The editors of Popular Mechanics magazine have selected the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and Alfa Romeo 4C for their 2014 Car Awards.

The awards recognize new vehicles that raise the game and are excellent to drive and important. PM’s editors noted that “this year was particularly challenging because there are so many incredible cars and trucks.”

The Popular Mechanics awards don’t fit the traditional mold: the categories are more tongue-in-cheek, such as Alfa’s “Semi-Affordable Driving Experience of the Year” prize.

Writing about the Alfa, the editors noted: “Alfa Romeo finally returns to the U.S. with a two-seater that’s sexy, fast, and has just enough flaws to remind you it’s not a Porsche…On a twisty road, you think you’re driving something that costs three times as much. Which is not to say the 4C is cheap, but it is a bargain for a carbon-fiber slice of midengine Italian driving nirvana.”

Of the Challenger SRT Hellcat, Popular Mechanics said the Dodge has “the greatest model name of the past decade…” and called it “…the wildest muscle car Detroit’s ever built.”

Category Brand Model
Best Muscle Car Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
Semi-Affordable Driving Experience of the Year Alfa Romeo 4C
Interior of the Future BMW i3
Choicest Base Model MINI Cooper
Best Use of a Dash Cam Chevrolet Corvette Performance Data Recorder
Closest Thing to a Race Car Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
Reincarnation of the Year Chevrolet SS
Triumph of the Van Ford Transit
50-mpg Family Car Honda Accord Hybrid
Hyundai’s Ascension Hyundai Genesis
Best Button of the Year Jaguar F-Type V8 Active Sport Exhaust
Derek Jeter Retirement Award Toyota FJ Cruiser Ultimate Edition
Car of the Year Volkswagen GTI
Engine of the Year Volvo 2-liter Drive-E

After much delay, Ford finally announced today the EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings for the F-150 pickup equipped with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. The new, aluminum-bodied pickup has been rated at 19 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway and 22 mpg Combined.

We’re still waiting on numbers for the 2015 F-150s equipped with the larger EcoBoost engine and the naturally aspirated V8.

The Ram 1500 3.0-liter EcoDiesel is rated at 20 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway, 23 mpg Combined. The same truck with the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 is rated at 17 mpg City 25 mpg Highway and 20 mpg Combined.

“At this point, fuel economy numbers are as much of a marketing game than anything,” commented Akshay Anand, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “The ‘best truck mpg’ claim probably matters more than the cost savings from a one or two mpg difference over competitors, especially if gas prices remain low for the foreseeable future. We know some of the import trucks will be released in the next year or two, and you can bet those will have solid mpg numbers, especially as diesel looks to gain more traction in the truck segment.”

Ford’s claims for payload and towing depend on optional configurations and equipment. When base models with no other options than engine and axle ratio are selected, the F-150 is not really exceptional and the weight savings of the aluminum body must be weighed against the shortcomings of an aluminum body in a vocational vehicle.

Make, Model, Engine Axle City Hwy Comb. HP Torque Towing Payload
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 WT 4.3-liter V6 3.23 18 24 20 285 305 6,100 1,950
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 WT 5.3-liter V8 3.23 16 23 19 355 383 11,200 1,940
Ford F-150 XL 2.7-liter EcoBoost 3.55 19 26 22 325 375 7,600 1,800
Ford F-150 XL 3.5-liter EcoBoost 3.55 TBD TBD TBD 365 420 7,600 1,910
Ford F-150 XL 5.0-liter TICT V8 3.55 TBD TBD TBD 385 387 9,200 1,930
Ram 1500 Tradesman 3.6-liter 3.55 17 25 20 305 269 7,600 1,940
Ram 1500 Tradesman 5.7-liter Hemi V8 3.55 19 22 17 395 410 10,650 1,820
Ram 1500 SLT w/3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6* 3.55 20 28 23 240 420 9,200 1,620
*Equipped with 8-foot box.

As the 2.7-liter engine is a $795 option, the Ford F-150 XL with that engine carries a MSRP of $26,215 plus $1,195 destination charges. The price for the Ram V6 Tradesman is $25,060 plus $1,195 in destination charges. Using the EPA-estimated Combined mileage for the two trucks and today’s national average price ($2.839/gallon) of regular unleaded, it would take more than 89,500 miles to recoup the difference through fuel savings. Even at $4.00/gallon, it would take 63,500 miles, or more than two years of typical commercial fleet use, to justify selecting the Ford over the Ram on the basis of fuel savings.

One of the major goals of truck makers is increasing the number of customers that buy pickups as a primary family vehicle. They also look for market expansion by increasing the number of women that select pickups.

These goals are shared by Ram CEO Bob Hegbloom. In fact, along with growing fleet sales, it’s one of the big areas where he sees new opportunities for Ram.

Progress has been made: while they’re still a distinct minority, the number of Rams purchased by women has increased 20% in the past five years. The number of buyers that selected a Ram pickup after considering an SUV or minivan has gone up 46% in the same period.

We got some input about how Ram is addressing these markets from from Dave Sowers, Head of Ram Pickup Marketing:

Allpar: Another market segment Ram has targeted is the female/family buyers where the truck is used as a primary transportation vehicle. According to, Ram is one of ten brands, and the only mainstream brand, with the highest percentage of male buyers. Edmunds says about 84% of Ram owners are men. Of course, that’s not all that much higher a ratio than Ford or GM. How do you see Ram increasing its appeal in this segment?


Dave Sowers: Although not the largest portion of the market, we see actual female registrations growing. Also, the female influence of trucks on the market is growing. Lastly, the family influence is growing – surprisingly even the minivan is an increasingly cross-shopped vehicle.

