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2008 Chrysler News As It Happened

Chrysler to cut almost one-third of Belvidere workers

Chrysler will lay off 1,096 workers at its Belvidere assembly plant. The cuts will come on January 31 with the elimination of the third shift and is part of a planned reduction announced in November. The cutbacks will trim the plant’s 3,400 hourly employee count by nearly one-third.

2005 chrysler belvidere plant

Six hundred temporary workers are included in the layoffs; permanent UAW employees will be kept or laid off based on seniority. Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson said the company is in discussions with local union leaders about offering buyouts and special retirement incentives.

The Belvidere plant, which assembles the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot, is represented by UAW Local 1268. Local 1268 was one of the largest locals to vote against acceptance of the recent Chrysler/UAW contract.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 03 2008, 12 PM)

Chrysler sales up 1% for December, down 3% for 2007

Chrysler's total U.S. sales for December 2007 were 1% higher than its December 2006 sales, despite a drop in fleet sales. For all of 2007, Chrysler LLC dropped 3% from 2006, a much lower drop than analysts had predicted. A large part of the company's ability to maintain sales was the Jeep Wrangler, which attained a sales record of 119,243 vehicles. In addition, in December, the Dodge Caravan's sales finally rose over the prior-year's period. Total Chrylser LLC sales were 2,076,650 vehicles.

Chrysler finished the month with 438,390 units of inventory, or a 60-day supply. Inventory is down by 19 percent compared with December 2006 when it was at 538,438 units.

Chrysler 2007 sales

Chrysler dealers really came through in December, delivering a welcome 0.53% improvement in sales, making the folks in Auburn Hills the only Detroit automaker to post a month in the black.

The best news was a 51.3% improvement in sales of the Dodge Caravan which came into December looking like it was going to give up the top spot in the minivan segment. By the time the counting was done, the Caravan had outsold the Honda Odyssey by over 43 percent, turning a 3,300-unit deficit into a 3,100-unit advantage in a single month. The Chrysler Town & Country easily outpaced the Toyota Sienna for the month, but ended the year just 11 sales behind the Toyota minivan.

The Dodge Charger beat its December 2006 total by 5.19% with its third-best sales for the year and the Chrysler PT Cruiser brought in an 18.54% improvement, ending the year with its best sales of 2007. The Jeep Wrangler continued to improve, posting a 4.45% gain and ended the year 48.55% ahead of its 2006 total.

For the year, Chrysler’s sales volume was down 3.07% but because there was one extra selling day in 2007, the deficit grew slightly to 3.39 percent. Chrysler’s market share was essentially flat; it was down 0.07% from 2006.
Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 04 2008, 03 AM)

Caravan remains minivan king

The Dodge Caravan retained its segment-leading position in the minivan market for 2007 by beating out the Honda Odyssey by 3,104 sales. The Chrysler Town & Country came within 12 sales of beating the Toyota Sienna for third place.

Dodge Caravan 176,150
Honda Odyssey 173,046
Toyota Sienna 138,162
Chrysler Town & Country 138,151

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 03 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler sees Canadian sales increase; takes #2 position

The Canadian market reached 1.65 million new vehicles in 2007, an increase over 2006 and roughly 10% of American sales, after a moderate (5%) slide in December sales. For December 2007, compared wtih December 2006, GM sales fell by 28% - nearly one third - due to slow reactions to the strong Canadian dollar, while Ford sales dropped 12% and Chrysler sales rose 2%, partly due to quicker reactions to changes in currency values. Toyota and Honda set new records for December, with sales hikes of 2% and 12% respectively.

For 2007, GM's Canadian sales were the strongest of any company in Canada, with a full 150,000 unit lead and 400,000 units sold. Toyota and Lexus came in at half that number, with Honda and Acura around 30,000 vehicles behind. Chrysler maintained a comfortable lead over Toyota, with 232,859 vehicles sold, despite a drop in less-profitable fleet sales.

Jeep sales were up 62%, driven by several models including the diesel Grand Cherokee. The minivans sold well, with the Caravan, once Canada's favorite vehicle, now in third place as sales even out between Dodge and Chrysler brands. The Ram hit a record of 42,294 sales.

(January 04 2008, 04 PM)

Correction

As many other news outlets did, Allpar reported that Ford had been the #2 automaker in US sales for over seven decades. However, Chrysler took that spot in 1936, due largely to the superior engineering and performance of Plymouth cars and Ford's refusal to keep up with modern safety and comfort standards, and held it until 1950, when Ford's more modern styling and more acceptable engineering pushed it back to #2. Thus, Toyota captured a position Ford has held for 56 years, a long time but not quite the 75 years typically reported.

(January 05 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler 300C Rodeo Drive introduced

Performance West has introduced the Chrysler 300C Rodeo Drive, a six-inch-extended wheelbase vehicle with numerous luxury cues, inside and out, as well as E85 compatibility. Photography and further information are at Allpar's Chrysler 300C W.P. Chrysler Executive Rodeo Drive Plus 6 page.

(January 06 2008, 12 PM)

Chrysler sales increase outside North America

Chrysler LLC posted its best year ever in international markets in 2007. Sales outside North America totaled 238,218 vehicles, up 15% from the previous year. Sales outside the United States totaled 599,618 units in 2007, up nearly 8%. Canada had a 6 percent increase, while Mexico had an increase of 0.1 percent.

All of the regions outside North America posted sales gains for the year. The Middle East/North Africa region led the growth with a 64% increase. Latin American sales increased 22%, Eastern Europe was up 30%, and Asia Pacific grew 22%.

The Dodge Caliber generally led export sales, selling nearly 31,000 cars outside North America in 2006, nearly doubling Dodge sales outside North America (the Dodge brand was only recently re-introduced to many countries, which had sold Plymouth and Dodge vehicles as Chryslers - e.g. Chrysler Neon and Chrysler Voyager). The Dodge Journey, which was engineered with international sales in mind and will have an automated manual transmission and diesel engine available for overseas buyers, is expected to greatly increase Dodge's market share as well.

Italy is currently the largest market for Chrysler vehicles outside North America; Chrysler's minivans beat the ubiquitous (in Europe) Renault Espace, as well as competitors from Ford, Volkswagen, and Opel, to be the #1 large MPV for the fifteenth consecutive year - just as the Dodge Caravan was the best selling minivan in America (for 23 years).

(January 07 2008, 10 AM)

Chrysler raids two Ford engineers

Chrysler pulled in two senior Ford engineers as it continues to seek top talent to help turn the company around.

According to a Chrysler announcement, Ben Winter will become Chrysler’s new chief engineer for front-wheel drive products. He had been chief nameplate engineer for the new Ford Taurus sedan which replaced the poorly received Five Hundred. Susan Dehne will be the director of body, body exterior and interior systems engineering for an undisclosed product program. She had held several senior engineering positions at Ford including chief nameplate engineer for the Explorer Sport Trac. [Ford had nabbed numerous Chrysler engineers, including Chris Theodore and most of the Prowler team, in 1998-99.]

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 08 2008, 04 AM)

Dodge chassis cabs continue to take first place

The Dodge Ram 3500 Class 3 chassis cab has continued to do well in the market, beating Ford for the best selling Class 3 chassis cab in July, September, and October. General Motors continues to sell more Class 3 chassis cabs overall, when Chevrolet and GMC are combined, but the General's individual brands take third and fourth place respectively. Dodge's chassis cabs were introduced in late 2006, and quickly gained credibility for their tough construction, strong brakes, and comfortable cabs.

Figures for 2007 as a whole are not yet available. Manufacturers generally do not break out chassis cab sales figures, so market share is taken from Polk registration data.

(January 08 2008, 11 AM)

Chrysler prepares more buyout offers for UAW workers

Eligible hourly employees at the Jefferson North and Belvidere Assembly Plants will be offered buyouts in the near future as Chrysler continues to reduce headcount and eliminate production shifts.

While it confirmed the buyouts are coming, Chrysler spokeswoman Michelle Tinson did not give a specific date.

Jefferson North, Belvidere, Toledo North and the Sterling Heights Assembly Plants and Brampton Assembly in Ontario will be each losing a shift as Chrysler trims its production schedule to compensate for the softening U.S. light vehicle market. Chrysler expects to eliminate 5,000 jobs when the production cuts are implemented.

Workers at Toledo North were offered buyout packages last week. Chrysler has not determined when the packages will be offered to employees at Sterling Heights and Brampton.

Chrysler hopes the early-retirement and buyout programs will allow it to achieve most of the workforce reductions, minimizing the number of employees who have to be laid off. Unlike those who depart willingly, the company has to continue to pay laid-off workers 90% of their pay for 48 weeks.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 09 2008, 03 AM)

Jefferson North employees get novel work schedule

Chrysler will cut its Jefferson North Assembly Plant to one daily shift on February 4th so the automaker has adopted in interesting work schedule for its hourly UAW workers. First-shift workers will return from a three-week layoff on the fourth and work for two weeks. On February 18th, second-shift workers will report in and the first-shift workers will be idled for two weeks. The company says the alternating work periods will continue until further notice.

Chrysler is eliminating the second shift at Jefferson North and will begin to offer buyout packages to eligible employees soon. The alternating shifts are said to be part of the transition process to pare employee headcount down to a single shift while minimizing the need for outright layoffs.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 11 2008, 06 AM)

Nisssan to provide small number of small cars to Chrysler

Chrysler LLC and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., today announced an agreement for Nissan to supply Chrysler with a new car for limited distribution in South America. Based on the Nissan Versa sedan, the new car will be supplied to Chrysler on an Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM) basis in 2009. The OEM supply agreement is the second product exchange between the two corporations, with Nissan affiliate JATCO already supplying Chrysler with transmissions since 2004.
(January 11 2008, 10 AM)

Chrysler-Getrag plant on hold

According to a report in the Kokomo Tribune, work has been suspended indefinitely on a Chrysler-Getrag transmission plant being built in Tipton County. Construction ended December 21 for what was described as a holiday break and had not been resumed.

The $530 million facility, a joint project between Chrysler and the German transmission maker, would build dual-clutch transmissions for Chrysler as part of an agreement made while the now-independent automaker was still part of the former DaimlerChrysler AG. The details of the new plant were announced in June 2007. At that time, it was forecast to be completed in 2009 and create about 1,440 new jobs for Tipton County including 1,170 at the plant itself.

The current delay is being attributed to the two companies’ desire to revisit the terms of the agreement, including the price of the transmissions to be produced and the number to which Chrysler would be committed.

Getrag is confident the differences will be resolved and work will resume on the new plant. A spokesman for Chrysler said meetings are taking place and it is hoped construction will be resumed without a significant delay.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 11 2008, 02 PM)

Dodge releases new Dodge Ram, 380-hp Hemi, and more

Dodge has released details and photos of the new 2009 Dodge Ram, which has a new suspension, power boosts to both V8 engines, and numerous clever ways to store more, and more easily. The interior has also been greatly improved. For details, see our 2009 Dodge Ram page, which will soon be augmented with an engineer's analysis of the suspension and more photos.

(January 12 2008, 03 PM)

Engineer Bob Sheaves posts analysis of 2009 Ram suspension

Bob Sheaves, a suspension engineer who has worked on Jeeps and Dodge vehicles, has posted an analysis of the new Ram rear suspension at our 2009 Ram page.

(January 12 2008, 04 PM)

ENVI to show three new eco-vehicles today

Chrysler rolls out three electric-powered, environmentally-friendly concepts today as its new ENVI development team takes its first public bows.

The four-door ecoVoyager is a fuel cell/battery hybrid offering its four passengers an traveling experience Chrysler compares to a private jet. It uses a fuel cell to recharge the battery pack that powers the vehicle’s electric motor, extending the car’s range to an estimated 300 miles, and its only emission is water vapor.

Dodge’s ZEO sports wagon is powered by a 200-kW electric motor and can go from 0-60 in under six seconds. Chrysler calls it “a muscle car for the 21st Century.” Unlike the ecoVoyager and Renegade, the 2+ 2 ZEO does not have an onboard recharging system but the company claims a range of 250 miles before it has to be plugged in.

Jeep’s Renegade is a two-seat, diesel-electric vehicle that uses a small diesel engine to recharge the battery packs that provide power for the electric motors, somewhat in the same way a diesel railroad locomotive works. Chrysler says the subcompact Renegade will be able to get about 110 miles from a gallon of fuel.

Chrysler plans to gather feedback from visitors to the show and its customers to gain insight into the best direction for development of future vehicles.

Chrysler’s ENVI group is a skunk works operation made up of engineers and designers working on advanced vehicles with new types of powertrains. It was formed in September 2007 with the mission of creating a production vehicle.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 14 2008, 04 AM)

ecoVoyager nabs Eyes on Design award

The Chrysler ecoVoyager took the honors as Best Concept Truck in the Eyes on Design competition by a jury composed of top automotive and industrial designers from almost every North American, European and Asian manufacturer. Before voting, the members of the jury toured the North American International Auto Show.

The ecoVoyager is a concept vehicle that runs primarily on battery-power but adds a fuel cell to extend the vehicle’s range to approximately 300 miles.

According to company officials, the vehicle takes advanced technology and wraps it in a distinctive, elegant American design.

"While the ecoVoyager's supple, flowing one-box shape is purposely designed to achieve aerodynamic efficiencies,” said Greg Howell, the principal exterior designer for the ecoVoyager. “It also pushes the Chrysler brand language in a new direction of elegant simplicity, by taking full advantage of the space normally occupied by a bulky conventional powertrain setup to drastically reduce the front overhang."

Eyes on Design has been a summer fund-raiser held by the Detroit Institute for Ophthalmology for over 20 years. The Eyes on Design awards were created three years ago at the urging of Tom Gale, former Chrysler Corporation vice president of design.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 17 2008, 09 AM)

Detroit News readers favor Chrysler vehicles

Readers of the Detroit News have selected three Chrysler vehicles as their favorites: the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon as the best off-road vehicle, the Chrysler 300 as the favorite luxury vehicle, and the Chrysler Town & Country as the best family vehicle.

(January 18 2008, 08 AM)

Charity auction of first Challenger to air live tomorrow

The Speed Channel will be covering the auction of the first production 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8®, taking place at the 37th annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. Proceeds will benefit notMykid, an organization dedicated to facilitating improved understanding about youth behavioral health issues including suicide, drug abuse eating disorders and
depression.

Bidders will have the chance to own the car before it is shown to the public. The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 will make its worldwide debut on Feb. 6 at the Chicago Auto Show. The Challenger concept vehicle will be on
display at the auction.

Interested bidders are required to register with Barrett-Jackson prior to bidding. Registration and further information can be found at www.barrett-jackson.com.

Dodge dealers took more than 4,300 orders the first day the Challenger went on sale.

The Speed Channel will be covering the Barrett-Jackson auction beginning at 2 p.m. ET Saturday. Barrett-Jackson is projecting that Challenger will be auctioned some time around 9 p.m. ET, but recommends that viewers tune in earlier to be certain not to miss it.

(January 18 2008, 10 AM)

Product teams realigned

Chrysler LLC today announced an evolutionary realignment of its Product Development team.

Frank Klegon said that today's moves would lead to an expansion of engineering activities in targeted global centers, including China, India, Eastern Europe and Mexico, and focus on customer requirements as Chrysler expands globally. Chrysler's new head of supplier relations has already stated his intent to dramatically increase the sourcing of products from China and India, and Automotive News carried the news that more engineering would be transferred to India, where Chrysler currently has a small staff mainly dealing in supply chain management.

Product Development will now consist of the following:

Jeep Product Team: Focused on the Jeep brand
Truck Product Team: for the Dodge truck brand
Car and Minivan Product Team: for full size cars, the current midsize lineup, and minivan products
Future Midsize Product Team: for future midsize vehicles for worldwide markets.
Street and Racing Technology (SRT) Product Team: performance brand.

Chrysler will also enhance its focus on driving commonality and the re-use of vehicle components through a strengthened Core Components and Process organization.

The following appointments take effect immediately:

Daniel C. Knott has been appointed Vice President - Jeep Product Team. Knott will lead development of all Jeep vehicles. Knott most recently served as Vice President - Product Development Core Components, Processes and International Engineering.

Scott G. Kunselman has been appointed Vice President - Truck Product Team. Kunselman will lead development of all Dodge trucks, including commercial vehicle applications. Kunselman most recently served as Vice President - Body-on-Frame Product Team.

Larry D. Lyons has been appointed Vice President - Car and Minivan Product Team. Lyons will lead the development of all current midsize segment vehicles, minivans and future fullsize vehicles. Lyons most recently served as Vice President - Front-Wheel Drive Product Team and Core Team Leader, Product Development.

Michael F. Donoughe continues as Vice President and will lead development of future product in the midsize segment, an important vehicle category worldwide. Donoughe most recently served as Vice President - Body on Frame Product Team Leader and Core Team Leader, Product Development.

Kipp D. Owen will continue to lead Street and Racing Technology (SRT) programs as Director - SRT.

Chrysler also announced the following appointments that will support the product development teams:

Mark M. Chernoby has been appointed Vice President - Core Components, Processes and International Engineering. In this role, he will oversee the development of common processes and shared components and manage Chrysler's expanding engineering presence in China, India, Eastern Europe and Mexico. He most recently served as Vice President - Advance Vehicle Engineering. Chernoby succeeds Dan Knott.

James B. Issner has been appointed to Vice President - Advance Vehicle Engineering, succeeding Mark Chernoby. In this role, he will be responsible for integrating new and emerging technologies into Chrysler's future vehicles.

(January 22 2008, 02 PM)

First Challenger goes for $400,000

Dodge raised $400,000 for the notMYkid charity organization on January 19 when it auctioned the first production 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 at the 37th annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Phoenix, Arizona.

Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Co., placed the winning bid without even seeing the real car. The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 won’t make its worldwide debut until February 6 when it is unveiled the Chicago Auto Show.

“Dodge is ecstatic that the sale of the first production 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 to roll of the assembly line raised $400,000 for such a worthy cause,” Mike Accavitti, Director of Dodge Brand and SRT Global Marketing, said. “The introduction of an all-new, modern Dodge Challenger has generated a lot of excitement, and the enthusiasm for the new car was evident on the auction block.”

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 22 2008, 03 PM)

New Day program adds new features to Chrysler vehicles

Twelve Chrysler vehicles will soon include extra features as standard equipment. It is part of an effort to show the newly private automaker can respond quickly to consumers.

Chrysler will kick off its "New Day" advertising campaign next month, emphasizing the changes, hits the media in February. Among the themes is the addition of 56 new features to a dozen popular vehicles without any increase in sticker price. One of the most significant add-ons is Stow ‘n Go seating in the entry-level Dodge Grand Caravan. Previously, the popular seating feature was standard only on more upscale models of the Chrysler minivans. The Dodge Charger will now come with 17-inch aluminum wheels standard.

In addition to generating positive consumer responses, making such features standard also saves money through reduced manufacturing and logistics costs. General Motors learned this when it made an AM radio standard equipment on the Vega back in the early 1970s; it actually cost the company more to make the radio optional than it did to install one in every car.

But Deborah Myer, Chrysler's chief marketing officer, speaking at the Automotive News World Congress, stressed the emphasis of the "New Day" program is on how the company responds to the consumer. The vehicles featured in the campaign are among Chrysler's highest volume products and Meyer said the improved interiors and simplified option selections are an integral part of the program. Chrysler is expected to spend about a half-billion dollars implementing a total of 260 product enhancements.

Meyer, who came to Chrysler from Lexus last year, said, "I've never seen a manufacturer move this fast to make changes … We're going to prove that we are listening and responding and changing faster than ever before."

Chrysler also is creating an online Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) as part of Meyer’s overall strategy. The purpose of the CAB is to provide timely feedback on Chrysler products and marketing. The CAB could eventually include a couple thousand members from various demographic segments, but Meyer says one of the first groups to be recruited will be young, female Dodge customers as it is critical to broaden the brand’s appeal.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 24 2008, 08 AM)

Chrysler to trim 320 jobs at Detroit Axle next week

Chrysler will cut some 320 Detroit Axle workers next week and will be offering buyout and early retirement packages to qualified hourly union employees at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. The packages include lump-sum payments of $70,000 or $100,000 for workers meeting certain requirements. Packages will also be offered early next week to United Auto Workers union members working at the company’s transport division in Detroit and Toledo and at its electronics facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

Spokesperson Michele Tinson told reporters Chrysler and the UAW are discussing packages for workers at Detroit Axle.

Buyout and early retirement offers were extended earlier this month to hourly workers at the Belvidere, Jefferson North and Toledo North assembly plants and yesterday was the deadline for employees to accept the offers. Chrysler has not disclosed how many workers elected to take the money and voluntarily leave the company but management is hoping to trim a total of nearly 2,700 employees from the three facilities without resorting to costly layoffs.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 25 2008, 05 AM)

Soldier receives keys to new Jeep Liberty in "care" package

Specialist Michael Gallagher from Fort Lewis, Washington found a nice surprise in the package he received from Operation Gratitude on January 22: an envelope containing the keys to a new 2008 Jeep Liberty.

Spc. Gallagher, who is serving in Iraq as a vehicle commander from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, was the recipient of the 300,000th package sent by Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization that sends letters of support and care packages to American troops deployed overseas.

Gallagher’s name was randomly placed on the 300,000th package which was personally delivered by Carolyn Blashek, Operation Gratitude's founder, and Charlie, Othold, director of operations, at the Army’s Forward Operating Base Warhorse.

"When my commander ordered me to show up to this ceremony, I thought it was just another care package and they were making a big deal about it because it was the 300,000th one," said Gallagher. "When I opened up the envelope, it completely blew my mind."

In addition to the keys, the package contained a letter from John Plecha, Director of Jeep Marketing and Global Communications, and other gifts from U.S. citizens and companies that generously support the operation.

Addressed to "Dear American Hero," Plecha's letter read, "As the recipient of the 300,000th Operation Gratitude care package, the Jeep brand is delighted to award you a Jeep vehicle of your own as a symbol of our appreciation, as you represent all those who bravely go in harm's way in service to our country."

Spc. Gallagher will receive his new Jeep Liberty when he returns to the U.S.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 25 2008, 06 AM)

Viper had strong international season for 2007

According to Gary Johnson, Road Racing Manager for the Motorsports Group, Dodge did well in international racing for 2007, achieving two championships on two continents. Winning the new FIA GT3 Championship in Brazil, a Viper Competition Coupe driven by Xandy Negrão and Andreas
Mattheis beat cars from Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche.

In England, the Viper took the British GT Championship, with Team RPM drivers Bradley Ellis and Alex Mortimer, finishing 81 points and six points ahead of their closest competitor.

Compared with similar cars from Aston Martin, Jaguar, Ferrari, Porsche, Ascari, Lamborghini, Mosler, and Lotus, the Viper Competition Coupe is quite affordable. 2007 sales totaled 25 units, with record part sales; over the past five years, 120 Competition Coupes have been produced.

(January 25 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler offers buyouts to all UAW workers in Detroit

Chrysler is offering buyout or early retirement packages to all its UAW employees in the metropolitan Detroit area. Company spokeswoman Michele Tinson said workers at eleven facilities received the offers yesterday. Union members working at the Warren Truck plant will receive their offers when they return from this week’s temporary shutdown.

The packages are part of Chrysler’s plan to cut 10,000 jobs. Although workers at some plants have already been informed that the company is planning layoffs, the company is hoping to reduce the number of actual layoffs through voluntary separation. Laid-off union employees are eligible to receive a large percentage of their wages for up to 48 weeks.

Chrysler employs about 14,000 UAW members at the affected plants which include Sterling Heights Assembly, Sterling Stamping, Trenton Engine, Mack Engine I & II, Detroit Axle, Warren Stamping, Conner Assembly, Mt. Elliot Tool & Die, Sterling Heights Vehicle Test Center and Pilot manufacturing. Of that total about 4,600 union members are eligible for early retirement.

Monday's efforts target employees who perform what is classified as non-core work. Under the new UAW contracts, Chrysler can hire replacements at pay and benefit scales that are half those of the current workers but the company says the reductions it is making now are strictly tied to cuts in production.

Workers will have until February 18 to accept or decline the offers which are reported to be similar to those offered previously with lump-sum cash payments of up to $100,000 and early retirement bonuses of up to $70,000.

Industry analysts say Chrysler may need to improve the deals as employees not eligible for early retirement may be unwilling to accept the cash buyouts. Chrysler has the youngest workforce of the Detroit automakers and just 30% will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. Cash buyouts can be significantly reduced by taxes, new jobs, even at lower pay, are hard to find, and selling a home may be difficult in Michigan’s battered real estate market.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 29 2008, 02 AM)

Police Charger brakes adjusted for 2008

As detailed in the Dodge Charger police car page, Dodge has adjusted the performance of the Charger squad cars to increase the lifespan of the brake pads. Early models had dramatically better braking performance than Ford and Chevrolet squad cars, but brake pads had to be replaced frequently (one officer reported every 6,000 - 8,000 miles), and noise and brake dust were minor issues. The new pads last longer, are quieter, and generate less dust, at some cost in performance; however they still appear to outperform the Fords.

(January 29 2008, 10 AM)

Chrysler to lay off design workers today

Chrysler will lay off 119 design employees at the Auburn Hills technology center and Plymouth Road Office Complex today. The workers, all salaried members of UAW Local 412, are part of a group Chrysler had originally intended to cut at Christmas but, under pressure, gave a last-minute reprieve.

Under the recently-approved contract, any laid-off union members will continue to receive a percentage of their base pay while unemployed for a period of time that usually extends beyond the 26 weeks allowed for standard unemployment compensation.

The union warned its members Wednesday that layoffs were coming and promised to continue to fight to get the jobs restored. Chrysler said the action was volume-related.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (January 31 2008, 07 AM)

UAW to fight Chrysler layoffs

United Auto Workers union leaders plan to challenge Chrysler over yesterday’s layoffs of 119 design employees.

Jeff Hagler, president of Local 412, which represents the affected workers, met with other union leaders to discuss filing a grievance against Chrysler. Hagler, who called the layoffs a “slap in the face of the union,” maintains the company failed to follow established protocols because it did not give the union proper notice of the layoffs and because it laid off workers selectively rather than by seniority. Rich Harter, Local 412's second vice president and Unit 1 chairman, is already taking the steps required to prepare a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

Some UAW leaders believe Thursday’s cuts were not related to production cutbacks but were to allow Chrysler to shift the work to non-union contract workers or to engineering centers outside of North America. Hagler noted there were 250 contract employees in the same department where Thursday’s cuts were made. Last week, Chrysler announced it planned to establish new engineering centers in four developing countries and Chrysler already employs foreign workers in Auburn Hills who were given H1b visas under immigration rules allowing companies to hire skilled foreigners by claiming a job could not be filled with an American employee.

The union is also upset that, though the layoffs are not effective until Saturday, employees with access to sensitive information were escorted off company grounds with less than an hour’s notice.

Speaking for Chrysler, spokeswoman Michele Tinson said the company was in compliance with the procedures required by the union contract and maintained the job cuts were production-related. Chrysler terminated 1,100 contract jobs in November 2007.

Tinson also said it is still possible the employees laid off yesterday could be offered a choice between the $100,000 buyouts offered to other union workers and standard layoff benefits which include the majority of the employee’s base pay for 48 weeks and the ability to spend up to two years in a jobs bank.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 01 2008, 08 AM)

Chrysler January sales down 12 percent

Chrysler debuts 12 Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge value packages on high-volume vehicles as part of New Day Celebration beginning Feb. 3

Chrysler LLC's total U.S. sales of 137,392 units were down 12 percent and total fleet sales were down 18 percent in January. This was due to a planned reduction of daily rental fleet vehicles that is in line with the Company's strategy. All sales figures are reported as unadjusted.

