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Chrysler buys test track, mulls 300C diesel

Larry Vellequette reported in Automotive News that Chrysler has purchased 531 acres of testing center near Naples, Florida, to expand vehicle testing. The facility will be especially useful in winter, along with its Yucca, Arizona facility.

Chrysler was one of the first automakers to create an extensive testing facility in Chelsea, Michigan, a fairly good distance away from its headquarters in Highland Park (later moved to Auburn Hills). The track, which is was created by Ford, was sold to Harley-Davidson in 2002; the motorcycle company will still be leasing parts of the testing center.

An anonymous source added:

Chrysler built an excellent hot-weather proving grounds in Whitman, AZ in 1986. It had a 10 mile perimeter washboard road, with 4 mile oval, 2 mile oval, 2 mile straightaway, a duplicate of the Rubicon trail, a grade hill, and numerous ride-roads. There was a large, modern office building and garage/warehouse. Daimler sold it all for $440 million, the largest land sale in AZ history. You can bet that money quickly went to Germany to prop-up some failing European operation. Loose German accounting laws mean we’ll never know for sure. They then leased the land back from Toll Brothers Homes at a ridiculous rate. On my most recent trip to Phoenix last year, the old Chrysler proving grounds sat like a ghost town in the far-flung desert. You could probably go in, rinse the dust off, flip the breakers, and start testing cars within the week.

One of the first things Cerberus did was get out of that lease and take over the old Ford facility in Yucca, AZ. However, most of the employees were less-than-thrilled.

In other news, Autoblog reported that Chrysler chief Saad Chebad said the company was evaluating the idea of selling a 3-liter VM diesel version of the 300C in North America. The car is already sold in Europe, and the diesel engine conforms to American emissions laws; the main expense would presumably be certification and crash-testing of the car as a whole, since the engine is already used by Chrysler in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and will soon be in the Ram 1500.

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