Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep news from Allpar

Italian action could help Fiat-Chrysler

Fiat-2014Cross-Web
According to a report in Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, the government is considering offering tax incentives to boost car sales in the country.

“We are thinking of using fiscal levers to encourage a renewal of our car stocks,” Transport Minister Mauritzio Lupi said today. “We are evaluating this project because that is what it means to have an industrial policy for this country.”

“We have the oldest fleet in Europe,” Lupi went on to say. “We need to make policy that encourages renewal. This is an issue of safety, environmental impact and quality of life.”

Lupi declined to discuss details but said he said he would meet Industry Minister Federica Guidi to consider the proposals. Incentives would most likely come in the form of tax breaks or tax credits.

The newspaper noted that the average age of passenger vehicles registered in Italy is now 12 years, 2 months.

Over the past three years, car registrations in Italy have plunged 25.4%, a larger drop than any of the other major European markets (France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain).

Over the same period, Fiat Group registrations have fallen 23.4%, the largest shortfall of the major automakers (however, Jeep sales rose 49%). Much of this was due to the concentration of Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo sales in Italy.

The incentives being considered would be available to both businesses and individuals. Due to the way company cars are treated in some European countries, the business incentives could be a huge boon for automakers.

While the primary beneficiary would be the Fiat brand, it should be remembered that it also helps Chrysler: the Dodge Journey is sold as the Fiat Freemont in Europe and Jeep sales could also get a boost, especially the new Italian-built Renegade if it can hit the market in time.

Charger squads: still 5-speeds?

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2015-Charger-squadAllpar’s sources tell us that, despite the clear acceleration and fuel-economy benefits of the eight-speed automatic, the police are demanding that Dodge stick with the old Mercedes five-speed on Charger squad cars.

In 2014, both police and civilian Chargers had the five-speed, though civilians got the eight-speed with the V6 — and in 2015, the eight-speed will be the only transmission in any civilian Dodge Charger, including the SRT. Yet squads will still have a column-shifted five-speed.

While the eight-speed is well-tested and up to the task, the determining factor in how the Charger Pursuit is equipped most likely has less to do with the cost or technological aspects of the two transmissions and more to do with the column-mounted shifter.

From the beginning, the Charger Pursuit and the Magnum Special Service Vehicle (SSV) were equipped with the column-mounted shifter though civilian versions of both were equipped with console-mounted shifters. Chrysler engineers made the change because a column-mounted shifter was preferred/required by police for two reason: First and foremost, it opened space on the console for communications and warning equipment controls. Second, but also important, was the fact it was more familiar for the driving techniques used by police officers.

Cops are hard on transmissions because they use them. From holding a low gear during rapid pursuit acceleration to a number of “professional driver: do-not-attempt” maneuvers, police car transmissions get a workout and officers can’t be hunting for the shift lever down among the radios.

It’s not just Chrysler: the Ford Police Interceptor Sedan and Utility have column-mounted shifters as do the Chevrolet Impala and Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicles (PPV). The civilian counterparts to all of these vehicles, except the Tahoe, have console-mounted shifters.

Though it was originally equipped with a console-mounter shifter, the Australian-built Chevrolet Caprice PPV was switched to a column-mounted shifter in the 2014 model year to encourage more sales. The SS, the civilian version of the Caprice, retains the console-mounted shifter.

This isn’t to say police fleet buyers wouldn’t accept an eight-speed, just that Chrysler is going to have to provide a column-mounted shifter for it.

Ford’s towing claims: brag or bluff?

In today’s print edition of Automotive News, Larry Vellequette wrote about one more facet of the ongoing battle for bragging rights among pickup manufacturers.

This time, Ram is engaged in a tussle with Ford over top towing rights. Ford claims the championship over the Ram 3500, saying its 4X4 crew cab heavy-duty pickup can tow 31,200 pounds, 1,200 more than the Ram 3500 regular cab 4X2, which Chrysler maintains has “best-in-class” towing.

It seems that Ford has rigged the system. The truck they are using for comparison is the F-450 Super Duty, which by most any reckoning is a Class 4 truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 14,000 pounds.

