Allpar’s 2000 Chrysler News Archives

December 31 (Update 4:40 pm EST)

Vipers win! The Dodge Viper finished 3rd, 4th, and 8th overall in the race at Adelaide, Australia, taking a 1-2-3 win in the GTS class. Vipers were ahead of the Cadillac prototypes (20th and 21st position), the Audi R8, and even the Panoz LMP-1. 25 cars were at the standing grid, and all finished.

Next year, Chrysler will be racing a prototype of the next-generation Viper at Lemans. In their absence, the Corvettes may just win, though they have been soundly pummelled by the Viper through this time. (GM is, unlike Chrysler, likely to trumpet their victory through ads; oddly, Chrysler has done nothing to capitalize on the Viper's amazing success, just like it ignored the Neon ACR's early success in the mid-90s).

December 30 - Updated 7 pm, EST

James P. HoldenDieter Zetsche has created six teams to work on Chrysler's recovery, according to Automotive News. Four are working on cost management while the other two look at revenues and products. Dieter Zetsche himself is working on revenues and products. The final plan will be presented on February 26, and will "reflect difficult choices." Layoffs are expected, as well as at least one, probably two, factory closings.

Chrysler will retain its $36 billion product plan but Zetsche's teams are seeking to cut costs in that plan without sacrificing quality. (Holden had cut the product plan to $24 billion before leaving). Zetsche indicated that Chrysler was autonomous in its decisions, and that the DCX top management in Stuttgart would not be calling the shots - other than installing new managers.


Chrysler's sales fell 14.7 percent from last December. However, Ford sales fell 15.6 percent and GM fell 13.3 percent despite aggressive advertising.


"Mr. Insider" provided a credible report that Chrysler is beefing up the front crash protection in its minivans, seeking the same five stars as Ford's otherwise-far-inferior Windstar.

One of the first platforms to be jointly developed by Chrysler and Mitsubishi will be the Galant. This may mean that the next-generation Stratus coupe and sedan will actually be on the same platform, since the Galant is the basis for the Eclipse and Stratus/Sebring Coupes. The automakers will also produce cars for each other, despite recent exposure of Mitsubishi's quality problems. Expect to see more rebadged Mitsubishis, but also expect to see some Chrysler input into Mitsubishi designs.

December 29 (late updates)

Chrysler sales are down 14.7 percent compared with last December, month-to-month. As a whole, Chrysler Group is expected to be profitable for 2000, though it will not contribute half of DCX's profits as it did last year - since Chrysler Group's profits for the year are roughly half what they were in 1999. Journalists call Chrysler "troubled" for this performance, while DCX's other divisions have never paid their way as well as Chrysler has even in 2000.

Detroit News suggests Chrysler may put its new Crossfire 2-seater into production. The car would probably replace the Prowler at the low-volume custom plant that produces the Viper and Prowler now. The Crossfire would be an image car for Chrysler, comparable to the Audi TT and Porsche Boxter. It would be powered by the 2.7 liter V6, supercharged to bring speeds matching its looks. As far as we can tell, no mention of the Crossfire is on any of DCX's web sites.

December 28

With Lou Patane's retirement as head of Chrysler motorsports, people are speculating that, as with Chrysler's seats on the DCX Board, the vacancy will not be filled by an American, and that all Chrysler motorsports decisions will come from Germany.

Car-Truck Buzz ran a moderately confusing story suggesting both that Chrysler's factory sponsorship of Team ORECA (which has driven Vipers to great success) will end, and that it may well be resumed when the next-generation Viper (or its replacement) is built. The Viper is one of the most successful production-based racing cars in American history.

Ted Musgrave will reportedly switch from racing Ford trucks to Dodge trucks next season.

December 27

Car and Driver noted that racer John Lingenfelter's company, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, has chosen to modify Vipers. The company had gained acclaim for its Corvette mods (1998 Corvette ZR1 is mentioned). He started with two packages last Fall, both in the $30,000s, one of which raises horsepower to 670 hp and one which goes up to 725 hp. The latter went from 0 to 60 in 3.3 seconds, and hit the quarter mile in 11 seconds flat. That makes it faster than Hennessy's Venom and LRE's own ZR-1.

Despite the new minivans and Sebring, Chrysler only garnered one "Ten Best Cars" award - for the PT Cruiser, of course! Other award winners were the BMW 3 and 5 series, Audi TT and A6, Ford Focus, Honda Accord and S2000, Mazda Miata, and Porsche Boxter.

December 21 (PM)

The old Jeep Cherokee will be sold in the United States at least through 2003 if current plans remain stable, alongside the Liberty. It has a fairly traditional look to the body, with a new nose that looks like an Audi take on the Jeep Cherokee. In Europe, the Jeep Liberty will sell under the familiar Cherokee name.

As expected, the Liberty/Cherokee has a independent front suspension, optional 3.7 liter V6 (based on the Next Generation 4.7 V8), rear or four wheel drive, and base 2.4 liter with about 154 hp (UK trim). Europeans will be able to buy a 2.5 liter 140 hp turbodiesel with direct injection. The 3.7 will reportedly generate 210 hp - in UK trim, again. (Information from CAR magazine). The top model will reportedly have the Grand Cherokee's full time four wheel drive with the V6, while other models will have part time four wheel drive.

Pricing is set between the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, starting at about $20,000 and escalating rapidly. The interior is larger than the current Cherokee

December 20

Dieter Zetsche announced that Chrysler would give up market share for higher earnings, a strategy opposite to GM's. At least one plant closing is expected, but Zetsche would only say he would not rule out closings. Layoffs are also strongly expected. The $36 billion five-year product development budget is under scrutiny but no decisions have been made.

Not surprisingly, Mercedes-Benz profits have increased - not surprisingly because Mercedes has received an increasingly large amount of Chrysler's revenue, as accounting tricks have drained DCX's cash cow to make Mercedes look better.

The average gas mileage of American vehicles is at a 20-year low.

December 18

Reports of losses continue at Chrysler, with a dismal fourth quarter and a projection of up to $2 billion in losses in 2001 (Detroit News). Though we still expect an overall profit for 2000, the next year will be difficult. German executives appear to believe this is the fault of Chrysler itself - indeed, some American newspapers have carried the story that way, following DaimlerChrysler announcements. We, on the other hand, note that a number of takeover issues have caused much of the current problem:

  • Retooling costs to use Mercedes components, such as diesels
  • Very high consulting fees paid to Mercedes engineers and, we suspect, royalties for use of Mercedes patents
  • Production of 2000 and 2001 minivans simultaneously - though this may have been a James Holden misdecision, Holden would not be in charge without the takeover.
  • Cost increases due to consolidation of key services, where Chrysler was much more efficient - for example, information technology.

Many within Chrysler support Dieter Zetsche and believe that he will be good for the company in the long run.

December 16

We have confirmation - the Windsor plant will be building the new CS in addition to minivans. The CS [Pacifica] is a new sport-wagon.

The Big Three are all idling more plants over the holiday season. Idling of the Windsor Chrysler plant angered the Canadian Auto Workers, as they had been promised by Dieter Zetsche that there would be no more plant closings until after the holidays. Zetsche reportedly responded that the plant was being upgraded for future production, which was overall a good thing.

December 14 - 1:30 pm EST

Chrysler and Hyundai are reportedly discussing plant sharing - Hyundai would produce cars at underused or unused Chrysler plants. Production of a Hyundai or Kia at a Chrysler plant would start in 2004.

The new vehicle to be built at the Windsor, Ontario plant is expected to be the Chrysler CS, which combines a car-like ride with SUV appearance. (AP speculated that the line might be used to build 2002 Rams, and we had previously suspected that they might build PT Cruisers there, since until recently Chrysler would not have planned on vacant capacity at Windsor).

Though Deutsche Bank lost about $8 billion on its DCX investment since January 1999, and though DCX has long $70 billion in shareholder value in total since that time, Deutsche Bank has endorsed Jurgen Schrempp. One reason for this, according to Automotive News Europe, is that the chair of both companies' supervisory boards is Hilmar Kopper, a long-time Schrempp supporter. Others have not been so impressed with Schrempp, and a stockholder group in Germany has sought the resignations of both Schrempp and Kopper. They are asking for the return of former Mercedes head Helmut Werner, who opposed the mid-1990s absorption of Mercedes-Benz into Daimler-Benz.

DCX says they are not planning a reorganization which would lump Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Smart together. However, DCX is planning to merge Mitsubishi and Chrysler in terms of vehicle design and platform sharing. Some news sources have referred to this is Mitsubishi saving Chrysler; we do not understand that perspective, given that Chrysler has been more profitable than Mitsubishi in recent years, this past quarter's losses notwithstanding. (Chrysler is still expected to end the year with a profit.)

December 13 (final)

A. Hughes provided us with a quote from DCX's web site, which denies any forthcoming reorganization. They reported that their current four divisions, Chrysler Group being one, are satisfactory.

An unidentified American has purchased large blocks of DaimlerChrysler stock, raising the price by 2 percent.

General Motors is eliminating 10,000 jobs to cut costs, despite continuing profits. Meanwhile, Oldsmobile dealers are upset with the company for eliminating America's oldest auto marque, though Oldsmobile has not been independent for many, many years. Oldsmobile was started by Ransom Olds in 1897.

December 12

German magazine Capital, quoted by Reuters, Bloomberg, and others, said that DaimlerChrysler's reorganization, to be voted on by the controlling board around February, would divide the automotive parts of the company into:

  • Luxury - Mercedes
  • Compact cars - Smart, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler
  • SUVs - Jeep, Mitsubishi and Mercedes SUVs
  • Commercial trucks - not very profitable, but Schrempp's emphasis.

Other details of the plan include a merging of Chrysler and Mitsubishi design staffs, with full control over all technical development to be in Stuttgart.

Other sources have already reported that while Mercedes dealers in Mexico will sell the Smart car, Chrysler dealers will rebadge more Hyundais under the Dodge label.


Chrysler will start selling more Mitsubishis under its own label in the near future, according to the Financial Times' German edition. The companies will "jointly" develop and sell cars under the new plan.


A Mercedes executive declared that no Mercedes would have any Chrysler parts, and that Mercedes technologies would be used exclusively on Mercedes vehicles "at first" rather than being spread through the company's other marques. The first statement would seem to be contradicted by the next-generation Mercedes SUV, based heavily on the Grand Cherokee. On the other hand, we suspect Mercedes executives will soon be retroactively claiming the Grand Cherokee as a Mercedes, and taking credit for the success of the shared platform. Jeep is also likely to be separated from Chrysler in the new organization, if it proceeds as reported by Capital.

December 8

It's official now - Chrysler is asking suppliers for cost cuts averaging 15 percent. Ordered by new COO Wolfgang Bernhard, the "request" includes a demand for an immediate 5 percent cut in all parts and services. The price reductions are "non-negotiable." The cuts are needed to keep Chrysler profitable even as the former company funds Mercedes' success through consulting fees and other questionable accounting tricks.

December 6

Even though Chrysler is under intense pressure to make enough money to earn a profit despite rakeoffs to Mercedes, the Smart car unit of DCX reportedly is under no pressure to be profitable until at least 2004.

As previously announced, Thomas Sidlik will join the board of Hyundai Motor, according to Detroit News. He will continue to work in the US as head of purchasing and supply.

DCX has announced a reorganization of German dealerships which could result in a loss of a third of the Chrysler dealers in Germany. Mercedes dealers will be able to sell Chryslers from separate facilities. About 100 Chryslers per dealership were sold this year in Germany (22,000 altogether).

December 5

The class action lawsuit against DCX seeks to separate Chrysler from Daimler-Benz again, and to return all Chrysler assets to the revived company (which would presumably become the property of the same shareholders as DaimlerChrysler is now, in the same proportions, unless shareholders were given a choice of which company to hold stock in). This includes the billions of dollars of cash reserves designed to ensure that hard times did not cause massive layoffs and an end to product development.

Many people have now told us that whenever Chrysler people speak with their German counterparts, they must pay all expenses, including stiff consulting fees. As far as we know there is no reciprocal arrangement - if a Mercedes engineer wants to know how Chrysler does something, according to what we have heard, Chrysler pays the tab. That would certainly explain the sudden deficit (combined with retooling costs of moving to Mercedes diesels and payments for the use of Mercedes differentials and transmissions in future cars).

DCX is cutting back minivan production in Windsor by 18 percent. Quality in the Windsor plant has historically been far superior to the American minivan plant.

December 4

Chrysler executive Tom Sidlick has joined the board of Hyundai, as part of DaimlerChrysler's partial takeover of the Korean automaker (which owns Kia).

Though Chrysler has saved $2.4 billion due to its supplier partnership ("SCORE"), it is now resorting to strong-arm tactics to get suppliers to lower their prices. Chrysler is set up as an assembler, so that most of the cost of building a vehicle is related to other companies' costs.

December 1

DaimlerChrysler has cancelled contracts with all 240 German dealers, in order to sell Chryslers through DCX-owned outlets.

A member of DaimlerChrysler's supervisory board has blamed Chrysler managers for the company's current malaise, saying they were not given all the facts. Meanwhile, another round of temporary factory closings is planned, with 12 plants going idle. We at Allpar credit the drop in sales to three major factors: the tactlessness of German executives turning off North American buyers, the loss of the Plymouth brand, and the news media reports of Chrysler's continuing problems.

Chrysler has recalled 1993 and 1994 minivans to fix a problem that can cause loose steering wheels. No accidents due to this problem have been reported, and that owners of all 769,000 affected minivans will be contacted shortly.

German shareholder Ekkehard Wenger is pushing DCX to fire Schrempp and divest itself Chrysler. Wenger argues that the merger was a bad idea and that American managers should have been fired sooner.

November 29 (updated 1:15 pm EST)

Sources within Chrysler's Auburn Hills headquarters have described it as (paraphrased) a war zone. Though Mercedes and Daimler-Benz are overstaffed, cuts are being sought only at Chrysler. The high-performance IT group, which is a fraction of the size of Mercedes' IT department and yet has accomplished much more - indeed, has logged many firsts in the industry - is being hard hit. Dieter Zetsche has expressed a desire to cut Chrysler's staff by thousands of employees, and indeed to shut down at least one factory. Meanwhile, plans are under way to convert Chrysler's plants to the Mercedes methods of production, though Chrysler's quality has recently seen dramatic improvements (particularly and ironically in the defunct Plymouth line).

A class action lawsuit has been filed against DCX by a New York law firm on behalf of all Chrysler Corporation stockholders. The suit is based on the fact that Juergen Schremp and Daimler-Benz, AG fraudulently positioned the acquisition of Chrysler as a merger, thereby gaining control of the company for, essentially, nothing. The Kerkorian lawsuit filed recently asked for $8 billion in damages as well as breakup of the company.

November 28 (actually 11/27, 8 pm)

The new Jeep Liberty is reportedly to have a 3.7 liter V6 based on the 4.7 "Next Generation" V8, as well as a 2.4 liter four cylinder similar to those used on the PT Cruiser, minivans, and cloud cars. The Car Connection reported that the Liberty would not replace the Cherokee, but that the Cherokee would continue with minor changes, and presumably will be redesigned when the Wrangler (on which it is based) is changed.

Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire greenmailer whose attempt to take over Chrysler (with deposted CEO Lee Iaccoca) gave him millions of dollars in profits, has filed a $9 billion lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler. Kerkorian, who owns four percent of the company, leveraged DCX CEO Juergen Schrempp's admission of dishonesty during the takeover by saying that he would not have voted for the deal if he had known it was a takeover rather than a mrger of equals. Kerkorian at that time owned 11 percent of Chrysler, and voted for the "merger." Kerkorian claimed in the lawsuit that Schrempp "fraudlently" led shareholders to vote for the deal. Defendants are DaimlerChrysler, Juergen Schrempp, Manfred Gentz, and Hilmar Kopper. Actual damages are listed as about $2 billion (half of which is lost share value and half of which is the premium he says a straight-out acquisition would have demanded), and $7 in punitive and other damages. Kerkorian claimed he was not seeking a stock buyout.

