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1 by David Zatz
Mopar filled a longstanding need by producing a new-Hemi retrofit kit, complete with wiring, computer, and accelerator pedal assembly, making it far easier to put a 5.7 or 6.4 Hemi engine into a classic car (they would even sell you the engine if you wanted).
2 Jeep sales soared in Europe, with the Renegade matching sales of all other Jeeps. In the US, Ram and Jeep sales kept climbing, too. The second-gen 2017 Jeep Compass was expected to give worldwide sales another push.
3Sergio Marchionne announced that the Dodge Dart (2013-16) and Chrysler 200 (2015-17) would be further developed and produced by another company. Then the Dart was dropped, followed by the 200 (the last one was made in December). Thanks to a supplier delay, the Dodge Viper kept going to 2017, past its original final date.
4 One reason for the loss of the 200 and Dart was the massive factory swap: Compass to Mexico, Ram to Sterling Heights, Wrangler to both Toledo plants, Cherokee to Belvedere, and (the new) Wagoneer to Warren. 200 and Dart were essentially sacrificed for their production space.
5 Jeep turned 75 years old and celebrated with new special 75th Anniversary editions and a worldwide sales record — reached in November.
6 The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, the first corporate minivan to abandon 1980s names, was launched in January, with the hybrid/EV entering production in December. That meant the classic Town & Country name was finally dropped.
7 The old-style 2017 Jeep Compass finally met its successor, the new-style 2017 Jeep Compass, in November. The same model year and trim names (other than Trailhawk) were used for both, though they shared little but different generations of the same engine; the old one was based on a heavily modified Mitsubishi platform, the new one on a heavily modified GM/Fiat platform.
8 Dodge gained the NHRA Manufacturers Cup, the first win ever for Dodge (Plymouth had won in 1970), just after choosing to drop out of Pro Stock.
9 Ram launched special trucks as sales grew — the exciting Ram Rebel TRX concept, Ram 2500 4x4 Offroad Package, an updated Power Wagon, a Stinger Yellow Ram (originally Texas-only), and Night Package. Dodge launched new Challenger T/A and Charger Daytona packages, and announced the Challenger GT AWD. Jeep had its usual concepts and specials.
10 Numerous new cars were tabled or pushed back, including the Jeep Wagoneer, two Chrysler crossovers, and, we believe, the Chrysler 100. Corporate attention turned from Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and Chrysler to Alfa Romeo, which had two new launches in 2016: the Giulia and Stelvio. Maserati finally launched the Levante, which was based on the Ghibli, which in turn was based on the Chrysler 300C. Automotive News revealed plans for a new Italian-made rear wheel drive Dodge Journey crossover.
11 Oops! FCA realized that its 1980s sales-reporting setup had resulted in highly inaccurate reports. Facing a lawsuit, the company issued corrected fleet and retail sales for the prior four years, in both the US and Canada. The five year winning streak had in fact been much shorter; and would have ended anyway in 2016, as sales suddenly dropped (though they were still above original projections).
12 Even as the Dodge Dart was dropped, a new Dodge Neon was launched in Mexico — a Fiat Tipo with Dodge branding and a modified Neon engine. It joined the badge-engineered Dodge Vision and Attitude, and Ram 700. Fiat’s rebranded Mitsubish L200, the Fiat Fullback, was later sold as the Ram 1200.
13Ferrari was spun off as the year began, raising cash, but would still be used for powertrain development and production.
14 Fiat, dying in the US, tried launching a new image car, the Fiat 124, codeveloped with the Mazda Miata; dropping the prices of the Fiat 500; and finally cutting trimlines and dropping prices even more. Fiat 500L and 500X sales were barely noticeable.
15 Chrysler had used a “monostable” shifter, which springs back to the same position after gear changes, on its first cars with eight-speed automatics. The inconsistent and confusing behavior of the shifter led to dozens of crashes as people thought they were in Park when they weren’t (the death of actor Anton Yelchin was attributed to this), though there were two “PRNDL” indicators. Chrysler recalled cars with the monostable shifter, reprogramming them to shift into Park when the computer thought that was the owner’s intent — leaving the “Curse-O-Matic” monostable shifter in place.
16 FCA closed the Walter P. Chrysler Museum to convert the building to office space. The Museum had opened on October 5, 1999; cumulative losses totalled nearly $2 million over the prior three years. Its contents were kept by FCA US, which said they would be displayed to the public from time to time.
Not directly Chrysler/FCA related, but too important to ignore: Long-time Mopar magazine Mopar Action, run by industry veterans Cliff Gromer and Rick Ehrenberg, ceased publication, got a new deal, and apparently ceased publication before its first new issue.
