Shortly after we wrote that the 2011-2016 Dodge Charger was being recalled to hand out wheel chocks, several Chrysler 300 owners contacted us and asked if their cars were included as well.
The Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger share a many features, including the chassis and undercarriage layout. They should have a similar pinch-weld design holding the unibody together and the same emergency scissor jack, with similar weight distribution, so all of the factors which can cause the Charger to fall from the jack are present with the 300.
We reached out to Chrysler to find out whether or not 300 owners would also get wheel chocks. However, the folks at Chrysler HQ told us that the Chrysler 300 is not subject to the same slippage, because the body structure is slightly different. 300 operators are still urged to read the manual and understand how and where to jack up the car, but the luxurious sedan will not be recalled to get free wheel chocks.
This recall is a call to arms; it is worth spending a few minutes to read the owner’s manual or the plasticized instruction sheet in the trunk, to remind themselves how to jack up their car in the case of a wheel-change emergency. Many unibody vehicles have a damaged pinch weld area, the edge where the jack usually goes; that increases the chance of the car sliding off of the jack. Before changing the tire, it’s generally worth a thorough read-through of the manual (or the jack instructions in the trunk), to avoid expensive problems and also to make it easier to get the jack assembly apart.
As for 2011-2016 Dodge Charger owners, the “fix” is literally as quick as having a technician place wheel chocks into the trunk.
Chrysler has released photos of the new Alloy Editions of the 2016 Chrysler 200S and 300S. They use dark bronze and titanium finishes in select places. (The words “bronze” and “titanium” refer to the finish; to our knowledge, they are not using actual bronze or titanium. Bronze is an alloy, while titanium is an element.)
The new cars will debut at the Chicago Auto Show next week, explaining the Chrysler presentation. The cars will list for $27,680 and $36,960 including destination.
The new finishes contrast with the S models’ generally blacked-out appearance. The 200S uses a dark bronze colored rear badge and wheels (which are aluminum, not bronze); and “titanium” touches on the wing badge and exhaust tips. Paint colors will be gloss black, black forest green, red pearl, gray metallic, and white. The interior includes titanium-color accents. Buyers can get a Mopar package with a chin spoiler, taller side sills, and a rear valance with side sill extensions.
The Chrysler 300S Alloy Edition has two grilles, one in dark bronze and on in glossy black with a titanium-finish badge. The lower grille opening is surrounded by a dark bronze bezel. As with the 200S, the rear badge and wheels are also dark bronze, with titanium exhaust tips and wing badge. Colors are the same as with the 200S and interior treatments are similar.
Both cars are available in all wheel drive.
According to a photo posted to the Facebook “Grand Cherokee SRT8 and Trackhawk” group, this is a photo of a 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT being produced.
The image appeared on January 30, and shows the characteristic red Brembo brakes, with what appears to be a new front fascia. A Hellcat SRT is rumored for the 2017 model year, at which point the long-delayed Trackhawk name will presumably finally be used.
FCA US will air two commercials during Super Bowl 50, one after the halftime performance, and the other during the first break of the fourth quarter. The company has not released any information on which brands will be shown, but sneak peeks tend to proliferate in the days leading up to the game.
The “sport” versions of the 2016 Chrysler cars, the 200S and 300S, have a new option: Alloy Editions, using dark bronze and titanium (describing the finishes; the parts do not use bronze or titanium). Photos have not been released.
German supplier Continental’s occupant restraint controllers, which affect airbags and other systems, are being recalled on various brands, including Dodge and Chrysler. Over 100,000 2009 Dodge Journeys and 2008-2009 minivans are affected.
Two incidents have been investigated, revealing that moisture can get into the system and cause the airbags to deploy or the warning lights to go on (the latter is most likely). There have been seven possibly-related minor injuries and no accidents, so far. Recall notices will be sent when parts and procedures are ready.
Half a million 2011-16 Dodge Chargers are in the wild, and there have been three cases where customers changing a tire failed to follow the instructions, which tell them to chock the opposite-side tire.
As Automotive News’ Larry Vellequette pointed out, in a sharply worded story, Dodge responded by recalling the car to give all customers free wheel chocks. These are simple wedges which can, as Mr. Vellequette wrote, be replaced by bricks, hunks of wood, rocks, or other properly shaped, large-enough items at hand — as they have been since pressurized tires were first used.
Jeep made its long-awaited return to India at the New Delhi Auto Expo today. In mid-2016, Jeep will launch its Wrangler Unlimited, Grand Cherokee, and Grand Cherokee SRT.
Over half a century ago, Willys licensed the Jeep design to a local company, and Mahindra continues to make light 4x4s that have evolved separately from the Jeep mainstream.
