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by David Zatz
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Ralph Gilles implied that the Dodge version of the Grand Cherokee is set to launch in the Fall as a 2011; it is a crossover with an undetermined name (rumors have it pegged as the Durango), but as rumors say, it's on a stretched Grand Cherokee platform with three rows of seats. Gilles talked about repackaging the Caliber and Nitro to make them more appealing and affordable; they took some options from expensive packages and made them standard or optional, such as the 4.0L V6 and 20 inch wheels becoming standard on the Nitro.
The 2011 Grand Cherokee is not at the show (though we spotted one in the Chrysler Museum parking lot, devoid of any camouflage), because the company wants to sell its current cars, not vehicles that won't be sold for months. Sergio Marchionne has made it very clear that they will no longer be introducing cars long, long, long before launch.
Gilles also talked about the 3.6L Pentastar V6 breathing some life into some models like the Avenger; he said the Avenger is being reworked from the ground up to improve ride and handling as well, and that the restyled Charger is going to be just stunning. Gilles credited increased expenditures on advertising for the jump in car sales. The Caliber is going to be available soon, now that it's been upgraded.
Chrysler's display at the show included their new line of engines; one surprise was the high output of the 1.4 liter Fiat powerplant, which pumps out 170 horsepower, about the same as Chrysler's 1980s 2.2 Turbo II (170 hp @ 6,750 rpm and 170 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm). That's not far off the revised 2.4 liter World Engine, which is estimated at 190 horsepower (190 hp @ 6,000 rpm and an 175 lb-ft @4,200 rpm - estimated). While Chrysler could drop the 1.8 and 2.0 liter World Engines, whose roles are essentially duplicated by the turbo-1.4, at least one of those powerplants is likely to remain due to their lower cost and use of regular fuel.
The 2.4 liter World Engine, when turbocharged without MultiAir, pumped out 280 hp in the Dodge Caliber SRT4; insiders said at the time that it could easily surpass 300 horsepower.
Conspicuously absent from the displays was the Hemi, though it might be because they were trying to de-emphasize it in front of the government officials, or because it isn't new or about to be revised.
The interiors of the various Chrysler Group vehicles have been showing up with new fabrics, with one commentator noting that it's easy and cheap to change fabrics, but expensive to change sheet metal.
The Toledo Blade interviewed several Chrysler reps. Sergio Marchionne said he would shut down factories when there were not enough orders to keep them open, and said the first half of 2009 was full of artificially inflated sales which will make comparisons misleading; he added that the toughest stretch would be getting to the end of 2010, when the Jeep Grand Cherokee would appear in quantity. Ralph Gilles said that taking popular items such as the 4 liter engine and 20 inch wheels on the Dodge Nitro and making them standard would lead to higher sales, and indeed the Nitro saw a surprising uptick in dealer orders. Planners believe that around half of Chrysler's vehicles will eventually come from the same C and D platforms, so that the flexible Toledo plant might end up building Libertys and a variety of Dodge and Chrysler cars and crossovers.
On the way to the show, we drove past the Chrysler Sterling Heights and Warren plants; the large DaimlerChrysler signs have been replaced at long last. The new signs are small and have the new Chrysler logo. Auxiliary signs have also been replaced, consigning DaimlerChrysler to the dustbin, an important symbolic move.
The signs sometimes don't fit their posts properly (in the photo, you can see the wood backing of the other side of the sign); but once the company's fortunes turn around, there will presumably be money for better signs.
GOING TO THE AUTO SHOW: Cobo Hall is a friendly arena, all on one floor, well maintained with convenient rest rooms on each floor; many of the manufacturers pull out all the stops. Parking is in the basement, on the roof, across the street, and down/under the street, with a standard $10 price. The neighborhood has improved by leaps and bounds over the years. The hall itself had fairly good lighting and wide aisles, and has just undergone a hefty improvement.
If you live in the area, go to the auto show. It's one of the grandest shows in the country.
Chrysler's displays at the Detroit Auto Show show one large organization with multiple brands; massive and clean-looking walls each display one brand; the new Dodge logo, essentially the word “Dodge” in its own typography with two stripes, made its debut here. Smack in the middle is the Fiat-Ferrari-Maserati display.
Journalists seem to love expensive-looking models around the cars, which was a traditional once reserved for the high end luxury cars; now, each Chrysler brand has one featured vehicle out in front, with its own model, and the others are lined up behind. The models attract the journalists and photographers.
Sergio Marchionne took several people on tours, including Transportation Secretary LaHood, House Speaker Pelosi, Michigan Governor Granholm, and former Chrysler CEO, current Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche.
Dan Knott, who was promoted up from SRT to become head of procurement, showed up and posted with a Viper.
The Jeep Liberty Renegade apparently has no special off-road powers; one person said they wanted to make it more off road capable but they ran out of time. It is a neat package though...
