Last month, Chrysler reported its best August sales since 2002. Adding some perspective, August 2014 was the company’s third-best August since the beginning of the 21st Century.

Using the analysts’ more modest predictions of 168,000 sales for September 2014, this month would be the best September since 2006 but only the fifth-highest volume September since 2000.

However, if Chrysler can stretch and add 900 sales to the predicted tally, September 2014 would become the best since 2004 and the third-best since 2000.

Chrysler Septembers
Year Cars Trucks Total
2000 60,282 159,684 219,966
2001 47,376 104,789 152,165
2002 50,408 114,989 165,397
2003 38,917 108,197 147,114
2004 50,544 118,200 168,744
2005 59,744 115,812 175,556
2006 47,089 121,799 168,888
2007 49,512 110,287 159,799
2008 33,504 73,845 107,349
2009 18,064 44,133 62,197
2010 30,285 69,792 100,077
2011 33,217 94,117 127,334
2012 42,050 99,991 142,041
2013 42,456 100,561 143,017

The car in the graph is the 2000 Plymouth Breeze. September 2000 was the last September for the Breeze, with 254 sales; the car had already ended production. The last 127 Breezes were sold in January 2001. The last Plymouth was a Neon made on June 28, 2001.

Dodge’s use of Cummins diesels back  in 1989 succeeded beyond expectations, reviving a nearly dead truck line. When the company added a VM diesel to the Ram 1500, sales were, again, much better than expected. Chrysler had predicted a 10% take rate, perhaps up to 15%; but Allpar reported in August that the line was running up to 25% diesels when the engines were available.

Like the Cummins B-series engines, the VM has been both reputable and technologically advanced; and sales have exceeded expectations.

Ram announced today that 20% of its pickups would be diesel-powered by November, double its original estimates. This strains VM’s ability to make enough engines for North American Rams and Jeep Grand Cherokees, though Ram worked with VM Motori to raise production.

When the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel opened for orders earlier this year, Ram had over 8,000 requests in three days. Some had predicted lower sales, because the diesel is a $4,000 option on the value-priced Tradesman Quad Cab, and requires the $500 eight-speed automatic.

Diesel Ram 1500s are rated at 20 mpg city, 28 highway, which beats the fuel economy of every competing pickup — and some midsized and compact trucks, down to imported four-cylinder manuals. The engine  generates 420 lb-ft of torque and 240 hp and is highly responsive at low revolutions. The peak towing capacity is 9,200 pounds.

Helping to optimize performance, given the limited range of diesel engines, is the wide-range “TorqueFlite Eight” eight-speed automatic.

Dodge had been planning a Ram 1500 with a Cummins V6 diesel as far back as the Daimler days, but no other manufacturer chose to sell a full sized diesel pickup in America.  (Chrysler has worked with VM since 1992.)

“Being first to market with a diesel engine for the half-ton segment was shown to be a great decision for the Ram Brand,” said Ram chief  Robert Hegbloom, adding that nearly 60% of sales were conquests from other brands, unusual in pickups.

Other unique features in the Ram 1500 series (not on all trucks) include a fluid temperature management system, various methods of cutting parasitic losses, and active aerodynamics aids.

The Ram 1500 earned Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year in both 2013 and 2014, the first time a vehicle of any type has taken the award back-to-back. The Ram 1500 also won the Truck of Texas in both 2013 and 2014.

The 2015 Ram 1500 is backed with a five-year /100,000-mile transferable powertrain warranty including free towing, if needed, and a three-year / 36,000-mile “bumper-to-bumper” warranty. The 2015 Ram 1500 is built at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant (Warren, Michigan); Regular Cab models are built at the Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant in Saltillo, Mexico.

Ram opened its plant to select journalists recently. Chris Chrouch took a number of stills, along with the following video; the full story and photography of numerous parts of the assembly line are at our Warren Truck Plant Tour page.

September sales figures will be released Wednesday, but the analysts have already placed their bets, predicting a solid month for new light vehicle sales.

Chrysler should tack on another month of improved sales. The average prediction calls for 167,000 sales, up 16.8%, with market share increasing by 0.8 percentage points to roughly 13.4%.

Industry sales are seen rising nearly 10%, based on the average of the three estimates. Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell commented: “September sales are consistent with the strength we’ve seen most of this year. But the topline sales aren’t as interesting as the ways in which shoppers have driven those sales. Buyers have been able to secure low financing deals and have responded to lease offers in record numbers. These are behaviors that bode well for the continued strength of new car sales.”

