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Chrysler news, 2003: from the allpar archives

January 1, 2003: Chrysler sales fall, slogan changed

Faced with falling sales, Chrysler has modified its unsuccessful "Drive=Love" campaign slightly to make their point more clear - if you drive it, you will love it. The campaign will now be "Drive & Love" instead of "Drive = Love." Meanwhile, the contract with Celine Dion will start showing itself in new commercials.

January 2, 2003: Chrysler brings out SRT-8, Pontiac to show GTO

The Dodge Magnum SRT-8 was introduced to the world in advance of any other LX-based car. This concept features a supercharged Hemi engine capable of 430 horsepower, pumping out a stomping 480 lb-ft of torque, in an LX chassis. It appears to be a hatchback/wagon, and has rear wheel drive and a five-speed automatic transmission. Dodge may be hoping to generate excitement with the LX early in the LA auto show - the release may be the first of the show - since Pontiac's new GTO, based on the Australian Holden Monaro, will be sure to grab most headlines when it is brought out. As if that was not enough for the show, Toyota will bring out its anticipated Scion line, Ford will show supercharged Thunderbird and three-door SUV concepts, Mitsubishi will show the 2004 Evolution VIII, Mercedes will introduce the Maybach to the United States (presumably its primary market), and Porsche will show its Cayenne SUV. If the SRT-8 goes into production, it may well be the most impressive offering of the group, though the GTO is reputedly "hot."

January 3, 2003: Hemi Ram 1500 is shipping

Jack "dodgeboy16" informs us that not only is the Hemi Ram 1500 shipping, but it's available at some dealerships already. The Hemi replaces the 360 (5.9) engine option, since the 360 was discontinued in mid-December.

January 3, 2003: Joint engine plant officially announced

You heard it here months ago, but the official announcement came yesterday. Chrysler, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi will jointly operate a new North American plant which will produce their "world engine" (designed and used by all three companies). Chrysler will "lead" management of the plant, which will draw on each of the three companies' strengths (all three are wholly or partly owned by DaimlerChrysler), and be set up under a separate company, Global Engine Alliance, LLC. The engines will also be produced in Korea and Japan, most likely under the auspices of Hyundai and Mitsubishi, respectively. Production of the new engines will start in 2004 in Korea, with the American plant producing engines for US-made Dodge and Mitsuibshi models in 2005. DCX estimates that, once the three plants are running, 1.5 million of the engines will be made each year, making it possibly the highest-volume engine family in the world.

January 3, 2003: Ram wins Motor Trend Truck of the Year Award

The Hemi and Cummins engines seem to have done the trick.

January 3, 2003: Chrysler sales report

Bill Cawthon was good enough to forward Chrysler's December sales report to us before Chrysler notified us of its presence. Overall, the news is not bad, with a one percent increase over 2001 (based on a daily selling rate).

Jeep was the surprise performer, setting an all time record with sales of 45,751 units - up 22 percent over last year, with (again surprisingly) the Grand Cherokee going up 19 percent. Even the Wrangler increased in sales. The biggest percentage gain was the Liberty, up 35 percent. But for the full year, Jeep sales only went up one percent - just short of 460,000 vehicles.

The Dodge Ram, not surprisingly, also set a sales record, with 34,812 units sold. Nearly 400,000 Rams were sold, 15 percent more than in 2001. Dodge cars, all combined, only reached 348,218 in sales, up six percent from 2001, but still less than the Ram! The Dodge brand overall also went up by one percent over 2001, with 1.26 million sold.

In 2002, Chrysler Group sold 2,205,446 vehicles, compared to 2,273,208 in 2001, a decline of three percent - with half a million vehicles in inventory at the end of the year.

