Star gets best “uncovered minivan” pics

October 8, 2015 - by David Zatz

The Windsor Star, a newspaper in the city that builds all Chrysler minivans, has gotten the best spy shot of the upcoming Chrysler minivan so far.  The overhead shot of a parking lot shows two minivans that have been well shrouded, and a third whose covering is either falling off or not yet in place.

The shot shows a 200-influenced front end, with dimensions that seem similar to current minivans, though with perhaps a more “drooping” back roof than current models have. It appears that the front was designed with aerodynamics as a primary concern, as opposed to the current large-grille models.

The new van is to have a nine-speed automatic and 3.6 liter gasoline engine when sold in North America. (...) →

FCA returning to single wage?

October 8, 2015 - by David Zatz

Bloomberg News has reported that the new FCA-UAW contract would raise “second tier” (2009 and newer) employees’ salaries up to $29 per hour, up from the original $25 per hour deal, bringing them extremely close to senior workers’ pay — after eight years. The deal would still have no cap for the “Tier 2” (lower pay) workers.

Because the company had been cut so deeply under Daimler and then Cerberus, and has grown so much since, FCA US has more “Tier 2” employees than GM or Ford — 45% of the hourly workforce is on the lower pay schedule.

The UAW brought FCA back to the negotiations with the threat of a strike, which would have started tomorrow, throughout the FCA US factory network (though possibly not at every site). (...) →

Minivan camo slip

October 8, 2015 - by David Zatz

There seem to be dozens of pilot 2017 Chrysler Town & Country minivans driving around metro Detroit, but this is the first we’ve seen whose camouflage has slipped, just a little.

The 2017 minivans are expected to be produced starting relatively early in 2016, after an apparently longer than usual testing period. While they are based on the compact-aimed CUSW platform, they are both wider and longer than any CUSW to date, and reportedly will maintain the long-time four-foot-by-eight-foot cargo space.

Sergio Marchionne has reiterated that the minivans will bring back all wheel drive, and have a hybrid variant. After production of minivan hybrids begins, other vehicles are expected to gain hybrid-electric engines, bringing FCA at long last into the hybrid world “for real,” after a brief effort with GM and BMW using the body-on-frame Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen. (...) →

Fiat Toro in Michigan?

October 8, 2015 - by David Zatz

A heavily disguised truck that appears to be a Fiat Toro is being tested on the streets around Auburn Hills. It has a four-door cab and a well-camouflaged, very short pickup bed. Pilots are already being built in Brazil.

The Toro will reportedly have a split tailgate, rather than a dropdown (though it may use a design patented by FCA US which allows for both uses).  Inside reports claim it is SUSW based, along with Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, and Chrysler 100. It will likely have a choice between the Brazilian 1.8 liter four-cylinder, a descendent of the Neon engine, a Tigershark 2.4, and a Fiat four-cylinder diesel. (...) →

Electric supercharger + turbocharger = future Dodge?

October 8, 2015 - by David Zatz

Steven St. Laurent pointed out a recent FCA US patent which covers a combination of an electric supercharger and a turbocharger. The engine computer monitors the performance of both units (along with the usual sensors) to optimize power delivery.

The idea behind the system is to increase ready power at any moment — avoiding turbo lag — without an ordinary supercharger’s parasitic losses at times when full power is not needed.

While there is likely no engine coming out in the immediate future with this setup, it may be a sign of things to come. The Hemi is reportedly due to leave passenger cars around calendar-year 2019, replaced by a powerful Chrysler V6, and this could be a way to get 400 horsepower out of that engine. (...) →

FCA, UAW averted strike on the deadline day

October 8, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

FCA US and the United Auto Workers have reached a second agreement on a new contract, as the clock was ticking down the final minutes to a midnight strike deadline.

UAW President Dennis Willaims wrote:

We heard from our members, and went back to FCA to strengthen their contract. We’ve reached a proposed Tentative Agreement that I believe addresses our members’ principal concerns about their jobs and their futures. We have made real gains…

Details of the new “Proposed Tentative Agreement” will not be released until it is approved by the UAW’s National Chrysler Council at a meeting scheduled for Friday morning at 11 am. (...) →

Is innovative airdam for Trackhawk?

October 7, 2015 - by David Zatz

Earlier, Allpar reported on a new air dam invented by Mark E. DeAngelis for Fiat Chrysler, whose openings that can be opened or closed by the engine computer. The example in the patent is that of a pickup truck, but Lee Wayne Ryder pointed out that it might be more important in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.

One of the major issues of the Hellcat series is cooling — unlike competitors, such as the Corvette Z06 and Shelby Super Snake, the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats were engineered to maintain power for multiple track events, which requires heavy duty cooling.

Other automakers use air dams that move up and down, but these can cause road clearance issues — a no-go on a Jeep, even a Trackhawk — or can limit air going under the hood.   (...) →

Automated air dam coming to 2018 Rams?

October 7, 2015 - by David Zatz

Mark E. DeAngelis has patented an air dam with openings that can be opened or closed, on behalf of FCA. Normally one might assume this is for a Viper ACR, but the illustration and example in the patent is that of a pickup truck — not that using a pickup as an example means it will be used on a pickup.