Runners-up: Mopar racer Ron Capps finally got a championship in Funny Car. Dodge “won” the Woodward Cruise with “Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge,” a huge event including (legal and controlled) street racing on Woodward Avenue.
The powertrain warranty dropped to 5 years/60,000 miles except on diesel Rams (five years, 100,000 miles).
The 2016 Ram 1500 kept its dominance in fuel economy (29 mpg highway), while Ford and GM raced to catch up. Frame and body changes increased front-overlap crash safety. All 2016 lines gained the Laramie Limited center console design, except for the Limited’s unique tambour door. Bluetooth reached entry-level radios for all Ram pickups and chassis cabs.
A new front park-assist system warned of nearby objects in both heavy duty trucks and chassis cabs.
Chassis cab buyers had a 74 gallon dual-fuel-tank option on all frame lengths, for the greatest range in its class; and there were new center consoles. New colors were Red Pearl, Luxury Brown, and Pearl White.
The 2016 Ram ProMaster gained a window version of the 159-inch, high-roof van, based on requests from upfitters; a chrome grille option was added for the same reason, along with a second battery and 20-amp auxiliary switches on the dash panel.
The Ram Rebel, which had been unveiled in 2015 as a 2016 model, had an air suspension, greater standard ride height, 33-inch tires, skid plates, and tow hooks, with a new front fascia design.
The Ram Rebel TRX concept, shown in a surprise unveiling, had both a superior off-road suspension and a detuned supercharged Hellcat Hemi V8.
Other news included a revised Power Wagon, Ignition Orange and Rebel Mojave Sand specials (2017 model year), and the Ram 2500 4x4 Off-Road Package. Internationally, Ram launched the 1200 (a rebadged Mitsubishi L200) and 700 (rebadged Fiat Strada).
75th Anniversary Jeep packages appeared on each and every Jeep; they started in calendar-year 2016 and lasted through to December.
Cherokee Sport could now come with the 3.2 V6; new colors were Rhino and Line Brownstone. Compass and Patriot were sold as Sport, Sport SE, Latitude, and High Altitude. Patriot, the “best priced SUV in America” ($18,290), gained content. 2016 was their last calendar year (both hit 2017 in model years). Renegade added Beats audio, rain-sensing wipers, and new colors.
Jeep Grand Cherokee gained the upgraded Pentastar V6, as described above, but the Hemi also increased in fuel-efficiency. The V6 had standard stop-start, and all Grand Cherokees got customizable-setting electric power steering, lower rolling resistance tires (except SRT), and more aluminum suspension components. A conventional shifter replaced the “monostable” device. Ivory Tri-Coat is available on Overland, Summit, and SRT.
The SRT had a new gauge cluster and drive modes to let drivers customize their performance. Performance pages were revised, and a valet mode reduced the ability for abuse. V6 horsepower was bumped slightly, and diesels rose by 1 mpg in city traffic with no explanation.
Wrangler got a new Black Bear Edition with off-road rock rails and other additions to the Sport S; Sahara had updates including wheels, a body-color bumper, and an Olive Green interior option; and Rubicon Hard Rock, Freedom Edition, and Willys Wheeler all returned.
At an average age of 44, Dodge customers were the youngest in the industry. User guide were put into the Dodge Challenger and Charger touchscreen.
The 2016 Dodge Viper ACR was the fastest Viper ever; Viper production ended in December. Journey gained a new Crossroad Plus. Charger Pursuit kept its five-speed automatic and Hemi-AWD combination.
The 2016 Dodge Challenger got Plum Crazy Purple along with B5 Blue and TorRed. The Blacktop Appearance Group spread to SXT and R/T, with new 20-inch five-spoke Gloss Black aluminum wheels. There were now 12 wheel options. The SRT Hellcat got new 390 mm Brembo two-piece rotors with six-piston calipers. An AWD Challenger was announced (V6 only).
The 2016 Dodge Charger SRT cars (both 392 and Hellcat) had standard Laguna leather interiors, large touch-screen navigation systems, HD radio, and five years of satellite Travel Link and traffic.
Plum Crazy Purple, TorRed, and B5 Blue paint were all available.
A new Blacktop Appearance Group returned to the Charger SXT and the Charger R/T Hemi; it had a gloss black grille and fascia insert, mirrors, and 20-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels; in back, the car had a satin black spoiler and badge. The interior was also darkened, with dark brushed aluminum bezels and gloss black gauge rings — and a new “performance-contoured” steering wheel.
The Super Track Pack appeared for the first time with a V-6; it added a half-inch suspension drop, Bilstein shocks, different tuning, a 3.07 rear axle ratio, and Dodge Performance Pages.
