UAW chief tries to dispel fears

October 5, 2015 - by David Zatz

FCA US and the United Auto Workers (UAW) will resume negotiations soon. In the meantime, Dennis Williams, the head of the UAW, wrote a note to the membership to contradict rumors that the union was losing jobs and health-insurance benefits:

…For someone to suggest we endorse products going to Mexico is just nonsense. We have been fighting NAFTA and other trade agreements every day and are still fighting.

We know that health care is a challenge because of the rising cost of medical and pharmaceutical benefits…. We DO NOT want another VEBA or a Taft-Hartley for active auto members. We believe that healthcare should be provided by the employer.

(...) →

Manley, Kuniskis move up

October 5, 2015 - by David Zatz

FCA US made several leadership changes today to match the Fiat Chrysler Group Executive Council’s (GEC’s) desire to represent all major brands.

One surprising change is Mike Manley taking over Ram, in addition to Jeep and being the COO of the Asia-Pacific region.  Reid Bigland was put in charge of fleet operations for North America, while keeping his responsibilities for sales and Alfa Romeo. Dodge head Tim Kuniskis was put onto the GEC and took responsibility for all North American car brands — Dodge, Chrysler, and Fiat.

Robert Hegbloom is still head of Ram for North America but now reports to Mike Manley.  Al Gardner continues to be head of network (dealer) development), and Jason Stoichevich was made head of fleet operations and small business sales in the United States. (...) →

FCA trying for Italian VW buyers

October 5, 2015 - by David Zatz

With Volkswagen-Audi no longer able to sell diesels in the country, FCA is offering discounts to Volkswagen customers who want to trade in their cars, rating from 500 to 1,500 euros. The incentives are available on both Fiat lines and Jeeps.  Ford, meanwhile, is providing a flat 750 euros.

Automotive News reported on the deals, also noting that dealers seem to be reluctant to take Volkswagen or Audi diesels as trade-ins (the FCA offer applies to gasoline models as well).

While FCA and VAG have had a strong rivalry in recent years, the shot by Ford seems unusual.  It’s possible that both companies are not so much kicking a competitor while they’re down, as trying to get dealers to take Volkswagens, Audis, Seats, and Skodas in trade despite the nuisance of impending recalls. (...) →

Beckman sets third ET record in 2015

October 5, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

Jack Beckman picked up his seventh Wally of the 2013 Mello Yello NHRA drag racing season at the Keystone Nationals today.

He also set and certified the national ET record becoming the first Funny Car driver to set the national ET record three times in a single season since 1998.

Rain washed out all but one qualifying session at this year’s Keystone Nationals and a track temperature of 60 degrees wreaked havoc with traction. Beckman qualified third with an ET of 5.440 seconds at 203.17 miles per hour; Matt Hagan qualified fifth with a time of 8.170 at 103.23 mph.

Ron Capps was the only Dodge driver to make a good pass, taking the No. (...) →

Former Chrysler chief Saad Chehab left FCA

October 4, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

Automotive News Europe reported that Saad Chehab, the former head of the Chrysler and Lancia brands, resigned today from his position as Maserati’s global marketing chief, citing personal reasons.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne brought Mr. Chehab over to Chrysler in 2009, having lured the Lebanese-born executive from Ford, where he was director of creative services.

Mr. Chehab was credited as the creative force behind the wildly successful Super Bowl spots featuring Eminem and Clint Eastwood, and for leveraging the successful “Imported from Detroit” theme. He was reassigned to Maserati in 2013 as the brand gained new cars: Maserati sales grew 150% in 2013 and 137% in 2014. (...) →

USPS may buy more Ram vans

October 2, 2015 - by David Zatz

The United States Postal Services has purchased 9,113 2016 Ram ProMaster 2500 commercial vans as extended-capacity delivery vehicles, but that might not be the end of the story. “MJAB” noted that there is a $94 million option to buy another 3,340 vans, if the post office orders them before the end of March 2016.

The vans will use a powertrain familiar to the Dodge Caravan-using Post Office: the Chrysler gasoline V6 and six-speed automatic. This will maximize their existing maintenance supplies and expertise.