The Company opened the new year with strong sales performance from the Dodge Avenger, Dodge Viper, Dodge Caliber and Dodge Charger, all contributing to a year-over-year sales increase of 42 percent (28,457 units) for Dodge brand car sales. This is compared with 20,020 units in January 2007.

Chrysler Aspen sales of 2,570 units represented a 20 percent increase in January 2008 versus the same period last year.

Based on strong consumer demand, sales of the redesigned Jeep(R) Liberty mid-size sport-utility vehicle increased 17 percent to 8,331 units in January 2008. Sales in January 2007 were 7,141 units.

The Company finished the month with 413,874 units of inventory, or a 75-day supply. Inventory is down by 15 percent compared with January 2007 when it was at 488,410 units.

For all figures and executive quotes, click on Full Story.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 01 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler crashed in January

Chrysler beat the pundits again in January. Unfortunately, this time it was by posting a sales drop well below the consensus of industry analysts polled by Bloomberg. The average of their predictions was a 7.5% decline but the actual shortfall was 12.1 percent, driven by a 24% drop in light truck sales.

Part of the shortfall can be attributed to an 18% planned reduction in fleet sales. However, retail sales were also down and, even though Chrysler spent the most of any automaker on incentives in January, it still came in with the worst showing of the Detroit automakers.

Pickups continue to take it on the chin. The Dodge Ram, Chrysler’s best-selling vehicle, racked up just 19,902 sales. That’s off 18% from January 2007 and is the lowest total for the big Dodge pickup in many years. In fairness, every full-size pickup, except the GMC Sierra and Toyota Tundra, lost ground in January and the Ram was still in third place, well ahead of the Sierra. Sales of the Dakota dwindled 46% to 2,076 units dropping it behind every compact pickup except the GMC Canyon, Isuzu pickup and Mitsubishi Raider.

The biggest hurt for Chrysler has to be the fact that both of its brand-new minivan models tanked last month. Sales of the Town & Country were down 20% while those of the new Caravan plunged 56 percent, leaving it in fourth place behind the Honda Odyssey. The Toyota Sienna was tops in the minivan segment and was the only model to bring in more than 10,000 sales as segment volume tumbled by 25.7 percent. It may be that Chrysler’s decision to drop the base Caravan from the lineup was ill-advised.

Even the popular Jeep Wrangler stumbled last month, missing its 2007 numbers by 31 percent. Percentage-wise, larger deficits were posted by the Compass, down 32 percent, and the Commander, off 33 percent. The Grand Cherokee came up 19% shy of last January. The new Liberty and the Patriot brought in Jeep’s only improvements; Liberty sales were up 17% and the Patriot, which was new on the market last January, came in with a 2,465% gain.

The Chrysler Aspen had a good month with sales up 20% and the Dodge Nitro came within 1% of matching last January’s numbers. The Dodge Durango, however, took a 33% beating. Not surprisingly, sales of the Pacifica were down significantly, now that it has its date with the headsman.

Chrysler neglected to list the Magnum in its results, but included its sales in their totals, so it was fairly easy to determine that dealers sold 2,342 Magnums last month. It’s surprising Chrysler would omit the Magnum as it was one of the vehicles that came in with improved sales, 1.4% ahead of January 2007.

Chrysler’s passenger cars fared better; up 25% compared to January 2007, but they accounted for only 31.4% of Chrysler’s total volume. Leading the pack was the Dodge Caliber, the only Chrysler car and one of only two Chrysler vehicles, to break the 10,000 mark. All of Dodge’s cars showed improvements, from the Charger’s 7% gain to the 460% jump recorded by the Avenger, which was just coming on the market last year. Sales of the Sebring were up a healthy 33 percent, making it the best-selling Chrysler-badged vehicle. Chrysler’s other cars lost ground; the 300 came up 10% short of its January 2007 mark and sales of the Crossfire tumbled 61% as it enters its final year on the Chrysler roster.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 02 2008, 02 AM)

Challenger interior shots released

oh20 has posted photos of the 2008 Dodge Challenger interior, even as we were trying to get an advance copy of the embargoed release material. Since we did not get said copy, we are able to bring you what we believe to be the very first clear images of the Challenger interior.

Dodge Challenger at http://www.allpar.com/cars/dodge/challenger.html

(February 05 2008, 08 AM)

Dodge Challenger SRT8 officially introduced

Dodge officially released information on the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8, the first of the Challengers. (All others will be 2009 models.) For details, visit our Dodge Challenger SRT8 page and stay tuned for Chicago auto show coverage.

(February 06 2008, 07 AM)

Chicago Auto Show, Challenger

Allpar has posted details from the Chicago Auto Show and has updated the Dodge Challenger page with new performance figures. The Chicago Auto Show coverage will resume tomorrow.

(February 06 2008, 02 PM)

Rumors: Viper's end predicted

Numerous sources, most notably Jalopnik, have predicted the end of the Dodge Viper; Allpar itself made this prediction some time ago when the closure of the Conner Avenue plant, where the Viper (and, at one time, the Prowler) is made, was announced. While some predicted that another company, such as Magna, would take over production, the case for continuing to make Vipers has gotten weaker. While it was once a powerful halo car, the Viper is no longer guaranteed to win every magazine comparison it appears in, largely because General Motors has created higher-powered Corvettes with the help of McLaren, which also helped on the new Viper.

Depending on demand for the Viper and the level of favorable publicity it garners, the Viper might still have a life past 2011; however, at this point most indications point to a quiet end for the car that signalled a revolution in Chrysler's methods and products back in the early 1990s. The Viper was a test for new ways of engineering vehicles -- or re-using the AMC methods -- which then produced a revolutionary large car (Intrepid), groundbreaking truck (Ram), and a profitable small car that beat all competitors at the track, while maintaining a liveable, roomy interior (Neon).

(February 10 2008, 11 AM)

Engine plant wins award

The Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA) facility in Dundee, Michigan, a UAW-organized facility which produces the World Engines for Chrysler products, has been awarded the 2007-2008 Shingo Silver Medallion for operational excellence. The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence, established in 1988, recognizes business excellence in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

(February 12 2008, 09 AM)

Unique blue Challenger SRT8 at charity auction

Chrysler is auctioning the only B5 Blue Dodge Challenger SRT8, the 43rd retail Challenger made, on eBay. Proceeds will go to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, which was founded by NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and his wife Pattie in honor of their late son, Adam. Victory Junction is a year-round camp that serves children, ages 7 to 15, with health issues.

Registration information can be found at www.ebay.com/challenger43. The auction ends on Feb. 22 at 10 p.m. EST.

(February 12 2008, 11 AM)

Dodge Avenger selling in China

According to Automotive News, Chrysler is now selling the Dodge Avenger sedan in China. Built in the United States, the Avneger is being sold with the 2.4 liter engine, with the base model starting at $38,501, priced against the Volkswagen Passat and Honda Accord. Ironically, the Chrysler Sebring will sell for $24,957 when it appears in the Spring; but the Sebring will be locally made.

In 2007, Chrysler sold 7,743 Chrysler 300Cs (made with Beijing Automotive) and 1,216 Town & Country minivans (made with Fujian Motors). The locally produced Jeep Wrangler Rubicon will go on sale later this year.

(February 12 2008, 06 PM)

Chrysler's Mexican sales up

Even as sales within the United States dived, Chrysler reported a 9% sales increase (January 2007 to January 2008) in Mexico, following a slight increase for 2007. The increase was largely due to the introduction of the Jeep Compass and Patriot, but minivan sales were also up 17%. Dodge sales are expected to climb in 2008 with the new Journey and Challenger.

(February 13 2008, 01 PM)

Chrysler wants to repo Plastech tooling

Chrysler is asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Phillip Shefferly to lift an order staying the automaker from repossessing its tools from bankrupt Plastech Engineered Products Inc. Chrysler attorneys claim the supplier’s financial and quality problems forced Chrysler to cancel orders and gave it right to take action to protect its interests.

Plastech's attorneys argued the company’s February 1 bankruptcy filing protects it from being required to give up the tooling. said Chrysler does not have the right to take the tooling because its Feb. 1 bankruptcy filing protects it from having to surrender those assets. They also said Plastech believes Chrysler does have clear title to the tooling because it still owes over $13 million for the equipment and Plastech’s creditors also claim rights to that property.

Plastech produces plastic components found on every Chrysler vehicle. Chrysler wants the tooling so it can turn over the work to another supplier. Although Plastech also supplies Ford and General Motors, Chrysler accounts for about 21% of Plastech’s sales and loss of that business would mean failure of the business.

Judge Shefferly is expected to rule today on whether to lift the stay.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 14 2008, 10 AM)

Reuters: way cleared for American part exports to China?

Highlighting the difference between American and Chinese import policies, the United States won a preliminary ruling in a World Trade Organization (WTO) case, with the final ruling expected this year. The United States, Canada, and the E.U. jointly protested China's alleged taxation of imported auto parts at a rate identical to completed vehicles, if the vehicles using those parts do not meet local content requirements.

(February 14 2008, 05 PM)

Daytona 500 positions to be settled at Gatorade Duels

The Gatorade Duel, which determine the starting positions for the Daytona 500 on Sunday, start at 2:19 p.m. EST. Dodge drivers in the first Duel are Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Bobby Labonte, Kyle Petty and Sam Hornish, Jr. Five Dodge drivers are in the second: Robby Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti and Ken Schrader. There are 53 drivers.

(February 14 2008, 05 PM)

Dodge wins Daytona 500 (corrected)

Dodge driver Ryan Newman won the Daytona 500 today, breaking a streak of 81 races without a win; six of the top ten cars (including both the first and second place winners) were Dodges, despite heavy competition from Chevrolet and Toyota.

The Dodge victory was also a win for Roger Penske, owner of Newman's car and a successful team owner in open wheel racing.

Many Dodge fans believed Toyota or Chevrolet would win the race today, as the Penske team held back for 199 laps, letting a Toyota and two Chevrolets take the lead. Instead, Dodge took both first and second place, with Kurt Busch helping Ryan Newman to a win, then following him to second place. The third and fourth place cars were Toyotas (driven by Tony Stewart, who led for manylaps, and Kyle Busch). Following those were no less than four more Dodges, before the first Chevrolet and Ford appeared in the winners' roster.

Chevrolet had won the past five Daytona 500 races, and entered more cars than any other team (16 vs Dodge's 11, Toyota's 9, and Ford's 7). Ford has not won since 2000.

Nearly all cars finished the race; one Chevy, Toyota, and Ford were each removed in accidents, and two Chevrolets left the field due to mechanical problems.

(February 17 2008, 07 PM)

Chrysler, Plastech reach interim agreement

Bankrupt Plastech Engineered Products Inc. will continue to supply parts to Chrysler through February 27. A last-minute interim deal was reached Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court shortly before a previous agreement was set to expire. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Phillip Shefferly will still rule Tuesday as to whether or not Chrysler can repossess its tooling and equipment and shift the work to other suppliers.

One industry source says Chrysler has plans to close all its assembly facilities temporarily if it wins the court’s approval. Chrysler is said to have a fleet of trucks and teams of riggers ready to handle the job, which it estimates will take little more than a week.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 18 2008, 12 PM)

Judge says Chrysler can't repo tools from Plastech

Federal Bankruptcy Judge Phillip Shefferly has halted Chrysler's efforts to repossess tooling and equipment from Plastech Engineered Products Inc. Chrysler wanted the tooling so it could shift production of components to another supplier.

In his 43-page opinion, Judge Shefferly said the loss of Chrysler’s business would hurt Plastech's chances of successfully reorganizing and jeopardize its ability to supply other companies, including Ford and General Motors. Shefferly also ruled the Plastech’s possession of the equipment was protected by its bankruptcy filing.

Shefferly did acknowledge that his ruling exposes Chrysler to financial harm through the need to make additional bailout payments to Plastech and potential supply disruptions that could force factory shutdowns. Industry experts also note Chrysler also risks problems with lower quality parts. Plastech was cited with 450 Chrysler quality violations last year.

Chrysler spokesman Kevin Frazier said the company is exploring its legal options. Chrysler and Plastech have a temporary agreement covering parts deliveries through February 27.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 20 2008, 07 AM)

Automated-manual transmission plant back under way

The Getrag plant which will build Chrysler's automated manual transmissions in 2009 will resume construction on Monday, according to the Kokomo Tribune. This "dual clutch" transmission will be a key selling point for Chrysler minivans and possibly other vehicles, reportedly providing superior gas mileage, acceleration, and smooth shifting.

The Tipton County plant had ceased construction on December 21, while Chrysler and Getrag renegotiated their contracts. It is expected to employee 1,400 people including support staff outside the plant. Engineers have been working on preparations for mass production of the transmissions throughout the negotiations.

(February 21 2008, 09 AM)

Plant gets rebate check from utility

According to the Chrysler Scoop, the Etobicoke, Toronto Casting Plant received a $30,000 rebate from the gas company for cutting its use of energy, mainly by moving production of the 3.3-liter piston to the Autocast department. Moving production saves the plant a substantial amount of natural gas and electricity since it was able to shut down a melt furnace and all of the production equipment in the Permanent Mold department, without a substantial rise in energy use by the Autocast department. Plant officials said the relocation was successful because it was a team effort.

(February 21 2008, 09 AM)

India firm to take charge of some Chrysler IT functions

Chrysler LLC has hired Tata Consultancy Services in a multi-year contract to handle sales, marketing, and shared services in IT, according to the Detroit Free Press, in a $120 million contract. The work was already outsourced, and included projects such as the online vehicle ordering system for dealers and the company's dealer-brand sites. Outsourcing of some IT functions began in 2002 (though the web sites have generally been outsourced, at one time to Ross Roy).

Tata Consultancy, part of a larger company that includes Tata Motors, had $4.3 billion in revenues for 2007, 15% of which were from auto firms.

(February 21 2008, 12 PM)

Chrysler helps another struggling supplier

Chrysler has agreed to help another struggling supplier. Chrysler and General Motors agreed to an extension of credit for Blue Water Automotive Systems, a Marysville, Michigan-based maker of plastic car parts. Ford had already agreed to provide similar help. There were no details about the value of the aid which includes credit agreements and surcharge payments.

Blue Water filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on February 12 claims both assets and debts in excess of $100 million. The company hopes the automakers’ actions will persuade U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marci McIvor in Detroit to approve a $25 million financing package from Citizens Bank.

Blue Water was acquired in 2005 by private-equity firm KPS Capital Partners LP.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 22 2008, 03 PM)

Minivan production shifts to be temporarily shortened

Production shifts will be shortened at North American plants building the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan minivans next week. The reason cited is supplier issues with the 4.0-liter engine.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 22 2008, 05 PM)

Former UAW chief dies at 91

Douglas A. Fraser, former leader of the United Auto Workers union, has died at the age of 91, apparently of emphysema. Fraser was popular among the autoworkers, and was a successful negotiator, winning, among other concessions, comprehensive health care. He was president of the UAW from 1977 to 1983, when the UAW had to provide "givebacks," and during that time successfully campaigned to get federal loan guarantees for Chrysler. The guarantees were repaid early; Chrysler's going into bankruptcy would likely have pulled numerous suppliers down as well, potentially costing hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Fraser was the first American union leader to sit on the board of a major corporation when he was made a board member of Chrysler Corporation (he gave away his salary).

Fraser also marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and tried to achieve greater racial integration within the UAW. After retiring, he became an active professor at Wayne State University.

(February 24 2008, 05 PM)

Unique B5 Blue Challenger sells for $228,143

The lone 2008 B5 Blue Challenger (#43), produced to be sold for charity, brought in $228,143.43 on eBay. The car comes with a plaque, decals, and a meeting with Kyle Petty. Proceeds will go to the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

(February 24 2008, 05 PM)

Hot rod legend Boyd Coddington dead at 63

Boyd Coddington, the legendary hot-rod innovator who won the coveted Grand National Roadster Show's America's Most Beautiful Roadster trophy a record seven times, died at 6:20 AM Wednesday of undisclosed causes at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital in suburban Whittier, California. The cause of death was not disclosed. Coddington was 63.

Perhaps best-known to many for his “American Hot Rod” shows on the Discovery Channel, Coddington was raised in rural Idaho and began building cars at age thirteen. He once owned a gas station in Utah but moved to Southern California to build hot rods.

During most of the 1970s, Coddington, who was a machinist by trade, worked at Disneyland and devoted his spare time to working on cars in his garage. His creations found a ready market and he soon had a profitable business building custom cars. He earned a reputation for innovative design and set a new standard for flawless workmanship. He enjoyed working with the 1932-1934 Fords but branched out to modify a variety of different cars. The 1949 Cadillac-based "Cadzilla" Coddington built for Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top is considered by many to be a design masterpiece.

Coddington also had the ability to recognize talent and brought in partners like Jesse James and Chip Foose to work with him.

Coddington was a two-time winner of the Daimler-Chrysler Design Excellence Award and had been inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame, the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame, the National Rod & Custom Museum Hall of Fame and the Route 66 Wall of Fame.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 27 2008, 05 PM)

Longer looks at the 2009 Ram and Dodge Journey

Allpar has posted a closer look at the 2009 Dodge Ram and Journey, based on an event in New York City, without the hustle and bustle of a full-fledged car show. Under more natural light, the Journey interior looked better; and we got a new appreciate for its versatility. Likewise, we learned more about the care that went into the 2009 Ram, and will probably become (once again) the way Chrysler routinely works.

(February 27 2008, 07 PM)

Chrysler disputes reported multi-billion-dollar loss

Chrysler is disputing figures released yesterday showing it lost billions of dollars in the two months following its sale to Cerberus Capital Management.

Daimler AG, Chrysler’s former corporate spouse, made the claim in its annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday. The Stuttgart-based company said the reported $2.7 billion figure, covering the period from August 4 to September 30, 2007, was calculated under European reporting standards, not by U.S. accounting standards. Daimler said that for all of 2007, Chrysler lost 870 million euros, or roughly $1.2 billion at the euro-to-dollar exchange rate that Daimler used for the third quarter. Since neither Daimler nor Chrysler would answer questions about the report, it remains unclear what percentage of Chrysler's fourth-quarter results were included in the figure.

The reported loss includes approximately $466 million in Chrysler outlays during in the final quarter of 2007 that covered restructuring costs and the costs associated with the new four-year United Auto Workers contract, among other expenses.

In a statement yesterday, Chrysler spokesman David Barnas took issue with the Daimler report and said that from an operating earnings viewpoint, the company was profitable during the two-month period. Barnas went on to say Chrysler believes any differences between its figures and those reported by Daimler are the result of the different accounting standards. He added the automaker still has enough money to meet its present and future objectives and that the company is meeting or exceeding “all key metrics,” a favorite phrase of Cerbo-Chrysler executives.

Daimler shed some light on Chrysler executive compensation, reporting it paid Tom LaSorda, the former CEO of Chrysler, about $18.9 million last year, including approximately $14.3 million that was paid following the sale to Cerberus. Former Chief Operating Officer Eric Ridenour took home about $7.5 million, including $4.4 million he received after the sale.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 28 2008, 04 AM)

Chrysler extends deal with Plastech

Chrysler has reached an agreement with Plastech Engineered Products to extend its deal to keep receiving parts from the bankrupt supplier through March 3.

An earlier interim contract was set to end tonight.

This is the second of two short-term agreements that have been put in place since Chrysler canceled its contracts with Plastech on February 1 and demanded the return of it tooling and manufacturing equipment. Plastech then filed for bankruptcy protection and halted shipments to Chrysler, temporarily idling work at four assembly plants. Chrysler petitioned to be allowed to repossess its equipment and shift the work to other suppliers, but was turned down by the judge hearing the Plastech case.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (February 28 2008, 04 AM)

Dodge modifies Class 3-5 trucks, beats competitors

Dodge just announced that its Class 4 and Class 5 commercial chassis cabs - the Ram 4500 and Ram 5500 - have gained strategic upgrades for the 2008 and 2009 model years. The trucks, which went onto the market in 2007, now have 23% better gas mileage than the Chevy Kodiak/GMC Topkick, and 14% better than the Ford F-550 Chassis Cab, according to Dodge's Randy Jones.

The 2008 Dodge chassis cabs are now certified as having up to 1,172 pounds more payload capacity than the Ford F-450 and F-550 chassis cabs, as well.

For 2008, the power take off pump ratings for all Dodge Ram chassis cabs increased 55%, and a PTO prep package is available with the Laramie trim.

For 2009, a new ambulance prep package will be available for the Dodge 4500 and 5500, and the Class 3 Dodge Ram 3500 will increase its gross combined weight rating to a class-leading 24,000 pounds; it will also get an upgraded brake system for better service life and quicker stops, and an optional 3.42:1 axle ratio for better gas mileage.

Other changes will include a remote start feature with the Cummins automatic, and variable valve timing on the 5.7 liter Hemi. No horsepower rating was announced for the gas engine, but it is rated at 380 horsepower and 404 lb-ft of torque on the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500.

Dodge gained sales dominance in the Class 3 segment starting in July 2007, and continued to be the best-selling brand through the end of the year. Dodge is now the sixth largest commercial truck manufacturer, with 33,500 vehicles sold in 2007 (nearly three times as many as in 2003), according to Dodge.

Gas mileage figures are from the independent Transportation Research Center; the diesels achieved 20.2 mpg and the gas models achieved 15.2 mpg. The 3.92:1 axle ratio is now standard on diesels for better gas mileage.

(February 29 2008, 05 PM)

Chrysler sales down 14%

While the Dodge Avenger and Caliber pushed Dodge brand car sales up 6% year-to-year, Chrysler LLC today reported total February 2008 sales of 150,093 units, 14% percent below the same period last year. This includes a significant reduction in fleet and reflects the company’s ongoing commitment to reduce daily-rental fleet vehicle sales. All sales figures are reported as unadjusted.

Dodge Caliber sales were up 10 percent, and Dodge Avenger went up 60 percent.

Chrysler brand truck sales were led by the Chrysler Town & Country, which posted sales of 11,952 units for February, a 1 percent increase versus the same period last year which was more than balanced by a fall in Dodge Caravans. Chrysler Aspen sales increased 31% with 2,879 units compared with February 2007.

The new Jeep Patriot set a new sales record for the month of February with 5,195 units sold. The vehicle is one of Chrysler's recently introduced models that achieve 28 miles per gallon or better in highway driving.

Chrysler LLC and its Dealer Advertising Association launched the New Day Celebration campaign last month in 55 regional markets. Solid February sales of the 12 vehicles featuring New Day Value Packages, including the Dodge Caliber, Dodge Avenger, and Chrysler Sebring—all developed in response to input from customers and dealers—affirm Chrysler’s new direction.

The 2009 Dodge Journey continues to arrive in showrooms with a starting U.S. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $19,985 (including $625 destination).

The Company finished the month with 436,399 units of inventory, or a 73-day supply. Inventory is down by 11 percent compared with February 2007 when it was at 492,230 units.

See Full Story for individual model sales figures and stay tuned for an analysis by Bill Cawthon.

(March 03 2008, 02 PM)

Chrysler February sales volume down almost 14%

February was a month for red ink in the auto industry. Based on numbers reported by the major manufacturers, sales volume of cars and light trucks was off 6.41% compared to February 2007. Compounding the perception problem is this year’s Leap Day added a selling day to the calendar; when adjusted for daily sales rate (DSR) the shortfall was 10.13 percent.

The results yielded a seasonally adjusted selling rate (SAAR) of 15.38 million light vehicles, up slightly from January 2008’s 15.33 million, but way behind last February’s 16.56 million. While it’s still early, the first couple of months of 2008 are looking like this could be the worst sales year since 1993.

Chrysler fared the worst of the major automakers. Sales volume was down 13.99 percent and DSR plunged 17.43 percent. However, the numbers bear some examination as they included sales of discontinued models like the Crossfire and Pacifica, which were down 88 and 85 percent, respectively, Magnum, down 41 percent, and PT Cruiser, which was down 35 percent, perhaps because there is still a perception that all models are being discontinued, an impression Chrysler has done almost nothing to correct.

Of course, not all the bad news can be so easily sugar-coated. Sales of almost every Jeep model were down significantly as the “Wow” factor of the new Wrangler gave way to the reality of near-record gasoline prices and tightening credit for recreational vehicles. Sales of the Grand Cherokee were down 34% mirroring the declines reported for other large American SUVs, especially those from General Motors. The Commander, which could get traction almost anywhere but in the market, failed to sell even half the number of copies sold last year. The Grand Cherokee, Commander and Liberty not only failed to match their numbers from February 2007, they couldn’t even reach the disappointing numbers posted in January 2008.

Chrysler cars accounted for 31.43% of total sales, one of the highest shares they have claimed in some years. Avenger, Sebring and Caliber all posted double-digit gains and the Sebring almost doubled its sales from last year. Each of them also improved on their January figures. The 300 and Charger, although they fell short of their 2007 marks, also beat their January numbers. I am not sure where Chrysler got their figures, but based on numbers reported for February 2007 and February 2008, Chrysler car sales improved 11.69% adjusted for DSR. Volume was up 16.34% which was the largest increase for any of the domestic automakers.

The Chrysler Town & Country was the best-selling minivan last month and has taken the lead for the year by a small margin. The Dodge Caravan was still stuck in fourth place, behind the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. However, it’s worth noting the gap between first and fourth was just 880 sales and that minivan sales were actually pretty good last month, giving up just 0.17% of total light vehicle market share compared to February 2007. Compared to January, Town & Country sales were up 31.47% and Caravan sale were up 36.78 percent.

Hit by the triple whammy of the slowdown in the housing industry, high fuel prices and tight credit, pickup sales took another hit last month, giving up another 1.57 points of total market share. Ram pickup sales were down 21% which is more than the losses for Ford’s F-Series but less than the steep declines posted by Chevrolet’s full-size pickups.

The new Journey crossover made its American debut with 742 sales, in line with most other recent Chrysler introductions. Considering this is currently one of the hottest light vehicle segments, it should be interesting to see how the Journey measures up to the competition.

Chrysler attributed some of the February shortfall to “significantly reduced” fleet sales but failed to note it was again the leader in incentive spending with an average of $3,579 per vehicle sold. That’s down an average of $37.00 from January but up $81.00 from last February.

For more details, see the Full Story

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 04 2008, 05 AM)

TRW strike ending, Windsor to re-open

Striking Canadian auto workers and TRW have reached an agreement, with a ratification vote scheduled for tonight. This would be the suspension module plant's first union contract; workers there currently earn $11.25 Canadian per hour, while the UAW recently negotiated a slashing of wages down to $14/hour. Lack of suspension modules made at the TRW plant caused Chrysler's Windsor minivan plant to close.

(March 04 2008, 05 PM)

Moderate gain in flat Mexican market

Chrysler, #5 in Mexico, posted a sizeable 9% gain over last year in January's Mexico sales, though the market as a whole fell 1%. Nissan, the #1 seller in Mexico, had an 8% increase; GM fell 5%, and Ford fell 23%. Toyota sales increased 31% and Honda increased 23%, but both had roughly half of Chrysler's January 2008 sales. Volkswagen came in just ahead of Ford, with a sizable decrease.

Broken down by type, Chrysler sold 4,059 cars and 6,727 trucks, a more favorable mix than in the United States albeit with far less volume. GM sold more cars than trucks in Mexico, as did Nissan, while Ford was heavily truck-based.

(March 04 2008, 05 PM)

Chrysler extends Plastech agreement

A spokesman for bankrupt Chrysler parts supplier Plastech Engineered Products Inc. said it has reached a new interim agreement with the automaker. The previous agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. on Monday.

Plastech General Counsel Kelvin Scott announced the deal, the third in a series of interim agreements, extends until March 17 and said, "We hope to secure the work for longer and keep them as a customer indefinitely."

Chrysler confirmed the agreement in an e-mailed statement.