The Dodge Dart, in its final year, got a new sport-appearance hood with SXT Rallye or Blacktop and GT; the SE Rallye added 17 inch gray alumnum wheels and a “blackened” look. The Blacktop package was now available on Dart GT, which also got standard 18 inch black wheels and optional glossy-black ten-spoke wheels. New colors were TorRed and Go Mango.
2016 Dodge Durango gets stop-start systems on the V6, an optional Sport mode across the board, a Brass Monkey package on Limited, an enhanced Premium Group, standard monochromatic look on Citadel, optional Platinum appearance for Citadel, new standard wheels, and four paints: Red, Luxury Brown, Light Brownstone, and Ivory Tri-Coat. UConnect added “tune start,” which started songs from the beginning when switching between pre-set satellite channels.
Dodge Caravan added Plus packages for SE and SXT, and Blacktop on SE Plus and SXT, as the vans entered their penultimate year. Caravan was the second best selling minivan in America, slightly behind the Toyota Sienna.
Dodge Journey had the lineup cut from seven to five models, with the SE replacing the AVP ($2,600 less for FWD and $1,200 less for AWD); and the SXT had its price cut by $800. A new Crossroad Plus added leather seats with mesh inserts, large touch screen, power driver’s seat, and “other interior features.” Jazz Blue and Olive Green paint were added.
Though the first Chrysler car was produced in the 1924 model year, by Maxwell Motors, Chrysler celebrated its anniversary based on the creation of a shell company which was created to purchase Maxwell in 1925. Thus, 90th anniversary packages sold on 2016 Chryslers made in 2015.
The Chrysler 200 90th Anniversary package added numerous features, including the 8.4” stereo; the rear backup camera was now standard on Limited and S, the V6, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross path detection could be purchased on Limited. A heated steering wheel was standard on 200C, the front seat firmness was “improved,” and new colors were black forest green, maximum steel, and redline.
The 2016 Chrysler 300 90th Anniversary Edition started with Limited and added Uconnect 8.4AN, the dual-pane sunroof, and trim additions. The touring suspension was improved on Limited. Black Forest Green was available on all but 300S. Limited got more features.
A new performance tuned suspension had higher spring rates, revised steering and bushings, Eagle F1 three-season tires (optional), and larger sway bars (Hemi only). Shifts were cut to 250 ms.
The 90th Anniversary Edition Town & Country added various features and logos, and was based on the Touring-L.
The 2016 Fiat 500X was Fiat’s first all-wheel-drive model. Fiat 500, including Abarth and 500e, got a UConnect 5 system (five inch touch screen) and Easy trim with more choices; new colors; and 1957 edition (still). 500L Urbana Trekking got an optional red roof, and all models can get a six-speed automatic.
All engines engineered for the U.S., except the Viper V10, were made E15-compatible just in case 15%-ethanol fuel was ever sold at normal gas stations.
Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning-Plus, which can fully stop a car, was added to the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango; it combined radar and camera technologies, for greater precision and fewer false alarms.
On Chrysler 200 and 300; Dodge Challenger, Charger, Durango; Jeep Cherokee, and Grand Cherokee, UConnect added a drag and drop menu bar (for moving features to or from the main bar); Siri Eyes Free for iPhone owners to use natural-language commands; and Do Not Disturb routed incoming texts and phone calls to voicemail.
The long-rumored Pentastar upgrade has finally arrived, though only for the Jeep Grand Cherokee. We had written, “We are expecting revised heads, direct injection, and better cam phasing, possibly affecting exhaust as well as intake, or altering the valve lift.” All this came, except for direct injection.
Torque was increased by over 15% at engine speeds below 3,000 rpm for better drivability and less shifting; gas mileage increased by over 6%. On the Grand Cherokee, horsepower rose from 290 to 295. The engine also has cooled EGR, a new intake, better fuel injectors, higher compression, and lower weight despite 13 pounds of added gizmos. See the full story.
FCA saw profits of $1.7 billion, 1% more than 2015 profits, becuase of a more expensive and profitable sales mix, which yielded an margin increase from 6.4% to 7.4% for the full year.
Around $5.5 billion of FCA’s $6.5 billion in 2016 profits (before interest and taxes — or EBIT) was driven by North America. Latin America turned from an €87 million loss to a €5 million profit, while Asia-Pacific profits doubled to €105 million and European profits more than doubled to €540 million.
Maserati profits more than tripled, to €339 million, as its loosely Chrysler-derived new cars found willing buyers. Worldwide, FCA sold 4.7 million vehicles, with Jeep rising by 9% to 1.42 million. US market share was stable at 12.6%, with share in Brazil at 18.4% and in Europe at 6.5%.
UAW workers gained an average of $5,000 each in profit-sharing.
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