The total value of the initial contract is $257 million, setting the van price at $28,117, well below the retail price — even before postal add-ons are included. (...) →

Lawyers pounce on FCA

October 2, 2015 - by David Zatz

Class action lawyers Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, LLP are starting a class action lawsuit against FCA, claiming that the company and its executives failed to disclose recall and quality issues so that its financial statements were “false and misleading and and/or lacked and reasonable basis.”

The lawsuit affects those who bought Fiat or Fiat Chrysler stock after August 1, 2014 and before July 24, 2015.

Fiat Chrysler stock (FCAU) was under $9 per share when FCA was first formed in October 2014; it is now around $14, having fallen with the Volkswagen-Audi scandal. It has slowly been climbing back.

Over the last year, FCAU has been as low as $8.54 per share and as high as $17.08 per share. (...) →

FCA cleared, VW-Audi smeared

VW Volkswagen diesel
October 2, 2015 - by David Zatz

Reuters has reported that the German government has found no evidence of test manipulation by automakers other than Volkswagen-Audi Group.

This likely means that Volkswagen-Audi (VAG) was alone in deliberately programming its automotive computers to foil emissions testing, a practice which now appears to have been worldwide in scope.

The company is being investigated by nations from South Korea to the United States. In France, which gave R&D money to VAG for its “clean diesel” efforts, the government has talked about demanding the return on the money and could penalize German engineers and managers with prison sentences of up to five years, though this isi unlikely. (...) →

FCA #1 in SUVs

October 2, 2015 - by David Zatz

FCA was #1 in SUV sales in U.S. September sales, according to industry analyst and writer Bill Cawthon. It beat #2 General Motors by 1,782 sales, thanks in large part to Jeep, which is riding a “high.” Historically, Willys Jeep and then Kaiser Jeep as a whole rarely achieved the kind of sales now routinely established by the brand’s lowest-selling current models.

In America’s favorite segment (based on top selling models), full size pickups, Ford has solidified its lead with nearly 70,000 sales in September alone — but doesn’t match Chevrolet+GM sales of 73,479. Meanwhile, Ram trails with around 36,600 pickups, 14 less than in September 2014. (...) →

Cargo Van reaches end of three-decade-long road

October 2, 2015 - by David Zatz

Ram has confirmed that the Cargo Van, originally named Dodge Mini Ram Van and then Caravan C/V, has finally reached the end of the road. Production started in the 1984 model year, presumably to hedge Chrysler Corporation’s bets on the untried “minivan” concept.

Originally minivans were not just based on the Plymouth Reliant “K-cars;” they used many of the same interior parts as well. A second generation in the 1991 model year dramatically raised the van’s comfort and performance.

When it was moved to Ram, the C/V officially became the Cargo Van and underwent extensive changes to make it more business-friendly, including a new cargo floor, special suspension tuning, and various capability and durability improvements. (...) →

New CIO for FCA-NA after gov’t probe

October 2, 2015 - by David Zatz

On the departure of Scott Sandschafer, Ryan Talbott has become the Chief Information Officer for North America and head of information and communication technology for the Asia-Pacific region.

FCA did not say why Mr. Sandschafer was leaving other than “to pursue other interests.”  He appears to have left just after an internal investigation into under-reporting of incidents to the NHTSA  has ended, with the apparent conclusion that there were numerous systems errors.  The events may be unrelated.

Mr. Talbott joined the company in 2010, and, before that, was a technology implementation consultant for Accenture. (...) →

Canadian sales: high again

October 1, 2015 - by David Zatz

FCA Canada reported its best year-to-date sales since 2000, with September 2015 at 24,007 cars and trucks sold (1% over the same month in 2014).  It was enough to maintain FCA’s role as #1 automaker in the country, year to date.

While Ram sales were fairly steady in the United States in the face of gains by Ford and GM, they shot up by 28% in Canada.

Jeep rose by 12%, with Cherokee leading — as in the US. 2,823 Jeep Cherokees left the lots, 31% over September 2014. Wranger rose by 7% to 1,922.

The company claimed record September sales for Ram pickup, Cherokee, Wrangler, and Ram as a brand; and a year to date record overall with 227,678 sales, around 2,500 more than 2014 YTD. (...) →

FCA gains on GM, Honda; lower growth than many

October 1, 2015 - by David Zatz

Pent-up demand for pickups by Ford loyalists propelled the “blue oval” to a big gain in September, but Fiat Chrysler’s US growth was higher than most other automakers.

