The 2015 Dodge Challenger has earned a five-star overall safety rating from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the agency’s highest possible safety rating.

The Challenger is the only car in its segment with Forward Collision Warning (optional). It also has blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection, which was pioneered by Chrysler Group.

Challenger scored five stars in front and side impacts, four stars in other tests. The car starts at $27,990, including destination charge. The 2014, without any eight-speed automatics, still had Edmunds.com’s Best Retained Value Award and three years of winning J.D. Power’s APEAL Award for overall ownership enjoyment.

The 2015 added a segment-first eight-speed automatic transmission, Uconnect Access system, standard 7-inch gauge cluster display, and touch entry with push-button start.

Last month, the Challenger recorded its best-ever U.S. November sales total with 4,157 deliveries, 52% over November 2013.

An Allpar source noted that the company may be getting direct injection engines out to the public faster than previously anticipated.

Allpar has been predicting the launch of direct injected Pentastar V6 engines in 2016, coinciding with rules mandating low-sulfur gasoline in the United States. The European Union already has such fuel, making it easier for manufacturers to sell reliable direct injection gasoline engines there.

After Allpar posted an article on the Pentastar upgrade last night, we were told that direct injection might arrive late next year, just before calendar-year 2016, when cleaner fuel rules take effect.  Since the buildup of dirt takes a long time, it’s possible Chrysler feels that the benefit of having the engines appear earlier will outweigh the risk of customer problems — or that this was never the issue, and that development and testing simply led them to this timeline.

Either way, the result should be increased fuel economy and/or power, both of which would be welcome to the customers and company alike.

The timing may still change, since product testing is likely to be far more extensive than in the past — and by the time vehicles with the engines are actually built and delivered, it may well be 2016.

Analysis. Some may ask why the leaders of Fiat Chrysler chose to rename both Fiat and Chrysler, rather than leaving them as separate entities.

Chrysler-Fiat-FCA-Web

There are several reasons that come to find, the first of which is that the leaders may be trying to stop within-the-company and outside-the-company competitiveness about what was invented where. They may hope to prevent cultural clashes by using the symbolic shared names, thinking that will reduce psychological separation between the groups.

This may also help to still the few but moderately insane voices of those who still claim Chrysler is being set to be closed or sold.

Forum member “valiant67” pointed out that “labeling everything as an FCA division (rather than having a Chrysler Group or Fiat) will allow further use of ‘American’ FCA technology, without having to deal with the pesky fact that it came from Chrysler Group.”  Given that Maserati and Alfa Romeo are relying on work done in Auburn Hills, in one way or another, that’s an important issue.

Ghibli-Quattroporte

While Sergio Marchionne used to freely say that Alfa Romeo would build on Dodge, and that there could be no new Alfa Romeo without similar investments in Dodge, he is unlikely to ever say anything like that again, except in a severely sleep-deprived, inhibition-lowered state. I believe he would like to say it, to show off how the merged company will save money and open new possibilities in Italy / for acquired, historic brands; however, every time he admits to any common parts or designs between Chrysler and any upscale Italian brand, he kills off thousands of sales of that brand.

One thing we learned from the “German Engineering” ad campaigns (not to mention the TC by Maserati) is that you can associate a mainstream American company with an upscale European company all you like; but it’ll kill sales for both.

The FCA US vs FCA Italy rebranding may be intended to somewhat disguise that common ground, though it is unlikely that the FCA US LLC Communications group will be able to make the press corps give up the name “Chrysler” so easily. (Who really calls that weird guy “the artist formerly known as Prince”?)

valiant67 went on to caution, “Many… are confusing Chrysler (the corporate entity) and Chrysler (a brand of cars). Chrysler Corporation, which became Chrysler Group, is gone, and has been renamed FCA US.  Chrysler Corporation is different from Chrysler branded cars like … Toyota the company is different from Toyota the car brand. Chrysler brand still exists… but Chrysler Corporation/Group is gone.” (As, indeed, it has been since 1998, save for a brief time under Cerberus.)

These are the likely reasons for the change, which most likely annoy many Fiat fans as well as many Chrysler fans. The move is unlikely to hit its goals in the next decade, but Sergio Marchionne seems to have a longer time frame in mind anyway.

As for us, there is one bright side: it’s actually easier to type FCA US than Chrysler.

Fiat-Jones-Winner-Web
Christopher Kollmann of Fallston, Maryland is the grand prize winner of the second annual “Jonesin’ for a Fiat 500” photo contest sponsored by Fiat and Jones Soda Co.