India is the fifth largest auto market in the world. Fiat and Chrysler were both popular in the country, through licensed designs, but Fiat Chrysler now has only a toe-hold on the market.
FCA is investing around $280 million into a joint venture with Tata Motors, the owner of Jaguar Land Rover, to create a plant in Ranjangaon. Local production of “a new Jeep” (possibly the Compass replacement) is expected in 2017; in the meantime, higher-end models, with both diesel and gasoline engines, will be imported.
The original product plan for India (shown above with the FCA executive in charge) was more aggressive, and would have had the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee already on sale, with local production of the latter as well as the Compass replacement already in place. Dodge and Chrysler would likely not be popular enough in India for large scale distribution, and only a small subset of the Fiat lineup is planned.
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne recently said that the replacements for the current Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 would be created and built by “partners:”
So there will be a number of things that will be put in place in the next 18 months, things that have been agreed and detailed, that will effectively withdraw the current Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart from the marketplace over an prolonged period of time during which we will be continuing discussions with potential partners that will be able to allow us to access that architecture and effectively provide us the product from their facilities that will allow us to continue to cover the market.
When the new UAW contract showed factory changes, FCA showed that it wanted to end passenger car production in the U.S. Most believed at the time that car production would be moved to Mexico.
The main benefit of dropping the relatively unsuccessful car lines is not paying for the engineering of their replacements, while being able to increase production of crossovers, pickups, and utilities. Both moves allow the company to pay off its debt faster, to prepare for the next recession and reduce its overhead costs.
Refitting an assembly plant is cheaper than building a new one, and the Wrangler and Warren Truck plants are already running flat-out; and either building fresh or buying an old plant, such as the Diamond Star facility, carries long-term obligations that FCA could regret in the future.
Mr. Marchionne was trained as an accountant, and he knows where the money is: “There has been, in our view, a permanent shift towards UVs and pickup trucks.”
Marchionne said that FCA would not be driven by volume. Instead, the driving force will be margin. Trucks and crossovers have it; cars don’t.
One danger in Mr. Marchionne’s assumptions is the belief that oil prices will remain low over the next three years. The history of average retail gasoline prices since President Clinton signed the Commodities Modernization Act of 2000 shows that three-year assumptions on oil prices may involve some pain. The chart below, showing average U.S. retail gasoline costs (regular) into three-year segments, shows how volatile prices can be. There is now a glut, but it takes little to trigger a panic.
On the other hand, FCA’s light truck sales have not been as sensitive to fuel prices as they once were, and crossovers have become far more capable of high gas mileage. Indeed, crossovers and trucks may be easier for FCA to fit with their new standardized hybrid and electric powertrain systems, increasing their economy.
The revised 2018 plan lets FCA pare down debt more quickly. It’s a plan guaranteed to make a capital junkie happy.
The worldwide debut of the next Jeep Compass — which officially is still referred to as the “Jeep C segment SUV” — will be revealed in Geneva in early March, before it appears at the New York Auto Show, according to a recent release from FCA.
It is unlikely that Jeep will unveil its crossover in both places at once, since that would mean a rare public-days unveiling. In any case, this model is more likely to be a hot item in Europe than the US.
Most observers believe that the next Compass, whatever it’s called, will use the same basics as the Jeep Renegade, and that will likely extend to the engine and transmission choices, which are much more varied outside of North America.
Reliable source oh2o wrote that production of the current Compass and Patriot would stop at the end of the year; conceivably, Jeep could end the Compass earlier and keep the Patriot going. If FCA chose to make the Compass on the same line as the Renegade and export it from Italy to the US, the delay would likely be necessary: the company would need time to get a its shiploads of cars across the ocean to the Americas.
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said that he would be looking for “potential partners that will be able to allow us to access that architecture and effectively provide us the product from their facilities that will allow us to continue to cover the market” as the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart reach the end of their lives.
As a partner, Mitsubishi comes to mind first. The Japanese automaker has a long history of collaboration with Chrysler; and FCA is the sole distributor for Mitsubishi in Mexico. The Dodge Attitude is a rebadged Mitsubishi Mirage (shades of the Colt). The Mirage is already sold in the U.S., so it would simply be a matter of some sheet metal and badges. Unfortunately, the Mirage sold here is uninspiring though inexpensive. The Lancer which is in the Dart’s price range, but isn’t competitive and Mitsu sold fewer than 18,000 Lancers in the U.S. last year.
FCA could build on the collaboration that produced the Fiat 124 and source one of Mazda’s sedans with the well-regarded SkyActiv engines. The Mazda2 never caught on, but the same car in Scion iA form sells better, so the issue is likely the badging and not the car.