  U.S. Sales Summary Thru December 2002
 
                            Month Sales     DR %      Sales CYTD        DR %
       Model               Curr      Pr    Change     Curr        Pr   Change
                            Yr       Yr                Yr         Yr
   Cirrus                     0        0     0%          0        371  -100%
   Sebring Sedan          2,732    4,522   -37%     56,606     56,616     0%
   Sebring Coupe            519    1,092   -51%     11,784     16,601   -29%
   Sebring Convertible    2,350    2,245     9%     43,977     45,242    -3%
   Concorde               2,583    3,280   -18%     31,611     32,331    -2%
   300M                   2,360    2,988   -18%     32,375     36,583   -12%
   LHS                        0      229  -100%        552      8,852   -94%
   Prowler                   39      160   -75%      1,328      1,134     0%
   CHRYSLER CAR          10,583   14,516   -24%    178,233    197,730   -10%
   PT Cruiser             8,332   12,676   -32%    138,260    144,717    -4%
   Voyager                1,911    3,344   -41%     37,392     45,105   -17%
   Town & Country        10,057   12,605   -17%    126,378    142,902   -12%
   CHRYSLER TRUCK        20,300   28,625   -26%    302,030    332,724    -9%
   CHRYSLER BRAND        30,883   43,141   -26%    480,263    530,454    -9%
   Wrangler               5,072    4,860     9%     64,351     68,830    -7%
   Cherokee                   0      242  -100%          0     74,490  -100%
   Liberty               16,555   12,763    35%    171,212     88,485    93%
   Grand Cherokee        24,124   21,096    19%    224,233    223,612     0%
   JEEP BRAND            45,751   38,961    22%    459,796    455,417     1%
        CP CAR           10,583   14,718   -25%    178,838    228,964   -22%
        CPJ TRUCK        66,051   67,586     2%    761,826    788,481    -3%
   CPJ DIVISION          76,634   82,304    -3%    940,664  1,017,445    -8%
   Neon                   7,387    7,915    -3%    126,118    107,299    18%
   Stratus Sedan          7,093    6,505    13%     90,189     88,948     1%
   Stratus Coupe          1,214    1,181     7%     19,044     22,177   -14%
   Avenger                    0        0     0%          0        143  -100%
   Intrepid               7,919    6,855    20%    111,356    109,098     2%
   Viper                     77       96   -17%      1,511      1,388     9%
   DODGE CAR             23,690   22,552     9%    348,218    329,053     6%
   Dakota                 8,581   11,543   -23%    130,712    154,479   -15%
   Ram P/U               34,812   30,253    20%    396,934    344,538    15%
   Caravan               19,236   18,466     8%    244,911    242,036     1%
   Durango                7,427   10,024   -23%    106,925    130,799   -18%
   Ram Wagon                251      602   -57%     10,912     18,321   -40%
   Ram Van                1,863    2,257   -14%     26,170     36,537   -28%
   DODGE TRUCK           72,170   73,145     3%    916,564    926,710    -1%
   DODGE DIVISION        95,860   95,697     4%  1,264,782  1,255,763     1%
   TOTAL CAR             34,273   37,270    -4%    527,056    558,017    -6%
   TOTAL TRUCK          138,221  140,731     2%  1,678,390  1,715,191    -2%
   TOTAL CAR & TRUCK    172,494  178,001     1%  2,205,446  2,273,208    
 -3%
   Total Minivan         31,204   34,415    -6%    408,681    430,383    -5%
   Total Sport Utility   53,178   48,985    13%    566,721    586,216    -3%
   Selling Days              25       26               307        307
 Source: Chrysler 

January 3, 2003: Comments on 2002 sales

For 2002 as a whole, Chrysler tread water, losing market share with a 3 percent total sales drop - but with gains on many high-profit vehicles (Grand Cherokees, Rams, and Libertys did well). Losing 5 percent of minivan sales must hurt, and knowing that Honda, Toyota, and Ford are beefing up their vans and production facilities can't feel good, given the profits there. We wonder whether Dodge's mix of vans is trending to the low end as time goes on and Odyssey takes the high end customers.

