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June-November 1997 - Allpar News

November 4

Maker US Sales
Chrysler cars Up 27%
Chrysler noncars Up 17%
Toyota Up 27%
Nissan Down 7%
Kia Up 46%

Most automakers posted large increases in sales, including Chrysler, whose car sales increased more than truck/SUV/minivan sales. Toyota's Sienna sales are up 63%.

The California Air Resources Board has granted exemption certificates of after-market performance parts to Mopar. The first exempt on-road performance parts will be available for Jeeps and Dodge trucks.

October 30

Plant conversion

DaimlerChrysler plans to make both Mercedes and Chrysler models at an existing plant after the merger. They may choose Chrysler's Windsor, Ontario minivan plant, which has had excellent quality indicators after an employee-led quality initiative. Any change is not expected for at least two years.

Extra space will be needed when the Austria Jeep / minivan plant starts building Mercedes SUVs, presumably at the expense of Jeeps and minivans. Neither automaker has extra building capacity.

CEO Bob Eaton also indirectly said CC would not close the Pillette Road plant in Ontario, where Chrysler makes full-size Dodge Ram vans and wagons.

October 29

New diesel for EUrope

CC is jointly developing a 1.9 liter direct injection diesel engine with VM Motori of Italy. It is expected to be added to European Neons in summer 1999. The Jeep/Voyager 2.5 turbodiesel will also be replaced in 2001. Both new diesels are common rail designs.

Minivan gift for ball gift

Chrysler gave a 1999 "Cardinal Red" Town and County Limited minivan to Tim Forneris, the 22-year- old St. Louis Cardinals' grounds keeper who retrieved and returned Mark McGwire's record-breaking 62nd home run ball.

October 12

Chrysler announced record profits of $682 million for the third quarter, a 55 percent increase from last year. They also said incentives would fall by about $100/car.

October 9

James Holden, CC's general manager of minivan operations, said they planned to keep 40 percent of the minivan market. Their loyalty rate of 80 percent may be threatened by new Toyota and Honda vans. However, he did not say what steps the company would take. They currently have most of the under-$20,000 and over-$30,000 market as well as about 38 percent of the in between market.

October 5

Chrysler's September sales increased by 18 percent over last year, with a 22 percent gain in cars (possibly due to LH fleet sales) and a 17 percent gain in non-car vehicles. Toyota's sales increased 43 percent driven by the Camry. Nissan sales fell and Honda sales rose driven by the CR-V.

International Chrysler Corp sales fell 24 percent compared with last year, despite a mild increase in European sales. Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East/Africa sales dropped precipitously.

October 1

Goofy verdict?

Chrysler was ordered to pay $64 million in damages by a Texas jury due to a 1996 accident involving an altered, 20-year-old Dodge pickup. Chrysler attorney Ken Gluckman called the verdict ``a complete abdication of personal responsibility.''

In June, 1996, while traveling at 74 miles per hour (speed limit 55), a driver hit the Dodge Ram, tearing off the left wheel, causing the pickup to flip over several times and land upside down. The pickup caught fire, resulting in the deaths of the drivers. The open bed of the pickup was carrying at least 40 gallons of gasoline stored in World War II-vintage containers. Chrysler claimed that the owner had taken a hammer to the fuel system, and replaced the original gas cap with a 40 year old one that did not fit. The jury held Chrysler 80 percent responsible, and the driver who hit it 20 percent responsible. The owner was not found at all responsible. Gluckman said "The message the jury sent is that you can take a hammer to your fuel system, turn your vehicle into a moving firetrap, and still not be held accountable for your irresponsible actions.''

The hammering of the fuel system had been to widen the opening, and the old gas cap came from a passenger car. There was also a second battery in the engine compartment, which was not secured, and wires to trailer lights which had no fuse. Either could have created sparking to light the fire. Experts for both sides agreed there was no evidence that the fuel tank was punctured during the accident.

September 28

Chrysler President Thomas Stallkamp said that CC would not give up profits to keep its market share (currently 16.2 percent, one point above last year), even if GM starts an incentive war. GM Chair Jack Smith said earlier that he was going to push the company's market share back over 30 percent. GM's earlier loyalty-coupon program led to thousand-dollar incentives by both Chrysler and Ford.

Stallkamp declined to confirm reports the automaker will build a car-based sport utility on the Neon platform to compete against the RAV4 and CR-V.

September 25

Australian car distributor Cycle and Carriage Ltd said on Friday its distributorship of Chrysler products in Australia and New Zealand would not be renewed when its contract expires on December 31, 1998. Chrysler International Corp will take over distribution and assume warranty responsibilities. Chrysler has 1 percent of the Australian passenger car market.

September 23

The US National Highway Transportion Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it is looking into front-end problems on LH sedans and Ford Crown Victoria police cars. They have eight reports of ball joint failures on 1996 Crown Victorias, in some cases causing front end collapse while they were being driven. Last month, the NHTSA said it was investigating 600,000 1996-98 Crown Victorias regarding possibly faulty front seats anchors.