The products Plastech supplies, including door panels and other interior components, are used on every Chrysler vehicle. As many as fourteen Chrysler plants might have to shut down, some within hours, if the supply of parts is interrupted.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 05 2008, 05 AM)

Chrysler to invest $280M in Jefferson North

Chrysler plans to invest more than $280 million on equipment and technology improvements for the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in preparation for production of the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee and two unspecified new models. The investment would cover tooling and machine improvements, a new conveyor system, chassis assembly and line upgrades and an improved paint shop. The upgrade process would begin in July and be completed in 2010. It is expected to generate 419 new Detroit-area jobs.

In its filing with the city of Detroit, Chrysler is seeking tax relief potentially totaling more than $40 million in credits and abatements. Company spokeswoman Curtrise Gardner said the breaks are essential to Chrysler making the investment but did not foresee any problems. “We do plan to make this investment,” she said Tuesday evening.

The Detroit City Council was scheduled to discuss the tax measures at a meeting yesterday but removed the item from the agenda after Chrysler requested more time to supply information the council had requested concerning plant operations and employee demographics. The deal should be ready for council consideration in a few weeks.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 05 2008, 05 AM)

Chrysler replaces Cray with high performance cluster

Chrysler engineers, who have used computers extensively in vehicle design since the 1980s - when vehicle simulations were run on a $25 million supercomputers - are now switching to high performance computer clusters, or ordinary computers networked together to gain power at a lower cost than a supercomputer. To quote the Chrysler Scoop:

Chrysler has two high-performance computing sites, with 14 high-performance servers using 1,650 processor cores. Not long ago, the average computer simulation would take 28 hours or longer to run. Today that time has been cut to less than 14 hours. Picklo oversees the information technology systems used by engineers in Product Development to run the simulations.

Conducted early in the design phase of a vehicle, simulation studies allow engineers to predict how various conditions will affect a vehicle’s performance and, if necessary, recommend design changes before the company invests millions of dollars to build expensive prototypes.

“As a sideline, we conduct high-performance computer simulations for the Dodge-sponsored NASCAR Sprint Cup teams,” Picklo said.

Both the racers and the company benefit from the collaboration. By simulating the racing environment, engineers gain valuable information not always apparent under normal driving conditions that can be transferred to the development of passenger cars.

“When vehicles travel at racing speeds, issues that aren’t as pronounced at lower speeds are more likely to present themselves,” Picklo said. “The extreme conditions of racing are teaching us lessons that we might not otherwise learn.”

For example, simulations have shown that when a race car follows closely behind another vehicle—a technique known as drafting—air flow to the engine is disrupted. By studying how the air flow changes in the racing environment, engineers are better able to understand air flow disruptions that occur on the highway and how they affect passenger vehicle performance, which ultimately can help improve fuel economy.

“With recent advancements in both hardware and software, we have many valuable simulation tools that would have been unimaginable in the past,”

Sean Bannon, Director—Vehicle Functional Integration, said. “However, both the experience and training of highly skilled CAE (computer-aided engineering) engineers is required to fully leverage these tools to optimize vehicle designs.”

(March 05 2008, 01 PM)

Minivan demand up, fleet sales down

According to Stuart Schorr, Senior Manager of Sales, Service and Dealer Communications, Chrysler minivan sales may be down, but retail demand is actually stronger. His article in The Firehouse (blog) indicates that, compared with their long-wheelbase brethren, the Chrysler has increased retail sales by over 75%, while the Dodge has gone up over 25%. He wrote, "The total reduction in Chrysler minivan sales is solely because of planned fleet reductions and not any consumer trend. In fact consumers are demanding more minivans."

The moderately popular and less-expensive short-wheelbase minivans were dropped when Chrysler and Dodge moved to their 2008 models.

(March 05 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler to close Pacifica Advance Product Design Center

Chrysler is closing its Pacifica Advance Product Design Center. The Center, located in Carlsbad, California, just outside of San Diego, was the birthplace of many of the company’s most recent hits including the 300 sedan and new Dodge Challenger. The advance design work currently done at the Pacifica facility will be consolidated in its main design studios in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

In a statement released late Friday evening, Chrysler said the move was driven by the need to control costs and consolidate operations wherever possible, but emphasized Advance Design would continue to be an important part of the company’s styling and product development efforts. Chrysler spokeman David Barnas asserted, "These changes set the stage for Chrysler's future global growth efforts."

There was no indication of how many employees would be affected by the consolidation. According to Chrysler documents, the Pacifica facility had over 500 salaried workers in 2007.

By establishing the Pacifica Advanced Product Design Studio in the 1980s, Chrysler became first of the Detroit car companies to open a design studio in California. Today, a number of American, Asian and European manufacturers have styling operations in the Golden State. Advantages cited include California’s well-established reputation as an automotive trendsetter and the ability to attract talented designers who would be reluctant to relocate to Detroit or the East Coast.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 08 2008, 12 AM)

Mopar boosts warranty on remanufactured parts

Chrysler's Mopar parts division is increasing its warranty on remanufactured drivetrain assemblies for Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles.

In a statement issued Friday, the company announced the new warranty covers gasoline long- and short-block engines and engine cylinder heads for gasoline engines for three years or 100,000 miles. It also provides similar protection for standard and heavy-duty transmissions and transaxles. The previous warranty covered only 80,000 miles.

The new warranty covers the cost of all parts and labor and a $75 towing allowance and is transferable.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 09 2008, 03 AM)

2009 Challenger updates

Allpar's Dodge Challenger page has just been updated with news of the 2009 models - interior details, a manual transmission update, and more.

(March 11 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler buyout efforts may miss goals

Chrysler’s efforts to shed hourly employees may have failed to meet its goal. Thousands of United Auto Workers union members were offered early retirement and buyout offers of up to $100,000 that expired in February. The company hoped as many as 10,000 workers would agree to voluntarily leave the company, saving it from having to resort to costly layoffs.

General Holiefield, a United Auto Workers union vice president and head of the UAW’s Chrysler unit told Reuters, "I don't think they'll get quite 10,000." He added Chrysler may have to sweeten its offers in order to hit its target. "With the economy the way it is, people are trying to hang on to what they have."

Holiefield declined to express an opinion about whether Chrysler met its minimum target of 8,500 voluntary separations, saying it is still too early to tell.

General Motors and Ford, both of which have more lucrative offers on the table, are also seeing resistance. Employees are balancing the offers which can include up to $140,000, full college tuition for retraining and continued healthcare benefits to keeping their current jobs, and coming to the conclusion that they will probably never find jobs that pay as well as what they have, especially in the current economy.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 13 2008, 04 AM)

Conner Avenue celebrates 25,000th Viper

The Conner Avenue Assembly Plant celebrated the production of the 25,000th Dodge Viper on Wednesday. The car was presented to NASCAR driver Kurt Busch.

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli was on hand to turn the keys over to Busch. Before giving them up, Nardelli joked, "I aspire, someday, to own a Viper. Now, I don't know who I have to see to try to get an order placed." To which an unnamed worker responded, “I have a coupon!”

After the presentation, Nardelli left without taking questions from reporters.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 13 2008, 04 AM)

Chrysler sells Tritec Motors

From the Chrysler Scoop: Chrysler has agreed to sell Tritec Motors to Fiat Powertrain Technologies. Tritec, created in 1996 by Chrysler and Rover to build 1.4 and 1.6 liter gas engines based on the 2.0 Neon engine, produced engines for the first generation Mini. The plant was to have supplied engines for a small Chrysler Corporation vehicle as well, before the acquisition by Daimler. The plant is in Campo Largo, in Brazil.

(March 13 2008, 09 AM)

Chrysler international sales up

During the first two months of the year, vehicle sales increased 10 percent compared with the same time period in 2007. In February, Chrysler’s International sales grew 9 percent from February 2007, marking the 33rd consecutive month of sales increases outside of North America. Russia more than doubled last February’s sales, with an increase of 110 percent, and year-to-date sales were up 81 percent. In Italy, the company’s highest volume international market, sales increased 12 percent during the first two months of the year, and the growth in China reached almost 30 percent. (Chrysler Scoop)

(March 14 2008, 10 AM)

Kerkorian loses again; Supreme Court okays lawsuit

The latest episode in a story that seems like it will never end has billionaire Kirk Kerkorian in hot water over his holdings in DaimlerChrysler.

The 90-year-old Kerkorian, who was once Chrysler’s largest shareholder, unsuccessfully sued DaimlerChrysler for misleading investors about the 1998 merger of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler. Now he is being sued over allegations he sold millions of shares of DCAG stock based on insider information.

In the latest development, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected without comment an appeal filed by Kerkorian and his Tracinda Corporation that claimed the suit was filed too late under U.S. securities law, upholding a lower court’s decision to allow the case to proceed.

The lawsuit, Aljian vs. Johnson, claims James D. Aljian gave Kerkorian confidential information about problems with the automaker’s cash flow in 1999. At the time, Aljian was one of Tracinda’s investment managers and also had a seat on DaimlerChrysler's shareholder committee board. Aljian, who is named as a defendant, died of cancer last year at the age of 75.

The suit further alleges that, based on the confidential information, Tracinda sold 7.6 million DaimlerChrysler shares over the next several months, escaping an estimated $120 million in losses and giving him an unfair advantage over other shareholders who suffered losses as the company’s stock declined in value. The suit is seeking class-action status for investors who bought DaimlerChrysler shares during a three-month period in 1999.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 17 2008, 11 AM)

Chrysler gains in Canada, in rising market

Canadian auto sales rose 14.5% in February 2008, compared with February 2007, partly due to the strength of the Canadian dollar. GM saw a 14% gain, Chrysler a 6% gain, and Ford 4%, solidifying Chrysler's hold of the #2 sales slot; Toyota came in at #4, with a stunning 26% gain.

In Canada, Chrysler sold around three times as many trucks as cars; Ford had similar proportions, but GM, the market leader, sold a few more cars than trucks. Toyota , in contrast, sold twice as many cars as trucks; most Japanese companies had a more car-heavy sales pattern.

(March 18 2008, 08 AM)

Sales increase in Mexico

Chrysler announced a 14% overall sales increase in Mexico for February 2008, compared with February 2007 - with Jeep sales increasing a whopping 59% and minivan sales increasing 20%. Chrysler de Mexico has 1,200 salaried and 5,000 hourly employees; February 2008 was the best February sales month since 2001.

(March 18 2008, 09 AM)

Chrysler testing wind power at Chelsea Proving Grounds

A Washtenaw County study found that the area around the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan might be suitable for generation of wind power. To test this, a 26-story tower is being built at the Proving Grounds to measure winds at a suitable altitude as a prelude to building electric generation wind towers on Chrysler's land. The Chrysler Scoop advises us to learn more at www.ewashtenaw.org/wind.

(March 18 2008, 11 AM)

Latest details on production 2009 Challenger

Chrysler announced all details on the Challenger SE and R/T, and we’ve got 'em at http://www.allpar.com/cars/dodge/challenger.html

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 19 2008, 03 AM)

Chrysler-Plastech deal extended

Chrysler has extended its interim agreement with Plastech Engineered Products after a prior deal expired on Monday. In a statement, Chrysler spokesman Kevin Frazier said Plastech will continue to deliver parts through April 2. Plastech produces parts used on all Chrysler vehicles and has been in bankruptcy since February 1.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 19 2008, 03 AM)

Dodge Challenger SE and R/T released

Dodge has officially released information on the Dodge Challenger R/T and SE.

(March 19 2008, 08 AM)

Sterling Heights down to one shift

Sterling Heights, the plant that builds the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring, will be down to one shift as of tomorrow, with 1,146 workers no longer needed to build the mid-sized cars.

A coupe version of the Avenger/Sebring was rumored, but has not materialized, probably due to the poor reception for the mid-sized triplets (with the Sebring Convertible).

Technically, building the Caliber/Patriot/Compass and Avenger/Sebring in the same plant should be possible at this point; however, Chrysler may be planning on higher sales of the vehicles after engineering and styling changes, and once the economy improves. Likewise, keeping both facilities open may be beneficial when the next-generation mid-size car family appears - in roughly 2012, assuming Chrysler is able to engineer the new vehicles rapidly.

(March 20 2008, 01 PM)

Mopar to feature BYO Internet

According to Bloomberg News, Frank Klegon said that Chrysler will be the first company to allow customers to get Internet access on devices they bring into their car. The feature can be added by dealers starting this year, and will later be factory installed. This will be done through a wireless port that will, after its initial introduction, be built into the radio system, and will allow sharing of music and video with home computers.

In addition, according to Bob Nardelli, Mopar will soon sell an off-road nav system, chrome grille, heavy duty bumper, and audio systems for the Jeep Wrangler.

(March 20 2008, 04 PM)

Bob Nardelli's speech

We have posted the text of Bob Nardelli's speech, and soon hope to have the text of his answers to reporters' questions, at http://www.allpar.com/history/auto-shows/misc/nardelli-speech.html

(March 20 2008, 05 PM)

Chrysler expanding buyout offers

Chrysler spokesman Ed Saenz says the automaker is extending acceptance deadlines for buyouts and re-offering retirement packages to hourly union employees meeting requirements to draw a pension and receive health care benefits. It is also expanding the program to include employees working at Mopar distribution centers. The Mopar workers will be offered packages similar to those presented to manufacturing employees.

Saenz declined to comment on the number of employees that will get the second offer but did say the deals will be open for less than a month. Saenz also would not say whether or not Chrysler had reached its goal of cutting 8,000 to 10,000 workers through previous buyout and retirement offers. However, Chrysler President Tom LaSorda told reporters at the New York Auto Show that efforts would carry over into the next quarter because fewer workers than hoped had accepted the company’s severance and retirement offers.

Buyouts are becoming an increasingly tough sell as employees look at the current economy and decide to stay with the well-paying jobs they already have. Ford recently ended the acceptance period for what it described as its “best and final” offers and sources say the company probably came up well short of its target. Like Chrysler, Ford had hoped to shed between 8,000 and 10,000 workers. General Motors, meanwhile, will begin staging a companywide series of what it calls “opportunity expos” in its efforts to sell its packages to workers. GM is even offering a chance to win a $15,000 voucher towards the purchase of a new GM vehicle to employees attending one of the events.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 21 2008, 09 AM)

Chrysler cuts discount sharing

Chrysler has ended a program that permitted current and retired employees to give their special discount price to members of their extended families and friends. Under the company’s Employee Choice Program, which allows six discounted purchases per year for the employee and their immediate family, eligible employees could pay a small fee and give one of those discounts to a friend or relative outside of their immediate family. The employee discount price averages about five percent below factory invoice. The plan was liberalized last year to allow two discount transfers and Chrysler said employee discounts were used for about 60,000 purchases last year.

The Employee Choice Program was kicked off in October 2004 and officially came to an end in January. Chrysler now has what it calls the Friends Program that allows the sharing of what the company calls a preferred price, as much as one percent below invoice plus a smaller fee, with friends and extended family members.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 21 2008, 09 AM)

Press says Chrysler will cut 50% of SUVs

Chrysler Vice-chairman Jim Press says the company needs only about half of the eleven sport-utility vehicles in its current lineup.

Speaking in an interview at the New York Auto Show, Press said the drive to consolidate its brands and streamline its dealer network will make some models redundant. Light trucks now account for roughly three quarters of the automaker’s sales.

In February, Chrysler outlined a plan to its dealers that including trimming its offerings from twenty-eight models to as few as nineteen.

SUVs aren’t the only targets for Chrysler cost-cutters; Press said the company also has “redundant” minivan models that compete against each other and that these would be eliminated in the coming years.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 21 2008, 10 AM)

Chrysler tapping pension fund to pay for buyouts

Chrysler has confirmed it is one of two Detroit automakers paying for retirement incentives by pulling money out of pension funds. The other company is General Motors.

Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson said this was the first time the company had dipped into pension money for such a purpose, but defended the move, saying Chrysler was just trying to offer its workers a way to leave the company voluntarily. Tinson added, "It does not negatively affect the employees' pension. It is to help offset tax implications and provide them another option."

Tinson said the company had worked with the United Auto Workers union on details of the program.

Workers have become increasingly resistant to automakers’ buyout offers as the lump-sum payments, which initially look tempting, are subject to taxes that can reduce their value by a third or more. By using money in pension accounts, Chrysler can give workers the ability to put the money in a tax-deferred account, like a 401(K) program.

The incentives should not present any danger to the fund’s ability to meet its obligations. When Cerberus Capital Management bought Chrysler last year, DaimlerChrysler AG said the pension reserves were overfunded by $2 billion and added a conditional guarantee of an additional $1 billion for up to five years to keep the fund secure. Cerberus was required to chip in $200 million as one of the conditions of the sale. General Motors’ pension fund is overfunded by an estimated $18.8 billion.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 22 2008, 03 PM)

Fiat talking to Chrysler about Alfa Romeo production

Fiat SpA has talked with Chrysler about sharing production when it brings Alfa Romeo back to the U.S. in 2011 or 2012.

Sergio Marchionne, Fiat’s CEO, confirmed the discussions in an interview appearing in the Financial Times. He noted the Italian automaker has talked with all three American car companies about using some of their excess capacity to build the famous sports cars in North America. Alfa Romeos were last offered to the U.S. market in 1995.

The dollar’s weakness against the euro is driving a number of European vehicle manufacturers to consider assembling cars and SUVs in the NAFTA region. BMW recently announced a major expansion to its operation in South Carolina and Volkswagen’s CEO has said the company is looking for suitable sites for a new factory.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 25 2008, 10 AM)

Chrysler European sales up

Chrysler Europe sales went up 4.4% in February 2008 when compared with February 2007, though even with that increase Chrysler is still Europe's #17 automaker in terms of sales, with fewer than half the sales of Kia, Mazda, or Suzuki. Of the major brands, only Mitsubishi is in the same ballpark (with around 2,100 more sales than Chrysler). The largest automaker in Europe is Volkswagen AG (including Audi, Seat, and Skoda), with 231,694 sales for February; PSA (Peugeot-Citroen) registered 167,311 sales. Ford, GM, and Renault were all roughly equal, with around 110,000 sales; Fiat also sold over 100,000 units, while Toyota only rang up 66,622 sales, including nearly two thousand Lexuses. Chrysler LLC sold 8,041 vehicles in the same timeframe.

Chrysler is planning to greatly increase sales of its Dodge brand in Europe with the introduction of the Journey, which will be sold with a diesel and automatically-shifted manual transmission.

(March 25 2008, 01 PM)

Dodge truck sales start to register

Dodge has started to register in Ward's Communications' listings of Class 5 trucks, with 359 sales reported in February 2008. That puts Dodge's very restricted lineup (a single model with a single engine choice) against numerous well-established competitors with larger lineups. Even so, Dodge nearly matched GM's 374 sales, and came in at third place overall, with Ford taking the lead with a relatively tremendous 1,721 sales in Class 5 trucks for February 2008.

These sales figures may not be completely accurate or inclusive. No mention was made of the Dodge Class 4 trucks.

(March 25 2008, 01 PM)

Chrysler engineer leaves amid rumors of clashes with Nardelli, Arnell.

In what is being seen as a blow to Chrysler’s much-touted new vehicle development program, Mike Donoughe, one of the company’s top engineers and leader of a key Chrysler program, left the company today amid rumors of clashes with senior management.

Donoughe, 49, ended his 25-year career at Chrysler by resigning his position as vice president and chief engineer, future mid-size product team. Since January of this year, Donoughe had been head of Chrysler's top-secret Project D, which has been tasked to develop a critical new global car platform to replace the Sebring and Avenger, which have been poorly received by the automotive press and the carbuying public.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Donoughe left the company after disagreements with Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli and Peter Arnell, a controversial marketing consultant Nardelli brought in last fall.

In a prepared statement, Chrysler spokesman David Barnas, refused to discuss Donoughe’s resignation except to assert, “Chrysler denies that the departure had anything to do with a clash with management or with Peter Arnell.”

Donoughe began his career at Chrysler in 1983 working as an engineer for final drive and transmission systems development. Before taking over the leadership of the midsize car development program, Donoughe was vice president of body-on-frame products, responsible for Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep SUVs and pickups. He was widely regarded as one of company’s most talented engineers and had experience with both FWD and RWD vehicle programs. During the DaimlerChrysler years, Donoughe did a two-year tour stint in Stuttgart as director of passenger car development for Mercedes-Benz.

In the wake of Donoughe’s departure, Chrysler executives made several changes in product development management. Mark Chernoby, previously v-p of core components, process and international engineering, was appointed to replace Donoughe. James Issner replaced Chernoby and will also oversee Chrysler's recently expanded engineering centers in China, India, Eastern Europe and Mexico. Louis Rhodes added the title of vice president, advance vehicle engineering, to his work at Chrysler’s ENVI, developing electric cars and other advanced propulsion systems.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 25 2008, 08 PM)

CAW willing to strike over two-tier wage system

The Canadian Auto Workers union sent an early signal to Chrysler, Ford and General Motors: No two-tier wage system in Canada.

During a pre-negotiation media briefing yesterday, CAW President Buzz Hargrove said members are willing to strike instead of adopting the new system approved by the U.S. union last year. Under the new United Auto Workers contracts, automakers can pay new hires in non-core production jobs half the current hourly wage and provide a reduced benefits package. Since the acceptance of the contracts, automakers have been aggressively trying to persuade current employees to retire or voluntarily leave their $28/hour jobs with buyout packages of up to $100,000.

The CAW contracts expire in September and negotiations are scheduled to begin in July.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 26 2008, 07 AM)

Willys to join Automotive Hall of Fame

John North Willys, founder of the company that eventually became Jeep, will be one of eight new members of the Automotive Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is scheduled for October 7 at the Ritz-Carlton in Dearborn, Michigan.

For more about John North Willys, read the Full Story.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 26 2008, 08 AM)

John E. Herlitz, former Chrysler v-p design, passes away

John E. Herlitz, former Chrysler senior vice president for design, passed away suddenly early Monday morning at the age of 65.

Herlitz retired from the company at the end of 2000 and, along with Tom Gale and Trevor Creed, is credited as being part of the team that brought great design back to Chrysler. A native of New York, Herlitz left the area after graduating from Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute of Design. He began his career at Chrysler Corporation in 1965, and became a Manager of the Plymouth Intermediate Car Studio in 1968. Among his creations was the 1971 Road Runner/GTX, a car that remained one of his favorite designs.

"We are extremely saddened to hear about the death of John Herlitz," said Creed, who became Herlitz’s successor. "During his 35-year career history at Chrysler, Herlitz made a significant impact on Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Plymouth vehicle design. He had a heartfelt passion for the automotive industry and he will be greatly missed."

Most recently, Herlitz had served on the board of directors for Winnebago Industries, a position he had held since 2005. He was elected to a new two-year term in December 2007.

Todd Herlitz, John’s son, said there will be at least a two-week delay for the Michigan funeral arrangements. There will be no funeral services held in Florida.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 26 2008, 09 AM)

Hargrove: Cerberus misled CAW

The president of the Canadian Auto Workers union says Cerberus misled the CAW about its plans for Chrysler when the investment firm sought the union’s backing for the acquisition during last summer’s negotiations. Speaking in an interview, Buzz Hargrove said he was persuaded to give his support to Cerberus’ bid for the automaker because of assurances the goal was to grow Chrysler’s market share and retain employees.

Hargrove said Cerberus’s founder and chairman Stephen Feinberg told the CAW “that they weren't going to slice and dice and sell. He's trying to cut his way to profitability, as opposed to grow the business.”

Instead of growth and retention, Hargrove said Chrysler has trimmed four models from its lineup and is seeking to trim more than 12,000 workers from its payroll. Chrysler vice chairman Jim Press recently was quoted as saying more models will be cut, including perhaps half the company’s SUVs.

“That's great for Cerberus, but it's not great for workers, because a lot of people are going to lose their jobs and a lot have lost their jobs,” Hargrove added.

Hargrove also noted Feinberg “has never met with us since then to explain the shift in thinking.”

Spokesmen for Cerberus and Chrysler disagreed with Hargrove's depiction of the situation.

Cerberus spokesman Peter Duda said Chrysler management ``is taking the right steps to ensure the long-term viability of the company. Our mutual resolve to restore Chrysler to its leadership position as an iconic brand is unwavering.”

In an e-mailed statement, Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson said changes were needed “including right-sizing the company for shrinking market conditions. No hidden agendas are included within our business practices.'”

The CAW represents about 30,000 workers. Its current contracts with the major Detroit automakers expire September 16 and negotiations are scheduled to begin in July.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (March 27 2008, 02 AM)

Chrysler cuts free life insurance for some retirees

Chrysler is cutting its free life insurance benefit for about 14,000 retired white-collar employees, effective June first. Retirees are currently covered by a policy that included a death benefit equal to a year of their final pay, if they retired before 2003, or $50,000 for those who retired later.

The automaker has sent out notification letters to affected employees with an offer of a one-time opportunity to buy into a voluntary MetLife plan at a special group rate.

Workers and retirees represented by the United Auto Workers union and current salaried, non-union employees will continue to get company-paid insurance.

Chrysler is the first of the Detroit automakers to eliminate life insurance. It is the latest in a series of cost-cutting moves made since being purchased by Cerberus.

Thomas Hadrych, Chrysler v-p of compensation, benefits and corporate services, said the company made the decision after looking “at the competitive landscape.” Hadrych noted about 60% of the Fortune 1000 companies don't offer life insurance to retirees.

Company representatives wouldn't say how much Chrysler will save by ending the program but estimates run into the millions of dollars.

The letters sent to the retirees will contain good news, as well. They will be eligible for a one-time pension boost ranging from $1,000 to $4,000, based on years of service and years since retirement. The retirees will have the option of taking the payment in a lump sum, rolling it into an IRA or having it factored into their monthly benefit. The payout should keep white-collar benefits in step with those for UAW retirees who will get an increase of up to $2,800 paid out over the four years of the new contract that went into effect last year.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 01 2008, 02 AM)

Chrysler, UAW take steps to form VEBA

Chrysler and the United Auto Workers asked a U.S. judge to support a $9.75 billion fund to cover future health-care costs for about 125,000 union members, retirees and their dependents. This is part of the process of creating the trust known as a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA, that was part of the new Chrysler/UAW contract agreement last year. The new deal will allow Chrysler to shift its healthcare obligations to the VEBA, which would be administered by the union. U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland has scheduled an April 9 hearing on the proposed settlement.

The $9.75 billion is $946 million more than the initial amount Chrysler and the UAW agreed to in October. Chrysler will also pay about $1.5 billion in healthcare expenses between now and 2010 when the VEBA will go into operation.

Cleland has already given preliminary approval to General Motors to create a $34 billion VEBA fund for its 520,000 UAW retirees. Ford Motor Company will be filing its own request with the court on April 7.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 01 2008, 03 AM)

Edmunds.com: Chrysler led in March incentives

Edmunds.com estimates Chrysler again led the pack in incentive spending, putting an average of $4,142 on the hood of every vehicle sold at retail in March. This is up from the $3,520 the company shelled out in March but still below the $4,237 it spent last year.

Chrysler was also first in spending compared to vehicle sticker price, with Dodge giving up 16.7% to persuade buyers to sign on the line.

"Chrysler pulled up the industry average incentives spend this month," commented Edmunds' AutoObserver.com Senior Editor Michelle Krebs. "The investment in incentives seems aimed at jump-starting sales to improve the company’s bottom-line numbers. This coincides with its recent announcement of a two-week summer shutdown and other dramatic plans to reduce operating expenses."

GM, struggling with a large inventory of big trucks, came in second with an average spend of $3,271, down from February’s $3,317 but up over $400 from the $2,832 it paid out last March.

Ford reduced incentives last month. Its $3,017 was less than the $3,317 it offered in February and almost $100 less than the $3,114 average from March 2007.

Honda likely threw its lot in with the Detroiters as it increased spending compared both to February 2008 and March 2007. However, its average payout of $1,297 was far less than any of the American companies required to move the metal.