Allpar: Have pickups become female-unfriendly? We touched on this briefly, but the point was driven home as I watched Wendy Michalski, Ram Truck Product Planning Manager, climb into the Ram Power Wagon and when I looked at some Dodge pickup brochures from the 1970s and 1980s. The average height for an American woman is 5’4″ and not only do entry and exit pose a challenge, but loading and unloading the bed do, as well.

Dave Sowers: Quite the opposite. It’s growing. Although some trucks like the Ram Power Wagon may not be as prevalent in the female buyer spectrum, we see more female buyers in all segments. Some options such as air suspension (entry/exit mode), Mopar bed steps and wheel to wheel side steps are enablers for everyone, regardless of size. As the market grows, the amount of options increases and we listen to our customers intently for input. Features such as our exclusive air suspension meet a variety of needs from easy entry and exit, to better fuel efficiency with aero mode, and even best-in-class ground clearance for off road use.

Allpar: General Motors has begun selling the new Colorado/Canyon mid-size pickup. Ford has the Ranger that is not yet sold in North America. Fiat Professional’s best-selling vehicle is the small Strada pickup, so the form factor clearly has a market. FCA has a MOU with Mitsubishi for the L200 for the Mexican market.

While there doesn’t seem to be a significant market in the U.S. for such trucks, could a smaller pickup be a part of taking Ram global? Could a smaller pickup also be a part of Ram’s strategy to meet the 2025 CAFE requirements if there are no favorable adjustments after the 2018 review?

Dave Sowers: We continue to monitor the small pickup segment. Ram Truck believes there are four strong variables that must be addressed: size, capability, price and fuel economy. It not easy to deliver on all four. Ram offers the 1500 EcoDiesel at 28 mpg and 9,200 pounds of towing capacity. We also offer a V6 8 speed with up to 25 mpg and 7,600 pounds of towing capacity for around $25,000. Ram also has the best pickup value with a standard HEMI V8 at less than $25,000.

It has not been long since journalists have been allowed to test out the new 2015 Dodge Charger, but the cars are already arriving at dealerships, at about the same time as 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcats.

Golling Dodge, a reputable Detroit area dealership, received a new Charger just in time for this year’s first snowfall. The new car is likely en route to dealerships across the continent, traveling by truck and train.

The final member of the Brampton large-car trio to be produced will be the Chrysler 300/300S/300C, which has upgrades similar to Charger.

David Friedman, deputy director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sent a two-page letter to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne expressing concerns about the Chrysler Group’s current efforts to repair 2002-2007 Jeep Libertys and 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees covered under a voluntary fuel-tank recall.

In its most recent report to the agency Chrysler said it has remedied approximately 3% of the more than 1.5 million vehicles included in the recall. The company also said it had produced 400,000 of the trailer hitch assembly kits that can offer additional protection to the fuel tank in the event of a rear-end collision.

At the request of the NHTSA, Chrysler also submitted an update on its current and planned outreach activities. However, the agency now says “significantly more aggressive steps are required.”

NHTSA-Friedman-Margin-WebIn his letter, Friedman said NHTSA has received consumer complaints that indicate that Chrysler is not fully cooperating and that dealers are providing confusing information. According to Friedman, vehicle owners are being turned away by claims of a lack of parts. In some reported cases, owners are being told that their vehicles are safe to drive without the modification.

Friedman notes: “If these reports are at all accurate, the dealerships’ conduct is unacceptable.”

Friedman gives Chrysler 15 days to confirm that dealerships are providing accurate information and are performing the repairs in a timely manner. He also wants Chrysler to provide a more “robust and specific” plan to contact owners and “incentivize” them to get their vehicles repaired.

Some of the vehicles affected by the recall have rusted frames, making attachment of the trailer hitch impossible without expensive repairs. Nonetheless, the agency is demanding a plan to deal with these cases, also within 15 days.

In closing, Friedman tells Marchionne: “It is your responsibility to notify affected owners that parts are available and to ensure that dealers are effectively and accurately communicating with their customers. In the strongest possible terms I urge you and your dealers to work together to ensure that the safety risk to vehicle owners from this defect is clearly communicated and effectively and expeditiously addressed.”

It’s important to remember that Chrysler steadfastly maintained the Jeeps did not pose a safety risk to consumer but agreed, under pressure, to conduct the recall.

The letter and demands may be the result of the heat currently being applied to the NHTSA over its handling of various recalls, including the current Takata airbag fracas. Friedman came under fire from members of the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday for NHTSA’s policy of allowing automakers to send out notices of “safety campaigns” rather than formal recalls, leaving customers confused over the severity of the problem.

John Lance Tedder, who got Lee Iacocca’s Chairman of the Board Award when he was a service development manager for Chrysler Corporation and an NHRA national champion, died last week at the age of 76.

John Tedder

Mr. Tedder was born on September 19, 1938, and graduated from Ferris State University. He became a service development manager for Chrysler, alongside a 30-year drag racing career during which he won the NHRA National Championship in the Super Stock AA Division in 1972, in the pictured Barracuda.

The “Mr. MoTech” name reflected his success in recruiting for MoTech Automotive Educational Center of Livonia, Michigan, which provided training in servicing, troubleshooting, and repairing cars and trucks, including diesels.  He visited numerous high schools in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana to talk about careers in the industry.

Mr. Tedder built the pictured Plymouth Barracuda, blueprinting a 426 Hemi powerplant for it to develop 700 horsepower on racing gasoline. He hit the quarter mile finish at 140 mph, in 9.70 seconds, before winning the championship.

Mr. Tedder died two years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  While his funeral has already taken place, those who wish to send their regrets have been asked to make donations to the Hospice of the Chesapeake, 90 Ritchie Highway, Pasadena, MD 21122 or to the National Parkinson Foundation, Gift Processing Center, P.O. Box 5018, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5018. Thanks, Marc Rozman.

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