped with a vehicle-theft security alarm, the remote also arms and disarms that system
-- Remote Start: Conveniently starts the engine from outside the vehicle by using the Remote Keyless Entry fob while maintaining vehicle security
-- Safety Cage Body Structure: Protects occupants by managing and controlling energy in the event of an impact
-- Seat-belt Pretensioners (both front seat belts): During a collision, impact sensors initiate front seat-belt pretensioners to immediately remove slack from seat belts, thereby reducing the forward movement of occupants' heads and torsos
-- Sentry Key(R) Engine Immobilizer: Utilizes an engine key that has an embedded transponder with a pre-programmed security code to discourage vehicle theft. When the key is inserted into the ignition, the controller sends a random number to the transponder and the engine is allowed to start. If an incorrect key is used, the engine will shut off after only a few seconds
-- Side Guard Door Beams: In front and rear doors, provides occupant protection during a side impact
-- Standard Side-curtain Air Bags: Extends protection to all outboard front- and rear-seat passengers. Each side air bag has its own impact sensor which autonomously triggers the air bag on the side where an impact occurs
-- Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM): Pressure-sensor modules within the valve stems of all four road wheels send continuous radio-frequency signals to a receiver and the system informs occupants when tire pressure is too low
-- Trailer Sway Control System: Reduces trailer sway and improves handling in adverse towing conditions caused by crosswinds and traffic. Software monitors the vehicle's movement relative to the driver's intended path, then applies brake pressure to slow the vehicle and increases the pressure on one front wheel to counteract sway induced by the trailer
-- uconnect phone: Uses Bluetooth(R) technology to provide voice-controlled wireless communication between the occupants' compatible mobile phones and the vehicle's onboard receiver
-- Vehicle Theft Security Alarm: Deters vandalism and theft, frequently lowering insurance premiums. System protects the vehicle from theft by monitoring door- and liftgate-ajar switches and the ignition circuit for unauthorized entry