November 27 (Updated 4 pm EST)

DCX sent the January 2001 issue of Motor Trend out to nearly every journalist in their mailing lists to celebrate making the Car of the Year with the PT Cruiser. Here's an interesting note: though reporters have generally slammed the PT's engine, it gets from 0 to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, which is nearly a half second faster than the vaunted Honda Civic EX, and is nearly the same as the Volvo V70 T5 Cross Country. (About two tenths of second slower than the Mazda Millenia S). Braking is very good, with the Cruiser going from 60 to 0 in 120 feet - lower than most other tested vehicles (the Civic required over fifteen more feet). Handling was decent, with a skidpad and slalom rating identical to the Civic EX. The skidpad was close (within .02 g) to the Audi AllRoad Quattro, Elantra GLS, Kia Rio, Lexus LS 430, and Volvo V70 T5 Cross Country - not bad for a crossover.

Word around town is that, as we suspected, much of Chrysler's financial problem is due to accounting tricks. Mercedes engineers are reportedly charging Chrysler counterparts for consulting time, and the retooling costs to use inferior and overpriced Mercedes diesels is an issue. Changes to dealer contracts in Germany are being opposed by German dealers, according to our sources, because they just about shut Chrysler out of the market. Likewise, switching to Mercedes financing hurts Chrysler sales and profits. It almost appears as though Chrysler was purchased as a financial support for an unhealthy Mercedes.

November 22 - Updated!

Jeep has announced that their new vehicle will be called the Liberty. This may be to avoid confusion between the Grand Cherokee and Cherokee, or between the current and new Cherokees. The new vehicle, formerly referred to as the Varsity, will be capable of taking on the Rubicon Trail. It will be built across the street from the current Cherokee and Wrangler factory.

Peter Johnstone told us that Consumer Report's 2001 Buying Guide rated Chrysler as the highest quality domestic manufacturer, above Ford and GM.

Dieter Zetsche sought to boost American Chrysler employees' morale by bringing in 24 high-priced German executives. On the lighter side, he has indicated to dealers that customer incentives will but cut back, which may help boost Chrysler's credibility among customers.

Dropping Ted Cunningham may not have been a terrible idea, given that Chrysler's sales and marketing have justly been criticized. While Ford and Honda emphasized quality, Chrysler ads often not only did not point out their cars' strengths, but emphasized rebates and incentives which devalued their image.

Meanwhile, Grand Cherokee and minivan sales appear to be down by a full 25 percent, despite a brand-new, much improved minivan. Part of the reason may be the publicity around Chrysler's troubles and the replacement of the last American Chrysler CEO.

A German contact tells us that Mercedes is trying to play Chrysler against Volkswagen in Germany, but Chrysler does not have fuel efficient vehicles to compete. Financing has been changed so it goes through Mercedes channels, and the percentage of cars financed by the manufacturer have dropped to half their prior level. Dealers have reportedly gone to court to fight new dealer contracts, which are damaging their ability to compete. Mercedes seems to be working on eliminating, rather than boosting, Chrysler's European presence. Based on this, we have to consider whether sharing showroom space in some countries is not akin to having the Cricket in America showrooms - something for dealers to put down so they can sell a shiny new Mercedes instead.

November 21

Dieter Zetsche had a chance to show Chrysler that the company was still in business, to increase morale by raising investment and showing that he valued the contributions of longtime Chrysler high performers. Instead, two more executives have been dropped, CAO Kathleen Oswald and Sales and Marketing EVP Ted Cunningham. DCX stock dropped yet again on the news, showing that investors seem to have a better sense of leadership than Daimler executives (at least, now they do - before the takeover, they showed an astonishing lack of intelligence).

Early reports are that Zetsche will try to turn Chrysler around not be increasing investment or trying to avoid warranty work through quality improvement, but through cutting manufacturing and supplier costs - a strategy which does not work for Chrysler.

November 20 - Updated

As news of Chrysler's problems have become public, and following the announcement of the total loss of Chrysler's American leadership (such as it was after Bob Eaton's purges), dealer orders have fallen, resulting in likely factory production cutbacks. According to Detroit News, just about every single vehicle is facing overproduction, with weakened demand. Next week, the Neon plant will close for three days. (GM is also idling four plants for three days each). Orders for the PT Cruiser, though, have exceeded 2001 production by over 70,000 vehicles. No word yet on whether more capacity will be added by Zetsche - Holden had nixed the idea.

Dieter Zetsche is to meet with Chrysler executives at a town hall-style meeting today.

November 17

James Holden is now officially removed. DaimlerChrysler's supervisory board said it would "fundamentally reposition and restructure the business" (Chrysler Group), with details to come in early 2001.

November 16

New Chrysler Group president Dieter Zetsche will appoint a German from Mercedes to be Chrysler's chief operating officer, according to Detroit News. Wolfgang Bernhard will take over the position once held by Bob Lutz. He has an MBA from Columbia University, and a director of Mercedes' high-performance tuning unit, Mercedes AMG. He led the efficient launch of the Mercedes S-Class. Detroit News says that analysts believe that the first order of business will be to engineer a turnaround, rather than a cutback. Reversing the cuts ordered by James Holden would be a very good way to garner immediate support and counteract "German invasion" feelings. Some readers have already contacted Allpar to note that rumored delays of the Dodge Ram redesign, as well as some of the rumored cuts in product, would be simply suicidal. We hope Dieter Zetsche agrees.

November 15

You know something's wrong when Car & Driver reports "Daimler-Benz AG acquired Chrysler Corp. for $35 billion in 1998" as part of an article. Car & Driver today said that Holden had not yet officially been replaced, but that an announcement was due on Friday.

For in depth coverage of the management change, visit Detroit News.

Here's a brief rundown of what they have to say:

  • Dieter Zetsche, the new Chrysler head, is actually a good choice (which surprises us, because we thought Schrempp had no tolerance for competent leaders in his ranks). The Turkish engineer was actually endorsed by former manufacturing head Dennis Pawley, and has been credited with boosting profits in the commercial truck area and spearheading DCX's expansion into Asia (through purchases of Mitsubishi and Hyundai stock). He has already headed the US-based Freightliner unit.
  • Zetsche, at Mercedes, cut costs while increasing the depth of the product line, or so he says.
  • Chrysler workers have asked where the company's $8 billion cash reserve, set aside to allow it to weather hard times without slash-and-burn tactics, have gone.
  • Employee surveys have shown that morale is indeed down.
  • Chrysler Group's market share is continuing to fall. Speculation that the company may be folded within a few years, its assets going to Mitsubishi and Mercedes, cannot be helping.
  • Detroit News did not suggest this - but did nobody think of tapping Bob Lutz?
  • A Deutsche Bank analyst suggested that using Zetsche is actually a move of desparation, since he does not know the volume car business.
  • When Zetsche takes over from Holden, only two representatives of the former Chrysler will be left on the supervisory board, and many believe that Chrysler will not be represented at all once they retire or resign.

November 14 - James Holden gone!

DaimlerChrysler's supervisory board has kicked out James "products are old, so let's cut the product development budget" Holden, replacing him with the German head of Daimler's commercial vehicles unit, Dieter Zetsche. Holden's reign saw morale plummet, while a decade of work on Chrysler's organizational culture and supplier relations were sent to the scrap heap. Unfortunately, Zetsche is unlikely to be well received by Chrysler employees or managers, especially if he starts out with layoffs. Symbolically, this move also sends correct but unwanted signals that Chrysler has no power of its own, but is a mere subdivision of Daimler-Benz.

Zetsche had worked with James Holden on the brand positioning of all DCX marques, and according to Detroit News also worked with Freightliner to resist a union drive.

November 13

DCX is planning to slim Chrysler down. After blaming slow sales on lack of new product, DCX has cut Chrysler Group new product investment from $48 billion to $36 billion. The Neon will be dropped in 2004, according to current plans, or kept on in current form. The full size SUV is definitely gone, but the CS and replacements for the Cherokee and Durango are still on. The midsize and large car teams (Stratus and Intrepid) may be combined. On the lighter side, thanks to an attrition rate about three times normal, Chrysler will not need to spend money on early retirement packages. (On the darker side, in the long run, this employee turnover will definitely hurt).

The article also noted that the next generation of the LH series, which will have rear wheel drive, may be scaled back from five vehicles to two.

In Germany, Chrysler and Jeep vehicles will be sold at some Mercedes dealerships to increase Chrysler's presence. If successful, the strategy may be used in other nations as well, possibly expanded to include Mitsubishi. The action is being taken to cut distriubtion costs.

As for rumors, we do not think DCX is selling Chrysler to Honda, though Honda people have reportedly been seen around Auburn Hills. Nor do we think Chrysler will be spun off. We hope it does not await the fate of Fokker, and think it still has a few years left to turn itself around. We do suspect that James Holden's days as Chrysler CEO are numbered, and do not regret it.

The Michigan Minority Business Development Council voted DaimlerChrysler Corporation of the Year due to Chrysler Group's historic support of minority suppliers.

November 10

Contractor Special

As if to invalidate our past opinions, Chrysler has approved another new vehicle, this one a Ram hybrid. To compete with the upcoming Chevy Silverado hybrid, the Dodge Ram "Contractor Special" will feature a hybrid powertrain similar to that of the upcoming Durango hybrid, but with a choice of gas engines, apparently including the diesel option. The gas engine will drive the rear wheels, helped by the electric motor for the front wheels. The gas engine will also power a generator, providing electricity for either the electric motor or for other uses. The onboard generator, which can be used for creating standard alternating current, is the reason why this truck was dubbed the Contractor Special.

The new hybrid is expected to sell in 2004. The price is about $5,000 more than a standard Ram, but it is more powerful, has lower emissions, is about 15 percent more economical in fuel, and can be used as a standalone, 20 kW generator. (For example, with the 5.2 liter engine, gas mileage is about 2 mpg better than the standard model, and it is .6 second faster from zero to 60 mph). According to Car and Driver, the Contractor Special will be available with a variety of gas and diesel engines, on both the 1500 and 2500, and with both two and four wheel drive.

November 9

While we wait to find out whether ballot formatting problems and the electoral college system have decided who will be President for the next four to eight years, here is some news that slipped by. NASCAR has approvied the Dodge car and engine for racing next year. Ford is coming out with a Focus-based panel van similar to the PT Cruiser Panel Van concept apparently nixed due to Jim Holden's fear of failure. Daewoo, which only recently was the subject of a heated bidding war, has been declared bankrupt. Honda profits dropped twelve percent due to the yen/dollar difference. (We suspect part of this was also unexpectedly high Odyssey repair costs, based on J.D. Power data from May 2000).

November 7 - UPDATED

One result of Chrysler's decision to consolidate its ad agencies is a change of Jeep's long-time agency, True North, responsible for a consistent and effective series of campaigns.

Chrysler's decision to not produce a full-size SUV may have been smarter than it looked to many observers, as Ford and GM continue to battle for this segment - and Toyota/Lexus and others muscle in as well.

November 3

Chrysler held a press conference to announce heavily discounted AOL access for their (and GM's) employees yesterday. In addition, Chrysler recently had its ad agencies create a new, consolidated organization called PentaMark Worldwide.

November 2

Chrysler Group sales dropped precipitously this month. While the industry as a whole dropped in US sales by .9 percent in October, Chrysler was down 7.4 percent. Ford also dropped 5.5 percent, though for the year Ford is ahead 3 percent over last year (to date). Big gainers so far this year are Nissan (up 13 percent), Toyota (up about 10 percent), and Honda (up about 8%). GM's 7 point rise in October is due mainly to incentives - its year to date sales are about even with last year. Analysts say the overall October numbers are not surprising, given the upcoming election.

Dodge Caravan sales fell about three percent in October. While Chrysler sales rose about 40 percent, keep in mind that if Chrysler's plans had been valid, they would have more than doubled as customers moved from Plymouths to equivalent Chryslers.

November 1

Ford said that Explorer sales have dived 16 percent since publicity about tire problems and rollovers.

General Motors will be coming out with several new entry-level cars, including a new Saturn and a new Cavalier based on the Opel Astra. A new small pickup is also due soon.  

October 31

Chrysler has recalled 1996-1999 and early 2000 minivans to fix a rare problem with the fuel rail. Parts are not yet available, but since this problem has affected only 43 vehicles (.0003% of those sold, or about one in every 32,558), this probably will not be a problem. The condition only affects vehicles driven under especially severe conditions which cause very high heat under the hood. As far as we can tell, there have been no deaths or injuries from this condition.

Juergen Schrempp, DaimlerChrysler CEO, said yesterday that he had always intended Chrysler to be a division of Daimler-Benz AG, and that now he has what he always wanted. He freely admitted to lying about his intentions and about the "merger of equals" concept. A Detroit News article noted the tactlessness of spending $5 million on a New York office at the same time Chrysler is laying off needed staff. ($5 million would keep a lot of jobs intact - jobs which are very dear to their current occupants).

News analysis.As Detroit News noted, it takes a lot of tactlessness to make an announcement like that. However, a look at Schrempp's career shows a man who cares nothing about other people's livelihoods, or about the businesses he takes over - such as the now-defunct Fokker, Detroit Diesel, Freightliner, and Chrysler. Schrempp's strategy is to be the master of the commercial trucking business, to keep Mercedes alive and healthy (in this case, through an injection of Chrysler technology, factories, and profits, and business - that is, the use of Mercedes parts), and to maintain a far-flung Daimler-Benz empire.

The question now for DaimlerChrysler stockholders, and especially for the board - for stockholders matter little unless they are on the board or heavy investors - is whether they need an egomaniacal cowboy at the helm, or someone who can really run a major corporation. Likewise, they need to decide whether Chrysler should be run by a bootlicker or by someone with real leadership skills and the courage to invest, not divest, when the chips are down.

Chrysler cost Daimler little, other than a name change. The company was a cash cow until this quarter, and will be again, if they invest in their people and their products now. But we think it sadly more likely that James Holden and Juergen Schrempp will easily sacrifice the livelihoods of Chrysler workers and the enthusiasm of Chrsyler buyers, not to mention the engineering prowess of Chrysler designers, on the bonfire of Schrempp's ego and the foolishness of Holden's knee-jerk, cost-cutter reactions.

October 30

Chrysler has chosen to cut costs by closing down (temporarily) a number of plants for "inventory adjustments." Curtis Redgap added:

As the ALLPAR group predicted some time ago, the eggs laid by Mr. Eaton have finally grown up to be chickens, and have come home to roost. Tonight on NBC news, the short announcement was made that the Newark DaimlerChrysler Plant was being closed, and lay offs would occur in over six other DaimlerChrysler production facillities. "Erratic sales over several months," was cited as the reasons.

Probably having spent an inordinate amount of time at my favorite Chrysler store has given me some insights that you aren't going to hear from the goofy leader CEO in Auburn Hills.

Anyone seen the new Sebring Coupe? I am telling you, style wise, it is a real attention getter. The front end almost looks like the new 2002 T-Bird. The rear, well,sorta like the 300. However, on the showroom floor, people want to believe it is......... (GASP) a PLYMOUTH! And they are stunned to learn that Chrysler is no longer building Plymouth. When they see it is a Chrysler, they just look confused.

A sort of different occurance happens when folks look at the new 2001 vans. A lot of them are return buyers. "Where's the new Plymouth Voyagers?" When they are told that Plymouth no longer exists, they act stunned. When shown the "Chrysler" Voyager, the reaction is nearly universal. "Oh, well, we really can't afford a Chrysler."

And the company says that sales have been "erratic?" Well, no kidding. The single best selling make that Chrysler ever had, and with dimwitted logic, they decide to cut that vehicle brand. Now they are facing the reality that without an entry into the "low priced field", they cannot compete. And with the stock being down some (ready for this?) 40%....... yes, I did say FORTY PER CENT, I would like to believe that all the good stock holders in America anyway, are getting a long awaited wake up call.

Unless someone acts, and does so VERY quickly now, DaimlerChrysler as a manufacturing entity in the USA has a very substantial risk of going away. There would be no recovery. Don't think it can't happen. In the car business when a company is percieved as being weak it is like a call to the sharks, and they begin circling chasing the blood trail.