“Following an extraordinarily strong month of sales in August, with the industry above 17 million SAAR for the first time in eight years, Kelley Blue Book expects sales to level out in September,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Sales will remain strong and show healthy year-over-year improvement. Rising incentive spend in recent months has been more than offset by increasing retail transaction prices, signaling continued consumer demand.”

“We expect another strong month for the industry with the best September since 2007,” said John Krafcik, president of TrueCar. “Incentive spending has tapered off from August, a month where we found increases attributable to shifts in segment mix, model year clearance and holiday events. September incentive spending and transaction price growth are at healthy levels.”

While they don’t forecast by manufacturer, J.D. Power/LMC Automotive is looking for a more modest 5% increase. John Humphrey, senior v-p at J.D. Power noted, “Vehicle sales typically fall sharply immediately following the Labor Day holiday before recovering later in the month, but the decline this September has been smaller than in prior years. While the strong sales pace is an indicator of the health of the industry, it is being complemented by record transaction prices for the month of September.”

The analysts are looking for about 16.4 million sales in 2014, which is consistent with Allpar’s estimate.

Manufacturer Sep-14 Sep-13 Change Sep-14 Sep-13 Change
Chrysler Group 165,004 143,017 15.4% 13.08% 12.59% 0.49%
Ford Motor Company 177,310 184,452 -3.9% 14.06% 16.23% -2.18%
General Motors 228,801 187,195 22.2% 18.14% 16.48% 1.66%
American Honda 128,895 105,563 22.1% 10.22% 9.29% 0.93%
Hyundai-Kia 101,260 86,868 16.6% 8.03% 7.65% 0.38%
Nissan North America 99,919 93,105 7.3% 7.92% 8.19% -0.27%
Toyota Motor Company 175,776 164,457 6.9% 13.94% 14.47% -0.54%
Volkswagen Group 45,332 44,985 0.8% 3.59% 3.96% -0.37%
Total Industry 1,261,380 1,136,214 11.0% N/A N/A N/A
Kelley Blue Book Sales Volume Market Share
Manufacturer Sep-14 Sep-13 Change Sep-14 Sep-13 Change
Chrysler Group 168,000 143,017 17.5% 13.55% 12.59% 0.96%
Ford Motor Company 180,000 184,452 -2.4% 14.52% 16.23% -1.72%
General Motors 217,000 187,195 15.9% 17.50% 16.47% 1.03%
American Honda 118,000 105,563 11.8% 9.52% 9.29% 0.23%
Hyundai-Kia 103,000 93,105 10.6% 8.31% 8.19% 0.11%
Nissan North America 102,000 86,868 17.4% 8.23% 7.65% 0.58%
Toyota Motor Company 176,000 164,457 7.0% 14.19% 14.47% -0.28%
Volkswagen Group 50,000 48,127 3.9% 4.03% 4.24% -0.20%
Total Industry 1,240,000 1,136,240 9.1% N/A N/A N/A Sales Volume Market Share
Manufacturer Sep-14 Sep-13 Change Sep-14 Sep-13 Change
Chrysler Group 168,000 143,017 17.5% 13.45% 12.56% 0.89%
Ford Motor Company 175,000 184,452 -5.1% 14.01% 16.20% -2.19%
General Motors 225,000 187,195 20.2% 18.01% 16.44% 1.57%
American Honda 120,000 105,563 13.7% 9.61% 9.27% 0.34%
Hyundai-Kia 104,000 86,868 19.7% 8.33% 7.63% 0.70%
Nissan North America 100,000 93,105 7.4% 8.01% 8.18% -0.17%
Toyota Motor Company 171,000 164,457 4.0% 13.69% 14.44% -0.75%
Volkswagen Group 45,000 44,895 0.2% 3.60% 3.94% -0.34%
Total Industry 1,249,000 1,138,560 9.7% N/A N/A N/A

The planned Dodge Dart SRT will be enabled by a brand new series of four-cylinder engines, which some insiders say are a joint effort of Chrysler and Fiat, merging aspects of existing designs from both companies.

Originally, the engines, dubbed “Hurricane” after military aircraft (and likely referencing vintage Jeep engines as well), were thought to be merely turbocharged versions of the existing 2.0 or 2.4 liter powerplants. However, sources now believe these will presage or be part of a brand new engine family shared by Chrysler and Fiat.

