NYIAS (New York International Auto Show) 2008

The Dodge Challenger R/T and Challenger SE are both officially out. The SE has the 3.5 liter V6 with dual-length intake manifold (having two sets of tubes and solenoids to switch between them), along with a transmission that has apparently been greatly improved over the prior four-speed automatics; that's a good sign, and indicates that the Challenger SE automatic might be nearly as fast as a 1995 Neon stick-shift (better around the turns); all three have superb brakes and similar styling.

jim press

Jeremy White spoke with Jim Press for a few minutes, and asked the questions on many Allpar readers’ minds: will we continue to see Dodge cars? Will Chrysler move up again, or become Chrysler’s Chevrolet? Press’ answers were gratifying: Jeep will remain the off-road, rugged, fun brand; Dodge will be the full line, providing value and bold styling; and Chrysler can go farther upscale.

As we know, products are being cut to save money. However, Jeremy asked whether cutting variations was needed, given the company's advanced flexible manufacturing methods. Press said that there were too many products appealing to the same customers right now; the money spent on these were needed to make dramatically more differentiated vehicles. He mentioned the minivans, which are nearly on top of each other, but said that, despite rumors that the Caravan would be going away, the Dodge could become much more youthful and fun-oriented, implying that the two minivans would continue but be moved farther apart.

trucks

In his speech, Press noted that Toyota got too much credit, and Chrysler too little. He said that the recent downsizing was based on a prediction of 15.5 million vehicles being sold in 2008 (in the US), but that current estimates are for around 14.9 million vehicles; Press thinks the market won't go far below this floor, but that the condition is likely to last through 2009. They are still evaluating how long the slow market will last; he does not believe it will be a "hockey stick," going down and then shooting up; it shouldn't get much worse but might not get much better for a while.

Bob Nardelli at the press breakfast

The speech by Bob Nardelli was not quite as interesting as some of his replies to questions. Nardelli replied to reporters’ questions, answering them politely.

bob nardelli smiles

At the press breakfast, Jeremy White gleaned this:

The executives all get along. They are moving towards regional centers of design and engineering across the world; this is the reason for shutting down Pacifica, because they are setting up centers of design and engineering in Europe and China, local areas of specific expertise across the world. The idea is to take the best pieces across the world and fit them into a global plan; local markets will determine their requirements and design needs, and pick the best from across the world and make it all work together.

A smile came across Bob Nardelli's face when talking about Phil Murtaugh, who stepped into the China operation and worked to make it more effective.

Much of Nardelli's speech appears to have been taken from the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator — general statements that sound good but don’t necessarily mean much. The mission statement fits on a single page; the company needs to enhance core operations, extend, and execute flawlessly — items which could apply to anyone.

But you can read the speech for yourself instead of listening to cynical reporters.

Introducing the Challenger

satellite

Jim Press introduced the two new Dodge Challengers, the V6 SE and the 5.7-liter R/T, accompanied by skits of individuals and couples who the cars were targeted for: the guy in his garage who just got a crate engine into his 1970, and wants a real muscle car without the hassle - he gets the SRT; the couple who want a car that looks good, has enough room, and isn't a compromise, but won't cost too much - they get the “low $20s” Challenger SE; and the couple who want something good-looking, fast, but practical (R/T). The spotlight failed to light up the Challenger SE couple, and Press quipped that one way they were able to make our dreams come true was by saving money on lighting. Press also ad-libbed several lines throughout the performance, which included one couple saying “Hey, what’s the guy from Toyota doing in our bedroom?”

SE interior

Press’ speech started out with a considerable amount of attention paid to Chrysler LLC and the New Day campaign, rather than concentrating on the Challenger from the gate; indeed, time-wise, it was probably 50/50. Press noted the 500 improvements made to various vehicles, with the Journey getting engine and interior upgrades just 3 months before launch. He also addressed the question on many minds, namely: “This is the place I should have been; this is my home. It feels great.”

challenger se

The Challenger SE is surprisingly nice, given its niche in the low end. The exterior is nearly identical, except that it has no rear spoiler, no chrome letters for the engine on the hood (otherwise the same hood as the SRT), and no designation on the grille (SRT and R/T both have their designations on the right side, with Challenger on the left side of all three). Inside, SE and R/T have the same seats, comfortable bolstered cloth or leather, and much the same look; the SE has a plain Challenger logo above the glove compartment where the R/T has chrome, and there are other, subtle differences that make the R/T look better. The chromed pedals used with the stick-shift have rubber grips, a sensible design.

pedals

In person, all three Challengers are very attractive, with a rear treatment that beats just about any car we've seen for decades, and a front clip that is unique and, if anything, better than the original. The rear seats are not exactly generous in terms of leg and knee room, but they are accessible (from the passenger side - the driver's seat doesn't slide forward automatically).

stick-shift

Challenger SE instrument panel

The Chrysler and Dodge car exhibits are on the top level, with most of the other cars, but tucked all the way into the far corner; for the first tme in a while, Mercedes is nowhere near, but the Chrysler-Dodge boys are between Audi and BMW. The theme for the day is obviously the “New Day” campaign, with lots of free goodies; the displays are consistently pressing the theme, with large markers and clear callouts on the price tags.

dodge at the new york auto show

autoshow

A huge stand is set up for the introduction of the Challenger - three Challengers are sitting under red, white, and blue covers - so the Dodge area is somewhat overcrowded as vehicles from the stand area are packed in wherever they can fit. Jim Press walked by, looking busy and distracted; no sign of the others yet, but they are most likely in the interview area.

truck hemi

 

Against black curtains, Chrysler has arranged a set of their most popular (in the media) engines: the 6.1 liter Hemi, the 5.7 liter Hemi, and the 2.4 liter SRT-4 engine, complete with turbocharger. The 5.7 is a cutaway, so you can see the valve actuation. We'll show you more photos later - and we'll add these to their respective pages at allpar later, too.

hemi engine

 

The New York Auto Show is at the Javits Center on the West coast of Manhattan. Since garages will raise their rates to $40 for parking, take the bus to Port Authority and then catch the M42 bus (every 14-30 minutes) westwards, or take the train to the subway to Port Authority (most lines stop at Port Authority; take the A-C-E or 1-2-3 or another train from the Penn Station or the S shuttle from Times Square). Or park a distance away and walk the remainder. Backpacks are not be allowed in; and local parking garages boosted their rates. Warning: the M42 bus may not actually go to the Javits Center, but may go North at the end of 42nd Street. There is no indication of which M42 goes where. The bus appears to be running with much greater gaps than the schedule indicates and is not reliable.

new york auto show

The Javits Center is almost unique in being as far away from mass transit systems as possible in Manhattan. No satisfactory method exists for getting to the Javits Center by mass transit without walking numerous blocks; if going from Port Authority, we recommend taking 42nd Street Westwards and then turning South on the Javits’ avenue (it’s the most populated route). There is talk of expanding the Center, but we think they should spend their money on some sort of shuttle from the bus terminal instead.

On the lighter side, you can now get your tickets on-line from autoshowny.com.

nvg246

545RFE

2.4 liter turbotremec transmission

2.4 cutaway

6.1 liter hemi

jim presses

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