DaimlerChrysler as an entity does not just manufacture automobiles in the USA. They have substantial holdings in trucks, diesel engines (just bought out the PENSKE part of Detroit Diesel) car parts, busses, and various other automotive ventures throughout the world. Losing Chrysler would be a loss, but potentially one that Daimler could absorb and recover from fairly quickly.

Plymouth needs to be revitalized and put on the forefront of Chrysler. In the traditional way, Plymouth was always the draw to get people in to the showrooms. Only now, Plymouth would need to be a stand alone place, as promised so many years ago. It is the only way Chrysler will stand a chance of survival in the business. Dodge cannot provide the "low priced, high value" image that exuded from Plymouth.

It is a shame that Chrysler has come to this. It could have been knocking on Chevrolet's door right now had the correct course been chosen. I don't why everyone seems to think that General Motors is not reachable. Ford is showing the world how to get it done. Chrysler needs to ge back in the hunt, and Plymouth needs to be showing the way.

...

Another angle that I was stunned to learn in the dealer's showroom is the implication that DaimlerChrysler is deliberately holding back on PT production! Now how smart is that? The single hottest selling vehicle on the North American Contienent and dealers can't get them. How long does Holden think the sweet desire to buy one will last? If people become frustrated they will go down the street to the local [xxx] dealer and get something else.

Now the Newark plant is being shut down. How much intelligence does it take to figure out that maybe.......... just maybe (as the ALLPAR group has instantly grasped) Newark should be converted to PT production!

It is one thing to order a car and wait. As long as you can give the customer a firm date on delivery, they will, in, 99.99%, of the time, wait for their car. If you have to tell them you don't know, and keep putting them off cited vague production reasons, then they become suspicious, like something is up. And up usually means something is "wrong." Sure, you can always sell a "customer reject" to someone else, however, each bad deal makes about 200 other people aware of the situation. The theory is that we all come into contact with approximately 200 people (on average) in out daily lives. If we mention our bad experience to them, they too have influence with 200 people and so on it goes. Shades of the AirFlow and the Edsel and the Vega. Bad news goes quickly.

Speaking of bad news, Chrysler announced today, Sunday October 29, 2000, that is recalling One Million, four hundred thousand, (1,400,000) minivans due to a fuel system situation that may cause a fire. However, the real gripe is that a fix won't be available until March 2001! Believe it or not.

It may not be time to get out the fork yet, as Chrysler may not be done. However, it has a huge image problem on its corporate hands and the situation does not look like it is sinking into anyone's head that has the intestinal fortitude to turn Daimler away and get Plymouth back on it's feet to save the corporate bacon. Thank you, Mr. Eaton, wherever you are.

October 27

Today, James Holden did not say: "We're losing money because of an aging product line. Let's get tough on the suppliers who have saved us over $2 billion, cut back on new products, and since we need to be leaner, let's lay off a bunch of people and force each department to justify its existence so they can concentrate on their work."

October 25

Michael Wortman passed along excerts from Car and Driver. The Jeep five-speed automatic has been modified again (renamed 545RFE) and now provides a second overdrive gear, which very slightly improves fuel economy (not enough to change EPA ratings). In addition, the 4.7 Power Tech V-8 will get a hydraulic fan, which is quieter and improves air conditioning power at idle - not much impact on economy, again. We don't know if that change applies to all the 4.7 "Next Generation" engines or just Jeeps.

October 24

A hybrid-electric Dodge Durango will go into production for the 2003 model year, according to Chrysler. The hybrid will get about 18.6 mpg, twenty percent better than the gasoline-only model. The Durango has a 3.9 liter V6 to power the rear wheels, and uses an electric motor to power the front wheels. The electric motor is recharged by the V6, as far as we can tell. The total package is only a little heavier than the standard Durango V-8, and is a little faster as well. The hybrid Durango will sell for about $3,000 more than the standard model. - Ford will make an Escape hybrid for 2003, and GM will follow with a Silverado hybrid in 2004.

DaimlerChrysler has purchased Global Electric Motorcars, which makes short-distance electric minicars. These little vehicles, which can go at slow-city speeds (about 25-30 mph), are legal in about half the states in the US, and quality for nonpolluting vehicle credits. G.E.M. makes about 5,000 per year.

The rumors are flying. Here's our current list.

  • RWD Neon - seems to be an internal project. Many of these are not produced.
  • Mitsubishi world car - probably will replace Neon as Chrysler low-cost option. May not mean the end of the Neon. (Think Colt-Shadow). But there's no way to tell now.
  • 300C cancellation - well, it was never certain. Low cost to produce - may still be on.
  • Grand Cherokee redesign cancellation - may be postponed one year.
  • Budget cuts - definite and foolish but not necessarily a death knell.
  • End of full size SUV - hard to say. We'd guess this is likely because Chrysler has always been dubious about these, though now they will have a better platform for it (next-generation Ram), better engines, and an empty plant (that will have used to make Ram vans).
  • End of Charger R/T - possible but unlikely since the 300N is a go. Why else make all those rear wheel drive Mercedes automatics?

Cost cutting moves we'd like to see: buying transmissions from someone else, such as Mitsubishi; using the MMC continuously variable transmission on the Neon if possible; cutting James Holden's salary in half; making executives fly coach; not renting space in the Chrysler building for travelling Mercedes executives.

As regards rumors - we would like to point out that rumors are just that. Any rumors reported by any publication about Chrysler are most likely false. Chrysler is notorious for disseminating false information to mislead competitors - we'll note that every source, including ourselves, had the redesigned Neon being four inches shorter, not longer!

October 20

DCX has fully integrated Detroit Diesel into the organization. Detroit Diesel stock is no longer traded.

The Ford recall ordered by a California judge (we learn from a South African site!) covers ignition modules in 1980s and 1990s Taurus, Mustang, Thunderbird, Escort and Bronco models - possibly others as well.

Standard and Poor's may cut DaimlerChrysler's credit rating, due to losses in the US and the purchase of over one third of scandal-ridden Mitsubishi (which owes almost $14 billion). Meanwhile, BMW is trying to sell two factories in the UK. Normally we'd suggest DCX purchase these, but the timing does not seem right. MG Rover Group, which essentially is Rover minus the Mini and these plants, is interested in purchasing the plant, since it uses most of the plant's output.

Ford, still being hit with discoveries that it seems to have ignored tire failures in other nations as well as the US, has also recalled its high-selling Focus.

October 19

We have heard that there is a nationwide shortage of replacement catalytic converters for the 1995-97 Ram Van.

October 16

Only two days after a California judge ordered a recall (the first ever ordered by a state judge) of Ford vehicles with allegedly defective ignition systems, a group of lawyers has hit the company with a related class-action lawsuit. Class action suits are pending in five other states, as well. The California judge said that Ford clearly covered up the defect, while Ford claims that the vehicles are safe. (See past news for details).

October 13

A California state judge has ordered Ford to recall 1.7 million vehicles which could be prone to stalling. This unprecedented move by a state judge was based on the judge's opinion that Ford had known about the defect for nearly 20 years, but had done nothing to resolve it. This ruling only affects vehicles sold in California. According to internal studies, fixing the defect would have cost only $4 per vehicle.

Former Chrysler leader Thomas Stallkamp has joined MascoTech's board of directors as the supplier prepares to go private.

Sleeping giant General Motors has been busy lately. Even as they are readying a brand new straight-six engine, with the power of a small V8, for use in their new mid-sized Trailblazer SUV, and arranging to import Honda V-6 engines, they are adapting part of their Ontario plant for a brand new V-6 engine of their own design. This engine will be used in minivans and passenger cars. However, GM sees a rough fourth quarter ahead, following losses in Europe and lower than expected North American truck sales. The Blazer's sales in particular seem to be suffering as customers either wait for the next generation, due soon, or go to competitors. GM's truck share has dropped by more than two percentage points, a large decline.

October 12

Congress has approved rules which would grant more power to NHTSA in enforcing safety recalls, along with stiffer penalties for manufacturers.

A judge in California will soon decide whether to force Ford to recall millions of its vehicles to repair alleged ignition defects.

October 11

The History Channel did a special on the Top Ten Muscle Cars. Curtis Redgap tells us that they looked at the 1960s and 1970s, and actually chose three Mopars in the Top Ten.

Number Four was the 1971 Road Runner, with the 426 Hemi. It had the second fastest ET and terminal velocity in the quarter mile (14.1 seconds at 104 mph, bone stock). All the Road Runn er models were mentioned, including the Super Bird.

Number Five was the 1970 Cuda with the 426 Hemi. It had the fastest stock ET and terminal velocity of all ten (13.85 seconds at 107 mph, bone stock).

Number eight was the 1969 Dodge Charger, star of Bullit and the Dukes of Hazzard. ("CW" actually told us that Bullit used a 1968 Charger).

October 10

The Washington Post published a report which suggests that the Ford Explorer has a higher rate of tire-related accidents, regardless of whether the Explorer is clad with Firestones or Goodyears. Ford denied the veracity of the report. At issue is whether vehicle mileage should be considered - if vehicle mileage is ignored, the Explorer had double the rate of tire failure-related accidents as competitor vehicles in the Florida database. If vehicle mileage is compensated for, this is no longer the case. Based on reports so far, we suspect that the Explorer is more susceptible to tire failure, but also that the Firestones are more likely to fail.

Congress has approved funding for NHTSA to obtain a rollover index, provided the agency finds a better formula.

October 6

Chrysler Canada has instituted a five year, 100,000 kilometer warranty on all 2001 models. It is retroactive to 2001 models sold before the announcement. This warranty is transferrable, hopefully increasing resale values.

Chrysler has formed a hybrid-electric platform team, indicating that a new hybrid car should be produced by the Chrysler Group within the next four years.

Confirmation of our prior report - DCX has announced that Chrysler will indeed be building Mercedes five-speed automatics for use in Chrysler cars. The Mercedes W5A580 will be produced in Indiana starting in [model year] 2004.

The Mercedes automatic will require a $455 million extension to the Kokomo plant. The twin transmission plants in Kokomo have been producing 400,000 transmissions per year, a number that should double soon as a result of a prior expansion. The Mercedes transmission will be probably be used in the Grand Cherokee and Durango as well as the new rear wheel drive LH replacements.

Mercedes also sells transmissions to Jaguar and Porsche.

October 5

Marc Spurgeon wrote that the Intrepid R/T is currently delayed as the factory repairs a quality issue.

October 3

Car Connection's spy shot of the 2003 Ram suggests that it will look very similar to the current model, but with four full doors and a large chrome cross-hair over the grille. They suggested that the Ram might appear earlier than the previously forecast summer-2002 estimate, and might even come out as a 2002 model. The best information on the Web suggests that the Cummins engine will be replaced by a Freightliner diesel, the 360 by a 5.7 Hemi, the 318 by a 4.7 Next-Generation V8 (it is also possibly, maybe even likely, that the Hemi will be standard, since it will reportedly cost as much as, or less than, the 4.7 to build).

October 2

Chrysler will produce the Mercedes WA580 transmission for use in future vehicles, including the Grand Cherokee, bringing a five-speed automatic to the high-end Chrysler lineup. This will alleviate potential problems regarding Mercedes' ability to produce enough transmissions for the upcoming 300N/Charger, which are said to be slated to use the WA580. The Mack Avenue plant is also being upgraded ($100 million worth) to produce more 4.7 liter V8 engines.

September 29

The all-new Chevrolet Trailblazer (according to Chevrolet not replacing the Chevy Blazer) will feature a 4.2 liter in-line six-cylinder engine, completely new, with 270 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. The Trailblazer is larger than the Blazer, competing with the Durango. Gas mileage is relatively high, according to GM press materials. We expect Durango sales to take a big hit when the Trailblazer appears - fortunately the new Ram should be coming out at around the same time.

September 27

Jorge Espinosa told us that Chrysler de Mexico will produce a Stratus and Sebring with a 2.4 liter turbo DOHC engine, producing 215 hp (rather than the usual 200 hp). This engine will be made at Saltillo, and is needed because of the height of Mexico City and the resulting thin air. It will be presented to the public in one or two weeks.

Tom Gale, the man responsible for the looks of cars like the Viper and Intrepid, is announcing his retirement. He has been with Chrysler for 33 years, and is one of four Chrysler representatives on the DaimlerChrysler board. He seems to have been one of the last supporters of Plymouth, and helped to form the Viper, Prowler, PT Cruiser, 300M, and Dodge Ram pickups. One of his contributions to Chrysler was the idea that it is okay for some people to hate a design, as long as others love it. At 57, he has stayed on with Chrysler longer than he planned, and has said he has no intentions of taking a position Thomaswith another automaker.

Gale's current positions, as executive vice-president in charge of product development and design for Chrysler Group vehicles and general manager of Chrysler Group cars, will be split between an engineering exec, Rich Schaum, and design chief (recently hired from VW/Audi) Freeman Thomas. (Facts from the Detroit News article by Bill Vlasic).

September 24

According to another Chrysler insider, the decision to make the Panel Truck and GT Cruiser has been held off, as has the decision to set up another PT Cruiser line. Engineers are busy preparing Graz for production, and top management wants to make sure that the Cruizer does not, like the Volkswagen New Beetle, sell like hotcakes for a while and then quickly lose steam. This insider also said he suspected the turbo version would not enter production until sales start to slack off - which would fit Chrysler's standard way of operating.

We also learned that there will be a new coupe concept car introduced by the end of the year.

We will have reports of our own experience testing the 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan, Stratus R/T, and Neon R/T within one week.

September 20

Chrysler is investing over $200 million in a new research and development facility in Canada. It will feature, among other things, additional safety testing.

According to "Neil," Chrysler has decided to build the GT Cruiser (turobcharged PT Cruiser) and PT Panel Truck at the old Jeep plant. The goal is to start production in Fall 2002, building model-year 2003 cars. Anticipated production is 50,000 GT Cruisers and 30,000 Panels per year. The Panel should have dual rear doors. A Dodge Hauler, basically an extended-wheelbase Cruiser, is being considered for 2005-06.

Neil also said that the CS would be sold in the $30-40,000 range, with a 3.7 liter V6 engine at most. It appears to be an Outback/X5/etc-style vehicle. It would go on sale as a 2003 model with a more-expensive, V8 powered Mercedes sibling.

The Michigan State Police conducted their annual squad car tests using Chrysler's track in Chelsea and the Grattan Raceway. We will provide the results of the tests when they are made available. We do not know which cars Chrysler submitted.

September 18

Ford has decided not to purchase Daewoo, leaving General Motors as the lead buyer. Daimler-Benz had also wanted to buy Daewoo, a company started in part by General Motors.

September 12

Chrysler Group, which has had profits of atleast $1 billion per quarter, is expected to lose $500 million this quarter due to the costs associated with launching the 2001 minivans and cloud cars, while heavily discounting the 2000 model year minivans and opening a new plant in Toledo. Stuttgart's reaction has been swift and firm, with James D. Donlon moved from corporate controller to Chrysler Group controller, reviewing the $1.4 billion North American advertising and marketing budget, and ordering $2 billion in cuts to take place over the second half of fiscal 2000. Detroit News has blamed much of the problem on the dissolution of Chrysler's leadership team after the merger.

"Neil" has been posting about the new KJ model designed to replace the current Jeep Cherokee. The KJ styling looks like an Audi with Jeep cues, and it has an independent suspension, which Neil says works fine off-road. The current 4.0 straight six appears to be marked for elimination. While it provides immense torque, the old AMC engine is fairly uneconomical and probably more expensive to build than a new engine would be. (Especially since we understand Chrysler has been working on a brand new truck six). - see our news forum for details.

September 11

Firestone parent Bridgestone has essentially blamed Ford for tire separation issues on the Ford Explorer, noting that this problem has not affected other vehicles to the same degree.

Chrysler is running an ad blitz for the redesigned minivans and Sebring/Stratus (thanks, Neil Gordon), despite earlier reports from industry observers that Chrysler was not going to advertise their new "cloud cars."

September 6

Ford and Firestone are hurling blame at each other, but one thing has become clear in the recent inquiries - both companies have known about potential problem for some time, which is one reason why Ford recalled Firestone-clad Explorers in Venezuala before telling Americans the vehicles were perfectly safe.