Subaru's new concept is neat, but doesn't look practical for production.
Essentially unannounced is the Chrysler concept, the Lancia Delta with Chrysler grille. Sitting out front on a turntable with a model, the Chrysler concept could easily be mistaken for the Delta, except for the grille; it bears a remarkable resemblance to the photochop by Allpar member S. Weigel, though with a much smaller grille — as though they wanted to change as little as possible.
The Fiat 500 is here in three forms, as expected — standard, Abarth, and electrified, the latter engineered entirely by Chrysler, according to the PR men. Overall, the Chrysler sections are far higher profile than in the past, and in the game of psychological warfare with the lingering stench of bankruptcy, the expenditures are well worth the cost; they show a hopeful, optimistic Chrysler, up on its game.
The following photos are from Marc Rozman.
The 300C S60 and S80 are here. The 2010 Chrysler 300 S6 (3.5-liter V-6 engine) and 300 S8 (HEMI® V-8 engine) add a serious, low-key look to the Chrysler 300. The 300 S6 and 300 S8 models trade-in their full-chromed grilles and fascia accents for blacked-out grilles with chromed surround and body-color fascia accents. New darkened headlamp bezels keep up the low-key look, while cleanly “shaved” doors with body-color mirrors and large 20-inch polished-face wheels, with painted pockets, hint at the 300 S6 and 300 S8’s handling potential. Chromed door handles, belt molding and daylight opening surrounds foreshadow the luxurious appointments within the vehicle. The 2010 Chrysler 300 S6 and 300 S8 will arrive at Chrysler dealerships in the spring of 2010.
A group of government officials, including Nancy Pelosi, toured the show to see how the government's investment of billions of dollars in automakers and alternative energy was turning out. At the Chrysler stand, CEO Sergio Marchionne led the delegation, showing Chrysler, Ferrari, and Maserati cars, according to the Detroit Free Press. Pelosi sat inside the electric Fiat 500, which, according to Marchionne, is not likely to go into production without a far higher anticipated demand. The electric Fiat 500 car was engineered by Fiat and electrified by Chrysler — a real though atypical example of how the two can work together.
Chrysler was recently awarded $14.5 million to develop a "flexible combustion system" for its minivans, using a smaller, turbocharged engine with direct fuel injection. The grant came from a $187 million pool for making more fuel-efficient technologies; it was the second largest grant (the largest by far, ironically, went to Chrysler's former owner's truck division, Daimler Trucks North America, which includes the former Freightliner.)
The original Plum Crazy Challengers apparently had some issues with the paint keeping its color; the new ones do not.
Ford may have won the show journalist awards, but Ram has gotten more awards from magazines like Four Wheeler...
The Transportation Secretary of the United States, Raymond LaHood, dropped by to say some good words about Chrysler’s innovation and styling.
In the basement of Cobo Hall, a test track has been set up with numerous winding paths separated by bushes and shrubs, for people to get their hands on a variety of electric, hybrid, and alternative-fuel cars. Marc Rozman, 1969 Dodge Charger owner and highly regarded powertrain tester for over 30 years, took a breathalyzer test, got behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Equinox, and seemed to like it. We believe this will continue during public viewing days.
Chrysler has been working on electric powertrains and has responsibility for electric vehicles under the Chrysler-Fiat division of labor; they whipped up an electric Fiat 500, which was shown off and apparently rated its own model, just like the new Audi sports car and Chrysler Concept Related to the Lancia Delta.
Of note is the black Fiat 500, which, we're told, is Sergio Marchionne's personal car.
Sergio Marchionne made an appearance, and appeared to be enjoying himself - a far different sight than Bob Nardelli. Maybe he came to visit his car.
Less known to most people but still an important person is Greg Rose, a manufacturing manager and CEMA member.
One would never know that the industry had a bad year from the extensive displays and the high press attendance; the massive, cavernous press room, a facility the New York Auto Show must envy, was filled with a huge number of journalists, nearly all of whom sported silver Macbook Pro laptops. Quite a few of them appear to have forgotten to shut off file sharing.
The new Dodge Caliber is much improved in the front - the driver and passenger area. The seats are still far too hard, and the rear seating seems unchanged, but there is now shiny chrome everywhere, with thin chrome rings around the gauges, and an improved gauge cluster and center stack. Overall, the look is far better than before, though some may object to the stiff seats.
The Chrysler version of the Lancia Delta has gotten a surprising amount of attention throughout the day, though whether that's due to the model - there always seemed to be at least one person photographing or filming every model - or the car is hard to tell. It might simply be the presence of a car that is not sold in the US, but will be; the Lancia is attractively styled, and the form factor is unusual for the American market.
For details and photos of the cars, see our minivans, Dodge Avenger, and Dodge Viper pages
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