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The Ram is a Class 3 truck with a GVWR under 14,000 pounds and it competes with the Ford F-350 and the Silverado/Sierra 3500.

Ford is the only company that offers a Class 4 pickup. The only direct comparison one could make is with the out-of production, and over-the-top, International CXT — but Ford probably wouldn’t like that comparison; the CXT could tow 40,000 pounds.

Ford claims, with an amazingly straight face, that the F-450 pickup is nothing more than an F-350 with some tweaks. Those must be some tweaks as the F-450 Chassis Cab has a gross vehicle weight rating of 16,500 pounds, which is technically Class 5 territory, and it doesn’t have a pickup bed.

So is the F-450 Super Duty pickup an F-450 or not? And, if not, why is Ford using the Class 4 designator on it?

Truck classes are based on GVW. It’s pretty cut-and-dried. However, where Ram, Chevrolet, and GMC use the curb weight plus maximum payload to calculate their gross weights, Ford games the system by not counting certain items that could be deleted, such as the spare tire, jack, radio, and center console. Ford doesn’t claim those items have ever been deleted from an F-450 order, just that they could be. The 154 pounds of these items brings the weight just under the 14,000-pound limit.

In Ford’s own trailer-towing guide, the maximum trailer weight for the 2014 F-450 pickup is 24,700 pounds. And, unlike Ram, Chevrolet, and GMC, Ford won’t be implementing SAE standards until 2016 for Super Duty trucks.

As veteran writer Larry Vellequette pointed out, truck bragging rights are worth big bucks: millions of them. But in a high-stakes game, brags can be exposed as bluffs when the other player calls your hand. And bluffing isn’t worth anything at all when you’re called on it, and don’t have the cards to back it up.

Proxy service advises merger approval

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San Francisco-based Glass, Lewis & Co. has recommended that its clients approve the Fiat Chrysler merger this Friday.

Glass Lewis is one of the two leading proxy service companies in the world, the other being ISS which last week advised its clients to vote down the merger.

According to a Reuters report, the company said the benefits of the merger outweigh concerns about voting rights.

In a document seen by Reuters, Glass Lewis wrote: “The proposed reincorporation is, on balance, in the best interests of shareholders as the benefits of access to deeper and more robust capital markets and improved governance standards outweigh our concerns regarding the potential increase in Exor’s voting power.”

Does Enders-Stevens strategy open the door for Johnson?

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NHRA Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens didn’t race at Sonoma and she won’t be competing at the Northwest Nationals in Seattle.

Elite Motorsports owner Richard Freeman two-event “holiday” at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver.

Despite her very impressive racing resume, Enders-Stevens lacks a real sponsor and it’s likely this was a major consideration, especially since she had built up a 241-point lead over Allen Johnson, who is second in the point standings, at the end of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.

Enders-Stevens also had an edge in the Wally count with four to Johnson’s three.

By the end of the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, the situation was a bit different. Enders-Stevens was out after the second round of eliminations while Johnson went on to even the Wally count.

The gap was now down to 184 points.

While Johnson didn’t have the results he wanted in Sonoma, he still added 62 points and is now just 122 points behind with another Enders-Stevens-free Nationals coming up. With a good showing in Seattle, Johnson could be in a position to make it a close and exciting race to the top spot in the Countdown to the Championship.

Coughlin clinches Countdown berth in Sonoma

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Jeg Coughlin Jr. became the second Mopar driver to clinch a spot in the six-race Countdown to the Championship that will determine the Mello Yello NHRA Pro Stock world championship.

Coughlin joined teammate Allen Johnson in the Countdown after making it to the Pro Stock semifinals in the NHRA Sonoma Nationals that ran this weekend at Sonoma Raceway.

V. Gaines came within eight feet of keeping hopes alive for a Dodge sweep of the Western Swing but fell to Jason Line in the final round. The finish moves Gaines toward locking up his own spot in the Countdown. Gaines was ninth in the standings coming into this weekend’s race, 56 points behind Chris McGaha who qualified just ahead of Gaines. However, Gaines shut down McGaha in the first race of the day and lasted through the final matchup, so he should have taken a bit out of McGaha’s lead.