With an average of $2,031 per vehicle, Nissan paid the most of the three import brands covered by Edmunds. However, that figure is down over $100 from what it offered in February and $12 less than its average in March 2007.

Toyota was the stingiest, offering just $898 in March. That’s down from $1,044 in February but up from the $714 it needed last March.

Looking at all major brands, Mini spent the least, basically a “Thank You” from the sales rep. Scion needed only $131 per car. Cadillac, on the other hand, piled an average of $5,532 on its cars and trucks, just slightly more than Saab, which spent $5,501.

Not surprising in the current market, large pickups took the most cash to turn, averaging $4,368 per vehicle sold, followed by large SUVs at $4,094. Compacts and sports cars required the least persuasion, averaging $1,023 and $1,574, respectively.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 01 2008, 03 AM)

Japanese regulators investigating Cerberus

The Financial Times reports Cerberus Capital Management is being investigated by Japanese regulators to determine whether it pressured Tokyo-based Aozora Bank Ltd. to finance its deals. Cerberus is the bank’s largest shareholder with a 37% stake and offered to increase its holdings to 45% early last month.

Citing people familiar with the probe, the Times says Japan's Financial Services Agency is looking into whether the two companies failed to maintain a proper distance in their dealing. If the FSA finds Cerberus abused its position, the government could fine the bank or demand management changes, the newspaper said.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 01 2008, 04 AM)

Chrysler sales down 19% (13% adjusted) - REVISED

Chrysler's US sales fell to 166,386 units for March 2008, a 19% fall compared with March 2007. This is a 13% fall adjusted for daily selling rates. Click on Full Story for details; an analysis will follow.

Winners for the month included the Sebring, up 23%; the Compass, up 27% (but still a slow seller); and the Patriot, up 259%. Other gainers were the Caliber (10%), Avenger (8%), and the Viper (doubling sales to 109 units).

The largest percentage drops were for the Pacifica - down to a mere 866 units - and Magnum, down 61% to roughly a thousand units. Volume-wise, the greatet fall was from the Ram pickup, dropping 31% (12,000 units, meaning that its sales fall was more than the sales of any Chrysler vehicle other than the minivans). The PT Cruiser fell by 38%, or nearly 3,000 units; 300 fell by 30%, or over 3,000 units; Wrangler, so recently the star of the company, fell 36%, nearly 5,000 units. The Chrysler minivan nearly maintained its place, with Town & Country falling by a mere 2%, but the Dodge Caravan fell by 21% (3,800 vehicles). (Correction: Chrysler did not eliminate the old short-wheelbase minivans from the chart as we had originally reported.)

2,640 Dodge Journeys were sold, as dealers started to receive - and sell - inventory.

The month seemed to bring advances for smaller vehicles, other than the Crossfire, with all sales gains (other than Viper) coming from vehicles with a midsized or smaller footprint.

(April 01 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler has lots of company in March misery

No matter what the weather was like, March went out like a lion, leaving light vehicle sales in shreds. Chrysler was mauled the worst of any of the major automakers, with volume down 19.4% as the company sold 40,049 fewer vehicles last month than it did a year ago. The fact that March 2008 had two fewer selling days than March 2007 allowed the decline to be softened to a 13.2% drop adjusted for daily sales rate.

Chrysler did have a few standout performances: the Sebring, Avenger, Caliber, Compass and Patriot made strong gains over their numbers from last year. The Compass posted some of its best sales numbers since its introduction and the results from the Caliber brought back memories of its explosive early days on the market. The new Journey seems to be making a decent start but it may be stealing sales from the Nitro. Combined sales of the two models are close to the numbers the Nitro generated last March.

Viper and Sprinter van sales also improved last month.

Chrysler’s Town & Country just barely missed its mark, coming up just 311 sales short of last year’s numbers. The Caravan’s numbers looked worse in comparison to last March, but sales were strong enough to give it back the top spot in the minivan segment. The Chrysler minivans topped the chart, coming in ahead of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. While total minivan volume was down 12.81% compared to March 2007, the minivan’s share of the total market was only off a tiny 0.04% showing that the situation isn’t quite as dire as those who look at volume alone would have us believe.

The Chrysler Aspen was one of the few exceptions with just an 8% drop but elsewhere in the Chrysler lineup there was a lot of sad singing and slow walking; double-digit plunges were the rule of the day. Even discounting the models that have a date with Jack Ketch, volumes were off an average of 31.58%.

When all the numbers are tallied up, Chrysler’s year-to-date (YTD) sales are down 15.51% on volume or 14.41% adjusted for DSR (through the end of March, there was one less selling day than in the first quarter of 2007).

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 02 2008, 04 AM)

Chrysler to offer better terms to consumers with blemished credit

In an effort to boost declining sales, Chrysler will now offer better credit terms to buyers with less-than-perfect-credit who have previously financed a vehicle with the company. These buyers, called "B-credit" borrowers in the industry, will be able to finance a new car at 6.9% interest. Only a year ago, the interest rate would have been 12% or more.

Steven Landry, Chrysler executive vice president for North American sales said, "If we've worked with these borrowers before, and they haven't missed any payments with us, we'd like to do what we can to keep them in the family."

In spite of recent actions by the Federal Reserve Board designed to give banks an incentive to begin loaning money again, many banks continue to make it difficult to get auto loans. Landry said dealers are finding stricter credit standards not only at their traditional lending sources but even at banks that were very active in financing six months to a year ago.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 02 2008, 05 AM)

Chrysler sales down in Mexico, up in Canada

Chrysler Canada announced a March sales increase of 3.5%, for 20 months of consecutive sales growth. Chrysler Canada sold 21,745 vehicles in March, including 5,677 cars and 16,068 trucks.

March sales for Chrysler Mexico were down 11%, but first quarter sales remain up 3%. Jeep® sales were up 43% and Dodge trucks were up 13%.

(April 02 2008, 02 PM)

Chrysler cutting hundreds of IT jobs

Chrysler will cut hundreds of information technology positions and outsource the work to India’s Tata Consultancy and Virginia-based Computer Sciences Corp.

About 20% of Chrysler’s 1,000 salaried IT employees will be let go; the balance of the cuts will come from the ranks of company’s 1,100 contract IT employees. Chrysler wouldn’t specify how many contract positions will be eliminated but said it would be several hundred. The transition will begin immediately but may take until the third quarter of 2008 to be completed. Some of the laid-off workers may be hired by the new contractors.

On Wednesday, Chrysler CIO Jan Bertsch said the affected jobs are in maintenance and support operations. She went on to say the job cuts will significantly reduce costs and allow Chrysler to invest in advanced technology and overseas expansion.

Under the new contracts, Tata and Computer Sciences will handle applications management and hardware support for product development, sales and marketing. Chrysler will retain control of certain key functions like business analysis and customer-service operations. The automaker declined to discuss specifics, but it likely will pay Tata and Computer Sciences hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the contracts.

This is Tata’s second deal with Chrysler. The companies signed another contract earlier this year covering sales, marketing and other operations.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 03 2008, 04 AM)

Chrysler to recall 181,000 Sebrings and Avengers

Chrysler today informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the company will recall 181,000 cars to fix an electrical defect in the tire pressure monitoring system that can prevent the cars from running.

The affected vehicles are all 2007 or 2008 Chrysler Sebrings and Dodge Avengers. Chrysler says a problem can occur if unused electrical connectors in the system corrode and short out. This can cause the engines to stall or fail to start. It can also drain the battery or lead to the failure of the cruise control and other components.

Chrysler plans to begin notifying owners in mid-April. Under the recall, dealers will remove the unused connectors and seal the circuits. According to Chrysler, there have been no reported crashes linked to the problem.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 05 2008, 01 AM)

Chrysler extends Plastech deal to April 30

Chrysler has announced a fifth interim agreement to continue receiving parts from bankrupt Plastech Engineered Products, Inc.

The latest deal covers shipments until April 30. Plastech supplies components used in almost all Chrysler vehicles.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 05 2008, 03 AM)

Chrysler international sales set new record in March

Chrysler reports its sales outside North America set a record last month, advancing 7% percent on Russian and Chinese demand.

A statement released today said March international deliveries climbed to 24,032 vehicles and first-quarter sales outside North America rose 9% to 57,346 vehicles.

“Our expanded international dealer network and product lineup is creating a new generation of loyal customers in all parts of the world,” Chrysler President Jim Press said in the statement.

Chrysler’s Q1 Russian sales totaled 2,139 vehicles, up 94 percent, while China accounted for 4,839 sales, more than doubling the comparable period from last year. Last month’s introduction a locally built version of the Sebring added 1,000 sales to the Chinese totals.

Jeep first-quarter sales outside North America hit 22,699, up 11 percent and Dodge sales rose 46% to 17,371. Sales of Chrysler-branded vehicles dropped to 17,126, off 15 percent.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 08 2008, 05 PM)

Chrysler receives preliminary approval for healthcare trust

Chrysler moved a step closer to establishing a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA), a healthcare trust fund for its United Auto Workers union retirees. The VEBA was one of the changes incorporated in the new Chrysler/UAW contract ratified last October.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Cleland granted preliminary approval to the program by signing off on three motions yesterday. The court also scheduled a final approval hearing on June 30. Chrysler can now begin officially notifying UAW retirees of its intention to form the trust fund.

The VEBA will allow Chrysler to remove a potential $18 billion in healthcare liabilities from its books by transferring its obligations to the association which will be run by a committee set up by the UAW and the court. Chrysler will contribute $9.75 billion to the fund.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 10 2008, 02 AM)

Chrysler hit with $5.1M judgement in infant death

A Louisiana jury has decided Chrysler should pay $5.1 million to a family for causing the death of a newborn infant and injuries to the child's mother in an accident blamed on the family's Jeep Grand Cherokee.

August Guillot sued the automaker, claiming a transmission defect caused the Jeep to jump out of park into reverse, pinning his pregnant wife against a brick column. The impact ruptured her uterus and required the baby to be delivered by Caesarian section. Collin Guillot died 17 days later.

“We had compelling facts, tragic injuries and a wonderful family,” said Bruce S. Kingsdorf, the New Orleans attorney who argued Guillot’s case before the 34th Judicial District Court in St. Bernard Parish.

Chrysler said it will appeal, blaming the verdict on the jury’s sympathy for the Guillots.

Chrysler is also appealing the verdict in a similar case. In 2007, a California jury awarded $55.2 million to the family of a man who was struck and killed after exiting a Dodge Dakota. The accident was blamed on a faulty transmission with a “park-to- reverse” defect.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 10 2008, 02 AM)

Avenger and Sebring earn top ratings in IIHS testing

The Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger are among sedans keeping their occupants safer after being equipped with side-impact air bags. That’s the word from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an insurance industry group which tested the Avenger sedan as part of a group that included the Nissan Altima, Infiniti G35, Chevy Malibu, Saturn Aura, Kia Optima and Mitsubishi Galant. The vehicles were tested by being struck in the side by a barrier designed to simulate the front of a large pickup or SUV and moving at 31 miles per hour.

Though it was not tested, the Chrysler Sebring shares the Avenger’s rating.

The Sebring and Dodge Avenger were rated “good,” the highest possible, in side-impact safety. All of the other cars, except the Optima, received the same rating. The Optima was rated “acceptable,” the second-highest rating. Four years ago, previous models of the same cars or their predecessors all received a rating of “poor,” the lowest given by the IIHS.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 28% of road fatalities involve side-impact crashes. In 2003, U.S. automakers agreed to make side air bags standard in all cars by 2010. Stability control will become standard the following year.

The seven sedans all received good ratings in frontal-impact tests, the group said. Only the Optima was rated good in rear-impact tests. The Avenger and Sebring rated acceptable. The IIHS gave marginal ratings to the Malibu, Aura, G35 and Altima and a poor rating to the Galant.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 10 2008, 02 AM)

Expeditions West chooses Jeep-based camper for South American Adventure

After a year of careful consideration, Expeditions West, an adventure and marketing services company located in Prescott, Arizona, has selected the EarthRoamer XV-JP camper as their next expedition vehicle.

Based on the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, the EarthRoamer XV-JP became the first fully functional production camper to complete a crossing of the rugged Rubicon Trail without any problems, one of the requirements for selection by Expeditions West. The test crossing was completed in September 2007.

Having conquered the Rubicon Trail, Expeditions West will put the XV-JP to the test on several challenging routes planned in the Atacama Desert, rugged Bolivian mountain tracks, Guatemalan jungles and on the coast of Columbia.

“We’re very excited” said Scott Brady, Expeditions West’s owner and CEO, “After looking at all of the available options, no other platform was able to incorporate the complete living support systems required for our half-year expedition to South and Central America while retaining the compact dimensions and extreme trail performance we enjoyed with the Tacoma project.”

“We’ve collaborated with Scott and the team at Expeditions West on several projects in the past” said Bill Swails, EarthRoamer founder, co-owner and chief designer, “we’re very pleased to build their next vehicle, and continue our partnership far into the future.”

Expeditions West will build on the XV-JP’s standard features with a custom suspension system, larger tires and wheels as well as extensive recovery equipment and trail protection. Satellite data/voice communications and MAC- based navigation will also be added.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 11 2008, 12 PM)

Chrysler co-developed revolutionary AWD system

When Chrysler announced it was introducing a new, fuel-saving all wheel drive system on the 2009 300C, Dodge Charger, and other vehicles, there was some speculation as to whether this was a version of a forthcoming Mercedes 4Matic system. However, according to an article by Bradford Wernie in Automotive News, the system was co-developed by Chrysler and Warn Industries of Oregon; the patent is being applied for by Chrysler.

The system works by simply disconnecting the front axle and transfer case when all wheel drive is not needed, so that the car becomes rear wheel drive only; this reduces drag and could save up to two miles per gallon.

Also in the news was the new blind-spot monitoring system, which Ford will also be adopting after Chrysler's launch; this was developed with Visteon.

(April 11 2008, 01 PM)

Chrysler to drop Jeep Commander next year

Chrysler will drop the slow-selling Jeep Commander in mid-2009. That’s the word from insiders who asked not to be named because the decision has not been officially announced. The cancellation is blamed on high gas prices and changing consumer buying patterns which have significantly reduced demand for large SUVs.

Introduced in 2005, Commander sales hit a peak of 88,497 in 2006, its first full year on the market, but dropped to 63,027 units last year. At the pace set in the first quarter of 2008, annual sales are forecast to be about 36,000 units.

While it is unusual for a model to be axed before its first production cycle is completed, sources say Chrysler didn’t realize the market for large SUV’s would contract as quickly as it has or that it would take so many sales from the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Company executives at the former DaimlerChrysler had believed the Commander, which is larger than the Grand Cherokee, would take sales from, or at least keep potential customers from migrating to, other full-size SUVs like the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Suburban.

Cancellation of the Commander makes it the fifth model to be cut from Chrysler’s lineup since Cerberus purchased the automaker from Daimler AG last year. Chrysler President James Press has already said the company has twice as many SUV models as it needs.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 14 2008, 05 AM)

Chrysler, Nissan partner for new car and pickup

Chrysler and Nissan today announced two new OEM agreements that build upon the long-standing cooperation between the companies.

Under one agreement, Nissan will manufacture an all-new, fuel-efficient small car that Chrysler will design. The new car will be built at Nissan’s Oppama, Japan, facility and sold in North America, Europe and other global markets beginning in 2010.

The second agreement covers a full-size pickup that Chrysler will manufacture for Nissan at Chrysler’s Saltillo, Mexico assembly plant. This new truck will be designed by Nissan and sold in North America beginning in 2011. Chrysler will shift production volume of its own pickups from Saltillo to its U.S.-based assembly plants.

Chrysler and Nissan have created three OEM agreements this year. In January, Nissan agreed to supply Chrysler with a new car based on the Nissan Versa sedan for limited distribution in South America in 2009. These agreements are the latest in a well-established relationship. Nissan affiliate JATCO has been producing transmissions for Chrysler since 2004.

Speaking of the new agreements, Tom LaSorda, Chrysler president and vice chairman said, “Forging the right tactical partnerships is critical to the long-term success of Chrysler. It also builds on the Company’s inherent strengths, including the ability to respond rapidly and creatively to emerging opportunities.”

“In January, we said we would continue to look for additional OEM opportunities with Chrysler,” commented Carlos Tavares, Nissan’s executive V-P. “This latest agreement builds on Nissan’s proven track record to deliver win-win product exchanges with multiple manufacturers around the world.”

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 14 2008, 08 PM)

GM, Chrysler, Ford inventories down

According to Automotive News, the Big Three managed to slash their inventories of unsold cars since March 1, getting them closer to the levels enjoyed by major import brands, despite falling sales. Chrysler went from 73 days' supply to 66, thanks partly to cutting shifts from various plants; the Sprinter, Ram, and Jeep Commander and Wrangler now have the highest inventories, in terms of days' supply (excluding the Crossfire, of which there are 1,500 in stock, enough to last 209 days at current sales rates). The Ram is at 99 days' supply, down from 112 days; the Wrangler is at 98 days and the Commander at 96. The best inventory figures are for the Avenger, Magnum, and Compass, at 34-35 days each (the Magnum has been discontinued); the Patriot , Caliber, Caravan, Town & Country, and Sebring also came in with under 50 days' supply each.

At GM, vehicles are at 80 days' supply - 57 days for cars, and 98 days for trucks on average - despite an American Axle strike that has shut down numerous plants. GM vehicles in short supply include the Impala, Malibu, Uplander, G6, and CTS.

At Ford, inventory levels have been trimmed to 68 days, from 80 just one month ago. Of note is the Mustang, going from 123 days' supply to 91; and the Taurus X, going from 107 to 61. Ford vehicles in short supply include the Ranger, Town Car, Milan, and Volvo 40 and 80 series.

Toyota currently is running a 50-day supply, down from 57 days one month earlier. Toyota did not supply per-vehicle inventories, but Toyota trucks are at the highest daily-rate inventory levels, with 62 days' supply; Toyota/Scion cars are at a mere 43 days' supply on average.

(April 15 2008, 01 PM)

Fiat eyeing Newark plant

The Newark plant may get a new lease on life; Fiat officials have been investigating using it to build Alfa Romeos. While sources have noted that Fiat has been seeking to hook up with a domestic partner to produce Alfas for North America, the Newark plant, which is currently building large body-on-frame vehicles and is slated to close in a few years, would probably not have been first on the list of suspects, especially when Chrysler might have the capacity to build them alongside Calibers or Avengers.

Using the plant to build vehicles for Fiat (owner of Alfa Romeo) could help Chrysler to avoid substantial shutdown-related costs and to postpone paying retirement benefits to current Newark workers.

(April 15 2008, 08 PM)

Chrysler, Chery in China JV talks

Bloomberg News reports Chrysler is talking to Chery Automobile Co., China’s largest privately owned auto company, setting up a venture to make vehicles for sale in China, the world's second-biggest vehicle market.

The venture would increase the scope of last year’s deal to have Chery make cars for Chrysler to sell in international markets. Under that agreement, Chrysler will start selling rebadged Chery A1s in Latin America later this year and will market Chery cars in Eastern Europe and, ultimately, in the United States. Many automakers are expanding their presence in China as the country's rapid economic growth spurs car sales.

In a telephone interview Chery spokesman Jin Yibo said, “Chrysler wants to deepen our current cooperation." Yibo added that options include setting up a venture but would not elaborate.

Chrysler had no comment on the talks between the two companies. Chrysler just inked a deal with Nissan in which the Japanese automaker will supply a small car for Chrysler to sell in the U.S. market and Chrysler will build a new light truck to replace the Titan full-size pickup.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 16 2008, 05 AM)

Chrysler wants partner for China top ten bid

Chrysler is talking with potential Chinese venture partners in a bid to become one of the top ten automakers there.

Philip Murtaugh, Chrysler’s CEO for Asia Operations, was in China for the 2008 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition. During an interview, he said, “If you want to do well globally, you have to do well in China.”

Murtaugh wouldn’t discuss the companies with which Chrysler is talking with or any target dates the automaker has set for achieving its top ten goal.

The Chinese automotive market is projected to grow by 8% to 10% annually over the next ten years, but Murtaugh said he thinks it will average between 15% and 20% instead. Industry experts expect vehicle ownership in China to quadruple to about one for every ten people by 2020 and it could surpass the U.S. to become the world’s largest new vehicle market by 2015.

Chrysler already is scrambling to catch up with GM and Ford and others as economic development spurs car sales. Chrysler’s Chinese sales grew by more than 100% in the first quarter of 2008, but the 4,839 vehicles the company sold amounted to less than 2% of GM’s sales in the country.

Unconfirmed comments from a spokesman for Chery Automobile Co., China's largest manufacturer of own-brand cars, indicate Chery is one of the companies Chrysler has approached. The two companies already have a deal under which Chery is to build a small car Chrysler for market Latin America and the U.S.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 21 2008, 09 AM)

Feds upgrade Jeep Liberty investigation

The federal government has upgraded its investigation into more than 300,000 2002 and 2003 model year Jeep Liberty SUVs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports receiving twenty-two complaints about separation of the upper ball joint on one of the front wheels. The problem can allow the wheel to collapse, potentially disabling the vehicle or causing the driver to lose control.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 22 2008, 07 AM)

Chrysler "corrects" Landry Challenger pricing

Chrysler moved quickly to correct recent comments made by Steven Landry. This time it’s because Landry, EVP for North American sales, said a new 2009 Dodge Challenger could have a sticker price as low as $23,995 when it goes on sale in August. Landry also said some versions of the Challenger could go as high as $39,995. By comparison, the base price for a V6 Mustang, which will be the new muscle car’s primary competition, is $19,650. Landry said the 2009 Challenger will be offered in three trim levels, including a 250-horsepower V6.

Chrysler spokesman Stuart Schorr said final Challenger prices have not yet been set, and the ones Landry mentioned are "not in the current proposal." He added a final decision on pricing will be made in the next two months.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 22 2008, 03 PM)

2008 Challengers officially sold out

Chrysler reported that all 6,400 2008-model-year Dodge Challenger SRT8s have been sold. The 2009 models will arrive this fall. Production began last Monday.

(April 24 2008, 11 AM)

Chrysler offering "employee" discount to dealership workers

Chrysler has begun offering a special employee discount to workers at its top dealerships. The company says the new program will run through June second.

According to a message sent to dealers and released by Chrysler spokesman Stuart Schorr, employees at “five-star” dealerships will be able to buy a new Chrysler vehicle for $750 under the dealer invoice price. Employees at other Chrysler-franchised dealerships will be able to buy new cars and trucks for one percent under invoice.

The offer followed meetings between Chrysler management and dealers this past week in Naples, Florida. The automaker and its dealers hope the move will boost sales at the 3,600 Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler retailers in the U.S.

Chrysler has never extended this level of discount to dealership workers but, in mid-2005, Chrysler joined General Motors and Ford Motor Company in offering employee discounts to all retail buyers.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 26 2008, 03 AM)

Chrysler working to trim dealer ranks

Project Genesis is the name of Chrysler’s plan to trim down its franchised dealer network by asking dealers to consolidate and produce a smaller number of higher-volume locations selling all three brands.

Chrysler is not alone; Ford and General Motors are also trying to cut down the sizes of their dealer networks in an effort to reduce inefficiencies and costs and allow dealers to make enough profit to invest in improvements in their operations and upgrades to their facilities. Industry analysts estimate a minimum of 20% of the existing dealerships may need to be consolidated or closed to make the remaining stores competitive with their Japanese counterparts. Toyota dealerships sold an average of 1,628 light vehicles last year and Honda dealers averaged 1,165 units. Nissan’s average of 746 cars and light trucks is the lowest of the three major Japanese brands but it is still more than one hundred sales higher than the combined averages for Chrysler, Ford and GM dealers. Chrysler’s 3,585 dealers sold an average of just 169 vehicles in 2007 and only about 170 sold a thousand or more. Counting only their domestic brands, Ford dealers had the best average results with 236 sales per dealer while GM dealers moved an average of 202.

The automakers face some significant challenges. It is difficult for a manufacturer to act unilaterally because state franchise laws generally favor dealers and many franchises are family-owned enterprises that don’t want to give up a business built over generations. Chrysler’s efforts are further hampered because, according to Chrysler president Jim Press, the company does not have cash to fund buyouts so it must rely on the dealers themselves to get the job done. Chrysler’s primary leverage is the fact it is making significant cuts to its product line that could leave standalone Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep dealers without enough products to sell. Chrysler has offered non-financial support, like advising dealers on obtaining financing, consolidation strategies and estate planning. As another alternative, Steve Landry, executive vice president for North American sales, says the company has approved a plan to allow some dealerships to remain open as standalone service centers.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 27 2008, 03 PM)

Daimler reduces value of Chrysler holdings by 50%

Daimler AG reduced the book value of its remaining 19.9% share of Chrysler to about $875 million. When it sold the majority of Chrysler to Cerberus last August, the stake was valued at about $1.8 billion. Daimler also attributed part of the 32% drop in its first-quarter profit to losses at the U.S. automaker. Declining sales at Daimler’s U.S. truck subsidiary got most of the rest of the blame.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (April 30 2008, 03 AM)

Edmunds says Chrysler had highest incentives in April

According to Edmunds.com, Chrysler was once again the cash king when it came to incentives; the company put an average of $3,835 on the hood in April. However, it was the only one of the Detroit automakers to reduce spending last month and its average incentive was down $233 from March 2008 and $412 from April 2007. Ford added $102, bringing its average to $3,074 and GM tossed in an extra $52 to sweeten its deals by an average of $3,300. Both the Ford and GM incentives are not only higher than March, they are also higher than last April. Despite its commitment to replacing rebates and special financing with better retail pricing, GM spent $497 more per vehicle last month than it did in April 2007.

Nissan was the only other automaker to reduce incentives in April 2008. It cut $41 to come up with an average subsidy of $1,890, the highest of the Japanese automakers. Honda spent an average of $1,439, $363 higher than it offered last April. Toyota added $166 to the pot, bringing its average to $880.00 per sale.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 01 2008, 12 PM)

Chrysler sales plummet again

Chrysler LLC today reported total April 2008 U.S. sales of 147,751 units, which is 23% below the same period last year, even as Canadian sales rose. Overall sales were most affected by slowing truck and SUV demand and a dramatic cut in daily rental-fleet sales. All sales figures are reported as unadjusted.

As at GM, Ford, and Toyota, Chrysler's compact vehicles continued to connect well with customers. Total compact vehicle sales of the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot, which each achieve 28 miles per gallon or better in highway driving, reached an April record 17,977 units last month, up 16% from April 2007.

The Chrysler Sebring Convertible finished the month with 2,827 units compared with April 2007 sales of 1,447 units, a 95% sales increase. Also enjoying a positive month was the Dodge Charger with sales of 13,021 units in April, a 29% increase over 2007 April sales.

In April, the company launched its largest digital-advertising campaign in Chrysler history for the all-new Dodge Journey, 'If you can dream it, do it.' The Journey, with best-in-class fuel economy (25-mpg hwy, 4-cylinder), delivers a unique combination of versatility and flexibility at less than $20,000. The Journey increased sales to 6,667 units in its third month on the market.

As a result of the success of its "New Day" packages, Chrysler will continue to offer the popular packages in May.

The Company finished the month with 422,353 units of inventory, or a 74-day supply. As part of a planned reduction in manufacturing and capacity, inventory is down 13% compared with April 2007 when it totaled 482,786 units.

Pacifica sales wound down to just 665, from 8,583 units last year, with the model having been discontinued. Both Town & Country and Caravan fell (32% and 37%), but Chrysler remains ahead of Toyota in minivan sales. While Charger rose 29% in sales, 300 fell 37% and the now-cut Magnum fell 82%, for a net LX loss; but Challengers are now in production, which will show up in next month's sales. PT Cruiser sales fell just 25% this time; the PT is expected to fall more as production capacity goes to Journey.