Chrysler was once the largest manufacturer of turbocharged gasoline engines, culminating in the Turbo III (224 horsepower from a 2.2 liter four-cylinder, in 1991) and Turbo IV (which had the first production gasoline-engine variable-nozzle turbocharger).

Chrysler tested two-stage turbocharging (illustration on right) in a Department of Energy project, with a small and large turbo to reduce lag and increase power. Insiders say this is not likely to make it to the production engines; instead, a single twin-scroll turbocharger seems to be planned. It is likely to be relatively small but have a very high rotation speed, compared with past Chrysler turbochargers.

For much more, see our new Hurricane engines page.


Matt Hagan made it all the way to the Fuel Funny Car finals where he faced Courtney Force in a race for second place in the Countdown to the Championship. Hagan came into the race in second place, just eight points ahead of Force, but left the track in third place by 12 points as Force became the first woman in NHRA history to win back-to-back events in the Funny Car class.

Hagan was first off the line and lead until about the 660-foot mark where Force passed him on her way to posting the quickest pass in the elimination rounds and a 0.0017 second (≅ 3 feet) margin of victory.

On his way to the finals, Hagan eliminated Alexis DeJoria in Round One, Jeff Arend in Round Two and Chad Head in the semifinals.

Every Dodge driver survived the opening round except Jack Beckman, who fell to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps. Despite a better start and the early lead, Capps lost to John Force in the quarterfinals.

Tommy Johnson Jr. ended Tim Wilkerson’s race day with a quicker start and a better pass in the opening round. His Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger had mechanical problems even before his second race of the day. Thompson completed his burnout but was disqualified when the car wouldn’t back up for staging.

It’s still a race to the finish in Funny Car: Hagan, Capps and Johnson all have a shot at the Championship.

In Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin Jr. reached the semifinals where Jason Line turned a quicker start into a hole shot win. Coughlin had a clean pass in the quarterfinals, ending Allen Johnson’s race day. Johnson lost traction right at the start and had to shut down when his Dodge Dart moved toward the centerline.

Coughlin was a Dodge-killer today: In addition to Johnson, Coughlin shut down Deric Kramer’s Avenger in the opening round.

Johnson started the day by eliminating Richie Stevens. Stevens was faster out of the gate, but Johnson caught up about 150 feet out and the Team Mopar Dodge Dart arrived at the finish line 0.0059 seconds (≅ 22 inches) ahead of the Blu-Emu Camaro.

V. Gaines was first off the line and hung on for a hole-shot win over Shane Gray in Round One. Gaines’ backup Dodge Avenger tripped the lights 0.0014 seconds, or five inches, ahead of the Gray Manufacturing Camaro. Gaines was on the losing end of an even closer race in the quarterfinals, reaching the finish line 0.0003 seconds or an inch later than Dave Connolly, who went on to win the Pro Stock Wally.

It’s going to be tough to add a Pro Stock Championship to the Dodge mantle: With three races left in the season, Coughlin, Johnson and Gaines need to start winning to have a hope. A few all-Dodge finals would help.

In Top Sportsman, Ryan Kuykendall and his 2008 Stratus made it to the final round where his car developed problems. He lost to Bob Mandell Jr.’s 1955 Bel Air.

Rank Driver Sponsor/Team & Car Points Behind
1 John Force Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang 2344 Leader
2 Courtney Force Traxxas Ford Mustang 2314 -30
3 Matt Hagan Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger 2302 -42
4 Robert Hight Auto Club Ford Mustang 2253 -91
5 Ron Capps NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger 2218 -126
6 Tommy Johnson Jr. Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger 2216 -128
7 Alexis DeJoria Patron XO Cafe Toyota Camry 2196 -148
8 Del Worsham DHL Toyota Camry 2193 -151
9 Tim Wilkerson Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang 2155 -189
10 Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry 2135 -209
Rank Driver Sponsor/Team & Car Points Behind
1 Jason Line Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro 2364 Leader
2 Dave Connolly Charter Chevy Camaro 2338 -26
3 Erica Enders-Stevens Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro 2297 -67
4 Shane Gray Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro 2256 -108
5 Jonathan Gray Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro 2245 -119
6 Vincent Nobile Mountain View Tire Chevy Camaro 2241 -123
7 Jeg Coughlin Jr. Dodge Dart 2231 -133
8 Allen Johnson Team Mopar Dodge Dart 2220 -144
9 V. Gaines Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger 2155 -209
10 Chris McGaha Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevy Camaro 2104 -260

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