Every FCA US brand but Chrysler gained, with a total 13.6% gain over September 2014 (as for FCA as a whole, Ferrari gained one sale and Maserati lost 34%). At Ford, the monthly gain was 23.3% — though year to date, FCA US still has higher growth.

GM had a respectable 12.5% increase, Honda 13.1%, and VW-Audi 7.3%, but both were below FCA US. However, Toyota (16.2%), Mitsubishi (36%), Hyundai-Kia (17.8%), and some minor automakers gained share over FCA. (...) →

FCA, workers on contract rejection

October 1, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

Fiat Chrysler has just released the following statement regarding the rejection of the proposed contract with the United Auto Workers union:

FCA US is disappointed that UAW members voted not to ratify the tentative agreement.

The bargaining teams on both sides worked hard, for many days and nights, to craft a transformational agreement that would adequately reward the commitment of our workforce while ensuring the Company’s continued success and competitiveness. Striking the right balance in these two objectives has been the most difficult thing to accomplish in these negotiations, but after many hours of dialogue and debate between the UAW and FCA US leadership, the Company felt that a just and equitable compromise had been reached.

(...) →

UAW members reject the proposed contract

October 1, 2015 - by David Zatz

UAW members have rejected the contract negotiated by their leaders with FCA US, LLC, the former Chrysler Corporation. The vote was not even close, with 65% voting against it.

UAW president Dennis Williams said he respected the vote, and that it was part of the process; the next step will be for the FCA committee and council to discuss the issues raised by members. FCA’s official announcement was less restrained.

Allpar’s Bill Cawthon is currently looking into reasons why the vote was rejected, based on social media statements. (...) →

FCA México gained again

October 1, 2015 - by David Zatz

FCA México, which has gone through numerous changes over the last two years, has posted year-over-year gains.  Overall, 8,377 cars and trucks were sold by FCA México.

  • Alfa Romeo had its best month ever (with 30 sales)
  • Dodge doubled its sales, to 2,493, led by the rebadged Attitude; Challenger posted a September record.
  • Jeep fell but was still strong, with 1,696 sold, including 443 Grand Cherokees.
  • Ram rose by 84%, with the rebadged Fiat Strada (Ram 700) beating 700 sales, and Ram 4000 rising by 40%.
  • Chrysler rose by 2%, to 297, with 300 sales growing by 60% and the 200 falling.
  • Fiat rose by 18% for its best September ever, with 747 sales; 275 were Unos.
(...) →

FCA gained US sales; the top Jeep is…

October 1, 2015 - by David Zatz

FCA US LLC reported U.S. sales of 193,019 units last month, 14% above September 2014 (169,890 units), — the 66th consecutive month of increases and the best September sales since 2000.

Every brand other than Chrysler itself posted gains, with Jeep bursting forward by 40%. FCA’s gains, which came at some cost in incentives, were matched by some of its rivals: Ford rose by 23% with revived F-series sales (and incentives), GM came in 12.5% ahead, and Nissan rose by 18%.  (At press time, we were awaiting Honda, Hyundai, Volkswagen, and Toyota.)

Analysts predict that every company other than Volkswagen-Audi will have higher sales.

The Dodge Journey and Jeep Cherokee each logged an all-time sales record last month, with gains of 45% and 38% respectively. (...) →

R&T: “Super Snake” slower, pricier than Hellcat

September 30, 2015 - by David Zatz

Road & Track tested a Shelby Super Snake, based on the Ford Mustang, which claims to have 850 horsepower at the crank. However, the smaller supercharged car failed to match up to the magazine’s Challenger SRT Hellcat’s run, doing the quarter mile in 12.3 seconds at 116 mph vs the Dodge’s 12.0 seconds at 125 mph.

The magazine also slammed the brakes (“nearly an on-off switch”) and, while it praised the lateral grip, noted that loss of control tended to be non-recoverable. The writer talked about “driveline slop,” vibration, bucking, noise, and failing to match stock Camaro ZL1 times, even with the “750+ HP ” package (Shelby made the “850 hp” claims). (...) →

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