While Ram sales fell 23%, for a 7,000 unit loss, the smaller Dakota fell more (38%). Durango dropped 45%, Nitro 41% - but Liberty just 30%. The entire Jeep line suffered substantial sales losses, outside of the Patriot; even the Compass fell, by 13%.

See Full Story for actual sales figures.

(May 01 2008, 07 PM)

Chrysler Canada sales rise again

Chrysler Canada achieved its best April sales in over five years, aided by the fall of the U.S. dollar relative to the Canadian dollar. Total sales rose a surprising 8% over April 2007, based on retail sales, solidifying Chrysler's position as Canada's second-favorite automaker (after General Motors). Fleet sales decreased, by intent.

The Dodge Journey managed to become the second highest selling crossover in Canada, out of 22 different models. The Caliber/Compass/Patriot's sales rose 72% over 2007. The minivans, which fell dramatically in U.S. sales, rose 38% when compared with prior long wheelbase minivans (though not when compared with all prior minivans).

Chrysler Canada is planning to appeal to thrifty Canadians with a "Thank You Canada" campaign which provides 13 different models for under $20,000. The thanks are partly for having two of the five top selling vehicles in the country, the Grand Caravan and Ram truck. Base price on the Grand Caravan will drop to $19,999, while the Caliber will fall to $12,995 (Canadian dollars). The Sebring Convertible will also drop to $19,999.

(May 01 2008, 07 PM)

Chrysler sales nosedive in April

Poet T.S. Eliot once said April is the cruelest month and that was certainly true for the Detroit automakers. Even the most pessimistic of the analysts who made predictions about April U.S. light vehicle sales didn’t envision the actual results reported Thursday.

Compounding the problem were the two extra selling days last month which lowered the daily sales rate (DSR) well beyond the abysmal volume declines. (Note: unless otherwise noted, all figures will be adjusted for DSR.)

Since Honda was not able to post its full monthly report, we have only estimates for those results. Once their final numbers are in, there will be a follow-up to this report to detail changes in segments and overall performance.

Using Honda’s estimates, April U.S. light vehicle sales volume was about 1.25 million cars and light trucks, down 6.80 percent compared to April 2007. This yielded a seasonally adjusted sales rate (SAAR) of just 14.4 million light vehicle sales, a figure that has not been seen in years.

Chrysler took the biggest hit of the major automakers. Volume was down 23.49 percent which translates to a DSR plunge of 29.37 percent. Compared to last April, Chrysler gave up 9,717 car sales and 35,636 SUV and pickup sales.

The Chrysler brand looked like it had been gut-shot; sales were down 44.96 percent and passenger car sales were down a 48.59 percent with the Chrysler 300 giving up 41.69 percent of the sales it brought in last April.

The Aspen was one of Chrysler’s two bright spots for the month. Volume was up enough to put the Chrysler SUV in the black by 0.34 percent. The underappreciated PT Cruiser was the other, posting a sales jump of 27.85% on a volume increase of 38.51 percent.

Chrysler Town & Country sales were down 36.96 percent, but they had a tough act to follow. In April 2007, the Chrysler minivans enjoyed “National Minivan Month” and brought in sales well ahead of April 2006. Plus last April had two less selling days than April 2006, giving it the benefit of a boost from daily sales rate adjustments. Compared to 2006, last month’s Town & Country sales were down just 15.09 percent.

Such finagling wouldn’t help the Dodge Caravan; a similar comparison to 2006 would yield a plummet of 35.02 percent, not that much better than the actual 41.39 percent drop recorded last month. Still, the Caravan’s April 2008 sales of 14,665 were enough to give it first place in the minivan segment, at least until we hear from Honda.

While the 300 languished, the Charger turned in a stellar performance as Chrysler’s third-best-selling vehicle. Charger sales were up 19.51 percent on a volume increase of 29.47 percent.

April wasn’t a good month for the Chrysler mid-size cars. Sebring sales were down 34.34 percent and Avenger sales dropped 36.33 percent.

The Patriot is clearly showing it has more of what Jeep buyers want than the Compass. Patriot sales were up 101.78 percent while Compass sales were down 20.09 percent.

Jeep sales were down 24.42 percent but, outside of the Commander, the shortfalls for individual models were in line with SUVs from Ford and General Motors and none of the Chrysler SUVs came close to equaling the 75.06 percent drop GM reported for the Chevy TrailBlazer.

The same is true for the Ram pickup which missed its April 2007 mark by 29.07 percent. Pickups continue to be the poorest-performing major segment of the light vehicle market.

The Journey is off to a decent start and it’s to be hoped that America’s love affair with crossovers has room for one more player.

Chrysler reported its inventory was down compared to last year but neglected to mention that sales were dropping faster than inventories. At the end of March, there were 423,607 units or a 66-day supply on hand. At the end of April, sales had slowed enough that an almost identical 422,353 units represented a 74-day supply.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 02 2008, 03 AM)

Chrysler looks to spin off Walter P. Chrysler museum

Chrysler wants the Walter P. Chrysler Museum off its books. But this time, that could be a good thing. If things go as the company plans, the museum and its collection of historic Chrysler vehicles will become an independent, nonprofit organization operating under the umbrella of the Chrysler Foundation. The WPC would be governed by a board made up of company officials, Chrysler dealers and members of the public. The company filed the necessary paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service on April 1, 2008.

The 55,000-square-foot WPC, located near Chrysler's Auburn Hills headquarters, is currently operating as part of the automaker’s public relations department. Company officials wouldn’t discuss the museum's budget. "It's very small in the grand scheme of things," said Frank Fountain, Chrysler senior vice president of external affairs and public policy and president of the Chrysler Foundation.

Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealers are being tapped to donate $5,000 apiece to provide the basis of an initial endowment for the museum. With about 3,500 dealers, the effort could raise as much as $17.5 million.

Fountain said the museum already receives about 50,000 visitors annually but museum officials hope the new status and independence will increase that number and permit more involvement with Detroit-area activities like the Woodward Dream Cruise.

Spinning off the WPC has financial advantages for the museum. According to Fountain, the non-profit status allows companies and individuals to make contributions to the museum, either money or exhibits, and be able to take advantage of tax benefits. Fountain noted there are already some retired Chrysler executives who own large car collections and want to be able to donate their vehicles to the museum after they die, avoiding potential estate taxes. Fountain said. "You can't do that if the contributions are made to a for-profit organization."

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 03 2008, 06 AM)

Chrysler museum to become independent nonprofit

Chrysler filed paperwork on April 1, 2008, to have the Walter P. Chrysler museum become a nonprofit; in the meantime, it has already been moved under the Chrysler Foundation's auspices. We have more details and an interview with the museum's manager at this link.

(May 05 2008, 03 PM)

Caravan keeps top minivan spot in April

The Dodge Caravan held on to the top spot in the minivan segment in April. Honda sales figures posted today show that, while sales of the Odyssey were up, they still weren’t enough to catch the Dodge. The Chrysler Town & Country came in fourth, less than 500 sales behind the Toyota Sienna. While much was made of the decline in the minivan market, the minivan’s 17.94 percent drop was eclipsed by the 20.01 percent decline in pickup share. The SUV segment dropped 15.56 percent in April.

Chrysler ended the month with an 11.84 percent market share, down 2.59 percent from April 2007 and 0.43 percent from March 2007. It was the largest share loss of any manufacturer, beating GM’s loss of 2.29 percent. Largest gain was recorded by Toyota, up 1.17 percent percent to 17.45 percent, followed by Honda which climbed to 10.84 percent, an increase of 1.39 percent.

Chrysler placed only one vehicle, the Dodge Ram , in the top ten for April and only two, the Ram and Caravan, in the top twenty. Best finish for a Chrysler car was the Charger at No. 22. Top Chrysler vehicle was the Town & Country at No. 30. The T&C was also the only Chrysler-branded vehicle to top 10,000 monthly sales. The top Jeep was the Wrangler at No. 38.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 05 2008, 07 PM)

Chrysler Mexico sales fall, still beat Ford

Although Chrysler's Mexican sales fell by 11% in March 2008 (compared with March 2007), it still managed to rise above Ford in market share as Ford plummeted by 35%. The leader in Mexican sales is Nissan, with 17,800 vehicles sold in March; that's down by 3% from last year. GM fell 20%, Volkswagen 26%. Mazda sales increased but were only 1.512 units; the mighty Toyota's sales fell 11% and remain roughly half of Chrysler and Ford sales. In March 2007, Ford sold around 3,700 more vehicles than Chrysler in Mexico; in March 2008, Chrysler beat Ford by around 300 vehicles.

As a whole, Mexico's car sales fell by 17%.

(May 06 2008, 08 PM)

Fitch cuts Chrysler ratings

Fitch Ratings cut Chrysler issuer default ratings deeper into junk territory on Wednesday. Fitch gave Chrysler a “B” rating, five levels below investment grade, and said the company has a negative ratings outlook which means another downgrade is possible. Fitch had previously rated Chrysler as “B-plus.”

"The downgrade reflects the decline in unit volumes and revenues resulting from weak economic conditions, modest share losses, certain strategic initiatives, and the effect of these factors on the company's operating performance," said Fitch in a statement.

Fitch said it expects capital investments and restructuring costs will keep Chrysler's cash flow negative in 2008. On the plus side, the agency noted Chrysler’s restructuring efforts remain on track and the automaker has adequate liquidity to fund sustain it during the current weak economy.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 08 2008, 03 AM)

Dodge Challenger officially launched

The Dodge Challenger was officially launched today.

(May 08 2008, 05 PM)

Workers cheer as first Challengers leave assembly line

The first 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8s rolled off the Brampton line on Thursday as workers cheered. The new muscle cars will hit dealer showrooms next week but won’t stay there long; almost all of them are already sold.

"We haven't seen this kind of hype for a vehicle since we launched the first Viper," said Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler executive vice president for manufacturing, who addressed a crowd of employees, Canadian government officials and reporters.

Company executives boasted the Challenger was launched with the least expensive manufacturing startup in Chrysler history. The car went from drawing board to showroom in 21 months and it cost just $151 million to set up the factory to build it. According to Ewasyshyn, that’s the least the automaker has ever spent to launch a single vehicle. He went on to say flexible manufacturing helped control the costs. The Challenger is built with the same machinery as the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 and many of the pilot cars were assembled without shutting down the production line.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 09 2008, 07 AM)

Chrysler Mexico auctions Challenger

(from James Hale)

Every year, Huixquilucan (prononce "whisky LOOK on") hosts what has become an important car show. This town is now a suburb of Mexico City, to the west, up in the mountains.

The car show displays many vintage cars, the most of which are in top shape, and some of which were inherited and have never left the family of the original owner. You won't see any special, rare or too exotic cars over there, compared to what you have in the US, but the event has earned a very good reputation.

So good in fact, that Chrysler saw it fit to introduce their new Challenger, of which Mexico will get 100 units of the SRT version.

The first Challenger to be sold in Mexico was put up for bids, and it fetched no less than $660,000 pesos, that is, US$62,857.14 (exhange rate: US$1.00 = Mex10.5).

The car wasn't in Mexico at the time, and Chrysler Mexico president gave the winner of the bid a scale model of the car, while he waits for the real thing, which incidentally, is a production model, not a prototype

Part of the proceeds will go to charity through the Chrysler Foundation.

(May 09 2008, 08 AM)

Challenger draws attention from border protection officials

Chrysler’s newest muscle car created its first traffic jam as it drew lots of attention from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials this week.

Reid Bigland, CEO of Chrysler Canada, was driving one of the new Dodge Challenger SRT8s through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and stopped at the border checkpoint where the car was surrounded by three customs officers. Turns out they weren’t worried about terrorists or contraband; they wanted to get a good look at the new Hemi-powered coupe. In the process, traffic was backed up for an hour.

"They checked out everything but my ID," Bigland said later.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 10 2008, 06 AM)

Saleen Challenger officially announced

Steve Saleen and his new company SMS introduced today the first product in his line of Signature Series ultra-high performance vehicles, the SMS 570TM Challenger and SMS 570XTM Challenger.

As a professional racecar driver and innovative businessman, Mr. Saleen is well known as the founder of a number of Steve Saleen brands including Saleen Autosport, Saleen Productions, Saleen Speedlab, Saleen Performance, Saleen, Inc. and now SMS. Mr. Saleen‘s latest endeavor will focus on the expansion into the high-end of the diverse American Muscle Car markets.

The fully certified and street legal SMS 570TM Challenger and SMS 570XTM Challenger will be based on the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T and will feature a SMS Supercharged 5.7L Hemi with respective power ratings from 500 to over 700 horsepower. Both models are equipped with SMS high performance components including drivetrain, suspension, aerodynamics, tires, wheels and interior.

“The horsepower and torque that we are developing from the SMS Supercharged Hemi is phenomenal” said Billy Tally, SMS Chief Technical Officer, “combined with suspension and braking improvements our SMS Challenger will be an incredibly capable, refined and tractable vehicle”.

Each of these limited edition vehicles will be personally signed by Steve Saleen as part of the SMS Signature Series product line complete with unique badges and graphics. Production numbers will be limited per year depending on the model and the opportunity to be one of the few owners is limited to a first-come, first-served basis.

(May 12 2008, 04 PM)

Sen. Obama visits Chrysler's Sterling Heights plant

Presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama visited the Sterling Heights Stamping Plant on Wednesday. He was greeted by employees then went into a brief private meeting with Chrysler Vice Chairman Jim Press and Bob Stuglin, president of UAW Local 1264. After the meeting, Obama shook hands with hundreds of plant employees.

Before his meeting with Obama, Press told reporters, “I think it’s a great opportunity to invite him in and show him a little bit about what we are doing here and how we are addressing important issues like environment, climate change, and health care.” Press added, “Mainly we want to see what he wants to talk about.”

After Obama toured the plant, Chrysler showed the senator its latest fuel-efficient vehicles including a diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee, the flex-fuel Sebring and the Aspen Hybrid, which goes on sale in September.

At the end of his tour, the senator said, “Well, this has been very impressive. We’ll be back. Hopefully with some money.”

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 15 2008, 06 AM)

Chrysler, CAW work late on new contract

Negotiators for Chrysler and the Canadian Auto Workers continued to work past a previously announced deadline, hoping to reach an early deal on a new contract.

“We still have a small number of issues, not an insurmountable number of issues, with both Chrysler and GM,” Hargrove, president of the CAW, said at a 10 p.m. press conference in Toronto. “We still have some work to do,” he added. The 64-year-old Hargrove, who is in his final term as union president, wants to have a contract in place well in advance of the mid-September expiration date of the CAW’s current agreement with Chrysler.

The CAW's primary aim is to avoid the “two-tier” system incorporated in the new contracts between the United Auto Workers union last year. It was successful in its efforts in the deal the Canadian union recently reached with Ford earlier this month.

Hargrove said Chrysler has agreed to the basic terms of the Ford agreement, though there are some differences that must be ironed out.

Chrysler spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin said, “Chrysler and the CAW are working hard to find solutions to a number of issues. We continue discussions in order to achieve an agreement that balances the needs of the CAW, employees and the company.”

Chrysler employs about 8,000 CAW members including 1,098 who are currently on layoff.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 15 2008, 06 AM)

Chrysler Canada changes

"Espon" wrote that his dealership was apprised of some changes for the 2009 models:

  • The Caliber R/T will be been dropped (in Canada)
  • The Compass Rally Edition will be availablle
  • The 3.8 liter engine will be replaced in Canada by the 4.0 liter engine
  • MyGIG will be available in Caliber, Compass, and Patriot
  • The 300 Limited 26L is now available with the no-key starter.
    This list is currently unconfirmed.

(May 15 2008, 08 AM)

Lawyer-turned-racer "Lawman" Eckstrand dies

Elton "Al" Eckstrand, who raced under a series of Dodge stockers emblazoned with the name "Lawman," earning a place in the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, died last week in Florida after an illness at the age of 79.

Eckstrand was a former Chrysler Corporation lawyer; he won the 1963 Winternationals and was a runner-up at 1963's Indianapolis Nationals. After retiring from racing in 1965, he convinced Chrysler executives to support a tour of American military bases in Europe and Vietnam with a 1966 Hemi Charger provided by the company. Eckstrand created the USA Motorsports Association, and the organization and Eckstrand himself gave demonstrations to hundreds of thousands of soldiers over eight years. The Dodge Charger Eckstrand toured with was exhibited by the Walter P. Chrysler Museum.

(May 15 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler reaches tentative deal with CAW

The Canadian Auto Workers union has completed a clean sweep, reaching deals with all three Detroit automakers months ahead of the expiration of its current contracts. Moreover, the union was able to achieve its goals of keeping pay close to current levels and keeping plants open.

The union’s tentative pact with Chrysler was the last to be reached, coming this morning after reaching an accord with General Motors. The CAW sealed a deal with Ford earlier this month. Both of the latest agreements must be ratified by the rank-and-file membership. The Chrysler vote is scheduled for this Saturday.

In a conference call, Buzz Hargrove, outgoing CAW president, said, “For the first time in my life and in my bargaining career, I can truly say that this was a win-win. I never liked that term. I've always said that it's the workers that win.”

In a prepared statement, Al Iacobelli, Chrysler's v-p for union relations, confirmed a deal had been reached, saying, “Chrysler is committed to being among the industry's best in productivity, quality, customer value and service. With this agreement, our Canadian operations will support that commitment by producing some of our most iconic vehicles, including the Chrysler and Dodge minivans, and the all-new Dodge Challenger.”

Hargrove said the CAW usually hopes to get 90 percent of its members voting for ratification of a new contract, but just two-thirds of the eligible workers voted in favor of the new Ford contract. Members who are unsure or believe the union could have gotten more by waiting until closer to September, when the existing deals expire, may vote against the new pacts. However, the union had to face the reality that the automakers’ Canadian operations no longer enjoyed the cost advantage they once had, largely due to the decline of the American dollar, and that Canada’s manufacturing base has been hurt its neighbor’s economic woes.

Despite rumors the company would shift more production to its St. Louis plant, Hargrove said Chrysler agreed the Windsor plant would remain its primary minivan production source and said it would keep three shifts of union employees working as long as demand continues. The Brampton plant will continue production and will get the new Chrysler 300C in 2010.

According to Hargrove, Chrysler has agreed to keep a casting plant near Toronto open until mid-2011, even though it’s losing money, and will look for a buyer or joint-venture partner instead of simply closing the facility.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 15 2008, 05 PM)

Detroit gives Chrysler $22.8 million tax break

The Detroit City Council has unanimously approved $22.8 million in new tax breaks for Chrysler. The 12-year, 50 percent exemption means Chrysler can move forward with a $373 million upgrade of the Jefferson North Assembly Plant.

The upgrade, expected to be completed by 2010, will create 419 new jobs and allow production of the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee and two other vehicles to be named later.

"Today's council action reinforces the long-standing partnership between Chrysler LLC and the city of Detroit," said Patrick Lindsey, Chrysler's senior manager for state relations.

Chrysler’s October 2007 application for the tax abatements came under close scrutiny. In January, the Detroit City Council repeatedly asked the automaker a series of questions covering asking about its plans to use city contractors for the upgrade work and hire city residents for the new jobs. The council also wanted to know why previous tax breaks haven’t kept more jobs in the city. In his report to the council, Irvin Corley, Jr., City Fiscal Analyst, wrote the company had finally addressed the issues raised and noted Chrysler will be paying $9.7 million in additional taxes over the life of the exemption because the company only requested tax relief on $281 million, about 75 percent of the total investment envisioned.

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

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 21 2008, 08 AM)

Designers go aero for future vehicles

While they won’t fly or be guided by automated highways, those sleek concept cars featured in countless Sunday newspaper supplements in the 1950s and 1960s may actually foreshadow some vehicles to be seen in the 21st Century.

With record fuel prices changing American consumer perceptions and desires, designers at the country’s major car companies say buyers will be looking for vehicles that not only are more fuel-efficient, but look more efficient, too.

Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Automotive Press Association at the Detroit Athletic Club, designers from Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda and Nissan discussed the shape of future production vehicles.

"Everything is going to be aerodynamic," said Patrick Schiavone, director of design for Ford's North American light trucks. Greg Howell, Jeep exterior design manager, agreed, saying "Gas prices will change taste."

Howell designed the Eco Voyager, a sleek family hauler concept unveiled at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. He said Chrysler is promoting stricter aerodynamic standards as one of its strategies to meet upcoming fuel efficiency requirements. Since reducing drag can add three or four miles per gallon to a vehicle’s mileage, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep stylists are spending more time in wind tunnels, working on new ways to cheat the wind.

Despite their past resistance to extreme aero styling, which they perceived as engineering or science studies, Howell and his fellow designers believe consumers are becoming more receptive to the new trend and he said, "People will identify with cars that they wouldn't have in the past. I think the scientific-looking car niche will be growing."

The event was sponsored by the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, which will host its annual “Eyes on Design” benefit on June 15. The show, to be held at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, supports education and research to aid the visually impaired.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 21 2008, 08 AM)

Daimler buying Chrysler's shuttered Pacifica studios

Daimler AG is buying Chrysler’s former Pacifica Advanced Design Studios in Carlsbad, California. Chrysler closed the facility in early March as a cost-cutting move and had been looking for a buyer.

Confirming the sale, Daimler spokesman Han Tjan, said the company will use the center for vehicle design and close its own styling center in Irvine, California which is much smaller than the Chrysler property.

Chrysler would not confirm the report. Spokeswoman Katie Hepler said the automaker has a contract to sell Pacifica but would not identify the buyer.

While neither Chrysler nor Daimler would confirm a price, Thomson Financial said the deal was worth about $7 million based on information it received from Gorden Wagener who has been designated design chief for Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 22 2008, 03 AM)

1954 Chrysler show car found

A 1954 Chrysler show car has been discovered and will be coming home to Detroit after an absence of more than half a century.

Based on a theme popular with automakers at the time, the Chrysler La Comtesse was one of a pair of his-and-hers cars built at the Chrysler Los Angeles plant. A Chrysler press release described La Comtesse in this way:

"Chrysler's exotic new plastic top car, presents a gorgeous two-tone exterior of dusty rose with a pigeon gray top. The interior is luxuriously finished in cream and dusty rose leather with seat back inserts of platinum brocatelle fabric. Interior appointments are set off by specially-designed chrome hardware. A long, low note is provided by heavy chrome molding running along the lower body of the car from the front wheel openings to the rear bumper. A continental tire mount and chrome wire wheels add to the car's smart appearance. La Comtesse is built on a New Yorker Deluxe Newport chassis and is powered by a 235-horsepower Chrysler FirePower V-8 engine and features fully-automatic PowerFlite transmission, power steering and power brakes plus Chrysler's high-roll front suspension for easier handling and improved roadability."

The Le Comte was similarly appointed but had a black-and-bronze color scheme.

The La Comtesse was shown at the 50th Chicago Auto Show where it competed for attention with the Buick Wildcat II, Cadillac La Espada, and Ford’s wild FX Atmos as well as the Virgil Exner-designed Dodge Firearrow. As it toured the nation, appearing at the New York Auto Shows and a number of other venues, millions of people saw the Le Comtesse and the Le Comte. Public reaction was positive enough to encourage Dodge to produce the La Femme a year later.

As is true of most show cars, the La Comtesse and the Le Comte were as much about salesmanship as they were about showmanship. Writing in the Automobile Quarterly’s first-quarter issue for 2003, Jeffrey I. Godshall said the continental tire kit and the Kelsey Hayes wire wheels on the cars were options Chrysler was promoting. Chrysler President K.T. Keller was particularly fond of the continental kit and added them to his own cars. Ray Schafer, head of Chrysler’s Central Engineering paint shop during the Keller era, said, "It was well-known to everyone that Keller loved continental kits. You could say he had a continental kit 'nut.' Even his wife had a blue sedan with a production option continental kit on it."

It has been rumored there were five La Comtesse show cars built and what may well be the last survivor was discovered recently in Southern California. Since the La Comtesse was a fully-driveable car, it was registered and presumably driven by its new owner. According to the tags on the car, it was last registered in 1970.

The car has been purchased by the Chrysler Historical Foundation and will eventually appear in the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Chrysler collector Merle Wolfer is preparing an article covering the history of the car for the WPC.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 23 2008, 01 PM)

Chrysler may drop more models, look outside for small cars

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli says rising gas prices might make the company dump some of its larger vehicles or make further cuts to capacity.

Speaking to reporters in Norfolk, Virginia, Nardelli said such changes are "not yet" in the works. He added, "The operative statement is 'not yet.' We'll continue to sense the market."

In his remarks, Nardelli said some customers were shifting from trucks and to sedans like the Sebring as gas prices break the $4 per gallon mark and noted Chrysler is moving quickly to bring advanced vehicles to market. He went on to say the company would consider sourcing smaller cars through partnerships with other carmakers if it was a better solution than developing a new vehicle, saying, "we won't suffer from the not-invented-here syndrome."

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 24 2008, 06 AM)

Chrysler Europe sales fall despite rising market

European light vehicle registrations rose 10% in April 2008 vs April 2007, led mainly by Volkswagen. PSA Group, Ford, GM, Renault, Fiat, Daimler, BMW, Nissan, Hyundai, Mazda, Suzuki, Kia, and Mitsubishi (in order of total sales) all saw gains for the month, while Toyota slipped by 2%, Honda by 9%, and Chrysler by 4%. For the first four months of the year, Chrysler fell by 4%, but the total rise in sales was just 1%, and that was enjoyed largely by Volkswagen and Renault, while other automakers (including PSA, Ford, GM, Fiat, and Toyota) slipped.

Chrysler sold just 9,190 vehicles in Europe in April 2008; total sales for all automakers was 1.4 million. Volkswagen was the leader in the continent, with over 290,000 sales in April, over half through its namesake brand; PSA followed with over 183,000 sales, divided roughly equally among Peugeot and Citroen. Ford sales included Volvo, Land Rover, and Jaguar. (Figures from Automotive News, which sourced ACEA.)

(May 28 2008, 01 PM)

2008 Challengers officially shipping

According to one of the many Dodge PR web sites, the 2008 Dodge Challenger is now shipping, with nearly 1,000 of the short 2008 run already built. The rest of the Challengers will be made by early July; then the 2009s will start.

(May 28 2008, 02 PM)

Chrysler talking trucks with Tata

Indian automaker Tata Motors Ltd. is talking with Chrysler to sell mini trucks in America. Tata is the company that is in the process of buying Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Co.

According to P.M. Telang, Tata’s executive director, the Chrysler talks also include electric versions of the trucks.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 29 2008, 08 AM)

New Ram costs less, gets better mileage

Chrysler says the 2009 Dodge Ram will get as many as four more miles per gallon than the current model which gets about 13 mpg in city driving and about 17 mpg on the highway.

The new Ram is more aerodynamic and weighs 80 pounds less and its V8 engine has a management system that cuts out four cylinders when they aren’t needed.

Speaking during a preview showing of the new pickup, Scott Kunselman, leader of Chrysler's truck product team said, “We are looking at 10 to 20 percent fuel-efficiency gains, depending on the model.”

Sales of the new Ram are crucial to Chrysler, the most truck-dependent of the U.S. automakers. While it’s still the company’s best-selling light vehicle, volume for the current Ram is down 24.22 percent for the first four months, a larger drop than the 15.50 percent decline in sales of the Ford F-Series or the 20.85 percent shortfall posted by the Chevy Silverado. Further declines are expected when May sales are reported next week. Preliminary estimates indicate pickup sales dropped below ten percent of light vehicle sales as the tight housing and credit markets put pressure on commercial sales and consumers switch to more efficient vehicles.