Gaines eliminated Coughlin in the semifinals when Coughlin’s JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart got loose and headed toward the center line.

Avenger drivers Matt Hartford and Deric Kramer fell in the opening round: Dave Connolly got the win despite Hartford making his quickest pass of the event; Kramer also made his best pass but Coughlin made the best pass of the opening round to beat Kramer.

Johnson, who collected the Wally in Denver, got the shakes and had to shut down, giving Dave Connolly a pass to the semifinals where he lost to Line.

In Fuel Funny Car, the seesaw between Jack Beckman and Tim Wilkerson for the No. 10 spot continues. Beckman’s No. 4 qualifying position slipped him past Wilkerson going into today’s elimination rounds, but Wilkerson took back the lead when Beckman started smoking his tires at the 660-foot mark.

With just three events left until the Countdown field is locked up, Beckman really needs to shake the gremlins that have dogged his 2014 season.

In the first race of the day, Paul Lee made his best pass of the weekend in the McLeod Racing Charger. Unfortunately, he was matched up with John Force and was about 31 feet behind at the finish line.

Matt Hagan ended Tony Pedregon’s race day in his first race of the day. He sent Wilkerson home with a 100-foot margin of victory in Round Two but came up short against Courtney Force in the semifinals. Force went on to take the Wally in the finals.

Tommy Johnson Jr. got a free pass to the quarterfinals when points leader Robert Hight got too eager and turned on the red light in their first-round match. For an undetermined reason, Johnson’s Make-A-Wish Charger slowed about two-thirds of  the way down the track and John Force picked up an easy win.

Ron Capps, ranked No. 3 in the point standings, started well but began spinning his tires at about the 330-foot mark and lost to Alexis DeJoria in the opening round.

With the absence of Erica Enders-Stevens and Robert Hight’s early elimination, their leads have been trimmed considerably. Where Enders-Stevens had a 184-point lead after the Mile-High Nationals, her advantage is now down to 122 points. Hight’s 181-point lead is now down to 119 points. With three Nationals still on the schedule, it’s possible the lead could change hands.

Jason Line’s win knocked Jeg Coughlin Jr. down a spot but the deficit is just one point. V. Gaines moved up to eighth, two points ahead of Chris McGaha. Tommy Johnson Jr. dropped to fifth place after Courtney Force took the Funny Car win in Sonoma: he’s now three points behind the youngest Force.

Jack Beckman’s first-round defeat cost him: before the Sonoma Nationals, he was just three points behind Tim Wilkerson. After losing to Wilkerson in the opening round of eliminations, that gap has grown to 19 points.

2014 MELLO YELLO NHRA DRIVER STANDINGS AFTER SONOMA NATIONALS
PRO STOCK FUEL FUNNY CAR
Rank Driver Points Behind Change Rank Driver Points Behind Change
1 Erica Enders-Stevens* 1229 Leader Unch. 1 Robert Hight* 1216 Leader Unch.
2 Allen Johnson* 1107 -122 Unch. 2 John Force* 1097 -119 Unch.
3 Jason Line* 1074 -155 +1 3 Ron Capps 957 -259 Unch.
4 Jeg Coughlin Jr.* 1073 -156 -1 4 Courtney Force 941 -275 +1
5 Dave Connolly* 1023 -206 Unch. 5 Tommy Johnson Jr. 938 -278 -1
6 Shane Gray 931 -298 +1 6 Alexis DeJoria 883 -333 Unch.
7 Vincent Nobile 926 -303 -1 7 Matt Hagan 868 -348 Unch.
8 V. Gaines 688 -541 +1 8 Cruz Pedregon 840 -376 Unch.
9 Chris McGaha 686 -543 -1 9 Del Worsham 816 -400 Unch.
10 Jonathan Gray 568 -661 Unch. 10 Tim Wilkerson 762 -454 Unch.
*Clinched spot in Countdown 11 Jack Beckman 743 -473 Unch.


1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee


Dodge cars, 1967-1980


Driven: Fiat 500L


Chrysler Institute of Engineering

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