Inside Automotive suggested that a Daimler-Benz employee may take over as COO of Mitsubishi Motors, as Daimler continues to acquire portions of Hyundai and Mitsubishi. Since Mitsubishi is a partner with Volvo Truck, the owners of Volvo Truck may just be wondering why they sold the car business to Ford and kept the trucks. (Daimler, which originally was to own 34 percent of Mitsubishi Motors, will now own 40 percent, with four seats on the board of directors).

Motor Trend has reviewed the 2001 minivans, and Car and Driver has reviewed the 2001 Neon R/T.

August 31

Advocacy group Friends of the Earth calculated that the US Government lost $10.2 billion in gas guzzler taxes in 1999 alone because light trucks are not subject to the tax. Automakers and customers are increasingly turning from luxury cars to luxury trucks, partly to avoid gas mileage restrictions and the gas guzzler tax. The law which requires substantially higher gas mileage from cars was written long before SUVs were popularly used as commuter cars, and had a double standard because it was thought that only businesses used light trucks. (Though the rationale that businesses should get a break when individuals do not is beyond this forum).

August 29

Inside Automotive noted that Chrysler is not promoting the much-improved Dodge Stratus Coupe / Chrysler Sebring Coupe in an effort to save money. Indeed, we would guess that cost savings are also the reason for the killing off of the name "Dodge Avenger" just as the former-Avenger gained enough of an engine to deserve the name. This appears to be part of the $2 billion in cutbacks at Chrysler designed to make Mercedes look better.

Mercedes is sinking $500 million into expanding their US factory, which makes their SUV. The next generation Mercedes "M class" SUV will reportedly have unit-body construction for a more car-like ride and handling, and will share many components with the next-generation Jeep Cherokee (due soon).

August 28

The Packard name is up for sale on e-Bay.

The new Voyager/Caravan are in production. Chrysler has announced that its new flexible manufacturing system has already saved $500 million, while drastically reducing model changeover time. The Windsor plant, which has been Chrysler's quality leader in minivans, is already at full capacity. Quality benchmarks were also met well ahead of schedule.

Coming September 1: reports on all 2001 models!

August 26

General Motors has taken notice of the Prowler, and will soon come out with a retro roadster of its own. The Chevrolet SSR is a rear wheel drive V-8 powered car with a pickup bed, based on the next-generation S-10/Sonoma. It will be sold in 2002.

August 25

Chrysler CFO Tom Capo, known for his scruples, has left the company because he does not like the current direction. He was replaced by a German officer. (Thanks, Torshon Ford)

DC also just announced its Five Star Market Center, a place for dealers to pool their resources and save on services such as telecommunications, fuel, and office supplies.

Chrysler is considering building PT Cruisers in Toledo, but they are concerned about whether there is enough demand to support it, according to recent reports. If they don't know, there are problems in Auburn Hills.

August 23

Carl Icahn has made a bid to buy 15 percent of General Motors stock - but not the entire company, as Kirk Kerkorian attempted with Chrysler (a bid that eventually sent insecure CEO to sell the company to Daimler-Benz for the price of, um, well, nothing, since it was supposedly a merger). This will, according to analysts, most likely spark a cost-cutting binge, whose effects are fairly predictable given GM history: an even greater loss of market share and profitability.

August 22

Lynn Townsend, who was president and CEO of Chrysler from 1961 to 1975, died last week. (August 17). The company nearly entered bankruptcy during his tenure (which does not make him unusual).

August 18

According to Inside Automotive, Daimler's 34 percent share of Mitsubishi is enough to veto the board of director's decisions.

Chrysler will debut its two-tone (black and silver) "Woodward Edition" Prowler this Saturday at the "Chrysler PT Dream Cruise." This is the start of an annual PT Cruiser owner event, and is expected to draw at least 300 PT owners and enthusiasts on August 18. It is part of the Woodward Dream Cruise, an annual auto event that draws over a million visitors.

Cadillac and Ford will both be bringing out new high-end two-seater roadsters - the Evoq and Thunderbird. The Thunderbird will be based on the Lincoln LS, and the Cadillac Evoq roadster on the Corvette.

With regard to the political note that was here - oops!

August 10

Curtis Redgap read in the Orlando Sentinal that Ray Everenham's team is coming along well, but Dodge may not call the NASCAR models "Intrepid R/T." The silhouette of the racing Intrepids looks like the racing Taurus ("Really/Taurus") because the actual Intrepid's line would make it impossible for Chrysler to change the engine. No NASCAR racers are actually stock production cars at this time.

Inside Automotive asks several pertinent questions about the Firestone tire recall, including: "Being as 80% of the Firestone complaints are coming from people driving Ford Explorers, what is the comparative failure rate of other tire makes on Explorers against the Firestone failure rates?"

August 9

Firestone is recalling the tires which Ford just a few days ago claimed to be perfectly safe. They have reportedly caused many accidents and some deaths. Though mainly used on Ford SUVs, they were also used on the Jeep Grand Cherokee and one GM truck.

Chrysler is idling the Neon plant for a few days due to slow sales. Opinion: now is the time for some sheet metal changes and that 150 hp engine supposedly ready for production.

August 8

Ford will be creating a new Wrangler-type vehicle based on the Ranger for sale in 2002.

Sears has stopped selling the Firestone tires linked with an increasing number of accidents (see prior article), which Ford, a major Firestone customer, claims to be safe.

August 6

If you live in Northern or Central New Jersey, you can sell your classic Mopar or at least have it reviewed at Allpar. Our Webmaster is seeking a new (used) Mopar, at a very reasonable price point. We will consider V-8 or turbo four powered vehicles, maybe a V6 if it's something really cool. If we don't buy it,at least we'll review it for you.

August 4

GM, angered by the implication of Ford's recent announcement that Ford is the environmental leader, held a press conference to say that its fleet was currently more fuel efficient than Ford's, and that they would continue to beat Ford's efficiency. This is a race we can all win :) GM will introduce a hybrid electric SUV in 2004 as part of their efforts. Ed Wallace reminded us that GM was the first American company with a catalytic converter [though Ed seems to have forgotten that Chrysler was the first to control engines via computer - he gives that honor to GM as well]. The current average fuel economy is about 18 mpg according to Ed Wallace, 20.9 according to the EPA. Not very good, especially when you consider that the heavier duty trucks are not included - yes, the EPA thinks that when a truck gets over a certain capacity, it shouldn't be counted! Nothing like providing an incentive for lower economy...

August 3

We now have a page on upcoming new and redesigned Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles.

August 2

Chrysler and GM sales have fallen while Ford and the market have stayed steady. Chrysler sales dropped over 12 percent, while Honda picked up a large share of Chrysler's minivan losses with its Odyssey.

Ralph Nader wrote an article pointing out that Chrysler, with over $9 billion in cash reserves and high profits, demanded that the city of Toledo subsidize the project with local tax dollars and a total property tax exemption. In its desire to please Chrysler, the city (according to Mr. Nader) violated laws and failed to provide citizens with prior notice of meetings. The city will be clearing (read: buying and demolishing) property, including 83 homes, and paying for site preparation. The city is also accepting Chrysler's no-doubt sizable environmental liability risks. In return, the city has no commitment from Chrysler on how long the plant will operate, or, as far as we know, how many people it will be employ. The city is using eminent domain as a threat - some may remember how well eminent domain worked in Hamtrammack, when Dodge Main and a thriving neighborhood were cleared for a GM plant which, incidentally, never delivered the promised number of jobs. Some of the space being cleared is to be used for landscaping, according to Mr. Nader, and is not really needed by Chrysler. [We apologize for not having the URL of this article.]

Rumor. Neil wrote that Chrysler Product Development VP Tom Gale is trying to get Plymouth reinstated, at first as a trim level on the upcoming Dodge Charger, with limited paint schemes linked back to the old hi-po Plymouths of the 1960s and 70s. The Plymouth option would only be for the United States, and a decision would be finalized in Fall 2002. He also mentioned that the Chrysler Chronos was on for 2004.

More rumor. Automotive News wrote that the Neon may be be cancelled in 2004.

August 1

Safety groups have asked Ford to recall Ford Explorers made since 1991, because a number of tires have had their tread separate from the belt. (This affects Firestone tires). NHTSA received over 90 reports of tire separation, involving 30 accidents and four deaths. Ford, while saying they are extremely satisfied with their safety record [they are, after all, positioning themselves as the environment-and-safety company while making ever-larger, more-inefficient vehicles], did offer free tire replacvements to customers in Venezuala after a media outcry. Tires affected are the Firestone ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness.

July 31

TFord wrote that DCX has acquired all of Detroit Diesel and Western Star trucks. Detroit Diesel made advanced small diesel engines for Chrysler products outside North America (and for a variety of commercial vehicles). This furthers DCX's strategy of becoming a major player in the commercial truck industry.

July 28

The nose and tail-lights on the 300M have been modified for 2001. The new models are in production at Bramalea.

Our news board collected a rumor about a 2.4 turbo engine starting production in October for the Sebring - we suspect that would be for sale within Mexico, since the US model's engine choices are set.

July 27

Chrysler's market share is continuing to fall, according to industry analysts, partly due to increased minivan competition. However, within one year, nearly a third of Chrysler's products will have been newly redesigned. The Honda Odyssey is still a major threat, despite a future Voyager-based SUV.

Most articles about DCX earnings have pointed the finger at Chrysler Group. We would argue that Chrysler Group still provides over half of DCX's earnings, though they are only a small portion of the DaimlerChrysler conglomerate. We think it's Mercedes that weakens earnings, since Chrysler is pulling more than its own weight.

The 2001 Chrysler minivans are now in production.

Accusing Chrysler Group of hurting its earnings and stock price, DCX management reportedly asked for $2 billion in cuts at Chrysler, and $750 million in cuts throughout the rest of DaimlerChrysler. Chrysler currently is responsible for over half of DCX's profits. However, given the lack of investment in Chrysler facilities and engineering, and the move to using Mitsubishi for low-end cars, we do not expect this situation to continue. InsideAutomotive has already told the world to start preparing Chrysler Group's funeral, despite the stunning success of the PT Cruiser. (We suspect that, if Bob Lutz were still around, Chrysler would have already laid on another assembly line for it).

GM is pushing the Chevrolet Impala as a police car. The large front wheel drive sedan, which features a fast engine and performance transmission, was designed for police work, according to GM reps. It would compete with the $23,000 Ford V8 Crown Victoria, which has been criticized for its handling and braking. The Impala retails for about $22,000. Fleet prices are usually less, and police options must be considered, for a direct price comparison. One advantage of the Impala is an extra five miles per gallon, due most likely to its 500 lb lighter weight and V-6 engine. The top speed is 16 mph less than the Crown Victoria, but that is probably not a major issue for most departments - rear wheel drive is.

DCX is hoping to see some movement of its Grand Cherokee's squad package, and is considering a police Intrepid for 2001.

July 26

Government crash tests of the PT Cruiser showed a good side impact score for both driver (4 stars) and passenger (5 stars), but a moerate showing for frontal crashes for the driver (2 stars) though the passenger came out well (4 stars). Chrysler is expected to make minor changes to improve the two star score.

July 24

Update: the next-generation LH ("LX") will most likely have Mercedes' five-speed automatic transmission, which (a) is designed for rear wheel drive, (b) has lower parasitic losses than Chryler's automatics, and (c) has five speeds!

Chrysler's head of manufacturing said that, in the first month of production, the PT Cruiser has the lowest warranty rate than any new vehicle in Chrysler history (indicating high initial quality). The company is reportedly considering adding PT production to the Belvedere Neon plant - the main obstacle is the size of the paint plant, which cannot handle the Cruiser's height. Some at Chrysler may also be concerned about whether PT sales are sustainable. Austrian production does not begin until 2001.

An engineer at one plant reports that there is talk about the 2004 LX series (which replaces the LH). They will be rear wheel drive, partly for the prestige, but also to save money. Parts are likely to be shared wtih Mercedes C and E class models, including suspension parts, differentials, and transmissions (!). The 353 Hemi V8 is still planned (5.8 liters, but widely reported as 5.7 liters). A right hand drive version is not especially likely though it is being considered.

July 13-23

We will be unable to update this section until July 24. We apologize for the inconvenience.

July 12

Hyundai is envisaging a Chrysler-branded, Hyundai-designed, Mercedes-engined car in Mexico, where Hyundai does not yet sell under their own name. We're not enthusiastic about having Hyundais sold as Chryslers, though we must admit that the only major problem with Hyundais, in terms of the driver experience, is the engine... [2013 update: the Hyundai i10 is one of Dodge’s best sellers in Mexico.]

July 11

Rich Hutchinson read that major changes are in store for the LH series. Many have already seen rumors that they will gain V8 engines and rear wheel drive, to compete better with offerings from BMW, Lexus, etc. Transmissions, differentials, axles, and other parts may be borrowed from Mercedes bins. The LHS may be eliminated, or turned into a trim option on the Concorde, while the Charger appears to still be on course. Rear wheel drive is often seen as more appropriate for upper-level cars, but not as good on snow. Hopefully, Chrysler will be able to borrow Mercedes active suspension technologies as well as transmissions.

European PT Cruisers will, as expected, use Mercedes diesels.

Thanks to Neil for posting these news stories.

DC is planning to cut administrative costs in Stuttgart, but will have a larger hatchet for Auburn Hills, where they plan to save $2 billion. Opinion: forget about shorter wait times on the 800 number.

Viper-racing Team ORECA won the fourth round of the American LeMans series in Germany. The next race is in California on July 23.

While laying off employees, DCX is reportedly planning on layout out big bucks to rent space at the Chrysler Building.

The Bramalea plant, which is currently changing models, experienced an explosion and fire in the paint shop on Sunday. Six people were injured in the Ontario plant.

July 9

Hot Rod reported in their July 2000 issue that the LA series of V-8 engines has finally reached its end. As planned, the 4.7 "Next Generation" series of V8s will replace the 318 and 360 within two years.

Two new 4.7 variants, one producing about 260 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque according to present reports, will be used to replace the 360. The higher powered (260 hp) one will go into R/T models.

Both a Next Generation engine and a new 5.7 Hemi are expected to be used in the next generation of LH cars, which will be more upscale than the present models. The 2003 or 2004 Intrepid, 300N, and Charger will reportedly have rear wheel drive and a choice of V8 engines.

July 7

ptcruizer.com has started their seven day PT Cruiser test.

We've heard that the rumor of PT Cruisers being built at St. Louis is probably wishful thinking.

July 6

Janusz Mielnik wrote "Car and Driver just had their 40K mile test completed and the car finished flawlessly! No problems, great performance. C&D rates the 300M their top choice domestic performance sedan. Especially considering the modest price tag."

DC's allocation scheme for PT Cruisers has reportedly been altered, so that dealers with the largest number of deposits will get the largest number of Cruisers.

The PT Cruiser is a hit in Europe, according to Detroit News. Starting at $17,000 in Germany, it is reasonably priced. Only 50,000 Cruisers will reportedly be produced each year in Europe. However, the 2.2 liter Mercedes diesel is not expected to be used until 2002.

DC needs production capacity for PT Cruisers and the next-generation Rams. English PM Tony Blair desparately needs someone to take over Ford's Dagenham, UK plant. Hint, hint.

Chrysler Group sales fell 9.8 percent, largely due to loss of minivan sales to Honda and Toyota. GM sales fell 5.8 percent and Ford sales fell 3.1 percent in the same period (June year-to-year). Car sales at Chrysler also fell, we suspect due to the loss of Plymouth and the age of the cloud cars and Sebring/Avenger, both of which are being replaced. Hyundai and Mitsubishi posted strong gains, due largely to Elantra, Galant, and Montero sales.

June 30

Fiat may buy Nissan Diesel - Renault already got Nissan Auto.

Ford is almost certainly going to buy Daewoo.

NHTSA is being criticized for paying over $20,000 above list for PT Cruisers (for crash testing).

Mazda denied reports that they would close dealerships, though it has shut down about 100 since 1997. Other automakers are also closing dealerships - the sales are usually taken up by other dealers.

June 29

Automobile magazine pegs the Neon SRT at a more-reasonable 208 hp (rather than 225). We still think 180 sounds right for a production model, if Chrysler makes a Neon SRT, which we're not too sure about.