In an interview, Mike Cairns, the model's chief engineer, said, “We are acutely aware of how important this truck is to Chrysler.” Cairns also said the new Ram, with an upgraded interior and several new features, also costs less to build than the current pickup. Engineers reduced manufacturing and logistics costs to achieve the savings.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (May 30 2008, 06 AM)

Marketwatch: Cerberus sold most of Chrysler equity

According to a report on MarketWatch by Michael Kitchen, Cerberus Capital Management will not be as strongly affected by the troubles at GMAC as once thought; Cerberus has already sold more than half its equity in GMAC and Chrysler. Buyers include Citigroup and Franklin Templeton Investments. (Thanks, David Nau, for the heads up.)

(June 02 2008, 11 AM)

Cerberus denies selling equity

A Chrysler official anonymously disputed the Financial Times' recent report that Cerberus had sold over half its stake in Chrysler and GMAC, saying that while there had been coinvestors at the time of purchase, Cerberus had not sold any of its own stake. It is possible that the Financial Times report was referring to these coinvestors.

Of note, while Cerberus itself only invested $7.4 billion (possibly including co-investors' stakes), it took fees of "up to" $1 billion for unloading risk to other investors, according to a report by Bradford Wernie of Automotive News.

(June 02 2008, 01 PM)

Cerberus weighs in on GMAC, Chrysler ownership

The private equity firm declared in a statement today that
"Cerberus has not reduced or made any changes to its equity stakes in GMAC or Chrysler since the closing of either transaction... It is common knowledge, and has been widely reported, that Cerberus made these investments side-by-side with its co-investors at the time of closing."

(June 02 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler U.S. sales down 25%

Chrysler LLC today reported total May 2008 sales of 148,747 units, 25% (not adjusted for daily sales rates) below May 2007. The drop reflected a 40% cut in fleet sales, an industry-wide downturn in truck and SUV sales.

The Dodge Caliber posted sales of 12,856 units, up 7% from May 2007, while the Dodge Journey hit 7,520 units in its fourth month of sales. The fuel-efficient Jeep® Patriot posted record monthly of 8,199 units, an 82% increase.

Chrysler finished the month with 412,009 units of inventory, or a 75-day supply, is down 14% compared with May 2007 when it totaled 479,501 units.

Buyers were most likely to choose the gas guarantee incentive option versus cash back or 0 percent financing when purchasing the Dodge Journey, Dodge Caliber, Chrysler Sebring Sedan, Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Town & Country.

(more to come when Chrysler releases specific figures)

(June 03 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler Canada reports another sales increase

Even as Chrysler's American sales continue to fall, the company is thriving in Canada with a 7% increase compared to May 2007 (May 2008 sales were 27,325 units); Chrysler has now had 22 consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases. The Dodge Journey is now the most popular crossover in Canada, while the minivans increased in sales by an astounding 52%.

Chrysler’s “Thank You Canada” pricing program will be extended through June. The program positions 13 Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles under $20,000.

“Our minivan business is remarkable in Canada,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO of Chrysler Canada. “With rising fuel prices, Canadian consumers are struggling with the costs associated with large SUVs, but do not want to forego the functionality. As a result, they are getting back into our minivans in record numbers. The minivan provides exceptional fuel economy, outstanding functionality and is available for the first time ever at a starting price of under $20,000.”

With sales averaging 4,300 units per month, the minivan is Chrysler Canada’s top-selling vehicle, Canada’s third-highest selling vehicle in 2007 and the No. 1 minivan in the country for 24 consecutive years.

While it is Canada’s best selling crossover, the Dodge Journey sold just 1,581 units; it starts at just under C$20,000.

Sales of the Dodge Ram, Chrysler’s second-highest volume vehicle, held steady in May with 4,034 units sold.

Combined Jeep Patriot, Compass and Dodge Caliber sales were up 36 percent (5,771 units) compared to May 2007. Jeep Patriot and Dodge Caliber are among Chrysler’s top-five selling vehicles.

(June 03 2008, 03 PM)

Dodge encourages Sprinter chassis cab upfitters

Dodge today announced a $1,000 allowance towards the purchase of an upfit body for installation on all Sprinter chassis cab models.  The term program runs from June 3, 2008 to January 2, 2009.

The program is not a retail incentive and is open to all approved Sprinter dealers nationwide.  The allowance applies to all upfits valued at more than $1,500.  Participating upfitters must be members of the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA).  Recreational vehicles (RV) upfits, limousine upfits and shuttle bus upfits are excluded.

Eligible models include all 2007, 2008 and 2009 Sprinter chassis cabs.  For more information, visit www.dodge.com/business.

(June 03 2008, 05 PM)

Chrysler sales detail

Despite the shift in U.S. sales to cars, Chrysler brand cars tended to fall in sales, with the brand as a whole taking a 38% sales cut led by the 300 (59%) and PT Cruiser (18%). Even the Sebring fell by nearly one third. The sole gainer was the Aspen, which increased by 300 units to just over 2,000 sales. The Chrysler Town & Country minivan held its own by comparison, with sales falling just 11% - or around 1,500 vans.

At Jeep, the picture would have been nearly as bad had the Patriot not scored a surprising 82% sales gain to nearly 8,200 units. The Compass, based on the same basic parts as the Patriot, actually fell 17%. The Wrangler fell 25%, but was very popular at this time last year; Liberty fell by one fifth; and Grand Cherokee and Commander took hits of 23% and 63% respectively, the latter probably hurt by its higher pricing and larger perceived size.

Over at Dodge, the numbers were also discouraging, with all but two vehicles taking a dive. The Caliber eked out a 7% increase to 12,856 cars sold, while the only slightly larger Avenger fell (like the Charger) by one quarter of its sales; the Charger had been Dodge's best selling car, but now it takes a distant #2 to the Caliber. 71 Challengers were reported as being sold, along with 274 Magnums and 126 Vipers (only 27 Vipers were sold last May).

Truck sales were down as expected, with Dakota falling 25% and the once hot-selling Ram falling by 37%, which is a serious 12,000 or so trucks. Part of that might be the effect of the new 2009 Rams, which make the current models seem less attractive; but Dodge will have to offer considerable bargains to clear their lots.

Caravan fell by 25% again, but still outsold Town & Country, though not by much; Dodge lost nearly 5,000 minivans compared to last May.

The bigger SUVs - Durango and Nitro - plummeted as one might expect, with Durango falling by nearly 70% to just 1,360 units; and Nitro falling by 56% to 2,667 trucks. Were it not for Fiat, the Delaware Durango plant's closure would seem inevitable.

As buyers seek fuel efficiency, the Sprinter got a little boost, selling 1,781 vans - 32% more than last May. An upfitter bonus of $1,000 should boost Sprinter sales more and clear them off the lots nicely.

The increase in gas prices, which is now expected to last until the end of summer, caught Chrysler at a bad time, with new fuel-saving technologies on the way but not here yet, and ill-advised shifts from fuel economy to "big and bold" styling leaving key holes in the product line. There are numerous projects under way to fill the holes, but we don't expect to see anything solid until calendar-year 2009, save for the greater fuel effiency of the 2009 Ram.

(June 04 2008, 09 AM)

Eurojeeps sold with chrome, performance options

The Jeep Patriot has made a splash in Europe, with pricing starting at £15,995 and diesel-powered gas mileage of 42.2mpg, but Jeep is hoping to attract more buyers with new accessories including a chrome grille, sport suspension, big 20 inch wheels, and "body kits." Some of these, featuring Startech cosmetic add-ons, are packaged as an SE Exterior pack selling for just under a thousand pounds sterling. The SE Lifestyle interior pack, at a hundred pounds more, provides chrome rings, leather treatments, and other such trim. Numerous other frivolous features abound, as well as a Startech performance module that bumps up the 2-liter diesel by a full 40 hp. That, too, runs to a £999.

(June 04 2008, 01 PM)

J.D. Power: Porsche best, Jeep worst

Chrysler's Jeep brand managed to fall to the very bottom of the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, which, covering just the first 90 days of ownership, has been criticized as capturing dealer preparation as much as quality. Generally, the number of recorded incidents fell.

Luxury brands, which tend to have better inspections of new cars, dominated the top places, with Toyota (#5) the only mass-market brand in the top five; Toyota and Mercedes both had 104 reported problems per 100 vehicles. Infiniti was the second best brand, and Lexus, one problem per hundred cars away from Infinity, was #3.

Asian manufacturers fell on both sides of the industry average, with Acura, Kia, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Suzuki all falling below the average. Companies specializing in four wheel drive vehicles were all below average, with Jeep at 167 problems per vehicle, Land Rover at 161, and Hummer at 132.

German brands were distributed across the map, with Mercedes doing well, but BMW, Volkswagen, and Mini all below the average; Mini actually was the second lowest rated brand with 163 problems per 100 vehicles. (smart was not included due to a lack of vehicles in the study.)

Dodge beat Chrysler, but neither fared well, with 141 and 142 defects per 100 vehicles, respectively; perhaps reflecting morale issues as Chrysler has been slashing costs and uncertainty about the future has been shown in national media. Dodge and Chrysler did come out ahead of Mitsubishi, Saab, Suzuki, Saturn, Land Rover, Mini, and Jeep, but were far below Chevrolet and Pontiac, let alone Toyota and Honda.

The long term study will be of some interest; in the meantime, Chrysler would be well advised to work on its dealer preparation techniques and its own factory inspections.

(June 04 2008, 01 PM)

Chrysler tied with Toyota for plant efficiency

According to this year's Harbour Report, Chrysler has the most efficient assembly plant in North America and is tied with Toyota as the most productive vehicle manufacturer. The "most efficient" plant is the Toledo South factory which produced Jeep Wranglers, taking just 13.6 labor hours per vehicle.

The Jeep plant is helped by numerous nearby suppliers, including Magna Steyr, which runs the paint shop; Hyundai Mobis, which is responsible for chassis assemblies; and Kuka Group, which runs the body shop. This may influence the findings.

(June 05 2008, 10 AM)

Chrysler: international sales up despite domestic shortall

Though Chrysler has a minimal presence outside of North America, it has been growing its sales consistently, with 36 months (three years) of consecutive year-over-year sales increases.


For May 2008, Chrysler International sales grew by 5% percent (21,505 units). Year-to-date sales were up 7% over the same period last year.

Specific increases include 107% in Russia, 20% in the UK, and 10% in Europe as a whole; 91% in China, 34% in Australia, and 39% in Asia-Pacific as a whole.

Dodge achieved a 40% growth in sales for January-May 2008 versus January-May 2007, partly because the Dodge brand has only recently been introduced (or re-introduced) in many countries. Jeep sales grew 6% during the same period, driven in part by the Compass. Chrysler brand sales declined 10% during this period. (Information courtesy Chrysler.)

(June 08 2008, 03 PM)

Doing the management shuffle

Klaus Busse, imported from Daimler, was appointed Director—Advance Interior Design Studio; he had been Chief Designer—Jeep®/Truck Design Studio No. 1.

James Mantua was appointed Chief Designer—Jeep/Truck Design Studio No. 1. Mantua joined Chrysler in 1993 and has was recently Design Manager, Jeep/Truck Design Studio No. 1.

Steven Alcock was appointed Senior Manager—Chassis Procurement, responsible for Steering, Suspension and Modules. Alcock joined Chrysler in 1984 and has held several positions within Procurement, including (most recently) Senior Manager—Electrical/Electronics/Procurement.

Donald Kurowski was appointed Senior Manager—Powertrain Procurement. Kurowski will be responsible for the procurement of all transmissions and driveline parts as well overall platform coordination responsibilities for transmission, engine and axle programs.

John Plecha was appointed Director—Southeast Business Center, a move from being Director—Chrysler/Jeep Brand Marketing.

Erwin Raphael, currently Senior Manager—Dealer Network Development in the Southeast Business Center, was assigned to the Customer Office, reporting to Doug Betts.

Phillip Langley was appointed Senior Manager—Dealer Network Development in the Southeast Business Center. Previously, Langley was Director—Mid-Atlantic Business Center.

In addition to his current responsibilities, Darryl Jackson, Vice President—U.S. Sales, was temporarily assigned to lead the Mid-Atlantic Business Center.

(June 08 2008, 03 PM)

Getrag plant on schedule to build automated-manual transmissions for Chrysler

Getrag's future $530 million plant in Tipton, being built to manufacture automated manual "dual-clutch" transmissions for Chrysler minivans and possibly other vehicles, is on track to open in 2009, according to an article in the Kokomo Tribune. The plant has started to hire salaried people, and is expected to employ 1,400 people altogether. Chrysler will supply coaches who will learn how to work the manufacturing equipment at Getrag's facilities in Germany, and will then train hourly workers. The main building now has walls, floors, and roofing; two support buildings have been put up, and electrical equipment is being added. The goal is to have the plant completely built by early February, indicating that the transmissions may be available in vehicles during calendar-year 2009. The Dodge Caliber's diesel version, sold in Europe, can already be equipped with this transmission.

(June 08 2008, 04 PM)

Challenger starts with low price: $21,995

The offical U.S. sales price for the 2009 Dodge Challenger SE will start at $21,995, with a 250 hp V6. The Hemi-equipped Challenger R/T will start at $29,995, while the SRT-8 will start at $39,995. New features include a pistol grip shifter and additional colors, as well as an available manual transmission.

(June 09 2008, 11 AM)

Employees to rally in Iaccoca's honor

According to the Freep, former CEO Lee Iaccoca will attend an employee rally in his honor on June 26 at the Auburn Hills campus. The article discussed Iaccoca's significance, and one possible rationale for honoring him.

(June 09 2008, 02 PM)

Newark, DE plant to be sold

Plans to put the Newark, Delaware plant to use making Fiats or Iveco trucks have apparently fallen through, and the plant, which currently makes the Durango and Aspen, will officially be put on the market later this week. Chrysler's Ed Saenz told the AP that the Mopar distribution center is also to be sold, with 150 related jobs apparently being lost. (Story from http://www.delawareonline.com/ and the Associated Press.)

The plant is now 57 years old and employs 1,100 people; it has been scheduled for closure in 2009 for some time, but there was a hope that negotiations with Fiat would result in local production of Italian vehicles at the plant. With many automotive facilities to choose from, some in far better condition, Fiat appears to have turned their attention elsewhere.

(June 12 2008, 10 AM)

Chrysler calls in GE for batteries

In a move which may not surprise those who have followed Bob Nardelli's career, Chrysler is set to partner with General Electric (GE) on technology for plug-in hybrids, and is set to show GE's dual-battery energy storage system, which is currently set up for railroad locomotives. (Source: AutoWeek)

(June 13 2008, 04 PM)

Chrysler prices going up - but there will be more standard features

According to Automotive News, Chrysler will raise prices 2% for most remaining 2008 vehicles as of June 16, and will be carried over to the 2009 models. The increase is due partly to increases in supplies such as steel and energy, and will be offset by the greater levels of standard features in some vehicles.

(June 13 2008, 04 PM)

Nissan to assemble Dodge Hornet in Japan?

Paul Lienert of Edmunds' Inside Line claims that Nissan will build the production version of the Dodge Hornet in calendar-year 2010, basing it on the Renault-Nissan global B-car platform shared by the Renault Clio and Nissan Cube. The Hornet will first be built in Japan, and if successful, will move to Mexico, according to inside Line. Earlier attempts to have the Hornet built by Chery and Volkswagen failed, according to the article.

The two companies had said that they would produce a vehicle "based on a unique Chrysler concept and design." The term "design" can be used to describe the appearance of a vehicle rather than its engineering; likewise, "platform" is technically merely a series of measurements. This leaves no small degree of uncertainty regarding the car's architecture and powertrain.

(June 16 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler announces hybrid prices

The list price of the Durango and Aspen hybrids will be nearly identical to each other despite the higher detailing of the Aspen, at $45,340 and $45,570. While some noted that the price was $8,000 below the GM hybrid SUVs, the Durango/Aspen are smaller than the GM vehicles, and do not use special lightweight body panels. In addition, Chrysler was able to see the reaction to GM's pricing, which resulted in a $4,000 rebate.

(June 17 2008, 05 PM)

Dodge Challenger pricing

We've just received new pricing details on the Dodge Challenger (including the manual transmission option), and posted them on the 2009 Dodge Challenger page.

(June 18 2008, 10 AM)

Chrysler taps $2 billion loan

Chrysler picked up $2 billion in fresh cash yesterday when it tapped a loan set up last year when Cerberus Capital Management bought a controlling interest in the automaker from the then-DaimlerChrysler AG.

Daimler AG funded three-quarters of the loan while Cerberus put up the balance. Chrysler was contractually required to take the money before the August 3 anniversary of the sale, but analysts believe the company needs the cash as its sales slump and credit markets remain tight, a belief the company is trying to dispel.

According to company spokeswoman Shawn Morgan, the action was not a reaction to current conditions. “Chrysler has a clear strategy to build a profitable enterprise for the long term as an independent company, even in this challenging economy."

In a prepared statement, Tim Price, Cerberus’ managing director, said, "Chrysler is merely meeting their legal obligations by drawing down that money. As announced previously, Chrysler exceeded its underwriting plan in 2007 in virtually every financial metric, perhaps most significantly in cash."

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli said the company had $9 billion in cash at the end of last year and was ahead of Cerberus' expectations. However, Moody’s Investor Service said last week that Chrysler could face a liquidity crunch in late 2009 as it burns cash at a significant pace trying to bring its product line into alignment with changing consumer tastes.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (June 25 2008, 05 AM)

Chrysler & Tata working on electric vehicle for U.S. cities

Edmunds.com says the buzz is increasing about expanded collaboration between Chrysler and India's Tata Motors, which leapt to the front pages of worldwide automotive news with its announcement of the $2,500 Nano earlier this year and recently finalized purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Company.

India's Economic Times reports that Tata and Chrysler's Global Electric Motorscars (GEM) have developed an electric-powered version of the Tata Ace delivery vehicle with plans to sell it in U.S. The price being bandied about is US$5,000.

The two apparently signed a development contract earlier this year. Sources told the India newspaper that volumes, likely to be low initially, branding and pricing are yet to be finalized.

The thinking is that the Ace light commercial vehicles will be shipped from India as completely built-up units, minus running gear, which will be fitted by GEM in the U.S. The Ace is to be marketed as a delivery vehicle for metropolitan areas like those in California and New York where stringent emission standards are to go into effect.

For GEM, which makes the Neighborhood, the deal expands its current range of vehicles with a more conventional-looking commercial vehicle than it has now in its line.

For Tata, it could result in the use of the GEM powertrain in the Ace models sold in India.

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Patrick McNamara for passing this on.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (June 26 2008, 02 AM)

Fitch downgrades Chrysler, GM ratings

There were more signs Wednesday that Wall Street thinks Chrysler and General Motors could be facing a cash crunch in 2009 as the economy and fuel prices continue to take their toll on sales. Despite the fact Chrysler tapped a $2 billion loan on Tuesday Fitch Ratings lowered its issuer default ratings to B- from B and said they have a negative outlook. The ratings are now six steps below investment grade and could be downgraded even further. GM got the same treatment and Fitch is also reviewing ratings at Ford.

The downgrades reflect analyst concerns that Chrysler and GM have not done enough to cut costs and fix product lines. Standard & Poor’s has already said it is considering downgrades on all three Detroit auto companies.

Chrysler is in the process of cutting up to 25,000 employees and will chop at least four vehicles from its product line but its sales over the past few months have fallen even farther than its relatively pessimistic forecast. Chrysler was the only Detroit automaker not counting on a rebound in the second half of 2008.

Although Fitch says Chrysler has adequate cash on hand now, analyst Mark Oline reported, "Negative cash flows could result in Chrysler's liquidity position reaching minimal required levels in late 2009." Fitch expects GM to be looking for new financing over the next 18 months to keep a cushion on top of the position it needs to pay its ongoing operating costs.

Officials at Chrysler and Cerberus have repeatedly said the company is in good shape and ahead of its cash targets.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (June 26 2008, 03 AM)

Chrysler to announce pricing on Uconnect

Chrysler is expected to announce pricing today for its new Uconnect system, a new electronics package that will allow owners of most 2009 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles to turn their car or truck into a wireless Internet hotspot. Sort of a Starbucks on wheels.

Company spokesman Todd Goyer said the wireless Internet will be a dealer-installed option and will work over cellular telephone links. Users will be responsible for a monthly fee. Goyer noted people will be able to use laptop computers in their vehicle just as if they were in an office or home. He went on to say the wireless system will be operational even when the vehicle is in motion to allow its use by passengers. He added that Chrysler expects that drivers will obey all safety laws.

The Uconnect system includes a 30-gigabyte hard drive and can accommodate satellite radio and three-channel satellite TV. It also can link cell phones and personal music players and will allow the driver to control an Apple iPod with either the radio or steering wheel-mounted controls. It also has navigation and real-time traffic capabilities with voice recognition or touch screen control.

Uconnect is designed to compete with Ford’s “Sync” option and similar systems available from other car companies.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (June 26 2008, 05 AM)

Chrysler sales dip in Europe, rise 16% in Mexico

Chrysler sold 9,505 vehicles in Mexico - 3,330 cars and 6,175 trucks - in April 2008, beating their April 2007 figures by over 1,500 vehicles. Both car and truck sales increased, with truck sales taking the lead. In comparison, GM sold 18,257 vehicles (up by around 2,600); Nissan, 16,421 (also up); Ford, 10,929 (including Volvo, Jaguar, and Land Rover, and down from 2007); and Volkswagen, including Audi and Seat, sold 9,948 (also down from 2007). As a whole, Mexican auto sales rose by 11%.

In Europe, where sales as a whole fell 8% in May 2008 compared with May 2007, Chrysler remains a niche player with just 10,214 sales for May - down less than 1% from May 2007, and in 17th place, just below Mitsubishi and half of Kia, Suzuki, and Mazda, and less than 10% of Fiat, Renualt, GM, Ford, and PSA. Volkswagen remains the king of European sales with 269,476 vehicles sold - in May 2008 alone.

Sales figures are from Automotive News.

(June 28 2008, 07 PM)

Chrysler closing minivan plant, cutting truck shift

Chrysler will idle the American minivan plant at St. Louis - "indefinitely" - starting October 31, because of falling sales. The Town & Country has fallen by 13% and the Grand Caravan by 35% in US sales. In addition, Chrysler is reducing the full-sized pickup plant at St. Louis to a single shift (from two shifts) on September 2.

(June 30 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler sales plummet 36% in June

Chrysler sales fell by a whopping 36% in June 2008, compared with June 2007. Particularly affected were the larger vehicles - Jeep Commander (68%), Durango, (67%), and Aspen (49%). Substantial increases were posted by the minivans.

Nearly every vehicle saw a serious decline, with the exceptions of the Town & Country, which rose 21%, and the Grand Caravan, which rose 52% -- apparently compared with both short and long wheelbase versions from June 2007.

While the Patriot rose by 6%, selling 4,889 copies, the Compass and Caliber both plunged, by 39% and 44% respectively, more than compensating for the gain. The LX series' only bright light was 1,024 Challenger sales, but Charger fell by 28% and 300 dropped by 62% - and last year's Magnum sales were more than double the Challenger's sales (since the latter has just started production).

All SUVs fell, from the little PT Cruiser (38%) to the Durango (67%); the high-volume Ram dropped to around half its June 2007 sales, but was still Chrysler's best selling vehicle. Sprinter actually beat Aspen sales.

The midsized Sebring and Avenger did poorly, selling half as many units each as in June 2007, despite the presence of relatively fuel efficient four cylinder versions. Journey's 5,162 units put it well behind the PT Cruiser, but if the two were added up, they beat last June's PT sales.

Other than Patriot, Jeep saw declines in sales of 39%-68%. Grand Cherokee dropped by 45%, Liberty by 42%. Wrangler fell by 39%, but it was selling very well last year.

Oddly, the Viper posted a gain - of 259% - but that means that sales jumped from 22 to 79 units.

Click on Full Story for actual sales figures. Bill Cawthon will check in with an industry perspective later.

(July 01 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler - the #5 automaker in the U.S.

GM remained America's #1 automaker, despite a substantial setback, in June 2008 U.S. sales; while Toyota established itself as a solid #2.

GM - 265,937
Toyota - 193,234
Ford - 174,091
Honda - 142,539
Chrysler - 117,457
Nissan - 75,847 (down 18%)

(July 01 2008, 04 PM)

Auto sales dive in June - Chrysler plunges 35.9%

No way around it, Chrysler sales tanked in June. In spite of the second-highest average incentives in the industry, sales volume plunged more than 35.9 percent, the most of any of the major automakers. Chrysler finished the month in fifth place, 25,000 sales behind American Honda for the month and 22 percent behind its own 2007 year-to-date (YTD) sales. Chrysler’s June market share came in at 9.9 percent.

There were a few bright spots in an otherwise grim picture. The Dodge Caravan came in with a 52.2 percent improvement to retain the top spot among minivans for the month and year and the Town & Country posted a 20.6 percent gain to take the No. 3 spot behind the Honda Odyssey. The Toyota Sienna, which fell 32.9 percent in June, is now in fourth place.

The aptly-name Patriot soldiered on in June, coming in 5.5% ahead of June 2007 and the Journey posted reasonable numbers for the market.

Outside of those few improvements, good news was hard to come by. Car volume was down 48.5 percent, led by a 61.6 percent dive in sales of the Chrysler 300. The 300 was followed closely by the Sebring (down 50.1 percent), Avenger (down 49.3 percent) and Caliber (down 43.6 percent). Truck sales were off 30.1 percent behind 67-percent-plus drops in sales of the Jeep Commander and Dodge Durango and a 55.3 percent fall in sales of the Nitro.

Chrysler’s June sales numbers will likely add fuel to analysts’ predictions of the company hitting a cash crunch in 2009. Dennis Virag of Automotive Consulting Group has predicted the company will file bankruptcy in six months and Merrill Lynch recently issued a report saying they believe Cerberus is preparing the company for breakup or sale.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 02 2008, 07 AM)

Dodge releases Challenger Super Stock drag-car video

The imminent release of the Dodge Challenger Super Stock - a car built solely for drag racing - is now official. We have the back story behind the engineering of the Super Stock Dodge Challenger drag car.

(July 02 2008, 08 AM)

Chrysler exploring alliance with Great Wall Motor Co.

Chrysler said it will explore cooperation with Great Wall Motor Co. as it works to expand into China, now the world's fastest-growing major market for new vehicles. Great Wall is China's biggest maker of pickups and SUVs and began selling its first passenger car in March.

According to a statement issued by Daphne Zhang, director of marketing and communications at Chrysler's Asia unit, the company signed an initial agreement with Great Wall with an eye to developing a long-term relationship which could include using each other's distribution network and component and technology capabilities.

An alliance would help Chrysler catch up with GM and Ford in the world’s second-largest light vehicle market. Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli has set a goal for Chrysler to receive half its sales from markets outside North America.

Chrysler has had a presence in China since 1983 when it established a joint venture with Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co. to produce Jeep vehicles. Chrysler also has an agreement with Chery under which Chrysler will start selling Chery A1 cars in Latin America later this year. Last April, Jin Yabo, a Chery spokesman, reported the companies were in discussions about another venture.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 03 2008, 08 AM)

Chrysler Mexico sales increase

Chrysler sales inched up in Mexico for May 2008, compared with May 2007, despite a plunge in U.S. sales. Chrysler sold 3,259 cars and 6,791 trucks/minivans in Mexico in May 2008, 35 more than in May 2007. Generally, the Mexican market saw car sales decline, and truck sales increase, in May.

(July 07 2008, 11 AM)

Dodge Challenger Super Stock (drag package) to be unveiled

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the factory-built drag race package cars from Dodge and Plymouth. To commemorate those HEMI®-powered drag cars, Mopar® announced it will unveil its new Dodge Challenger Drag Race Package Car at the 29th Annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo. on Sunday, July 13.