The probe of 1994 Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision, and Chrysler LHS cars regards front-suspension weld problems. There have been six reports of a failure or crack where a lower control arm is connected, causing the suspension to collapse. None of the reports involved injuries.

The NHTSA upgraded an investigation into 1 million 1997-98 Ford F-150 pickups: there have been 49 reports the floor mat on the driver's side may interfere with the accelerator. The NHTSA also upgraded an investigation concerning 50,000 1995-1/2 to 1998 Monte Carlo Z-34 coupes that may have brake problems (71 complaints including four crashes).

September 21

Chrysler Corporation is gone. DaimlerChrysler is here.

September 18

The stockholders are voting today on both sides of the Atlantic. Keep your hopes up even though it looks like Chrysler's about to go down the memory chute. Wonder if the new company will give a #*&$^@# about Chrysler owners and enthusiasts...wish it was BMW rather than Mercedes...

September 9

The 1.4 and 1.6 liter engines being designed with Rover Group will be used in the next-generation export Neons.

1999 models will have a variety of improvements noted here.

September 4

CC's international sales, which are small to begin with, fell this month (compared to last year), and are down 13 percent year-to-date. Asia/Pacific region sales fell 44 percent to 2,309 units, European sales fell 17 percent to 9,058 units, Latin American sales fell 13 percent to 3,930 units, and Middle East/Africa sales dropped 39 percent to 959 units.

CC exported 137,944 vehicles so far this year, compared with 158,550 units at the same time last year.

September 2

CC's sales rose to 186,469 in August, about 3% more than last August. Car sales rose 17%, while light truck sales fell 1.5%. The main cause was the loss of minivan (22%) and Grand Cherokee (41%) sales. The minivans may have been hurt by competition from Toyota, though a CC executive suggested that many sales were made last month due to heavier incentives, rather than this month. Many buyers are probably holding off to buy a 1999 Grand Cherokee, due to a major redesign.

September 1

CC's Mopar Parts Division started work on a 378,550 square foot distribution center in Huron Township, Michigan today. The new Detroit Parts Distribution Center (PDC), which will be in full operation next August, should not be affected. The goal of both new facilities is to reduce the time to get parts to the dealers.

The new facility will be 100,000 square feet larger than the current location in Warren, Michigan. Employee amenities will include training and meeting rooms for quality initiatives, an improved lunch room with atrium style windows, a picnic area, and a locker room. The facility's layout and its mechanized parts handling system were co-designed with employees, according to a CC rep.

Detroit's PDC ships 3,950,000 part orders annually. It stocks about 92,500 different parts. The new Detroit PDC will continue to operate on three shifts, five days weekly. It will be located off I-275 at the South Huron Drive interchange, six miles south of I-94 on Bell Road in Huron Township.

The Detroit PDC is one of 15 regional and four national distribution centers in the Mopar Parts Division distribution network.

August 13

Chrysler Central was featured in an Ottawa Citizen review.

Mack Avenue renovation

CC has spent 3 years and $930 million renovating its Mack Avenue engine facility for the new 4.7 liter V-8, with only the structural steel left. Mack Engine has a new floor, roof, skylights (180 of them!), electrical system, equipment, locker rooms, and fitness center. The renovations allow more sunlight and much lower sound levels.

The plant was set up along Chrysler's Operating System principles, which encourage teamwork, innovation, product and process improvements and sharing of best practices across Chrysler's manufacturing operations. It is designed to increase five key areas: Safety, raising quality, delivering products on time, cutting cost, and creating an environment where people enjoy coming to work.

Formerly known as New Mack, the Mack Engine facility was the original home of the Dodge Viper. In March of 1995, the Viper moved into the former Champion Spark Plug Plant on Conner Avenue in Detroit. Mack Engine employs approximately 450 workers.

A new V-6 engine plant is now being built next to the V-8 facility.

Indiana Transmission Plant

The new Indiana Transmission Plant, just north of Kokomo, will produce the new 45 RFE transmission for the 1999 Grand Cherokee and, later, for other light trucks.

Indiana Transmission implemented a ``single piece parts flow'' to have zero inventory after initial launch. Raw materials enter the plant at a logical starting point, make their way through the line and come out the other end ready for packaging and shipping.

The plant has also introduced several new processes which will increase machine tooling up-time to 85 percent -- an industry benchmark for machine tooling operations. These processes include automatic broken tool detection equipment, which uses a computer program to stop the line automatically to locate a deficient or broken tool, and the use of Andon Boards throughout the plant. These large overhead displays are placed throughout the facility and provide immediate feedback of the plant's performance.

Indiana Transmission has a plant-wide predictive maintenance program, which is monitored by computer so maintenance can be performed before breakdowns.

Training on computer skills, job-specific and technical skills and quality skills such as statistical control were priorities. All plant personnel are trained to operate the computerized performance feedback system and factory information system.

Indiana Transmission will comply with the ISO quality standard QS-9002 by the end of the year, according to CC.