June 28

(Thanks to Matt Gordon for sending this:) Dodge and Jeep garnered half the awards in Four Wheeler's "Ten Best 4x4 Values" list. These include:

  • Compact Four-Door - Jeep Cherokee (praise for engine, power to weight ratio)
  • Full Size 3/4 Ton Regular Cab - Ram 2500 (muscle)
  • Full Size 3/4 Ton Diesel Extra Cab - Cummins Ram 2500 Club Cab (burly)
  • Full-size 1-Ton Crew-Cab Long Bed - Dodge Ram 3500 Quad Cab (bang for buck)
  • Removable Top 4x4 - Jeep Wrangler


No other automaker garnered more than two of these top honors.

Ford will be the sole company to negotiate for Daewoo, according to Bloomberg. DCX had set up a bid with Hyundai. Daewoo is several billion dollars in debt, but is the last Korean automaker seen as up for grabs. Prepared for the loss of Daewoo to Ford or GM, DCX Chair Schrempp has already announced that DCX is only bidding to see what parts of Daewoo might look interesting, and only purchased part of Hyundai to get part of Hyundai.

June 26

DCX purchased 10 percent of Hyundai (for about one half billion dollars) in preparation for a joint bid for Daewoo. GM and Fiat have also combined forces to bid for Daewoo. Ford is making a play for the failing automaker, as well. Daewoo has modern, efficient plants not only in Korea, but also in Eastern Europe.

The DCX partnership with Hyundai will also include the creation of a "world car" with Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and DCX, and a 50/50 joint venture for commercial vehicles. The partnership also calls for technology sharing, which may help Hyundai cars to increase their rather poor gas mileage, while giving Chrysler access to recent Mitsubishi efficiency technologies.

According the Detroit News, "the Suburban leaves the Expedition in the dust."

President Clinton's initiatives to start rating SUVs on rollover injury potential, limit the time spent by truckers on the road, and increase fuel efficiency are reportedly being thwarted by the GOP. The trucker time initiative is particularly interesting, since it was actually requested by the same Congress that is now preventing its passage.

June 23

GM plans to eliminate the Metro and Prizm (it does not make either one), and to move from car to truck production where possible. Cavalier/Sunfire production will be cut - GM currently loses about $2,000 per car on these models. (Reportedly, DCX makes money on each Neon).

June 22

DCX promoted James Holden to CEO of Chrysler Group, which may or may not be a moderately meaningless change of name. Top designer John Herlitz has retired and will be replaced by Trevor Creed, formerly VP of design for large cars, small cars, and minivans. Finally, Kathleen Oswald moved into the new position of Chief Administrative Officer.

Ford's next-generation Mustang (due around 2003) and Thunderbird (around 2002) will be on the Lincoln LS platform, which is also used by Jaguar. The Thunderbird will reportedly be a two-seater.

June 21

Fours Jeep Club has a list of changes to the 2001 Wrangler that comes from one of their readers who just placed an order for the 2001 TJ. Changes include a new four-ply quiet soft top, new full center and mini consoles, a new subwoofer, new and improved instrument cluster, and new colors. (Medium Fern Green and Desert Sand were dropped, Sienna, Amber, and Blue were added).

The Jeep Cherokee has yet again postponed death, this time going beyond its original life extension of 2001. It will now reportedly be produced through June 2002, according to Detroit News. Oddly, Chrysler has the capability to build a third vehicle at that plant, but will instead lay off 200 people. (Oddly because the PT Cruiser could conceivably be built there as well).

Hey, Chrysler! Another new prospect for building PT Cruisers - GM appears to be set to close its Ingersoll, Ontario plant.

June 20

Dan Trickel wrote:

I contacted Paxton (Supercharger manufacturer) and inquired about the rumor of a supercharger for the PTC... Paxton has just released a supercharger for the Prowler. The supercharger for the PTC is in the approval stage to be scheduled for R&D;. There is no anticipated launch date as of yet. I also asked about what needed to be changed to accomodate the supercharger. He told me that the existing tranny could and would handle the extra HP without extra modifications. The kit would include the supercharger, extra on board computer to retard the timing when positive boost is present and two extra fuel jets (before the supercharger) to add the extra fuel under full boost. The fuel economy for around town driving wouldn't change and you would not notice any difference in the engine performance. BUT under full acceleration you would notice a huge increase in perforamance. He said that all the designs a re fully tested on actual cars before the kit is released. The expected cost is aroune $5,000 to $6,000 installed. I will keep you updated when I get more information.

June 15

The new Wrangler and Cherokee are due in late 2001. Expect an all-new engine. Cherokee may be replaced by a completely different vehicle, possibly *not* based on the Wrangler. Many rumors are floating around regarding the new "Varsity" and whether it will be the new Cherokee or will be made in addition to the new Cherokee. We don't have the answers.

DCX will end the full size Ram Van and Wagon after the 2002 model year (in English, anywhere from late 2000 to 2002 - most likely in late 2001). Chrysler once ruled the full size van market but did not invest in full-scale redesigns once the minivan was created in the 1980s, while Ford and GM both came out with more competitive products.

The Pillette Assembly plant, in Windsor, will build an all-new Dodge starting in the 2003 model year. The plant currently makes the Ram Van and Wagon. The size of the facility will be tripled and will include a state of the art paint shop which, like the rest of the redesigned plant, supports flexible manufacturing. No details were provided on what the new vehicle would be, though a full size SUV is likely. The Pillette plant opened in 1975, and has produced only Ram Vans and Wagons.

(Thanks, Neil:) The New Castle Machining and Forge plant in Indiana will host an open house from 11am-3pm on Sunday for 'everybody.' There will be plant tours, refreshments, prizes, display booths, music and cars of all sorts. Classic cars built before 1975 will be on display as well as the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Woodward-edition Prowler and concpt vehicles such as the =DODGE VENOM= and X-games minivan.

June 14

(revised) An all-new six cylinder engine will be used in the upcoming Varsity, and possibly also in a refreshed Grand Cherokee, replacing the loud but torquey, vintage AMC 4.0 liter straight-six.

June 13

Detroit News noted that overall gas mileage has fallen for new vehicles old in the US from 25.4 mpg in 1990 to 24.5 mpg in 1999, due to the increase in truck sales. Chrysler went from a 49/51 car/truck mix to 30/70. Ford similarly went from 57/43 to 39/61, meaning 39 percent of new Fords are trucks. General Motors is most balanced, with a 50/50 sales ratio. Most foreign vehicles sold are cars rather than trucks. Average car economy has been frozen at 27.5 mpg since 1990 (it was to have increased annually). Annual truck economy has moved from 20 mpg to 20.6 mpg, which is still fairly pathetic.

Demand for larger trucks seems to be slowing, which could hurt Chrysler's current fuel-inefficient fleet. Chrysler does not make a small, efficient truck, unless you count the PT Cruiser (as the government does), and their production capability for the Cruiser is very limited and unlikely to grow. The new 4.7 liter engine helps - it is much more efficient than the 318, 360, or Jeep 4.0 - but with no small pickup, and no small SUV based on the small pickup (e.g. Blazer), Chrysler may be at a disadvantage as DCX investors howl for higher profits which can only come from the Chrysler group. (Politically speaking, that is. It is unlikely that DCX's other operations would come under the same pressure, though they are not pulling their weight).

Another problem for Detroit (and DCX) is the increased presence of Japanese competition in the truck and SUV market. Toyota seems poised to do to Chrysler, GM, and Ford in pickups what it did to them in cars and is doing in Jeep-type vehicles. Increasingly, new sales are going to Japanese automakers with the Odyssey, Sienna, Land Cruiser, 4Runner, Xterra, etc.

Lest it be said we presented gloomy news, Chrysler does have the technology and ability to survive in a car-only market, if it chooses to invest its resources there.

Detroit News ran an article on calls for higher profits at DCX, which apparently are being spurred by fears that Chrysler profitability will decline before it gets better. Chrysler contributes about half of DCX's profits though the Chrysler Group is small in size compared with DCX as a whole. Hence the extreme cost-cutting moves by James Holden - he wants $2 billion trimmed from Chrysler Group's budget within the next six months. Forget about investing in the future - we're living trading day to trading day now.

Pete and Derek wrote:

Attention all FWD Mopar enthusiasts in the Ottawa, Ontario region, the National Capital of Canada!

There will be a gathering of Shelby Dodge enthusiasts at the parking lot of the Orleans Shopping Center on Wednesday June 21st, 2000. Any FWD Chrysler vehicle is welcome be it a Omni, Neon, Daytona, K-Car or something in between. Everyone is welcome. Depending on the turnout and interest, the inception of a local club or regional SDAC chapter will be discussed. Wednesdays are a regular cruise night at Orleans for all makes, so there will be lots of other cars to see.

We'll be using the "upper" parking lot across from the main area, this will guarantee we'll all be able to park together. Pete will have his black '97 Maxi RamVan (hard to miss) and Derek will be present in his '88 Shelby Z (also hard to miss). One of us will be there from 7-7:30pm on.

June 12

We understand the Chrysler 300M Convertible is a "go" for 2002.

As stated yesterday, Neon SRT seems to be "go" for 2002 with a 225 hp supercharged 2.0 engine. Don't be surprised if actual final-product horsepower ratings are lower.

DCX will use landfill-produced methane, a greenhouse gas, at two boilers in its St. Louis facility to provide power. This helps the environment both by avoiding the unnecessary use of oil or natural gas, and by burning the methane.

James Holden protested Federal plans to rate SUV rollover risk, claiming that any numbers would be misleading. This is not surprising, given that Chrysler mainly sells SUVs and minivans.

Ford, having angered dealers with (in effect) car-price hikes for dealers which do not meet their new Blue Oval standards, has now struck again with revised "standard hours" for a number of repairs. Mechanics are being asked, for example, to replace a transmission in five hours rather than seven on the Taurus, or to replace a Cougar engine in six hours rather than ten. Mechanics say this will cause shoddy work and high turnover of dealer mechanics. Ford pays dealers between $60 and $70 per hour for the repairs - dealers then pay mechanics out of that money.

Nearly half of dealer profits come from repairs, so while this greatly benefits Ford's profits, it hurts dealers in the wallet. Owners of dealerships are likely to pass along the pain to their mechanics.

June 11

AutoWeek reported that the Neon SRT really is a go for 2002, with a modified suspension and 2.0 SOHC supercharged engine with 225 hp and 183 lb-ft of torque. If this is true, it will not only overpower (easily) the top of the line Focus and Civic, but should show the Acura Integra Type R a few tricks. Given the dominance of Honda and BMW at the stoplight races and in the small car races, we think the Neon SRT is an excellent idea - and a great way to get our youth into Mopars. (It won't hurt the Neon's image, either. The current Neon seems to have inherited the past model's reputation for quality, or lack thereof, without gaining anything from the past model's performance).

June 8

DC will be able to build both the 2000 and 2001 minivan at the same time, despite major differences in their design, saving about half a billion dollars this year.

Chrysler's market share (US) dropped to 35.5 percent so far this year, from 40.7 percent at the same time last year, as the Odyssey, Sienna, and Windstar's latest incarnations have become more attractive.

Based on police crash data collected over three years, DCX said that Chrysler minivan occupants are 16 percent less likely to have serious or fatal injuries than occupants of Windstars, and 43 percent less likely than occupants of Odysseys. Ford's Windstar has beaten Chrysler minivans in government crash tests. (A new generation is due late this summer).

June 6

Tuve Johannesson, current president of Volvo's car operations, has been asked to step down by new owner Ford.

The Nissan Quest / Mercury Villager will be discontinued with 2002 models, two years earlier than scheduled. It will be replaced with a Renault model (currently being designed) which will be sold as a Nissan.

June 5

Some PT Cruisers may have been built with the wrong valve cover, resulting in heavy oil usage. See PTcruizer.com for details.

Ford is closing its Dagenham, England plant. Good opportunity for DCX to sneak in another PT Cruiser plant, if their top managers were on the ball. (No, we don't think they are).

June 2

WhatCar! claims that the PT Cruiser will have a 2.4 turbo at some point, and wrote that the Euro versions will get a Mercedes 2.2 liter diesel and Rover/Chrysler 1.6 gas engine option (in addition to the 2.4 DOHC).

Grand Cherokees made from 1997-1999 (model years) are being recalled because the airbag control module may corrode after contact with salt water. Five "unscheduled deployments" occured. Owners will be notified.

Hyundai wants to have a joint venture with DCX to produce trucks and buses in Korea. This would likely have little to do wtih Chrysler Group. Hyundai also will be making a "world car" with MMC and DCX with a 1.0 to 1.5 liter engine, based on a current Hyundai model, according to Hyundai reps.

GM and Chrysler sales dropped last month, while Ford and foreign auto sales rose.

June 1

Chrysler has started rebates on the Durango, and has increased rebates on other models. If you will excuse the opinion, we believe rebates are a bad idea - they give a short-term sales boost, but cheapen the brand image. Lowering the price is, long term, more sensible. Exception: model year close-outs, but leave that to the dealers! (GM is likely to follow with its own rebates).

May 28

Sunday June 11 is the Northwest Mopar Championship at Firebird Raceway near Boise, Idaho. This event will have lots of A body action, including a show-n-shine, A body racing classes, etc.

May 26

(Courtesy Pat Redmond) - Anyone in the Toronto area, the Mopar Performance Group, in conjunction with Daimler/Chrysler Canada, Present the 14th annual 'SPRING FLING' car show on the grounds of the BRAMALEA LH ASSEMBLY PLANT. Over 250 cars are expected. SUNDAY, MAY 28, 2000 9 A.M. TILL ?? PRIZES, GOODY BAGS,TROPHIES AND AWARDS. BRAMALEA LH PLANT WILLIAMS PARKWAY AND AIRPORT ROAD AREA, BRAMPTON

May 25

Chrysler's EPIC electric-powered minivan won two categories in the Tour de Sol - the minivan category and Customer Acceptability. The rally is five days long. About 200 EPICs are currently being used around the country.

May 24

New books! You can pre-order either of these, though they are not yet in print.

Walter P. Chrysler: The Life and Times of an Automotive Genius - a new and very thorough history of Chrysler, the man, and Chrysler Corporation. It's gotten good reviews so far.

Taken for a Ride - the inside story of Chrysler's willing takeover by Mercedes-Benz, led by a man who seemed terrified of failure as Chrysler CEO.

May 23

A new biography of Walter P. Chrysler, with extensive coverage of Chrysler Corporation, will be printed in June. We will have a longer description soon.

Gary Howell heard that PT Cruisers are being pulled from the allocations of dealers who overcharge for the hot vehicle.

May 22

Democrats lost their nerve and will not fight a bill which forbids the government from changing, or even examining the possibility of changing, fuel economy standards, which have been frozen at 27.5 mpg for cars and 20.5 mpg for trucks for years. Acura, Lexus, and other automakers, including GM and Ford, take advantage of the dual standard by producing low-mileage luxury SUVs. The dual standard was originally intended to protect farmers and industry, but was written long before SUVs were used as commuter vehicles by nearly half the population.

State Farm research shows clearly that booster seats save lives and prevent injuries for children who weigh under 80 pounds. However, more than 80 percent of 4 to 8 year olds in car crashes in their study were restrained by adult-size safety belts, often resulting in serious injuries.

Ford will be buying diesel engines from Detroit Diesel for a European car. Detroit Diesel supplies engines to Chrysler for European models, though there are rumors that Chrysler will switch to Mercedes diesels.

May 17

In a case of unabashed commercialism, Fox will air four hour-long Ford ads, thinly disguised as a TV series. The ads will go under the name "No Boundaries," the same as Ford's new slogan. Unlike shows such as "Viper" or "Knight Rider," this one is produced by the company itself - Ford is spending $7 million to produce and advertise it. The goal is to link Ford extra-large vehicles with "fun and adventure" in a manner which convinces viewers that they are not watching an infomercial (info from Detroit News).

May 16

Neil reported: PT Cruiser prices rise on July 24, from $160 to $1,000 depending on the model - but new standard equipment will be phased in at the same time. DCX said that customers with current orders will pay the current price, but get the new items for free. This includes heated leather seats with lumbar control on the limited touring model.