(July 08 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler sales outside the US rise as domestic sales fall

Non-North-American Chrysler sales increased by 4%, or 118,386 units, for the first six months of 2008, compared with the same period in 2007, setting a midyear sales record - though June 2008 sales were 12% below that of June 2007. In Europe, sales fell 1% year to date; Asia-Pacific sales increased 45%, to just under 22,000 sales, with customers in China buying 10,517 units, over double the volume of the first six months of 2007. Sales also rose 21% in Australia, 14% in Japan, 88% in Argentina, and 33% in Brazil (where the PT Cruiser did well). However, sales in these regions were still small; with just 10,517 sales, China was the second largest market for Chrysler vehicles outside North America (Italy was the #1 market.)

Growth is, according to Chrysler, fueled largely by the Jeep Compass and Patriot, and by the Chrysler Sebring. Chrysler LLC sells and services vehicles in roughly 120 countries around the world. Sales outside North America currently account for around 10% of the Company’s total global sales, up from 6% in the year 2000.

(July 08 2008, 04 PM)

Florida Highway Patrol receiving 102 Chargers

After soliciting bids for 2008 patrol cars, the Florida Highway Patrol chose all three major options. Ford priced the Crown Victoria police package at $21,780 each, Chevrolet priced the Impala at $18,898, and Dodge put the Charger at $21,973. The Impalas are being relegated to CSO duties, despite being equipped with the full police package; 211 Fords were ordered for patrol and pursuit, along with 102 Dodge Chargers. Two of these will be used for training; and ten Chargers will be assigned to each of the ten FHP troops for evaluation, for 100 evaluation cars in all. For details and more photos, courtesy of the Florida Highway Patrol, visit our Dodge Charger patrol cars in use page.

(July 09 2008, 10 AM)

Super Stock Challenger announced

Chrysler officially introduced the Super Stock Challenger drag racing package. See our Super Stock Challenger for details and the development story.

(July 14 2008, 08 PM)

Chrysler Canada posts another sales increase

Despite an overall loss of nearly 10,000 vehicles in the Canadian market (comparing June 2008 to June 2007), Chrysler Canada sales went up by around 160 units. While GM and Ford sales both fell, by 10,000 and 4,000 units respectively, Toyota sales rose nearly 9% to give Toyota the #3 sales spot in Canada. For June 2008, here are the Canadian leaders:

#1. GM - 32,068
#2. Ford - 22,832
#3. Toyota - 22,428
#4. Chrysler - 22,194
#5. Honda - 16,518

The #2 position is being hotly contested, while GM maintains a comfortable lead despite sales shrinkage.

Among Chrysler brands, Dodge gave up around 200 sales but Jeep rose by over 400; Chrysler brand remained roughly constant with June 2007. Truck sales remain high for the company, with a 2.25:1 ratio of truck to car sales. Toyota, in contrast, has a 3.14:1 car to truck ratio. GM sells more cars than trucks in Canada; Ford sells about twice as many trucks as cars.

Sales data are from Automotive News.

(July 22 2008, 01 PM)

Edmunds says Jeep Patriot least expensive SUV to own

Edmunds.com, a leading online automotive information resource, says the Jeep Patriot equipped with a 4-cylinder engine and manual transmission is the least expensive SUV to own with a total cost of ownership of $0.486 per mile. Edmunds based their findings on their estimates of the costs of owning the vehicle for five years, including payments, insurance and driving 15,000 miles per year with fuel costing $4.09 per gallon. A similarly equipped Jeep Compass came in third in the ratings at $0.505 per mile, behind the Mazda Tribute at $0.494.

A Dodge Durango equipped with the 3.7-liter, 6-cylinder engine and automatic transmission was the least expensive large SUV at $0.706 per mile while the Chrysler Aspen with the 5.7 liter Hemi was the most expensive of the five vehicles listed in the segment with a total cost of ownership of $0.782.

For a list of the vehicles in the Edmunds report, see the Full Story…

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 22 2008, 01 PM)

Dodge Challenger featured in TV micro-series

Mike Accavitti, Director of Dodge & SRT Marketing, announced a unique, innovative way Dodge is promoting the new Challenger SRT8 and the Dodge brand.

Beginning tonight, Dodge is sponsoring a new microseries called "Lucky Chance." This is a unique entertainment and advertising platform that is a first for TNT. “Lucky Chance” is a high-impact criminal tale of deception and betrayal seen through the eyes of undercover agent Lucky Chance. Framed for a crime he didn't commit, viewers will follow Chance cross-country in his Dodge Challenger SRT8 as he works to clear his name.

The microseries of 20 two-minute episodes will air during the next two weeks. Episodes 1-6 will air tonight during the 10 p.m. EDT showing of "Bones" in a special format featuring no national commercials. Episodes 7-10 will air tomorrow during back-to-back episodes of "Law & Order" beginning at 8 p.m. EDT.

As part of Dodge’s sponsorship, TNT will drive viewers to TNT.tv where they can watch the series online, interact with the Dodge brand through a new custom Dodge Challenger driving game, test their knowledge with a Dodge trivia game and enter to win a new 2009 Dodge Challenger.

Dodge hopes everyone will enjoy the microseries and will spread the word among family and friends.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 22 2008, 05 PM)

Another 1,000 jobs to be cut

Chrysler LLC announced that it will 1,000 salaried employees through retirements, buyouts, and attrition, based on the expectation of prolonged poor sales due to economic factors.

(July 23 2008, 02 PM)

Chrysler lost $513 million in Q1 2008

Chrysler Holding LLC, parent company of Chrysler LLC and Chrysler Financial, said it lost $513 million in the first quarter of 2008. The announcement came yesterday as former owner Daimler AG announced its 19.9 percent share of the company is now worth a fifth of its value six months ago.

As a private company, Chrysler Holdings is not required to make its financial results public. The firm made the disclosure after Daimler reported its stake in the American automaker cost it 373 million euros (roughly $585 million at current exchange rates) last quarter, based on European accounting standards. By American accounting standards, Chrysler officials said Daimler’s net loss was 65 million euros, or about $102 million. Chrysler spokeswoman Shawn Morgan said it is reasonable to put the company’s total loss at five times that, since Daimler owns about one-fifth of Chrysler Holding. This would peg Chrysler’s total loss at about $513 million.

The first-quarter deficit indicates Chrysler is likely to lose far more than 2007’s $1.6 billion shortfall.

In a statement, Morgan said, "Chrysler LLC has a clear strategy to build a profitable enterprise for the long term as an independent company, even in this challenging economy. Our full-year plan for the market in 2008 has been aggressively conservative, allowing us to be better positioned for the current slowdown. Despite the challenges, Chrysler continues to meet or exceed its plan on all financial metrics."

Chrysler officials say several factors account for the differences between the loss reported by Daimler and the figures released by Chrysler. These include adjustments of 130 million euros for differences between U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), 73 million euros for adjustments to Chrysler’s 2007 restructuring actions, 17 million euros to cover the impairment of Daimler’s rights related to Chrysler vehicle residual values and 88 million euros to cover other Daimler AG adjustments that are not related to Chrysler results.

Daimler AG says it now places the book value of its Chrysler stake at $268 million as of June 30, down 81 percent from the value it claimed at the end of 2007. Daimler spokesman Han Tjan said the German company reduces the book value of Chrysler each quarter by the same amount it loses.

Analysts say Daimler is assigning an extremely conservative value to Chrysler and determining the company’s true worth is not easy. However, they agree Chrysler is declining in value due to its reliance on sales of light trucks and SUVs and the paucity of new, market-appropriate product in the pipeline.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 25 2008, 09 AM)

Tennessee Supreme Court upholds $13 million award against DaimlerChrysler

The Tennessee Supreme Court, by a 3-to-2 margin, has upheld an award of $13 million in punitive damages against DaimlerChrysler. The award stems from a wrongful death lawsuit filed after a 2001 rear-end collision in which 8-month-old Joshua Flax died when the front passenger seat in a 1998 Dodge Caravan collapsed. The passenger struck the infant, fracturing his skull.

The original trial jury awarded the couple $98 million in punitive damages, an amount that was later reduced by the trial court.

In upholding the award, the Tennessee Supreme Court said the automaker acted recklessly and denied DaimlerChrysler’s claim that the award of punitive damages was excessive. The court did reverse a lower court's decision to award the victim's mother an additional $6 million in punitive damages for emotional distress.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 25 2008, 09 AM)

Chrysler Financial to stop leasing

According to a recent Automotive News report, Chrysler Financial will leave the leasing business.

Yesterday, Ford's accountants took a charge of over $2 billion related to drops in residual values. Honda has seen a drop in profit of over $230 million based on drops in residual values. (Residual values are the actual value of vehicles at the end of the lease; if the lender predicts a higher value than the actual value, a loss is incurred.)

(July 25 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler sales fall in Europe, Mexico

Chrysler's sales in June 2008 were far lower than in June 2007 in both Mexico, where Chrysler sold 9,435 vehicles, and in Europe, where they sold 8,546.

In Mexico, the fall was around 670 vehicles, mainly trucks; Chrysler is still ahead for the first six months of 2008, by nearly 2,000 units, compared with the first six months of 2007. Overall, Mexican sales rose in June 2008 over the prior June, led by Nissan, which displaced GM as the nation's sales leader.

In Europe, vehicle sales as a whole dropped 8%, but Chrysler dropped 24% from an already low base. Chrysler sold fewer vehicles in Europe in June than 16 other automakers, including Tata. The company even fared poorly when compared with individual marques, falling behind even Smart.

(July 29 2008, 01 PM)

Chrysler vehicles can still be leased

In the wake of Chrysler Financial's decision to drop leasing to American customers, Chrysler's Steven Landry clarified that "Chrysler's dealers are still able to offer customers lease financing arrangements with other financial institutions, separate from Chrysler Financial."

(July 29 2008, 07 PM)

Chase to end leases for Chrysler vehicles

Chase Auto Finance, a unit of JPMorgan Chase & Co., will stop accepting leases for Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles at the close of business on Thursday, July 31, 2008, the same day the automaker’s own finance unit said it would end its leasing program. The loss of Chase’s lease financing means some Chrysler dealers will no longer be able to offer a lease option to their customers.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is the second-largest U.S. bank, based on assets, and is the lead bank in Chrysler Financial’s efforts to renew $30 billion in credit lines used to finance dealer and retail purchases.

A Chase representative said the bank did not want to be overwhelmed with new lease business as dealers tried to place deals they could no longer get done through Chrysler Financial.

Christine Holevas, a spokeswoman for the New York-based company, said “Auto leasing is a small part of our portfolio and we're committed to keeping it that way.”

Chase will continue to finance purchases of Chrysler cars and trucks and offer leases for some other vehicle brands.

Dealers across the industry are already facing new challenges imposed by tightened credit standards, making it more difficult to obtain financing, and Chrysler dealers are concerned that the end of leasing could mean they will now lose repeat customers accustomed to simply rolling their leases over into a new vehicle when their existing contract ended.

Leasing, which currently accounts for about a fifth of new vehicle transactions, has become a problem for automakers as declining residual values have translated into significant losses because changes in the market have made many of the vehicles, especially light trucks, now being returned worth less than originally estimated. Last week, Ford Motor Company’s credit operations took a $2.1 billion-dollar hit because of the steep decline in the values of SUVs and pickups coming off lease.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 30 2008, 05 AM)

Fitch lowers Chrysler's credit ratings

Citing “restricted access” to competitive sales financing, Fitch Ratings lowered Chrysler's credit rating farther into junk territory on Tuesday.

Chrysler’s long-term issuer default rating dropped from B- to CCC, eight levels below investment grade, and Fitch rates its outlook as “negative.” Chrysler’s bank debt rating was lowered to B from BB-.

Chrysler Financial is in the process of renewing its debt and Fitch says higher costs the company will have to pay will make it more difficult for it to offer competitive financing for retail sales.

Given the state of the market, Fitch believes alternative financial sources are unlikely to fill the gap, meaning further erosion of Chrysler sales, forcing the automaker to further curtail production. Chrysler's U.S. sales are already off 22 percent for the first six months of the year, more than twice the ten percent decline experienced by the auto industry as a whole.

Fitch says if industry sales don’t improve in 2009, Chrysler’s resources could drop below the minimum level needed to fund operations by the second half of the year. The New York-based ratings company warns “This could be accelerated in the event that suppliers or retail customers become concerned with Chrysler's financial condition and restrict trade credit or reduce retail purchases.”

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 30 2008, 05 AM)

VW passes Ford to take No. 3 spot

Volkswagen has passed Ford to become the world’s third largest carmaker after Toyota and General Motors. For the first six months of 2008, VW worldwide sales were up more than seven percent, to 3.31 million vehicles, while Ford’s sales dropped eleven percent to 3.09 million vehicles.

According to figures released by the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles or International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), Volkswagen also out-produced Ford by 20,385 units in 2007. Chrysler was the twelfth-ranked automaker last year, coming in just behind Suzuki.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 30 2008, 06 AM)

Chrysler to use UAW employees for a supplier

Chrysler's UAW employees at the Kokomo plant will work with Linamar (of Ontario) to build powertrain components for the new Phoenix engines and dual-clutch transmissions, in a deal being worked out over the summer. Linamar will manage the operations, within the Chrysler plant, and may build components for other automakers as well as Chrysler. Linamar will lease 250,000 square feet of the transmission plant, and will use Chrysler union employees to machine seven parts of the new transmissions and a section of the V-6 engine blocks. Part of the employees' wages will be paid by Linamar.

(July 30 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler ends tuition assistance for white-collar employees

Just in time for back-to-school, Chrysler has announced it is indefinitely suspending its tuition-assistance program for salaried employees. The company says it had to make the “difficult decision” as one of a number of cost-cutting moves.

Employees who are currently enrolled or whose reimbursement has already been approved are not affected by the program cut but they will not receive any further assistance from the automaker.

Chrysler did not say how many employees would be affected by the change or how much the company anticipated saving.

Chrysler spokesman Max Gates said the company hopes to be able to reinstate the program but declined to give any estimate of when that might happen.

Ford announced a similar move last month while GM says its program will continue at least through August.

The end of tuition-assistance programs is likely to negatively impact institutions of higher learning in Michigan, especially those in the Detroit metropolitan area. One university has already increased graduate school tuition more than seven percent to cover the shortfall, hitting students from the auto industry with a double whammy: they are not only losing their education benefit, they will have to pay more to complete their degree programs.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 31 2008, 05 AM)

Chrysler July sales seen down 27 percent

Five analysts polled by Bloomberg News forecast that Chrysler will report July light vehicle sales dropped 27 percent compared to July 2007. Individual estimates range from a 20 percent deficit seen by Wachovia’s Richard Kwas to a 35 percent plunge predicted by Himanshu Patel of JP Morgan. Jesse Toprak of Edmunds.com had already come in with an estimate of a 21 percent shortfall.

Bloomberg also polled the analysts and thirty-five economists on the topic of overall light vehicle sales for the month. The average of their estimates equaled a seasonally adjusted selling rate (SAAR) of 13.6 million cars and light trucks, the same as June and the lowest SAAR since America was emerging from a recession in 1993. Last July, the SAAR was 15.28 million units.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (July 31 2008, 06 AM)

New Chrysler vehicle could debut next year

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli told reporters the company is advancing its product development cycle to meet the American light vehicle market’s new demands, a move Nardelli said could include a new model introduction as early as next year, well ahead of expectations.

Speaking Thursday evening at the dedication of Sterling Heights Dodge's new commercial center, Chrysler’s first dealership dedicated to fleet sales, Nardelli said, “If we're successful with some of our discussions relative to alliances or partnerships you very well could see some new platforms, some new vehicles out next year.”

Chrysler inked an agreement with Nissan earlier this year for a small car to debut in 2010. Chrysler also has deals with Chery Automobile and Great Wall Motor Company but no U.S. products have been announced from either of the Chinese automakers. Nardelli did not comment on the reported talks between Chrysler and Italy’s Fiat S.p.A. or India’s Tata Motors, which recently purchased Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 06 AM)

GMAC loses big, credit rating downgraded

Cerberus’ portfolio took another hit Thursday as GMAC reported losses of $2.5 billion for the last quarter. The results are attributed to the losses in the company’s mortgage business and deterioration of the automotive leasing business. Cerberus owns 51 percent of GMAC.

GMAC took a $716 million impairment charge due to the declining residual values of leased vehicles, especially pickups and SUVs.

Standard & Poor’s lowered GMAC’s credit rating farther into junk territory, dropping it to B- from B. S&P also lowered Chrysler’s credit rating to B- and said it would keep the automaker on its Credit Watch until it completes its debt refinancing, a process that should be completed early this month. GM and Ford were lowered to the same grade but were removed from Credit Watch.

Cerberus’ woes aren’t limited to losses in the automotive and financial business. The investment firm has been a part owner of Mervyn’s since 2004. The clothing chain recently filed for bankruptcy.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 06 AM)

Edmunds.com picks GM as July's big loser

Jesse Toprak, Executive Director of Industry Analysis for Edmunds.com, predicts General Motors will be the big loser in July when sales are reported today.

Toprak is looking for GM sales volume to be down 15.7 percent, a bigger loss than he foresees for Chrysler where he sees a 14.8 percent decline. Like most analysts, Toprak believes Ford will fare the best with a comparatively small 7.4 percent shortfall.

Toyota will be in the red again with a 3.3 percent deficit while both Honda and Nissan should come out ahead of July 2007. Honda will again be the big winner, with a 13.3 percent gain, while Nissan sales will be up 0.2 percent. When results are adjusted for the longer selling month in 2008, Toprak says Nissan’s gain will turn into a 7.5 percent loss.

According to the published predictions, Honda will again take the fourth spot in U.S. light vehicle sales for the month and continue to close the year-to-date sales gap between it and Chrysler. GM will hang on to the top spot, followed by Toyota, which has cemented its lead over third-place Ford.

Edmunds’ chief prognosticator pegs total July sales volume at 1.26 million units, down more than three percent from July 2007 but an improvement over June 2008’s dismal numbers. He thinks the American brands will claim just 44.4 percent of light vehicle sales as consumers turn toward Japanese, Korean and European vehicles with better fuel economy. Compact cars, crossovers and small trucks will claim more than a third of the market.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 07 AM)

GM loses big in Q2

According to a London report, General Motors will report a loss of $15.5 billion, or $27.33 per share, in the second quarter and say that revenue dropped 18 percent to $38.2 billion. Excluding special items, GM lost $6.3 billion or $11.21 per share. Analysts expected a loss of $2.85 per share and revenue of $42.6 billion.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 07 AM)

Chrysler announces replacements for leasing

Chrysler LLC announced that in August, it will repackage incentives to make purchasing more affordable, in a program which provides 72-month finance deals on an expanded range of vehicles. The result is retail payments similar to 36-month lease payments. Leasing incentives have been pushed into retail sales, including a bonus $2,000 rebate for some vehicles purchased through Chrysler Financial.

Returning lease customers will receive a Lease Loyalty incentive up to $750 for use towards the retail purchase of an eligible new Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge vehicle. The disposition fee, up to $425, will be waived by Chrysler Financial.

Special deals for August also include the continuation of 0 percent APR for 72- month deals on the Dodge Ram, Dodge Durango, Chrysler Aspen, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Commander.

Customers who still wish to lease a Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge vehicle through an independent financial institution can take advantage of Chrysler's Customer Cash Allowance on select vehicles up to $2,000.

(August 01 2008, 12 PM)

Toyota hit by sales slump

Toyota was the first to send us a notice on their U.S. sales for July 2008, which fell by 19% from July 2007 on a daily selling rate basis. Toyota itself fell by 18%, while Lexus fell by 25%. Toyota passenger cars, despite the fuel efficient Yaris and Corolla, were down 5%, as usual led by the Camry, with 42,131 sold. Corolla was up 7% over July 2007, with 34,438 sold. 8,620 Yaris cars flew off the lots.

Toyota Division light trucks recorded July sales of 60,362 units, down 34.3% from July 2007.

Lexus passenger cars fell by 27%, while Lexus trucks fell just 20%.

Toyota has sold 165,522 hybrid-electric vehicles in the United States so far this year. The company is planning to convert substantial amounts of its massive truck-building capacity within the United States to small-car production.

(August 01 2008, 12 PM)

Sales figures from GM, Honda, and others

General Motors, until recently the world's largest automaker, posted a 26% drop in U.S. sales, not adjusted for the daily selling rate; car sales fell just 12%, but light trucks fell 35%. The Malibu rose 79%. (All figures are July 2008 compared with July 2007).

Honda posted a 2% sales drop, thanks to a fall in pickup, SUV, and Acura sales.

Nissan showed a 9% increase, with Frontier and XTerra sales rising along with car sales.

Ford earlier reported a 17% drop in sales, with the F-series falling by 20% and SUV sales dropping in half. Toyota also reported 12% lower sales, unadjusted. Volkswage sales rose by 1%, Subaru by 5%, and Suzuki by 2%. Mazda sales fell 13% and Porsche 2%. Within Ford, Volvo sales fell 46%.

Chrysler, BMW, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi have not yet reported their U.S. sales for the month.

(August 01 2008, 02 PM)

Mitsubishi sales down in July

Mitsubishi sales volume was down 6.8 percent in July. Adjusted for daily sales rate, sales were off 14.0 percent.

Car sales improved by 8.6 percent (0.3 percent ajusted for DSR) but they were dragged down by a 38-percent (43 percent adjusted) plunge in light truck sales.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 02 PM)

BMW sales off slightly, Mini sales boom

BMW reported sales of its premium vehicles were down 1.6 percent in July with a small 0.9 increase in car sales wiped out by a 10.7 percent drop in SUV sales.

Mini sales were up 24.4 percent in July and are now 32 percent ahead of the first seven months of 2007.

BMW earlier today announced it was radically changing its sales and profitability forecast because of deteriorating markets in the U.S. and Europe. In European trading, BMW shares declined the most in ten years.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 03 PM)

Hyundai sales down, Kia sales set record

Hyundai reports its July sales volume was down 6.8 percent with large increases in sales of the Accent and Elantra offset by lower sales of its larger sedans and SUVS.

Kia came in with a 5.0 percent improvement, setting a new July sales record. All Kia car lines, including the luxury Amanti, posted gains as did the Sportage compact SUV. The increases were enough to overcome lower sales of Kia's other light trucks.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 03 PM)

Ford F-Series regains top spot in July

With 44,829 sales, the Ford F-Series pickup looks to have regained its crown as the best-selling light vehicle in July. Ford is hoping the F-Series can hang on to the title it has held since 1982.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 03 PM)

Suzuki sales up, Isuzu dwindles

Suzuki reported a 2 percent improvement in sales for July lead by a 160 percent increase in sales of the SX4.

Isuzu continues to wind down its American presence. Isuzu-brand vehicle sales were down 48.3 percent to a total of 303 units.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler reports 29 percent drop in July; sales drop below 100,000

Chrysler reported total July sales of 98,109 cars and trucks in July, a 29 percent decrease compared to July 2007. Car sales were down 25 percent and light truck sales plunged 30 percent.

The slump leaves Chrysler just 28,833 sales ahead of Honda for the first seven months of 2008.

Full release follows...

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 03 PM)

Honda tops in July minivan sales

The Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna claimed the top two spots in the minivan segment despite improved sales of the Chrysler Town & Country, which came in third, 1,955 sales ahead of the fourth-place Caravan.

Odyssey: 13,123
Sienna: 8,726
Town & Country: 8,070
Caravan: 6,115

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 03 PM)

Chrysler Canada reports YTD sales ahead of 2007

Chrysler Canada announced its year-to-date (YTD) sales are up three percent compared to the first seven months of 2007. From January through July 2008, Chrysler Canada has grown sales by three percent (146,751 units) compared to the same time period in 2007. Several fuel-efficient models in Chrysler's lineup achieved significant gains and contributed to noteworthy growth year-to-date. The Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck achieved a double-digit sales increase in July, while the Dodge Grand Caravan more than doubled its sales over last year.

Sales of the Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck hit 2,873 units in July, up 34 percent. YTD sales total 16,705 units, a 27 percent increase.

Customers bought 2,955 Dodge Grand Caravan last month, more than double the number recorded last year. Chrysler’s Town & Country brought in 395 sales compared to 71 in July 2007.

The Dodge Journey is still Canada’s favorite crossover with 1,100 sales in July.

Combined July sales of the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot improved 38 percent to a total of 4,547 units. Compass sales were up 51 percent. So far this year, Caliber, Compass, and Patriot are 37 percent ahead of the same period in 2007.

Chrysler Canada dealers sold 850 Dodge Avengers last month, 31 percent more than they sold last year.

The Jeep brand came in with a new July sales record as 3,833 Jeeps put the division four percent ahead of July 2007.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 01 2008, 07 PM)

Chrysler sales dive in July

Chrysler was the last to report July sales but it wasn’t because they were having trouble tallying up all the numbers. Perhaps it was because they were desperately trying to find some more.

There’s no way around it: Chrysler had a bad month. A really bad month. Even with the cheap gas offer, sales volume dropped below 100,000 units and, outside of the Ram pickup, not a single Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicle broke the 10,000 mark. Honda trounced them again for the month and is now less than 29,000 sales behind in year-to-date sales.

Sales numbers were off 28.8 percent for July 2008, the biggest deficit reported by any of the major automakers. Adjusting for the two extra selling days last month, daily sales rate (DSR) was 34.3 percent behind last July. Some of that is due to the four discontinued models. Dropping out the Crossfire, PT Cruiser convertible, Pacifica and Magnum, sales of Chrysler continuing product were down just 24.9 percent, or 30.7 percent adjusted for DSR.

As was true of almost every SUV made by anyone, Chrysler’s took big hits. Sales of the Durango were down 84.5 percent and Nitro sales were off 64.1 percent. These numbers are based on volume, not daily sales rate. The Volkswagen Touareg, which nobody can even pronounce, outsold the Durango last month.

Chrysler’s car line wasn’t spared. Overall car sales were down 25.5 percent and the Chrysler 300’s drop of 57.6 percent was the largest of any American car not on the endangered species list.

Both the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna outsold the Chrysler and Dodge minivans in July, a month where total minivan sales were up 28.9 percent from last year. On the plus side, sales of the Town & Country were up 23.9 percent on the month.

The faithful Jeep Patriot continued to buck the trend; sales were up 4 percent and the Dodge Avenger also came in ahead of its year-ago numbers by 2.5 percent. Chrysler also sold fourteen more Vipers in July this year.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 02 2008, 06 AM)

Chrysler says finances okay

Seeking to squash speculation the company is in financial trouble, Chrysler released figures suggesting it is in better shape than many had thought.

Chrysler reported a first-half profit of $1.1 billion before deductions for interest, tax and amortization expenses. This isn’t necessarily an indication the automaker is profitable but does indicate Chrysler has a good liquidity position and is spending less cash than Ford or GM.

James Press, Chrysler vice chairman, said the company had $11.7 billion in cash as of the end of the first half of 2008 which is down slightly from the $12 billion reported at the end of 2007.

The data support Chrysler management’s assertions that they have made the necessary spending cuts to cope with declining sales and the company is making money from ongoing operations.

In addition, Chrysler will be able to escape the bullet that has hit Ford and General Motors, both of which are getting hit hard by declining residual values of vehicles coming off lease. Part of the deal Cerberus made with Daimler leaves the German automaker holding the bag for residual values of vehicles leased before August 2007.

The Chrysler report has left some analysts wondering if Chrysler has also cut back on investments in new product, choosing to build a cash position that would make it desirable to a potential buyer or partner. Perhaps they have forgotten what happened the last time Chrysler had a nice nest egg: A gentleman from Germany came along, proposing marriage.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 02 2008, 06 AM)

Chrysler renews credit lines

Chrysler Financial has renewed $24 billion in credit lines to fund financing for dealers and their customers. The company had been looking for as much as $30 billion but lowered its goals because of adverse conditions in the credit market and changes in Chrysler retail strategies which included leaving the leasing business.

Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc were the lead managers in the deal.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 04 2008, 03 AM)

Chrysler sales up in Mexico for July

After a downturn in June, Chrysler's Mexican sales bounded back up for July with a 1% increase from last year's record. The Dodge brand had a 17% increase, due in part to the Dodge Journey. Jeep Patriot sales rose 80%.

(August 04 2008, 08 AM)

Executive changes at Chrysler and GEM

Chrysler has announced three senior personnel changes.

Holly Leese will be Chrysler's new vice president and general counsel. Leese previously held the position of assistant general counsel for corporate affairs. She is replacing Richard Houtman, who has announced his retirement.

Jan Bertsch, currently a Chrysler vice president and chief information officer, was bumped up to senior vice president over the treasury and will continue as the company’s CIO.

Bruce Coventry will become CEO of Global Electric Motor Cars LLC (GEM), a Chrysler subsidiary in Fargo, North Dakota. He will replace Larry Oswald, who is retiring. GEM produces small electric vehicles capable of up to 25 miles per hour that are classed as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) by the NHTSA. Coventry will continue as non-executive chairman of Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance, known as GEMA, a joint venture between Mitsubishi and Chrysler that makes small engines in Dundee, Michigan.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 06 2008, 05 AM)

Chrysler VEBA wins court approval

Chrysler’s plan to shift its retiree health obligations to a UAW-run Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA, has received approval from a federal court.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland issued an order allowing creation of the trust last week. Judge Cleland’s approval is another step toward setting up the fund.

The $9.75-billion VEBA fund, agreed to as part of the new labor agreement between Chrysler and the UAW, will replace company-paid health benefits in 2010. It will cover about 125,000 current and future union retirees and their families. Chrysler expects a $1 billion improvement in its cash flow each year as a result of the change.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 06 2008, 06 AM)

WSJ: Chrysler talking to Nissan about mid-size car

The Wall Street Journal says Chrysler is talking to Nissan about jointly producing midsize cars.

A Chrysler spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying the company has "no new alliances" to announce. Bloomberg News reports that Pauline Kee, a Tokyo-based Nissan spokeswoman, said “We continue to explore opportunities to work with Chrysler, but have nothing to announce at this point.”

Chrysler and Nissan have already agreed to partnering on a small car and full-size pickups. People familiar with the talks say the two companies began talking about Nissan producing a mid-size car, possibly a version of the next-generation Altima, for Chrysler since the first agreement was completed.

An expanded partnership could signal a shift Chrysler’s business model from developing, producing and marketing its own passenger cars to marketing those produced by another manufacturer. In turn, Chrysler would focus its development resources on pickups, minivans and SUVs, some of which could be supplied to other automakers. The company currently has the pickup agreement with Nissan and builds minivans for Volkswagen.

Those familiar with the talks say it's still possible that Chrysler will develop its own new sedans or work with a different manufacturer but outsourcing passenger car could save Chrysler billions of dollars in development and help return the company to profitability, a key priority for Cerberus Capital Management LP, which owns the majority of Chrysler.

The possibility of Nissan acquiring or merging with Chrysler has been raised frequently in recent months but Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has dismissed the rumors, saying consolidation is too risky because of current market conditions and the weak American dollar.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 07 2008, 04 AM)

Dana files suit to terminate supplier contract with Chrysler

Dana Holding Corporation has filed a lawsuit asking a bankruptcy judge to allow it to terminate its agreement with Chrysler if it can’t get better terms. The Toledo, Ohio-based company says it is losing money on drivetrain components it is selling Chrysler under the current deal struck in August 2007 and confirmed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York in September.

That contract expires on December 31, 2008 and Dana wants the judge to issue a declaratory judgment that it would not have to supply parts to the Auburn Hills automaker after that.

Dana wants Chrysler to negotiate new prices for next year that will cover overhead and provide for a profit. But automaker says its long-time supplier does not have the right to end the agreement and must continue providing parts at current prices. Dana maintains doing so would result in annual losses of $75 million or more.

"Our goal is to establish a mutually rewarding supply agreement with Chrysler moving forward," said Dana Executive Chairman John Devine. "However, Dana is prepared to exercise its right to discontinue supplying Chrysler effective January 1, 2009, if we continue to be unsuccessful in engaging them to address this goal in a meaningful way.”

Devine also said the action "…Serves to illustrate our commitment to pursue only market-competitive business opportunities moving forward."

Dana has had a 70-year relationship with Chrysler. It supplies axles and drivetrains for the Jeep Wrangler, Liberty, and some versions of the Grand Cherokee as well as the Dodge Nitro and Viper and certain versions of the Dodge Ram pickup.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 07 2008, 05 AM)

SMS introduces supercharger for Mopar applications

Steve Saleen’s new company, SMS, has announced the first product in its line of ultra-high performance parts, the SMS 296 Supercharger. Designed, engineered, manufactured and assembled in-house at SMS’ 150,000 square-foot facility, the SMS 296 with its innovative dual-screw technology allows owners of HEMI 5.7 and HEMI 6.1-equipped vehicles to boost under-hood horsepower by up to 45 percent. The company calls it “the ultimate supercharger for Mopar enthusiasts.”

Saleen says the SMS 296 Supercharger is packed with new features created by the company’s engineers to provide optimum boost in an exceptionally compact package that will fit under the stock hood of any 2005 to 2009 HEMI-equipped Chrysler vehicle.

Topping the list is SMS’ patent-pending Delta-Frame internal intercooler with two thin-core intercoolers and single-pass coolant flow. The new design provides for a large increase in surface area, minimizing pressure drop and optimizing thermal characteristics. The configuration also acts as a mechanical diverter for effective air transfer into the ports, while the angled manifold allows the packaging of runners that are much longer than those found in conventional layouts. The long intake runner optimizes airflow efficiency and contributes to the supercharger’s low profile.

At the heart of the SMS 296 Supercharger are the asymmetric multi-lobe compressor screws, among the most efficient configurations for supercharging but also one of the most difficult to manufacture. For that reason, the components for the SMS 296 are machined in-house by SMS on state-of-the-art CNC equipment which allows SMS technicians to maintain incredibly tight tolerances..

The SMS 296 Supercharger also will be standard equipment on the highly anticipated 2009 SMS 570 Challenger and SMS 570X Challenger with power ratings from 500 to over 700 horsepower, respectively.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 07 2008, 08 PM)

Chrysler brands below average in J.D. Power survey

Despite an improvement in two of its brands, Chrysler remained the lowest-rated of the Detroit auto makers in the latest J.D. Power and Associates' annual survey of vehicle dependability with all three brands coming in below the industry average.

The survey ranks 37 automotive brands based on the number of reported problems per 100 vehicles and covers models that are three years old. The 2008 survey used feedback from 52,000 original owners of 2005 vehicles.

In the latest survey, the industry average was 206 problems per 100 vehicles, a 4.6 percent improvement over the 216 reported in 2007. Chrysler, which moved up from 29th to 24th in the rankings, had 229 problems, Dodge had 230 also improved on its 2007 results but dropped below Chrysler this year, coming in 25th. Jeep on the other hand, fared much worse this year, dropping to 32nd from 16th. Owners reported 253 problems per 100 Jeeps, up from 219 last year, when it was ranked the best of Chrysler’s three divisions. The average for the company’s divisions was 237 problems, a decline of 1.1 percent from the average of 235 in 2007

Lexus maintained its place at the top with 120 problems reported while Land Rover remained at the bottom with 344.

All three of Ford’s domestic brands scored better than average and Mercury took the second-place spot with just 151 problems. Lincoln was eighth on the list with 165 flaws while Ford itself came in at No. 14. David Sargent, vice president of automotive research for J.D. Power, noted this was the first time in recent memory that a domestic manufacturer had all its domestic brands ahead of the industry average.

GM’s average results were 2.9 percent better than last year’s but several GM brands lost ground. Cadillac retained the No. 3 position but Buick, which shared first place with Lexus in 2007, came in sixth, behind Toyota and Acura. Pontiac, GMC, Chevrolet and Hummer were all below average with Chevrolet coming in at twenty-sixth, two spots lower than Dodge. Saturn came in just ahead of Jeep.

Commenting on the results, Chrysler spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin said they do not reflect the changes the company has made to improve quality in recent years. J.D. Power’s Sargent noted Chrysler continues to score poorly in J.D. Power's new car quality survey, too.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 08 2008, 04 AM)

Dana lawsuit could curtail Chrysler production

Chrysler could be forced to shut down some production if Dana Holdings Inc. wins its lawsuit to end a money-losing contract. The automaker would have difficulty obtaining the drivetrain components Dana supplies for certain Jeep and Dodge vehicles.

Dana is seeking a price increase and yesterday asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland to confirm that its supply agreement with Chrysler ends on December 31 this year.

Speaking in an interview yesterday, James Gillette, a consultant with CSM Worldwide, said, “It puts an enormous amount of pressure on Chrysler. It's not like there are 200 other suppliers they could go to. Dana does have some level of bargaining power.”

The latest dispute comes as Chrysler tries to reduce parts production costs by 25 percent over the next three years. Chrysler turned down a request for higher prices from Plastech Engineered Products Inc. in February, causing Plastech to file for bankruptcy, and is fighting with Germany's Continental AG over a parts contract. According to Continental’s CFO Alan Hippe, Chrysler owes Continental “substantially less than $100 million” for failing to purchase a guaranteed number of parts.

If Dana prevails in its suit, Chrysler might be able to turn to Magna International or American Axle, but neither of those companies are likely to accept a money-losing deal. Dana says it will lose $75 million a year if the current agreement is upheld.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 08 2008, 11 AM)

Moody's gives Chrysler a "C"

Moody's Investors Service has lowered Chrysler’s corporate family rating farther into junk territory and said the new rating remains on review for possible further downgrades. It also lowered the ratings on about $9 billion in Chrysler debt. In cutting the rating from B3 to Caa1, the agency said the company is particularly vulnerable to the shift in consumer demand away from the light trucks and SUVS that make up 72.3 percent of the automaker’s year-to-date sales.

Moody’s gave credit to Chrysler’s "relatively aggressive and successful cost-cutting program" but said it will likely to continue to burn through its available cash in the intermediate term.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 09 2008, 06 AM)

Suppliers rate Chrysler lowest of Big Six

Chrysler scored the worst of the six largest automakers in a recent survey of supplier relations. Once highly regarded by suppliers, the company’s ratings have taken another big hit since the Cerberus purchase.

According to the latest Working Relationships Index (WPI) prepared by Planning Perspectives, Inc. of Birmingham, Michigan, industry-wide automaker-suppliers relations have fallen to their lowest level in five years as component suppliers fight for survival as they cope with the automaker customers working to control costs and big increases in raw materials.

The WPI rates the automakers on 17 criteria in five areas. Scores range from 0-500 with a score between 350-500 earning a “Good to Very Good” rating. A score in the 250-350 range is considered “Adequate” and a score below 250 being classed as “Poor to Very Poor.”

While five of the six automakers lost ground from last year, the Japanese companies fared better than the Detroit three. Toyota was tops in the survey with a score of 367, a 48-point tumble from 2007. Honda was the only other automaker in the “good” range at 359. Nissan's ratings fell to a barely “Adequate” 253.

Ford was the sole car company to show an improvement, though its relations were still rated “Poor” at 191. Over the last three years, Ford has trimmed its supplier ranks but worked to forge better relations with its remaining suppliers.

GM’s score fell eleven points to 163, just two points ahead of Chrysler whose score fell 57 points, from a Detroit-best 218 to 161. From 2002 to 2007, Chrysler outscored the other U.S. automakers.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 11 2008, 08 AM)

Chrysler wants 4-day work week

Chrysler wants the United Auto Workers union help it save money by agreeing to a four-day work week at many of its manufacturing plants in North America.

"We're looking at doing four 10s across the shops to help reduce energy costs," said Frank Ewasyshyn, executive V-P of manufacturing. "For us, it's a big energy savings."

Company spokesman Ed Saenz says having hourly workers shift to four ten-hour days will allow the automaker to trim a “significant” amount from its costs but did not offer specifics.

According to Saenz, Chrysler will introduce a pilot program this week at a parts distribution center in Atlanta.

The UAW could not be reached for comment but some industry experts say Chrysler's initiative might be a cause for concern among workers as it reinforces the belief the plant is making vehicles for which there is no demand and the move is a precursor to more shutdowns and layoffs. This view is reinforced by the fact Saenz said the new schedule would not be implemented at the Belvidere or Sterling Heights plants which produce more popular vehicles like the compact Caliber and mid-size Avenger.

Ford has already instituted similar schedules at some plants that were running below capacity. A Ford spokeswoman says the company saves on electricity and other costs by running the equipment longer for four days, then shutting down on the fifth. This also allows maintenance to be done on the fifth day instead of the weekend when it is more expensive.

General Motors says it has no plans to change its work week.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 12 2008, 08 AM)

Chrysler releases Dream Cruiser Series 5

Chrysler has released the Dream Cruiser Series 5, which is available as an automatic only, with your choice of standard or low-pressure turbocharged engine. Numerous features are included, the most visible being a two-tone white-and-black paint job and the billet aluminum grilles. For details, see this Chrysler PT Cruiser site.

(August 12 2008, 10 AM)

2009 model year changes

While considerable information about the 2009 model year changes is still under embargo, Allpar now has information on the 2009 changes and upgrades, limited to what was released by Car and Driver.

Chrysler 2009 model year changes

(August 12 2008, 11 AM)

New crossover coming by 2010 to Jefferson North

Chrysler is spending $1.8 billion to convert the Jefferson North plant in Detroit, which now makes the Jeep Grand Cherokee, to production of a unibody sport utility vehicle. Tom LaSorda told radio station WWJ that the money will be spent on new tooling and a flexible body shop at the plant, and that the new vehicle will use the Phoenix V6 engines. Production is scheduled to start in early 2010.

(August 13 2008, 08 AM)

LaSorda reports progress on Chrysler-Nissan car

Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda says Chrysler and Nissan have completed much of the work on the new Chrysler-styled small car the Japanese company will be building for the American automaker. "We've pretty much finalized the design of the product," LaSorda said. He also said a name has been chosen but declined to reveal it. The new car is due to go on sale in late 2010.

Speaking at the Center for Automotive Research’s annual Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan, LaSorda also refuted reports the two companies were working on a new mid-size car or that there would be any expansion of the current relationship, noting, "We said we'd keep open dialogue but I think we're busy right now." LaSorda said Chrysler will continue to pursue additional agreements and is optimistic about being able to strike deals with companies in China India and Russia in the near term.

Nissan will also build a version of its Versa for Chrysler to sell in South America and Chery continues to work on a new small car for the Central American market but LaSorda said the Chinese automaker had not yet produced a car that can meet Chrysler’s standards.

LaSorda dismissed market speculation that Cerberus was considering selling Chrysler, saying, "We're going to rebound. It's just a question of time. Bottom line is they are holding on for the long term and we'll see what happens."

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 14 2008, 06 AM)

New Ram pickup will have lower price, better content

The 2009 Dodge Ram will be priced lower than its predecessor while offering more features. Mike Accavitti, director of the Dodge Brand and SRT global marketing and communications, said automatic transmissions and significant safety features like side curtain air bags, traction control and electronic stability control will be standard on all models and the new trucks will have upgraded interiors and more storage.

The new Dodge pickup will start at $22,170 for the base ST regular cab, $26,225 for the ST Quad Cab and $32,530 for the SLT Crew Cab. The Crew Cab is a first for Dodge and Accavitti noted the segment had grown in recent years, saying, "There's 50 percent of the truck market that we don't serve."

All prices include $900 in destination charges.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 14 2008, 06 AM)

Chrysler to cut more suppliers

Chrysler plans to trim its supplier base as it works to achieve a 25 percent reduction in supply chain costs within three years.

"We're going to get rid of those that are not core," said John Campi, executive v-p of procurement. Campi noted that half of Chrysler’s 800 suppliers, taken as a group, provide about five percent of its parts.

"I am not looking to kill suppliers," he said. "But there are some I can't save."

Campi, one of Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli’s old Home Depot crew, said the automaker might cut as many as 100 of its largest 300 current suppliers while it looks for new sources.

As an incentive, Campi said Chrysler plans to select up to ten key suppliers for its "Supplier Choice" program. These manufacturers would be exempt from competitive bidding but would work with Chrysler to set a market price for the contract. They would also be involved in vehicle development. Japan's Denso Corp. is the first company to be chosen and Campi hopes to announce a second company before the end of September.

With the declining sales of domestic-branded vehicles, auto industry suppliers have been taking big hits, caught between rising costs and automakers’ demands for reduced pricing. This has led to a worsening of relationships between car companies and component manufacturers. A recent survey by Planning Perspectives Inc. reported Chrysler had the worst supplier relationships of any of the top six automakers. To improve the situation, Chrysler has formed a dedicated supplier relations team and expanded its supplier advisory council. Campi said the company is ending its "Materials Cost Management" program, which required suppliers to meet specified annual cost reductions, because it didn't work.

On Thursday, in an effort to reassure suppliers that Chrysler is sound, Campi and Ronald Kolka, Chrysler's CFO, gave key suppliers an in-depth look at the privately held automaker’s finances.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 16 2008, 03 AM)

Analyst says Chrysler bankruptcy fears "overblown"

Rumors of Chrysler’s imminent demise are overblown, according to Mark B. Warnsman, a New York-based auto analyst with Calyon Securities (USA) Inc., but the lack of transparency at the privately held automaker poses special risks to its competitors and business partners, from suppliers to dealers.

In a note to investors, Warnsman cautions the secrecy about Chrysler's financial status and financial market expectations that it will ultimately be sold off may prove to be a problem when an improving economy brings relief to the battered auto industry which currently is facing its worst sales year since 1993.

"As a large, newly private concern Chrysler has and, in our view, will continue to present a challenge to the remainder of the industry as the industry adapts to the reality and potential for sharp changes in the competitive landscape driven by Chrysler's actions," Warnsman wrote. He also noted, "Chrysler has embraced its status as a private entity as an enabler for a series of decisions that, at best, are unsettling to the rest of the industry. At worst, they could prove to be highly disruptive."

Responding to comments made by Chrysler president Tom LaSorda and other senior company executives, who maintain Cerberus is a long-term investor, Warnsman said, "Cerberus may be a long-term investor, but we see it exiting its Chrysler stake within five years of its initial acquisition."

Warnsman places a low probability on Cerberus selling Chrysler intact or spinning it off with an IPO. He considers bankruptcy as "a more remote possibility.” In Warnsman’s view, the most likely scenario is a “partnership-to-sell” as the holding company creates partnerships for key parts of Chrysler and then sells those parts.

Chrysler recently has become much more open about its finances, publicly stating it has $11.7 billion in cash and securities and had $1.1 billion in pre-EBITDA earnings. Tom LaSorda recently commented that Nissan carefully studied Chrysler’s financial health before giving its truck platform to the Auburn Hills-based automaker.

Warnsman, a former Ford executive, was a senior analyst with Prudential until it shuttered its research operations in June last year. He then joined Calyon, a Paris-based investment bank. When he was with Prudential, he opposed the breakup of DaimlerChrysler, saying, "In our view, the original merger strategy remains sound, and it is the execution that has lagged."

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 16 2008, 07 AM)

Analysts say Chrysler most likely to fail

A panel of credit-rating agencies says Chrysler is the most likely of the Detroit automakers to seek bankruptcy protection in the next two years.

According to a report written by JPMorgan analyst Himanshu Patel, analysts from Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings discussed the outlook for the three automakers. The panel concluded Chrysler was most vulnerable, followed by General Motors and Ford.

S&P and Moody's both cut Chrysler's credit one level last week, leaving it seven steps below investment grade. Fitch lowered Chrysler’s rating to CCC, eight steps below investment grade, at the end of July.

“There seemed general agreement, too, that a filing by one of the Detroit three would be negative, on balance, for the remaining two companies,” Patel wrote, adding the result could create a drag on new-vehicle prices and trade-in terms.

Responding to the report, Chrysler spokeswoman Shawn Morgan said, “Any discussions regarding bankruptcy are speculative and are not reflective of the facts of our financial situation. Morgan added bankruptcy “…is not a measure we are considering. The company has a clear strategy to build a profitable enterprise for the long term as an independent company.”

The panel also said the automakers may have to rework agreements to form the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Associations agree to in last year’s labor agreements with the United Auto Workers because the money promised for the initial funding may not be available. Ray Young, GM's Chief Financial Officer, has said GM might consider such modifications if the U.S. market continues to deteriorate.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 16 2008, 09 AM)

Trevor Creed era over at Chrysler

Trevor M. Creed, Chrysler’s 63-year-old Senior V-P of Design, is retiring at the end of this month. Creed came from Ford in 1985 as Director of Interior Design. In his tenure, he played what company CEO Bob Nardelli called a “key leadership role” in the development of the Chrysler 300C, PT Cruiser, Dodge Challenger, Ram, Viper and Plymouth Prowler.

"Trevor has led a distinguished automotive design career," said Nardelli. "We thank him for his contribution to the Company and wish him well in his retirement."

Creed will be succeeded on September 1 by Ralph V. Gilles, 38, currently Vice President of Jeep, Truck and Advance Interior Design and is responsible for the styling of the new Dodge Ram pickup. Gilles is also credited with the conception of the Chrysler 300 sedan’s distinctive look. Gilles joined Chrysler in 1992.

In another change in the company’s management hierarchy, Gilles will report to Frank O. Klegon, Executive Vice President of Product Development. Creed had reported directly to Nardelli but Chrysler calls the change an improvement that will allow the groups to work together.

Chrysler also announced another executive change. Andreas A. Schell has been appointed Vice President of Electrical / Electronics Engineering Core, effective immediately. Schell will be in charge of all electrical and electronics engineering design, development, quality and "voice of the customer" activities, succeeding William H. Mattingly, who left the Company last month. Schell is a crossover from Daimler-Benz which he joined in 1996 as a research engineer. He most recently served as director of Chrysler’s Recovery and Transformation Plan and Strategy.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 19 2008, 10 AM)

Chrysler, Jeep improve in satisfaction survey

Chrysler and Jeep vehicles received higher marks in the latest University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index. The survey, which polls consumers who have had their vehicles between six months and three years, also shows Dodge lost some ground.

All Chrysler brands scored below average on the Index’s 100-point scale. Average for all brands was 82 and Chrysler received the best score, coming in with an 80, an improvement of 1.3 percent that left it tied with Ford and Pontiac. Jeep, though its grade rose an identical 1.3 percent, came in last with a 76. Dodge’s results dropped 2.5 percent, to 78, leaving it next-to-last in the rankings.

"If I were Chrysler, I would certainly be concerned," said Professor Claes Fornell said, who headed the study. Fornell noted Chrysler has also done poorly in other recent quality surveys.

Lexus and BMW the chart with 87s. BMW improved 1.2 percent to pull even with the Japanese brand. Honda and Toyota both scored an 86. Buick and Cadillac, both of which dropped 1.2 percent, were the top American brands with 85s.

Among American brands, Saturn had the largest improvement, gaining 4.9 percent to an 85 and giving it a three-way tie with Buick and Cadillac. Mazda and Kia were the most-improved imports; both gained 2.6 percent, rising to identical 80s and came in tied with Chrysler.

Chevrolet was the biggest decliner in the survey, dropping 3.7 percent to 79. Lincoln-Mercury had the second-largest drop, 3.5 percent, but still came in above average with an 83.

Responding to the survey, spokesman Ed Saenz said Chrysler has been working to improve customer satisfaction since being acquired by Cerberus last year.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 19 2008, 11 AM)

Chrysler to develop distinctive designs for each brand

Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s new v-p of design, says the company will develop distinctive vehicles for each of its three brands. Speaking in an interview, Gilles also said he wants to improve productivity by having designers devote more time to executing their work and less on the creative process. Gilles will take over as design chief when Trevor Creed retires on August 31.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 22 2008, 07 AM)

Chrysler makes vacation plans for 2009

Chrysler will require all of its employees to take the same two-week summer vacation again next year. In an e-mail, the company announced the mandatory 2009 summer break will be during the weeks of July 13 and 20.

In the e-mail, Nancy Rae, executive v-p for human resources, said, "With this early notification, the intent is for the majority of employees to take this time off to improve on the efficiencies achieved in 2008."

North American factories traditionally shut down for a week or two during model break, when assembly lines are switched over to production of the new model year’s vehicles, but 2008 was the first time that Chrysler required all employees, including salaried, to take their vacations during a specified time.

Chrysler spokeswoman Shawn Morgan said the mandatory vacations saved the company a little money, but said the primary benefit was improved efficiency. With all employees taking their summer breaks at the same time, projects did not get out of step because one team got ahead while the other was on leave.

Morgan said Chrysler has not yet decided if it will extend the mandatory vacation program beyond next year.

Reported by Bill_Cawthon at (August 22 2008, 07 AM)

Dodge continues to build commercial vehicle momentum

Just two years ago, Dodge re-entered the commercial vehicle market in earnest for the first time since the mid-1970s. The result has been considerable success despite a poor economy: in the first half of 2008, Dodge's slaes in the Class 3-5 segments rose 132%, with commercial sales in general growing to 20,177 units for the first half of 2008 (a 123% increase over 2007).

Dodge's total retail market share for Class 3-5 trucks is 21%. The Ram 3500 Chassis Cab has a 27% retail market share; Ram 4500 and 5500 grew to 16%, making Dodge the fourth largest maker of commercial vehicles. The trucks boast best in class fuel economy and low ownership costs, with brakes that last up to three times as long as comparable Ford trucks.

Dodge now offers a full line of Class 2-5 commercial vehicles from the Cargo Van (a modified Grand Caravan whose sales are likely to swing up now that interior window blocks are available) to the Class 5 Ram 5500.

In returning to the Class 3 segment, Dodge set the new commercial standard with the Ram 3500 Chassis Cab, which quickly achieved a 29% market share in less than one year, surpassing the historic leader Ford and leading the segment in four out of the last six months of 2007.

Last year, Dodge extended its reach into the Class 4 and 5 medium-duty markets with the Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs, with fuel economy that is 14% better than comparable Ford models and 23% better than Chevy and GMC. Dodge continues its climb in the medium-duty segment and achieved a 16 percent share of the Class 4 and 5 retail market in less than one year.

In 2007, Dodge sold 33,500 commercial vehicles, including the Mercedes Sprinter. Through the first half of 2008, Dodge sold 20,177 commercial vehicles.

A new national dealer program, Fleet Elite, was set up to provide a world-class dealer experience to Fleet and Fleet Management Company (FMC) accounts and customers. Fleet Elite is a dealership certification program with specialized facilities, staffing, and processes. Target dealers are selected based on their volume of courtesy deliveries, “fleet-friendly” practices, and expertise with the Five-Star program.

Launched in 1999 and offering no-cost enrollment, Dodge BusinessLink is a full-service commercial program comprised of a select network of Dodge dealers who offer assistance including dedicated account managers and sales teams, next-bay service and technicians, extended hours, and free loaner vehicles. BusinessLink also includes Dodge’s “On The Job” program which offers discounts on upfits and direct cash incentives and savings on almost all Dodge commercial vehicles.

(August 22 2008, 09 AM)

Chrysler brings out new models through Russian distributor

The Jeep Liberty (sold outside the U.S. as the Cherokee) and Journey were introduced to the Russian buying public this week at the 2008 Moscow International Motor Show. Last year, Chrysler signed with Chrysler Russia SAO to be the general importer for the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands. Russia is now one of Chrysler's top ten markets by volume; the Russian car market has grown dramatically in recent years, with annual sales of over 1.6 million vehicles.

(August 26 2008, 10 AM)


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