First-year capacity will 260,000 transmissions, with future annual capacity of 800,000 units. Present employment for the new plant is 500, with an opportunity for 1,500 at full production. Chrysler's total investment is $1 billion.

August 7

Telxon announced that its wireless pen-based computers are helping Chrysler to fight defects at the Grand Cherokee plant. Telxon computers send real-time information from anywhere in the manufacturing and test environment to catch assembly line defects before the problem becomes widespread.

The computers will be used in many places, including the test track next to the plant, which simulates actual road conditions. When the test driver notices a defect, he stops the car, identifies it, and touches the part of the vehicle on the mobile computer screen. The information is sent to the mainframe where others work on it. If a problem persists on other vehicles, technicians check the assembly line to find and fix the root cause. CC international sales outside North America were down 18% for July, with 17,503 units sold compared to 21,259 units sold one year ago. Europe was up 2%, but all other regions reported decreases: Latin America down 14%, Asia/Pacific down 46%, and Middle East/Africa down 47%. International sales year-to-date are down 11% from 1997.

August 5

CC has purchased Digital Manufacturing software from Deneb Robotics, Inc to support their digital manufacturing process. These simulation tools will be used to cut launch times, and work with tooling and component suppliers from early in the vehicle development cycle. Use of Deneb's software has already begun at Progressive Tool & Industries. CC and tooling suppliers now use several programs to validate production concepts, develop tooling, fixtures and workcell designs, design and validate human interfaces, develop and validate robot programs and PLC programs, and validate the plant floor layout, material handling equipment and material flow.

The software includes libraries of robots, common production equipment, and tooling such as clamp fixtures, weld guns, and painting.

CC's car sales continued to fall in July (compared to July 1997), but truck sales increased enough to provide a total 3% sales boost over last July.

July 30

Mopar Performance has created a Neon-powered 175-inch F/dragster to compete in the Competition Eliminator class. Powered by a stock 2.0 liter block and heads, it puts out over 300 hp. Last year, Neon racers earned six championships and racked up more than 300 podium finishes in 219 events.

July 29

CC will try to refine interiors by using a leading edge interior trim development and assembly system. The new Chrysler Interior Craftsmanship Center, in Auburn Hills, Mich., will coordinate, track, evaluate and approve all interior components on Chrysler vehicles. It will integrate processes to improve and enhance the finish, texture and color match of all materials used inside Chrysler vehicles. Each evaluation room at the center is fitted with fixtures that provide lighting that duplicates dawn, midday and dusk conditions. CC is the first automaker with such a center. The Center's work will be seen in the next generation of vehicles.

July 28

  • CC has broken ground for a 1.1-million square-foot Jeep manufacturing facility in Toledo to produce Jeep sport utility vehicles for worldwide sale, beginning in 2001. The city is putting up $35 million, partly to cover relocation of 16 businesses, as well as $50 million in ten years of tax abatements. The $1.2 billion plant is next to the current Toledo Jeep plant.

July 17

Following a $750 million expansion, production of the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee began this week at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit. When the plant opened in 1992, it could produce 170,000 vehicles per year. Now, it can reach nearly 350,000, with three shifts. The expansion took place while the plant was active, and included the creation of an area where major assembly processes and equipment could be tested before new models were launched, increasing quality and reducing production glitches. This also helped to reduce the plant's changeover time from 16 to 3 weeks. The expansion was also designed to increase quality and flexibility.

July 10

CC reached an agreement to sell vehicles in Japan through a major independent Toyota dealer, following the recent breakup of CC's relationship with Honda. Through June, 1998 sales were about half of the previous year's sales (for the same time period) at 4,706 vehicles. Hakodate Toyopet, the dealer, will create a new venture, Hakodate Chrysler, and open a sales/service facility in September. The facility will be on Japan's main island, Hokkaido.

July 9

CC launched its new 45RFE rear-wheel-drive transmission today. Along with the 4.7 liter V-8, it will power the 1999 Grand Cherokee and, later, Ram trucks.

July 7

CC opened a $315 million pickup plant in Southern Brazil. The plant will produce at most 40,000 Dakotas per year. The new plant will be the only one producing a diesel Dakota, which may be exported across the world. Initial plans are for 2.5 and 3.9 liter gasoline engines and the 2.5-liter four-cylinder diesel. The 2.5 is based on an old AMC design, the 3.9 on the LA engine series.

July 2

Chrysler sales rose 10.5 percent. Car sales were up 3.2 percent, while light truck sales increased 14.1 percent. Monthly sales records were set by the Concorde, Breeze, Stratus, Ram, and Dakota.

Chrysler's incentives were about $1,500 per vehicle, Ford's about $1,300 per vehicle.

June 30

Dodge will build 100 street legal 1998 GT2 Championship Edition Vipers with 10 extra hp and 10 extra lb-ft of torque. 18 inch Michelin MXX3 tires will be included. A dash plaque will include the VIN. The interior will come with the five-point restraint system used by Viper Team ORECA. The MSRP will be $85,200.

CC will open a new stamping plant on Thursday near Saltillo, Mexico.

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