Neil also said that the Windsor, Ontario plant ran ten test runs of the 2001 minivans to debug the process and get worker input. Following a worker-led quality initiative some time ago, the Windsor plant has produced clearly higher-quality minivans than the corresponding America plant, according to some sources. Actual production will start on July 24.

May 15

DCX seems to be out of the running for Daewoo, leaving GM and Ford to fight over the company.

In the UK, Rover prices will be cut by over ten percent, rolling back BMW's premium-price strategy. Meanwhile, BMW is getting ready to produce new Austin Minis in their UK plant.

May 12

The IHRA Pro Modified car series will see two new Mopars in August. From a Swedish group, the Chrysler 300 C-57 and Superbird will hit the tracks with customized Hemi engines.

Brian Swan heard second-hand that the Power Wagon would be built with a real crew cab and Cummins diesel in 2002. With the PT Cruiser helping Chrysler's CAFE numbers, this is quite possible.

The Plymouth Owners Club meets in South Dakota, June 28 through July 1.

Recently, Chrysler's SVP of powertrain engineering left to take a position at New Venture Gear, a GM/DC joint venture. He was just replaced by a former GM exec, Thomas LaSorda, who was a GM VP for quality who pioneered the company's lean manufacturing systems.

May 9

The Rover brand was saved today, as Phoenix Group bought the money-losing car brand from BMW for ten pounds. BMW, on the other hand, is giving Phoenix 500 million pounds, or nearly $800 million, to cover the cost of restructuring and cutbacks. Rover will continue to make the Rover 75 sedan and wagon, as well as the smaller 25 and 45. The planned R30, however, is probably not going to be produced. The new Mini's future is assured, at least if anyone buys it.

Rover had been partly owned by Honda when BMW bought the company, and has even made a Rover-branded Honda called the "Sterling." BMW's earlier decision to sell Rover to Alchemy Partners would have resulted in many more lost jobs, as Alchemy wanted to reduce Rover to a niche maker, eliminating the Rover marque and only producing MGs.

The part of Rover that makes money, Land Rover, will be sold to Ford, which will no doubt double Land Rover quality to near-Jeep levels.

As the decline of Chrysler continues, President James Holden said he was willing to lose market share in order to avoid more incentives. He noted that Chrysler currently runs at 120 percent of straight-time capacity. (He did not mention the possibility of expanding production, which seems to be off limits since the takeover). He also said that building a small car is not in the cards, unless "we can leverage someone else" (e.g. re-brand an MMC or Hyundai).

Holden also said that the main opportunity with MMC is combining the distribution network, not at the dealer level, but at the parts and warehousing level. (Courtesy Automotive News)

GM's Epsilon platform will, according to Automotive News, be the basis of the Malibu, Grand Am, Alero, Saturn L, Saab 9-3, and Opel Vectra.

May 8

Some time ago, Chrysler Corporation seemed to have the world in its hand. The 300M was leading its conquest of the semi-luxury market, a new subcompact was in the works with an efficient 1.4 liter engine, factories were opening across the world, and the Neon and Jeep series seemed poised to open international doors for the long-isolated company.

What happened?

When Daimler bought a hat-in-hand Chrysler Corporation, the near-luxury market suddenly seemed near-death with the assignment of all Plymouths to Chrysler and the problem of having one Mercedes brand competing with another should Chrysler extend to C-class levels with more than one vehicle. Now, the bottom end is also being taken out: Hyundai has officially announced that it is forming an alliance with DCX to develop a small passenger car starting in 2002.

May 5

Initial test production of the new Cherokee replacement (KJ or "Varsity") has begun. It is expected to be sold starting in summer 2001, alongside the Cherokee. The final name has not yet been announced. At one time, it appeared that the KJ would be the 2001 Cherokee, but this no longer appears to be the case. Given recent history, perhaps it could be called the Sioux?

J.D. Quality figures in!

All four DCX cars to win in their categories were made by Chrysler, though Mercedes' overall score was slightly higher than Chrysler's. The best division was - surprise - Plymouth, with 1.4 defects per vehicle (Mercedes had 1.37. The best automaker, Acura, turned in about .95). Dodge alone was worse than average (among the DCX brands). Runners-up for Chrysler included the Stratus (Breeze won), Avenger, and Voyager (Sienna won). The Plymouth Voyager actually beat the Honda Odyssey in initial quality.

Ford did not have any cars with high rankings. The Ford Focus and Lincoln LS were worse than average.

The average was 1.58 problems per new vehicle, slightly lower than last year despite increased production.

Toyota was the overall champ among reasonably priced cars, winning with the Corolla, Avalon, Lexus ES400 and LS400, the Tundra, Land Cruiser, LX 470, and Sienna. The Lexus LS400 had the fewest problems (.79 per vehicle). The Camry also scored well. GM's winners were the Prizm (Corolla), Malibu, Corvette (!), S-10/Sonoma, and Suburban.

Given Chrysler's new Five Star program, which has been in place long enough to show results, we are eagerly awaiting the July announcement of J.D. Power's service quality awards. Last year, Saturn was the only non-luxury brand in the Top Ten.

Ford has jumped into the fray to buy Daewoo Motor. Like DCX, they are considering operating Daewoo through Hyundai.

Rumors of Chrysler taking over Dodge cars, leaving Dodge to sell only trucks and minivans, have been spreading over the Internet. The basis seems to be Chrysler's references to "Intrepids" in NASCAR rather than "Dodge Intrepids," rumors that the Charger has been cancelled (though not the similar 300N, presumably), the emphasis on the new Chrysler Sebrings without matching publicity to the Stratus and Avenger replacements, and the natural tendency to draw lessons from Plymouth and also from the ending of Dodge in Canada. Other explanations can be found for each of these events, but after the long warning we had of Plymouth's demise, we do not wish to laugh away this one. (Strange for a company which sticks with the Daimler name even though only Ford has the rights to make Daimlers.)

May 2

According to Detroit News, the new Sebring Coupe (based on the MMC Eclipse) will have a five-speed/V6 option (3.0), but the Sebring Sedan and Convertible (based on the Dodge Stratus) will not.

Chrysler President James Holden actually owns a Plymouth - a 1970 440 Barracuda. He will bring it in on Wild Wheels at Work Day, an event where employees are encouraged to bring their classic cars to work.

On a less happy note, especially for those who expected Daimler-Benz to infuse cash into Chrysler, the company will be returning to a 1997-level budget.

Rover may be consigned to the dustbin of history, as BMW prepares to eliminate the brand - but may not find any good buyers.

Chrysler group sales rose on the strength of the PT Cruiser and SUVs. Grand Cherokee and 300M sales, in particular, rose last month. Year to date, compared with last year to date, Plymouth sales are half of what they were. Chrysler sales are up 50 percent, based largely on the Town and Country. Dodge sales are up 8 percent with slippage in the Durango sales getting some compensation in Dakota sales. Year to date, Jeep sales are down, with both Cherokee and Grand Cherokee getting hit. Again year to date, sales are up 3 percent over last year, but at the cost of lower revenue per car due to promotions. Market share appears to be declining as the rest of the industry surges, especially in SUVs. Asian sales increases surpassed American ones, and Honda's Odyssey has had strong demand.

Saturn's emphasis is changing from being a homespun group to an integrated supplier of components made across the world, according to Automotive News.

April 27

James Holden announced that a new Jeep Cherokee will be built in a new plant next year. He also said that the Ram will be replaced next year, and that the Grand Cherokee (export) would definitely use a Mercedes diesel rather than the current Detroit Diesel models.

Chrysler's new corrosion testing facility in Michigan has the largest test chambers in North America, coupled with state of the art computers. It can reproduce the worst possible conditions, and simulate ten years of exposure to severe weather. (Thanks, Mr. Source)

Renault and Volvo Truck are combining their truck operations. This includes Mack, currently owned by Renault. The combined company would be the second largest truck outfit in the world, behind DCX. This will free Renault to concentrate on cars, following their purchase of much of Nissan and Samsung. Renault will also be directing Nissan to help Samsung.

Honda will build Odyssey minivans in Alabama starting next year. I think it's time to say good-bye to the Caravan's dominance.

Nissan and Honda are likely to bring full-size, V8 powered pickups to the US market in the near future. Buyers rate the Tundra far above the GM and Ford full-size pickups.

Ford will give 1.25 percent of the cost of each new vehicle sold to dealers who meet their stringent, Five-Star-like requirements. The Ford program, unlike Five Star, will be verified by J.D. Power, so it is unlikely that dealers can sleaze and schmooze their way to certification (as it seems many Five Star dealers have).

Saturn, far from being dead, is finally getting over $1.5 billion to expand its plants in Tennessee. Saturn will also be making a 2002 model year sport utility, a new S series, and another vehicle (which will use a Honda V-6 engine). The sport utility and S series will be powered by a new four-cylinder engine which may be unique to Saturn, and which will be built by Saturn. Look, Ma, no more oil burning!

April 25

The new Sebring was unveiled officially at the New York Auto Show.

According to London's Daily Telegraph, Japanese-owned plants in the UK were the most efficient in Europe during 1998. The most productive European plant was Nissan's Sunderland, UK factory.

Oldsmobile head Karen Francis is expected to resign shortly. She had been hired from Proctor and Gamble. Though under her leadership Olds transformed its image, that may have been due more to new product (e.g. the Alero and Intrigue) than to marketing. She was also responsible for marketing of the Venture.

April 24 (late)

DCX is recalling all LH cars (Intrepid, Concorde, 300M, LHS) and Grand Cherokees built in August 1999. A bolt could come loose in a crash. Only a small percentage of cars have the problem, but all were recalled to make sure. Notices are being sent out.

The new Jeep "Varsity" will have an independent suspension, according to sources. Motor Trend reported that the Dakar (four door Wrangler) may not be built, in favor of a next-generation Cherokee to debut in January 2001. Round headlights are likely, with about 180 hp from a V6 based on the new 4.7 V8. The current 2.5 four cylinder engine may be retained. This 2001 Cherokee is apparently different from the "Varsity" (KJ). The union contract has been updated to run through September 2001, so it seems that the Cherokee will run into 2002 models, and be produced alongside the new "Varsity."

Car-Truck Buzz reports that the next Wrangler will be built on the same platform as the next-generation KJ "Varsity" model, and will have a 200 hp V6 based on the 4.7 V8. We do not give this much credibility.

April 24

The first result of the MMC buyout will be a one-liter car "jointly developed" by DCX and MMC. In brief, it will be a Mitsubishi with a Mercedes diesel engine modified for MMC direct injection. Euro models will be sold under the "DaimlerChrysler" name - this probably means Chrysler. (Courtesy afxnews.com)

DCX stock has continued to fall on news that Chrysler's market share has gone from 16.6 to 15.4 percent in the US. Plymouth sales have been falling, and Chrysler and Dodge have failed to take up the slack.

GM and Ford have both found partners in their quest for voice-activated auto technologies. GM is also investing $193 million in their Pontiac engine design complex.

Think the highways are not dangerous enough? Neither does GM, which will be installing e-mail receivers as well as traffic information devices in new cars.

April 21

The Toyota Prius, which gets 52 mpg city and 45 highway with ultra-low-level emissions, will sell for $19,000, according to Toyota. The first practical hybrid to be sold in the US, the Prius will include ABS, automatic transmission, climate control, power all around, an eight year - 100,000 battery and powertrain warranty, and free roadside assistance. The engine is 70 hp, up from the Japanese model's 58 hp. The initial build will be dedicated to trial rentals arranged through Toyota dealers.

Toyota introduced its Cherokee competitor, the Highlander.

April 19

Chrysler sales rose 10 percent and Mercedes sales rose 7 percent over last quarter. Chrysler operating profit fell, however, by 7 percent due to higher costs from product introductions and other factors. Mercedes and Smart operating profits rose 11 percent, driven by E, S, and M sales. THe C class also appears to be off to a good start. Smart sales increased.

DCX, which said earlier that it absolutely was not interested in buying Hyundai, will reportedly be calling a supervisory board meeting to discuss the acquisition. The paper reporting this, Handelsblatt, said the supervisory board would also be formally approving the 34 percent acquisition of Mitsubishi Motors. Der Speigel had originally reported DCX's interest in controlling Hyundai.

Volvo has set up a new environmental impact measurement system to provide close estimates of a car's total impact on the environment, including assembly, operation, and disposal.

April 18

The Sebring Coupe and Convertible were introduced today at the NY Auto Show. As we thought and initially reported, but contrary to some news reports, the optional V6 on the Convertible is the 2.7 made by Chrysler. Both the 3.0 and 2.7 V6 put out 200 hp. Boy, we feel silly for changing our report to match the established press!

DCX is reported to be eyeing Hyundai, in order to grab a stake in Daewoo, to advance their goal of entering Asian markets where Chrysler is relatively unknown.

A New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs report noted that Chrysler led the state in lemon law complaints, by a good margin. Ford and General Motors followed. The Division was careful to say they did not make any conclusions from this.

April 12

Honda will supply GM with engines and automatic transmissions, while Isuzu will sell Honda diesel engines for Europe.

The new BMW 3- and 5-Series both have GM automatic transmissions. GM also sells to Volvo and Saab for their European models.

April 7

According to the news board, the following cars are set to be released:

  • 2001 - all new Jeep (eventual Cherokee replacement) and new Ram series (about time)
  • 2002 - CS (Outback type vehicle). Some controversy on this one. Supposedly to have both a Chrysler and Mercedes variant.
  • 2003 - New Dakota and Durango. Most likely a major redesign rather than all-new designs.
  • 2004 - All-new LX series replaces the LH. All-new Grand Cherokee.

April 5

Though Chrysler sales were up, year-to-date the increase in Chrysler sales have been below the increases of every other car and truck brand other than Land Rover and Saab, meaning that Chrysler's market share is declining (it is currently at about 15 percent of the US market).

April 3

March sales figures show the Plymouth brand down 53 percent (year to date to 1999), with Chrysler car brand sales up 4 percent, mainly on strong final-year Cirrus sales (up 74 percent), and LHS sales (up 26 percent). Chrysler truck sales are up 63 percent if you do not include the Chrysler Voyager, which last year was the Plymouth Voyager. Jeep sales are down somewhat, with both Cherokee and Grand Cherokee down about 6-7 percent and Wrangler up 7 percent. (Wrangler has only about a third the sales of the Grand Cherokee).

Dodge Neon sales rose 10 percent, Plymouth Neon sales dropped ten percent. Avenger/Sebring sales are down considerably as people wait for the new model - or move to Chevy offerings. Intrepid and Viper sales are up. Minivans are up, overall.

March 29

(Rumor): Details on the new Hemi V8 from "Mr. Source." The 5.7 liter, 353 cid engine will replace the current 360 as the 4.7 replaced the 318. It will have aluminum heads, two spark plugs per cylinder, have one camshaft, and only 16 valves. It is to be made in the Saltillo, Mexico engine plant, and is said to produce roughly 350 hp. ETA 2002.

Late Breaker. Alan at bbc-net said that Truckin' magazine was talking about a forthcoming Dodge Ram R/T in "the near future" (possibly 2001). It would be powered by the previously mentioned 5.7 Hemi, with over 300 hp and over 400 lb-ft of torque. (The 350 hp might have been for car [Charger] or SUV use). That would put it into V-10 territory, allowing Chrysler to drop that engine (which is probably more expensive and less fuel efficient) except as needed for Viper production. Replacing the V-10 would leave only the 3.9 liter V6 to carry on the LA series engines.

The DCX-MMC deal may give Chrysler access to Illinois and Netherlands factories it desparately needs for the popular Neon, PT Cruiser, Durango, Dakota, and next-generation Stratus/Sebring. The Netherlands plant, jointly owned by MMC and Ford, could be purchased outright by MMC and passed along to DCX - it is said to be slated for SmartCar production, with a possible four door version for Chrysler to sell.

DCX will be producing the Sebring convertible in Sterling Heights, where other cloud cars are made, rather than Toluca. This will free Toluca capacity for the PT Cruiser.