Other automakers already use air dams that move up or down, depending on speed. However, these can cause road clearance issues or can limit air going under the hood. The air dam with openings that can be closed would be similar to grille shutters in that it could be flexible in how much air comes through, without causing other problems. (...) →

Former AMC/Jeep/Dodge Truck headquarters for sale, $500

October 7, 2015 - by David Zatz

Detroit News reported that the former headquarters of American Motors (AMC), later referred to as “Plymouth Road Office Complex” and used by Jeep/Truck Engineering, is being auctioned by Wayne County, with bidding set to start at $500 — plus the tax bill.

The 1927 facility, still beautiful on the outside but badly damaged inside from its former owner, has 1.4 million square feet of interior space. Cerberus closed down the one-time Kelvinator plant in 2009, moving a thousand employees to the CTC.

The tax bill for the summer alone was $160,631, due when the property is won. It is the county’s largest auction.  If “PROC” is not won by a legitimate bidder, it will be given to the city and may, though this is unlikely, become part of the “land bank,” with the existing structures demolished. (...) →

The showdown is on: behind the strike notice

October 7, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

FCA US employee relations VP Glenn Shagena was probably expecting the letter he received from United Auto Workers (UAW) vice-president Norwood Jewell yesterday.

By a 65%-35% margin, the union members rejected Jewell’s contract with FCA. Next, the union made its challenge.

Anyone who is surprised it has come to this hasn’t been paying attention.

UAW president Dennis Williams is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Due to recent legislation, union members in Michigan are free to leave the union. Up to now, UAW leaders have focused on attracting new members; now they have to work to keep the ones they have.

Williams is already in some trouble. (...) →

More serious parking security

October 7, 2015 - by David Zatz

Many people never use their parking / emergency brakes, which can put a great deal of pressure on the little parking pawl, a part of the automatic transmission which holds all three to five thousand pounds of a modern car, truck, or SUV.

One approach to the problem is using electrically operated, electronically controlled, automatic parking brakes (a control for one is shown on the right).

Electric parking brakes work automatically, so people who don’t normally use the parking brakes have no choice.

They also fix the problem of owners who don’t apply the brake enough to actually stop the car from moving (especially with hand-operated parking brakes, and any manually adjusted parking brakes that are neglected by owners and dealers alike). (...) →

Spotlight on Canada

October 7, 2015 - by David Zatz

Canadian sales are not simply American sales times 0.1; the country has different tastes, and tends to buy different cars. As one example, the Dodge Caravan used to be the nation’s top seller.

Within FCA — Canada’s #1 automaker despite a less than ideal September — Ram is currently the best selling brand, driven by the pickups (72,144 year to date), followed by Dodge, with 65,809 sales, then by Jeep with 60,573.  In both countries Chrysler is a fairly small seller, in Canada trading 19,825 cars and vans — with the 200 being the top seller (up 14%) followed by Town & Country (down 6%) and 300 (down 1%). (...) →

2016 500X is “Top Safety Pick Plus”

October 6, 2015 - by David Zatz

The little 2016 Fiat 500X, which rolls down the same assembly line as the Jeep Renegade, has been chosen as a 2015 Top Safety Pick by the privately-run Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The IIHS runs five major tests: side impact with a large SUV or pickup truck, a moderate-offset and small-offset front impact, a roof-crush to simulate rollover, and a rear collision to measure whiplash. The 500X had the highest possible score in each test.

The optional forward collision warning, updated to hit the brakes as well as sounding alerts, is required for the “plus” rating. In 500X, it uses both a camera and radar.   (...) →

Jay Leno, Tim Allen to race Hellcats on CNBC

October 6, 2015 - by David Zatz

CNBC will host “Jay Leno’s Garage,” starting this Wednesday, October 7, at 10PM ET/PT, the first of an eight-episode, hour-long series. The first episode will feature Mr. Leno and Tim Allen racing (and generally having fun with) 707-horsepower, Hellcat-powered Dodges.

Jay Leno was the host of the Tonight Show for many years; Jay Leno’s garage “covers all things automotive including classic cars, super cars, restoration projects, road tests, investments and the inner workings of the car collectors’ market.”

The format has Mr. Leno going around the country to find “radical rides” and the stories behind them.  The series will include Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Francis Ford Coppola, pitcher C.J. (...) →

UAW may strike (updated)

October 6, 2015 - by David Zatz

The UAW has notified FCA US that it will consider its current contract to be void as of 11:59 pm on October 7.  The contract has already expired, as of September 30, but was extended by both parties for negotiation. The strike may cover the entire company, or just strategic plants; Automotive News suggested that the Indiana transmission and casting plants may be targeted.

This would shut down the most profitable vehicles while leaving other workers either working or eligible for unemployment insurance rather than drawing on the strike fund.

Update: Strike notices have now appeared in other plants, according to our sources, and it may affect all American plants.  (...) →

Clear-but-camouflaged 2017/18 minivan spy shots

October 6, 2015 - by David Zatz

The upcoming Chrysler minivan has been caught again, this time by “mopar22,” as the Windsor plant allegedly has been making pilots in preparation for full production.

These photos are unusually good, especially given that they were shot at night, and likely yield more details than many of the past “spy shots.”

Chrysler is likely to spend extra time testing their minivans, especially after the early Cherokee debacles, which have reportedly been resolved for the 2016 model year.

(...) →

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. (...) →

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