The 21-week contest required entrants to submit photos or “selfies”, which could include the Fiat 500 or Jones Stripped soda.

Kollmann’s photo was selected from more than 20,000 entries submitted from the U.S. and Canada. Judges from Fiat and Jones Soda Co. chose the winner.

“This year’s photo contest and partnership with the Fiat brand exceeded all of our expectations. We doubled the amount of entries over last year, engaging so many more people through each of our social media channels,” said Jennifer Cue, Jones Soda CEO. “Working with the Fiat brand and their highly passionate team continues to show us that our brands are similar in so many ways…fun, unique, colorful and independent. We look forward to continuing our growth and expansion of the Jones/FIAT partnership into 2015 and beyond.”

“Creativity and self-expression are at the very core of the FIAT brand,” said Jason Stoicevich, Vice President Fiat Brand, FCA US LLC. “Partnerships like this one play to our strengths. They inspire our customers and provide a platform for them to have fun and showcase that they can be as unique and imaginative as our Fiat 500.”

The 2014 prize package included a new Fiat 500, a one-year supply of Jones Stripped, surf lessons with professional surfer and Jones team rider Brianna Cope and a GoPro Hero 4 Camera. His winning photo will be featured on bottles of Jones Stripped throughout North America in 2015.

More changes at Scuderia Ferrari: Pat Fry, the engineering director of Ferrari’s Formula One team, and chief designer Nikolas Tombazis are out as new managing director Maurizio Arrivebene restructures the brand’s racing effort following a winless season.

Fry, 50, came to Ferrari in July 2010 after a stint with McLaren. He became engineering director when James Allison joined the Scuderia as technical director last year.

Tombazis, 46, began his Formula One career with Benetton in 1992. He moved to Ferrari in 1994, then spent two years with McLaren. He returned to Ferrari in 2006. Tombazis has been replaced by Simone Resta in the chief designer post.

Allison remains as technical director; Resta and power unit director Mattia Binotto will report to him.

What can we expect from the Pentastar V6 upgrade?

Earlier rumors had the 3.2 liter V6 essentially taking over from the 3.6 in all but the most severe duty. This plan seems to have changed, with rumors of the 3.6 being restored due to its better low-end torque, and perhaps to increases in its efficiency after the update.

Pentastar V6 engines

Numerous changes were made to the 3.2 between the 2014 and 2015 model years, along with a preliminary stop-start system. These increased its efficiency, by lowering parasitic losses,  but not its rated power.

One trick to be applied to the Pentastar upgrade (PUG) will be water-cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), which is borrowed from diesel engine technology, where Fiat has a great deal of expertise.

The engines will have roller cams, and a stainless steel pipe going into the intake. We don’t know the reason for the latter quite yet.

Chrysler will no doubt have learned some tricks from Ferrari, which based the new Maserati engines on the Pentastar design, and from Fiat, which has had to focus on efficiency to meet European needs.

We find it likely that the 3.6 liter version of the PUG will adopt numerous tricks from the 3.2; in the end, it may save enough fuel to make dropping down to the 3.6 in minivans and Wranglers unnecessary.

Another trick which Chrysler is likely to pursue comes straight from their 1980s strategy — and for that matter, Ford’s current strategy — namely, using a four-cylinder turbocharged engine as an option or base engine to increase overall gas mileage, while still having the V6 for those who demand it. More on this will be reported later, at least with regards to the Wrangler.

Alfa-Romeo-V6-Web
Automobile News Europe reports that Alfa Romeo will celebrate its sporting heritage by adding three new engines including a 480 horsepower, twin-turbocharged V6.

According to supplier sources, the 2.9-liter V6 is based on the 3.0-liter engine that Ferrari developed for the Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli. It will make its worldwide debut as an option for a new midsize Alfa sedan to be unveiled next June as a 2016 model.

The base engine for the new car will be a 2.0-liter four-cylinder called the Global Medium Engine (GME). Depending on the vehicle, the GME will be offered with outputs of 180 hp to 330 hp. FCA will be able to mate the GME with manual and automatic transmissions and rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations.

The midsize sedan will also offer a new 2.2-liter four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine with output from 135 hp to 210 hp.

Alfa is also working with VM Motori, on a new version of the 3.0-liter V-6 diesel currently available in Jeep and Maserati vehicles. In the Alfa Romeo lineup it will be for a future large sedan and SUV. Alfa will have two versions: a base 275 hp configuration and a version with power bumped up to 340 hp.

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