Ford and GM are converting car plants to SUV and pickup production. GM has cut back on Saturn production at both the Saturn and corporate (LS) plant.

The global overcapacity issue is being exacerbated by the trend of automakers to push assembly down to suppliers, who are supplying larger, more complex parts systems (because of cheaper labor).

Ford is contributing $13 million to a fund to compensate those who worked as slave laborers under the Nazis. Ford's German subsidiary used slave labor. While the company disavowed responsibility for actions taken by the German subsidiary (Ford-Werke AG), that did not stop Ford from successfully demanding compensation from the US government for damage to its German factories during the war. General Motors has also pledged to contribute to the fund.

Detroit News published a chart showing ownership of auto companies.

  • BMW owns Mini.
  • DCX owns Chrysler and 34 percent of MMC.
  • Ford owns Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo (cars), and a third of Mazda.
  • GM owns Saab, half of Isuzu, one fifth of Fiat, a quarter of Isuzu, and a tenth of Suzuki.
  • Hyundai owns just over half of Kia.
  • Renault owns 37 percent of Nissan.
  • Toyota owns just over half of Daihatsu.
  • VW owns Bentley, Bugatti, Lambourghini, Seat, Skoda, and almost all of Audi.

March 28

DCX bought a controlling (34 percent) stake in Mitsubishi Motors yesterday for $2.1 billion. The suggestion reportedly came from Chrysler executives. As usual, Schrempp said MMC would be run as an independent company. However, there are plans to reduce the number of models, cut platforms from 12 to 6, and lower capacity by 16 percent. The plan seems to be to use Chrysler's distribution network in Mexico and Canada, and we suspect to have MMC small cars replace the planned Chrysler small cars (which we are told have been cancelled). Indeed, an article in the Detroit News indicated that Chrysler's small car efforts and attempts to break into Asia would both be routed by this acquisition.

GM owns 49 percent of Isuzu and 10 percent of Suzuki, with plans to buy 20 percent of Subaru's owner. Ford owns 33.4 percent of Mazda.

The Ford Focus has managed to already become the #11 best selling vehicle in America, and the #4 best selling car. Chrysler had no cars in the Top 20, and three vehicles - the Ram, Caravan, and Grand Cherokee. Toyota's Camry and Corolla made the list, as did Chevrolet cars and trucks, but Ford generally dominated the list.

March 23 - Updated [see last paragraph]

SUV Safety

Automakers will change their sport-utility vehicles to make them less hazardous to car drivers. General Motors has already lowered the steel rails in its Suburban/Tahoe, and will do the same for the 2002 Bravada, Envoy, and Blazer. This reduces the risk that the SUVs break over car bumpers and doorsills. Ford will do the same with the Explorer, Expedition, and Navigator, and has already installed a beam on the Excursion to prevent this problem. The 2002 Durango will likewise be modified so the front end is less likely to go over car bumpers and doorsills. SUVs are nearly three times as likely as cars to cause fatalities in an accident with cars. The industry touts Federal research which says only 16 percent of traffic crash deaths were caused by collisions of cars with light trucks/SUVs. Safety experts say many, many lives could be saved each year if that 16 percent was taken away. Those who know and love other people would probably argue that 16 percent is, well, 16 points too many, if a few simple changes could resolve the problem - especially given the incredibly high profit margin on SUVs.

DCX - Mitsubishi Deal

DCX is very likely to buy a large stake in Mitsubishi to gain access to Asian markets and small cars (which DCX apparently thinks Chrysler is incapable of making. Reminder: most analysts once thought no American car company could make a profitable small car - until Chrysler made the Neon!). DCX would most likely buy one third of MMC, giving it effective control. The deal seems pretty much done. [Note: see following paragraph]

Mitsubishi may split its passenger car division to form a new company, which DCX would own 50 percent of. A holding company would control its bus, truck, and car operations. The Board of MMC has given the company's president authority to create an alliance with a foreign automakers. The current alliance with AB Volvo would likely remain in place, with Volvo [the truck/bus portion not owned by Ford] taking just under 20 percent ownership of the MMC truck and bus company. Confused yet?

Java

We understand the Java concept has been cancelled. This revolutionary small car is apparently being dumped in favor of another "merger" - why build a Chrysler small car when you can buy Mitsubishi's car division? However, some of its design features appear in the Toyota Echo.

DaimlerChrysler News - March 21

NHTSA is investigating 1996-2000 Chrysler minivans for possible gasoline tank leaks during side-impact crashes. Three NHTSA crash tests on 1999 and 2000 minivans exposed gas leaks that could spark fires. DCX has not seen similar results in its testing, and there have been no real-world complaints. In NHTSA's test, the hose that channels gasoline into the fuel tank pulled loose, and fuel spilled from the tank. (Note: not all investigations are elevated to recalls.

March 19

The PT Cruiser will be built in the Graz, Austria plant as well as in Toluca to help satisfy strong demand. Total production will be 230,000 per year.

Vipers finished 1-2-3 last night at the 12 hour racing at Sebring, beating Corvettes, Porsches, and other vehicles. Drivers said they never had to push the car to the limits. In addition, a Dodge truck won at Phoenix.

Dodge and Chrysler News - March 16, pm

Automotive News says the 2001 Neon R/T will have a dual-tuned intake, revised cam, ss short tubular header, and 2-1/4 inch exhaust. Spoiler and 16 inch std. F & R sway bars will be 2mm larger with standard antilock and trac control. 15,000 are projected to be made.

Chrysler has entered two Mopar V-8-powered prototypes for the 2000 Le Mans 24-Hour race, scheduled for June, through Mopar Team ORECA.

The aluminum Mopar 6.0-liter V-8 racing engine powered sprint car driver Mark Kinser to the 1999 World of Outlaws championship. The same engine also powers the supercharged IHRA dragster of Lori Cannister.

Team ORECA will also field three Viper GTS R/Ts at Le Mans. Last year, Team ORECA Vipers finished first and second in the Grand Touring class, while last month, Team ORECA's Dodge Viper GTS R/T was the winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona Beach. Five Dodge Viper GTS R/Ts finished in the top seven positions overall.

Last year alone, Mopar Performance Parts added more than 300 parts to the catalog. There are now eight engines included.

Chrysler PT Cruiser news - March 16

Allpar has a new PT Cruiser review by Curtis Redgap, who rented one for a week.

Learning from the Neon's quality problems, DCX has lent 800 PT Cruisers to engineers, suppliers, and employees, and 250 more in rental car fleets in Orlando, so they can work out the bugs before customers get them.

One quarter of this year's PT Cruiser production has already been ordered - 30,000 vehicles are earmarked for individuals.

BMW may sell Rover.

The Union of Concerned Scientists rated DCX as the #2 worst polluting automaker in the US, after Isuzu. Ford, GM, and BMW were #3,4, and 5. Their report was based primarily on fuel consumption. GM and Ford reps said they simply filled market demands (a rather facile argument - wasn't that used by the makers of the exploding Pinto?).

GM grabbed a 20 percent share of Fiat.

DCX (DaimlerChrysler) News - March 8

The chair of DCX's governing board, Hilmar Kopper, made it clear that he had always expected Daimler-Benz to be dominant. He dismissed any talk of "merger of equals," noting that the company is based in Germany, and said he expected no merging of cultures.

Chrysler and Cummins officials both announced that the company would not be replacing the Cummins diesel engines used in Dodge trucks with Mercedes diesels. The long-successful relationship will continue, spokesmen said.

DaimlerChrysler is on the road to merging with Matra (an aerospace company which also designed a few cars) and Casa (a Spanish aerospace company).

DCX, Volvo (part of Ford), VW, BMW, and Audi will, with Motorola and Volcano, work on a standard for serial busses in vehicle networks.

March 6

Detroit News notes that discussions on a standard car-seat attachment system, as is now being phased in, started over 20 years ago. Nearly every car seat installed is put in correctly, according to interviews with Chrysler inspectors. Unfortunately, the system allows child seat makers to use a less expensive, less effective system than others.

March 2

Chrysler will be paying an $8,100 profit-sharing bonus to most factory and management employees, far higher than GM's record (for them) $1,775 and also higher than Ford's $7,400.

DCX sales rose 5 percent, Ford sales rose 6.5 percent, and GM sales soared 16 percent over February 1999. Japanese makers also saw high rises. SUV sales continue to climb faster than cars.

Chrysler contributed about half of the last quarter's DCX profits, despite their relatively small size.

The DCX CEO denied rumors of a Peugeot takeover but would not talk about Fiat.

A Detroit News suggested that rumors of the Ram Van's demise are accurate, and that it would be replaced by a Mercedes design, most likely the Sprinter, a commercial van which is already scheduled to be sold here as a Freightliner.

Buick will sell a version of the Pontiac Aztec, a vehicle that resembles a shortened minivan on the inside and an SUV on the outside.

March 1

Suzuki will increase its links with part-owner General Motors.

Saturn will suspend production this week at both plants due to low sales.

DCX is said to be talking about buying Peugeot-Citroen, with a Fiat deal looking less likely. The purpose is to make a small car. Apparently Chrysler is deemed incapable of doing this despite pre-buyout plans for the Pronto and the development of a 1.4 and 1.6 liter small-car engine.

February 25

GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler are merging their Internet-based supply exchanges. The resulting venture will be open to all automakers and their suppliers. GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler will have equal ownership. The goal was to link roughly 30,000 suppliers to save paperwork costs and save time. The sites are also used for auctioning of equipment and supplies.

February 24

Mr. Source wrote: Dodge Winston Cup riders are Richard Petty with three cars, #43-Andretti, #44-Kyle Petty, #45-Adam Petty - Bill Davis Racing with two cars, #22-Ward Burton, #93-Dave Blaney - and, rumored, Ray Evernham with two cars, the #01 and #19, drivers: Bill Elliott and Jay Sauter?

February 23

The new Mini is being brought to the US.

Chrysler showed its electric-diesel hybrid car in Washington, DC. It gets 72 miles to the gallon and costs only $7,500 more than a conventional $21,000 Dodge Intrepid (making it cheaper than a 300M). It can reach 60 mph in 11 seconds (faster than GM and Ford counterparts), and weighs only 2,250 pounds. The Intrepid ESX-3 sedan uses a plastic body frame that's cheaper to make. It is powered by a 1.5-liter diesel engine and an electric motor powered by a lithion-ion battery.

The GM Precept gets 80 mpg and is only a little slower (11.55 seconds), but both it and the Ford Prodigy hybrid are very expensive to make. Meanwhile, Honda sells a hybrid 70 mpg two-seater (losing $10,000 per vehicle), and Toyota will soon start selling its hybrid Prius which gets 60 mpg.

February 21

Detroit News reported that, in addition to the 180 hp 3.3 and 215 hp 3.8 engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 will be available with 230 hp. This is set to be introduced in mid-year on the Grand Caravan ES and the Town & Country Limited.

The first all-new Jeep model since Chrysler took over will be unveiled in Spring 2001. A 2002 model, this controversial vehicle will take over from the Cherokee, which was first brought out in 1974. (See our review in two weeks).

Ford will pay $3.8 million to settle a complaint involving discrimination in hiring at seven plants.

A Washington insurance industry study concluded that "third-party" replacement parts are as safe as regular parts, by building and crashing a car out of aftermarket parts.

February 18

Beginning next year, DCX will offer an optional digital satellite radio system on all brands, even Dodge and Freightliner. This system will provide up to 50 channels of commercial-free music and up to 50 of news, sports and entertainment. It will be available throughout the United States for $9.95 per month.

Rumor: The first 2000 units will be sent to Mexican dealers by the end of February, after that units will then be shipped to USA, then to Europe. DCX is work with a pick-up truck, a coupé, and a PT convertible under tests.

We expect Dodge to announce that Petty Enterprises will switch to Dodge for the 2001 NASCAR Windston Cup Season, and that Davis Racing will also be switching from Pontiac to Dodge. Affected drivers are John Andretti and Kyle and Adam Petty. Bill Davis Racing drivers are Ward Burton and rookie Dave Blaney.

No word on sponsorship changes or not. This June, one of the longest sponsorship agreements will come to an end when STP departs from Petty Enterprises. No reason has been given, and STP hasn't indicated that it will continue with the NASCAR series on another team. General Mills will sponsor the famous # 43 of owner and 7 time Winston Cup Champion Richard Petty.

That makes for seven Dodge cars. They are sponsoring eight. There will be two drivers for Ray Evernham, one of which has already been announced as Bill Elliot (awesome Bill from Dawsonville), who won one of the twin 125 races held today. Evernham will have another driver, not yet announced. Petty teams will add three more Dodges for a total of five. Bill Davis Racing would account for two more. Who will be the eighth Dodge team? Rumor indicates that longtime MoPAR racer and ARCA champion Bob Kosolowski has the inside track. He is currently involved in the NASCAR TRUCK racing series.

We'd like to see A. J. Foyt put Bill Bliss into the last Dodge team, though this would depend on Foyt's sponsor (CONSECO). Foyt raced factory Dodges in the mid 1960s on the NASCAR and USAC circuits.

February 17

GM and Ford have been asked to bid for Daewoo, the Korean automaker.

Fiat had a particularly good quarter.

Detroit News noted that the GM modular construction plan, designed to replace union labor with cheaper non-union supplier labor, is still under way, but without a formal title.

February 16

Mr. Source wrote that the new Chrysler minivans will start production in late June or early July at the high-quality Windsor, Ontario, plant, then at the St. Louis facility in the fall and the Graz, Austria, plant in early 2000. The plant mix is different from the previous-generation models. This time, Windsor will build long-wheelbase models only. It makes both short- and long-wheelbase versions of current-generation vans. St. Louis will continue to build both wheelbases, as will the Graz plant. Graz also will make both left- and right-hand-drive versions. Originally, the Windsor plant assembled the short-wheelbase models only.

Petty will move to Chrysler next season.

We have heard that a dual exhaust is being phased in for the 300M. Other changes to be phased in over the next year include, according to Mr. Source, no more amber taillamps, a refined interior with more "wood" and new door panels, better materials, a slightly different grill, revised suspension, better NVH, and a change in the gear ratios. These changes may come as soon as the next few months.

February 15

Next week, Allpar.com will have a 2000 Wrangler review.

NHTSA will be making about $7.5 million in grants to publicize the need for child booster seats. The agency says that, only 7 percent of children weighing between 40 and 80 pounds are placed in booster seats, there are many unnecessary injuries. (Car crahses are the largest single cause of death for children in that age range, according to a coalition spokesman). It is essential to use the shoulder belts.

February 14

The new Stratus may help Chrysler to counter plummeting cloud-car sales. As some predicted, Chrysler is shooting itself in the foot once again by removing the popular Avenger name, and calling the Mitsubishi-built car the Stratus Coupe, though it has little, if anything, in common with the Stratus Sedan. Likewise, Chrysler is dropping the Cirrus name so it can sell a Sebring coupe, sedan, and convertible. This almost makes sense, since the sedan and convertible are on the same platform, but the coupe once again is a Mitsubishi. This resembles the New Yorker and LeBaron situations of the 1980s, if nothing else. The reason is once again the beancounters, who believe that you can save advertising revenue by having fewer car names. (So why not make the LH series all one name, instead of four? Because it's Chrysler.
The cost of redesigning the cloud cars is under $1 billion, including $140 million to move convertible production to Mexico. This is quite a small figure, and we are waiting to see the full press kit so we know the extent of the changes.

Dodge electric minivans will be used by the San Diego post office.

Ford is introducing its redesigned 2001 Ranger.

February 11

Chrysler opened its free child safety seat inspection service (Fit for a Kid) to all families, no matter what make or model vehicle they drive. Participating dealers will inspect your child safety seat at no charge. (Vehicle crashes are the leading killer of kids and studies show more than 80 percent of children in safety seats are not correctly buckled in.) Chrysler is the only automaker that provides free child safety seat inspections at permanent locations throughout the United States, at almost 400 participating Five Star dealerships with 650 trained inspectors. Fit for a Kid will be available in 1,000 Five Star dealerships by the end of the year. The company is working with Fisher-Price and the National Safety Council.

Appointments can be scheduled by calling toll free 1-877-FIT-4-A-KID, clicking on www.fitforakid.org, or calling a dealer directly. Each inspection takes 20-30 minutes.