Current FCA partner (mostly as a major buyer of engines) Suzuki is mainly known for their little Kei cars. The Kizashi is generally well regarded; the larger Ciaz (shown above), is built in India and China. Buick and Volvo have shown that many customers don’t care if their car comes from China, but there might be some issues in federalizing the Ciaz.
One European company would love to get a chance in the U.S: PSA (Peugeot/Citroën) has several good candidates, including the 301 pictured above. Fiat has collaborated with PSA before, so it is possible a match could be made. (PSA includes the former Chrysler Europe.)
Chrysler and/or Dodge have a large, well-established dealer network and parts distribution, which brings a good opportunity for incremental sales in the world’s second-largest vehicle market, especially for brands that have already failed here.
“Potential partners” doesn’t absolutely rule out the other side of the house. Marchionne didn’t say anything about the Fiat Aegea/Tipo that’s built in the Tofas plant in Turkey.
With any of these cars, it appears that Sergio Marchionne wants all engineering and manufacturing to be done by the partner, so Auburn Hills can focus on minivans, crossovers, SUVs, large cars, and pickups.
Critics have slammed FCA for having the worst carbon dioxide emissions of any major automaker selling in the United States. The company has, as Allpar predicted, been working on the problem.
A chart in the current presentation not only shows how the company will attack the problem with its three worst problems — the highly popular but also non-compliant Jeep Wrangler, Ram 1500, and minivans. Mr. Marchionne said that over half the fleet would have hybrid options “relatively quickly.”
FCA’s projects show that all three of these vehicles will be brought below 2015 requirements in the next generation, though the next Wrangler, Pacifica, and Ram 1500 still will not meet 2018 requirements without new options. Among other changes, the company will cut weight by using “high strength steels and alternative materials;” use active aerodynamic systems; and continue existing technologies.
The chart clearly shows that the next Wrangler Unlimited will have a mild hybrid option, as well as “next gen powertrains” (possibly a brand new diesel and the upgraded Pentastar, perhaps with a turbocharged four cylinder base engine). The Ram 1500 will have an optional mild hybrid and “next generation powertrains.”
Mr. Marchionne added that the direction of regulatory change in gas mileage and carbon dioxide emissions was inevitable and “needed,” but that the timetable could be changed to save the industry a great deal of capital.
FCA does not split former-Chrysler from former-Fiat market share in its presentations, but it is worth looking at how the company is doing around the world.
Canada has the highest market share for Mopars, now at 14.8 for the year, down by 0.1 from last year. In the US, market share has risen from 12.8 in 2014 to 13.1 this year.
Fiat is at 28.2% in Italy and 5.9% in Europe (for light commercial vehicles, 10.5% in Europe). In Australia, the company has dropped from 4.2% to 2.1%; in China, the company has dropped slightly from 0.9% to 0.7%.
Mr. Marchionne said that the Dart would continue for a while, but that new partners may “provide product from their facilities” afterwards. He named both the Dart and the 200 as “running their course” while customer preferences shift to crossovers, SUVs, and trucks, in the face of low gasoline prices.
Mitsubishi seems likely to return to Chrysler badging within the United States, based on Mr. Marchionne’s use of the term ”our partners.” FCA is the distributor for Mitsubishi in Mexico.
The FCA CEO’s words seem to indicate that both the Dart and 200 will eventually be dropped and replaced by cars supplied by another manufacturer, bearing Chrysler badging. The Chrysler 100, a planned compact car, is unlikely to appear with the CEO’s stated shift of resources away from cars.
Also see who the potential partners might be, and a long-term perspective on the shift to crossovers.
FCA, having seen larger than expected sales in the US and North America has a whole, is planning to allow sales levels to fall naturally, along with the industry. This is likely being done to maintain profitability, and allow for a graceful break of the company’s long run of sales increases.
With FCA US changing which factories product various vehicles, maintaining sales growth would likely result in high incentives on less-popular vehicles. The advance warning to analysts warns them that sales may fall, while remaining at or above the May 2014 plan levels.
Update: One reason for letting sales slide down to planned levels is to avoid “unrealistic pricing expectations.”
New four-cylinder engines for all of Fiat Chrysler may be launched in 2016, according to the current investor presentation.
Under “efficiency improvements,” the company’s first listing was “new global small and medium engine architectures,” dated 2016.
The Hurricane turbocharged four cylinder engine is said to have been delayed, and few have been willing to come out and say whether it is a completely new design or a stopgap World Gas Engine derivative. It was not specifically mentioned in the presentation.
Previously noted 48-volt electrical systems are listed as being due in 2018; these are to be used across the board in any car given a hybrid powertrain option (e.g., in the Pacifica, it would be used on the gasoline engine as well as the hybrid). Going to the new standard would cut losses due to voltage drop, reducing the load on the alternator.
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