February 10

2001 Stratus Announced!

Finally, the 2.7-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6 engine, with 200 hp, will be available. The base engine is now a 147 hp 2.4 liter four, rather than the 2.0. Intake and exhaust systems were tuned. A performance ride and handling package, with 16 inch wheels and AutoStick, will be available. The front end has been "Chryslerized" and looks like a cross between the Avenger and a Pontiac. The rear is mainly unchanged.

Headlights are 25 percent brighter and better focused. 60/40 fold-down rear seats have higher backs. New ventilation and radio controls are designed to be easier to use. Side airbags will be optional.

2001 Avenger Replacement (Stratus Coupe)!

Leading the charge is the Stratus R/T, with 200 horsepower, optional five-speed manual transaxle, tuned suspension, and 17-inch tires. The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine still has 150 horsepower and 167 lb.-ft. of torque. Since this is a Mitsubishi, the optional engine is the 3.0 liter V6, with 205 lb-ft of torque.

Ventilation and audio controls were repositioned. The speedometer was placed higher in the driver's sight line and isolated from secondary gauges. The entire instrument panel was lowered. The front seats were changed. 60/40 fold-down rear seats have higher backs.

The European Parliament passed a directive that requires automakers in Europe to recycle all of their cars (when needed, of course) starting in 2006. European automakers already make most parts of their cars recyclable, in an effort led by Volkswagen.

The Federal government may soon develop a system for rating car seats. Recent parents may have noticed that car seats are frequently recalled, and generally not very well designed in terms of side-to-side stability and harness setup - in my opinion, at least, the car seat makers have been concentrating more on annual cosmetic changes to encourage new buyers than on making the seats as safe as possible. The NHTSA chief officer reported that "many restraints have been engineered to barely comply" with standards.

Texas is considering the adoption of California auto emissions standards. Thanks to an unusually high proportion of light trucks on the road (e.g. Suburbans), Texas, land of open spaces, has a strong smog problem. Houston recently surpassed Los Angeles as the highest-smog city in the US. California rules are generally superior to Federal rules in cutting back pollution, especially because they apply to trucks up to 14,000 pounds capacity (Federal rules stop at 10,000 pounds, allowing vehicles like the Yukon to be exempt).

February 8

Curtis Redgap wrote: For the first time ever, an American production car ha won the 24 hour Daytona Beach race. All Viper entries finished, taking spots 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7. Team Viper cars outlasted vehicles fielded by Ferrari, Ford, Chevrolet, BMW, and Porsche. Vipers have also won the past three FIA-GT and American LeMans series races. The insider wrote: "The Corvette had 47 years... and a stock production Dodge beats the pants off 47 years of history and Zora Duntov. If only Walter P. were around today. I hope they made him proud where he is now."

February 7

Chrysler formed an electronic connection team ("E-Connect Platform Team"), saying that nearly half of new vehicle buyers do some initial research on the Internet. This team is to apply a cross-functional strategy to Chrysler's Internet sales efforts. It is headed by Gary Dilts, formerly dealer relations chief, who pioneered the Customer Connect initiatives. The team includes people from IT, Finance, Procurement, Product Creation, Production, Sales and Marketing, Chrysler Financial, Legal, HR, and Communications.

February 2

Though Chrysler sales were down compared with last January, they still were the second best January ever for the brands. The Chrysler brand itself set a new record. The Plymouth line declined, not surprisingly, marring otherwise strong performance. The Breeze was down 76%, and the Plymouth line was down about 45%. Jeep sales also fell, but only by about 10%. Neon sales increased. The Durango took a hit despite its strong competitive advantages.

DaimlerChrysler is buying 40 percent of TAG McLaren, a Formula One racing team. This mainly affects Mercedes, which now supplies engines to the team.

February 1

Detroit News ran a story on DCX's continuing small car problem. The company remains tied to the Smart car, though whether because it really believes it can succeed or it needs a low-emissions vehicle (or it will not admit defeat) is unknown. (No mention or word of the Chrysler minicar planned before the buyout).

January 31

Chrysler has decided to continue to build the Jeep Cherokee, which is setting sales records, despite the introduction of a completely new Jeep. The current production deadline is September 2001. It had been slated to end on November 2000. The new Jeep KJ model is scheduled to begin production in Spring 2001, and will not be affected by the Cherokee.

January 28

Detroit News noted that "The former Chrysler Corp., once billed as an equal partner of the former Daimler-Benz, is indisputably a subsidiary company." The merger team has been disbanded.

Chrysler Financial launched a new on-line credit application this week.

Ford ignored the repeated advice of auditors over 12 years who advised the installation of safety equipment at the Rouge plant, where an explosion killed some people and seriously injured others a year ago, according to the Detroit News (www.detnews.com).

Fiat and DaimlerChrysler are close to a share swap.

January 24

Chrysler announced that Ask Jeeves, a search engine, will be used for user searches of the Chrysler brand Web sites. Kelley Blue Book will provide used car pricing to Chrysler brand sites, and used car valuations will be integrated into new car quote requests sent to dealers through Chrysler's online quote service. The service also lets customers estimate monthly payments, file for credit, and get instant loan approval on the same site. Chrysler sold 30,000 vehicles last year through the Get-a-Quote program, which only goes to five star dealers. The goal is to have customers only need to enter information once.

January 21

The Chrysler 300 Hemi C may have been scheduled for production in 2003 as a 2004 model.

US Chrysler employees will get a $9,000 profit-sharing check. This is far larger than GM's $1,775 checks (a record for the company!), and Ford's $7,500 checks, though still somewhat dwarfed by the compensation given to those who led the sale of the company.

DaimlerChrysler is recalling about 490,000 1992-1995 Jeep Cherokees and and 1994-1995 Grand Cherokees in areas where road salt is used to melt snow. The salt can cause the brake rotors to corrode and crack.No accidents or injuries were reported.

DC also recalled 1998-99 Dodge Durangos to replace the straps used to support the fuel tank and the rear brake tube. The problems were found during Chrysler's own tests. No complaints or injuries have been reported.

January 20

We are very slowly moving to a new server.

James Holden said that DaimlerChrysler plans to put the Mercedes W-580 transmission into the Grand Cherokee in Europe, and to use Mercedes diesel engines (rather than the recently-revised Detroit Diesel engines). He said that there would not be Chrysler-platform Mercedes vehicles (though this was a synergy proposed before the merger). Mercedes apparently will not use any current Chrysler engines, though using a future Chrysler electric engine is possible.

More minivan details:

The sheetmetal has few changes, but the headlights are much larger. A power rear gate gives two seconds of warning beeps before opening. If its path is blocked, it stops. It also has a finger-guard sensor.

Power side doors will be added. To make it smoother than GM's, they put the motor inside the door, and connected it to the body with a plastic linkage that looks like a thick bike chain running below the door.

As with all redesigned Chryslers, the frame was made stiffer and the engines were reworked to improve power. The 3.8 now turns out 230 horsepower, up from 180.

The interior has a removable console that can go in the first or second rows and contains ports for charging cell phones. Engineers also worked to make the interior quiet enough that passengers in the third row could be heard by the driver.

The new models, to go on sale this summer, will sell for about $18,000 to $37,000.

January 17

Our server was wiped out on Saturday, restored on Sunday.

We hear that Chrysler will be running a version of the LA V8 in NASCAR, since NASCAR is unlikely to approve an engine that would overpower the competition. The LA is already used in the Super Truck series, and was used (355 cid) in IROC Daytonas. There have been rumors that the new Hemi series would be used, but these could be rejected by NASCAR.

January 15

A five-speed PT Cruiser will be available. The 150 hp engine produces 162 lb.-ft. of torque (220 N-m) at 4000 rpm. Features on the standard Chrysler PT Cruiser include air conditioning, cassette player and six speakers, power one-touch-down windows, a split removable folding rear seat, multi-position rear shelf panel, adjustable steering column, and child seat restraint anchorage system.The Limited Edition also includes a touring suspension, leather front seats, fog lamps, side air bags for front occupants, overhead console, power moon roof, speed control, fold-flat front passenger seat, sunscreen glass, power heated fold-away mirrors, theft deterrent system, remote keyless entry, power locks, 16" wheels, and more.

After driving a Dakota Quad Cab with short bed, we can honestly say that GM has been beaten re the Chevrolet (or is it GMC?) Avalanche - the Dakota Quad Cab is basically an SUV with a short bed, just like the forthcoming Avalanche.

January 14

The PT Cruiser will, as expected, sell for $16,000 base, about $20,000 loaded (with leather seats and doo-dads). The company plans to make about 100,000 this year, 70% of which will be sold in North America. It will have the 150 hp 2.4 used in base minivans. Chrysler hopes to ramp up production to 180,000 units per year, over time.

Chrysler showed a concept Panel Cruiser:

Kenneth Carlson, Design Manager at DaimlerChrysler, said, ``By replacing the rear doors and windows with panels and the rear seats with a wood floor, we've created a versatile rear cargo space that could be used as a light delivery truck or an individual lifestyle vehicle ... the possibilities are endless.'' The length is similar to a small car, but the interior space is about that of a full-size sedan. The rear interior space features a full wood floor with bright skid strips and wood bars along the side quarter panels with cargo straps providing a multi-use cargo area. The exterior is similar to the GT Cruiser.

The side rear quarter design features delivery van-like panels, replacing the rear doors and windows. Badges are incorporated in the grille and rear license plate brow. Flares on the fenders and dual chrome exhaust pipes set it apart from the PT Cruiser; the tires are larger and the engine is turobcharged to 200 bhp and 200 lb.-ft., with a five-speed manual transaxle. The lowered suspension incorporates ACR KONI/Mopar struts and upgraded sway bars.

January 12

Though supercharged Neons have been running around Chrysler's HQ for years, this is the first time one has escaped: the Dodge Neon SRT concept, with over 200 horsepower. It also has a different front fascia, projector-beam fog lamps, a hood air scoop, and a rear spoiler. Unlike the 160 hp Civic, this engine puts out 180 lb-ft of torque (the Civic is about 100).

The SRT is 1.5 inches lower than the production Neon. It hasEibach springs, Tokico struts, heavy-duty front and rear sway bars, racing tires, and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels. The sound system is also customized. This in some form is likely to make it into production.

January 11 - 2001 Minivans

Some differences include (on the top line Town and Country):Power sliding doors, power liftgate, heated leather memory seats, tri-zone automatic temperature control, 200-watt in-dash four-disc CD player. Chrysler notes improved ride and handling.

Though there are no new engines, the 3.8 has been upgraded to 215 hp, a substantial improvement. Torque is also higher, and engine noise is lower. The 3.3 is now up to 180 hp, from 155.

Side airbags are available. Intermediate and rear seats include user-ready child seat top and lower anchors that provide direct attachment to the compatible after-market child seats.

January 10

Chrysler showed the new Chrysler 300 Hemi® C, a four-passenger V-8 rear-wheel drive convertible, at the Auto Show in Detroit.There are currently no plans to put it into production.

The prototype all-aluminum 353 cubic inch (5.7-liter) pushrod V-8 engine features hemispherical combustion chambers and two spark plugs per cylinder. Its estimated power of 353 horsepower and 353 lb.-ft. of torque is delivered to the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission. Not unlike a failed GM product of years past, it can deactivate of four of the eight cylinders during highway driving and deceleration - however, it does this automatically. A hydraulically shifted lost-motion feature deactivates the valves while the motor management system interrupts ignition and fuel supply to those cylinders. The system maintains full engine performance for acceleration and overtaking.

The concept's independent suspension has modified MacPherson struts in front and an aluminum five-link coil-over-shock rear set-up. For increased body stiffness and crisp ride and handling characteristics, a unique structural door latch design is being developed for the Hemi C concept.

Fourteen-inch ventilated front and rear disc brakes with four-piston calipers, 19-inch front wheels and tires and 20-inch rear wheels and tires amply live up to the Chrysler 300 Hemi C's estimated performance.

Reflecting its Hemi heritage, the vehicle will sprint to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds (about the same as a 2.2 liter Spirit R/T) and clock a top speed of 160 mph.

January 7

TO BE SHOWN JANUARY 9

CHRYSLER 300 HEMI: A four-passenger V-8rear-wheel drive convertible, to be unveiled on January 9. This concept combines luxury and legendary Hemi-power.

DODGE RAM MAXXcab: A true pickup truck with cab-forwarddesign and sedan-like ride, handling, space, comfort and luxury.Expect this to be the shape of the second-generation Ram.

DODGE VIPER GTS/R: A street-legal, LeMans endurancerace-inspired concept.

JEEP VARSITY: "A go-anywhere, do-anything concept thatblurs the line between boulevard and boulder performance."

ON DISPLAY: CHRYSLER JAVA

It has a high roof and panoramic seating (rear passengers seated higher to improve their windshield view), withhigher hip-points to give a greater sense of control. Voted "Most Significant" by AutoWeek when it first appeared in Frankfurt, the Java may actually be sold in North America as well - probably thesmallest Chrysler ever. Though 20 inches shorter than the PT Cruiser,the Java has nearly as much space inside. This space was created byusing a smaller engine space and minimizing overhang.

A single low egg crate grille reminds one that the Java was originally designed to be a Plymouth. The wheelbase is 98.3inches and the track is relatively wide (59.1 inches front, 58.7inches rear). Tall upright tail lamps provide a unique rear signatureand maximum visibility in congested traffic.

The exterior has prominent head lamps and 18-inch wheels. Java's interior includes colors such as brushed aluminum, chrome, cream and light green leather and curly maple wood. The gauge cluster has a unique three-dimensional execution. Java has front bucket seats and a60/40 split-fold rear bench.

Kevin Verduyn, Senior Design Manager, said:``Java is the logical follow-up to previous design studies such as the Pronto and CCV. Wewere looking for the most efficient yet stylish way to move fourpeople around in a sub-four-meter car...The design was completed justbefore the DaimlerChrysler merger was announced. ... we had the freedom to use European- based DaimlerChrysler components such as the powertrain, transaxle, and suspension on the Java.''

The 1.4-liter engine (we don't know if it's the new Rover/Chrysler engine or a Mercedes part) is coupled to a five-speed manual transaxle, for 0 to 60 mph times of 12.6 seconds (Neon is around 8but has less interior space). Fuel economy estimates are 24 mpg in city traffic, 40 mpg on the highway. The front suspension incorporates wishbones, MacPherson struts, double-tube shock absorbers and a torsion-bar stabilizer. Trailing links with coil springs, single-tube shock absorbers and a torsion-bar stabilizer make up the rear suspension.

January 5

"Mr. Source" ventured some predictions on the 2001 minivans, to beintroduced on January 10. Since it's so close, we decided to postthem:

Chrysler Town & Country: Some expect the LH line of six-cylinder engines, other expect new more powerful V6 engines that provide more torque with a greater output. Power sliding doors, tailgate, more cupholders, and such. Longer. Town & Country will be classy and retro, Caravan futuristic and sporty, and Voyager young and modern. Mercedes-Benz TeleAid (like OnStar) system. Mercedes-Benz ESP system, COMAND on-board navigation system for delayed introduction on T&C at first. Side airbags, Mercedes BabySmart detection system (delayed), and a new Mercedes diesel (replacing the new Detroit Diesel?) for Europe.

Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager: Will more separate. The Voyager will take a more youthful approach, while the Caravan, which will come in an R/T model, will be more sporty.

January 3, 2000

GM announced two new truck hybrids, one similar to the PT Cruiser, the other an SUV front with a pickup bed (we don't know how this differs from a crew cab pickup, since the cab is the same in the full-size pickups and full-size SUVs).

A Plymouth Hemi Cuda sold at auction for $400,000. It was a blue convertible with a white interior and 4 speed transmission, one of two ever made. It was seized from a drug dealer and sold at auction in Kenmore, Washington.

We make no guarantees regarding validity, accuracy, or applicability of information, predictions, or advice. Please read the terms of use and privacy policy. Copyright © 1994-2000, David Zatz; copyright © 2001-2016, Allpar LLC (except as noted, and press/publicity materials); all rights reserved. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, and Mopar are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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