Percentage wise, most of the big losers were slow sellers, so the wild swings don't mean much. Sebring Coupe is down 29 percent, but that's only five thousand cars - the five percent fall in minivan sales represents 22,000 vans! Likewise, the Ram Wagon and Van falling 40 and 28 percent, respectively, isn't as huge an impact as it could be. The Durango fall of 18 percent must hurt, though - that's from 130,800 to 106,925. Dakota's down 15 percent, too. Fortunately, the Ram - which sells twice as many trucks as Dakota - is up 15 percent, more than making up the gap. But that's all of Dodge's bad news; the rest is good. Neon sales are up 18 percent, possibly finally attracting some Plymouth customers, or more likely basking in the reflected glory of the SRT-4.

The Chrysler brand is where it hurts. Even though Dodge Caravans are holding their own, the Voyager and Town and Country are both in the dumpster, falling 17 and 12 percent, respectively. The beautiful-inside 300M has fallen. The Concorde, more of a value now with its longer body, is down. The LHS is of course gone completely, merged into the Concorde, but to no avail. All the Sebrings are down except the sedan, which is steady with 2001. The Chrysler brand seems to be suffering from its identity crisis, and the constant repetition of DAIMLERchrysler may not help those who buy American. (The refrain doesn't seem to have convinced those who buy German - unlike the PT Cruiser, which has attracted many Volkswagen and other import buyers.)

The glory days are surely long gone. Only 126,118 Neons sold - it's amazing. The Neon should have sales of over 200,000 units. The Sebring and Stratus sedans, together, account for about 140,000 units - not exactly the best sales figures for Chrysler family-sized cars. But those slipping minivan figures are equally worrisome. Perhaps bringing back Plymouth just to hang Voyager and Neon nameplates on would pay for itself...!

We hope Chrysler leaders - and, more important, Daimler leaders - will think about why these numbers look the way they do, and act accordingly. We fear they'll keep on blindly trying to remake Chrysler into Audi, complete with TT styling. But we've been wrong before - and maybe they're right. We'll all know a year from now.

January 4, 2003: SRT-4 is Sport Compact car of the year!

H. David Braew reported: "Sports Compact Cars has declared the SRT-4 its car of the year." This is quite an achievement, considering the general perception that Honda and other imports are the king of the sport compacts.

January 6, 2003: Durango, Kahuna, Avenger concepts

Over the weekend, Dodge introduced a concept version of the next-generation Durango, as well as a concept of its version of the PT Cruiser, and a concept of what the next-generation Neon/Lancer could look like (at least, in mini-SUV trim). For details and photos: Durango - Avenger and Kahuna

January 6, 2003: Jeep introduces Freedom Editions

Jeep debuted a limited-production line of 'Freedom Edition' Jeep Wrangler, Liberty and Grand Cherokee vehicles with unique exterior features and popular options. A version of the Freedom Edition Jeep line will also be available outside the United States as the Rocky Mountain Edition in Canada, and the Red River edition outside North America.

Building on the recently introduced 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Freedom Edition features a silver front fascia accent, bright silver roof rack and tubular side rails and chrome tow hooks. Complementing the exterior, outlined white letter P235/65R17 Goodyear Wrangler SR-A all-terrain tires mount on 17-inch graphite painted cast aluminum wheels. Inside, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Freedom Edition has MicroTech instrument panel accents, Dark Slate Gray cloth seating, front floor slush mats and a molded cargo tray.

This model is available with the High-Output 4.7-liter V-8 engine pumping out 265 horsepower (198 kW) at 5,100 rpm, and 325 lb.-ft (447 Nm) of torque at 3,600 rpm. A 4.0-liter Power Tech I-6 engine is standard. Available in both two- and four-wheel drive, four-wheel drive models come standard with the Selec-Trac® full-time four-wheel drive system.

The 2003 Jeep Liberty Freedom Edition has a graphite painted grille, front and rear fascia, and "bolted-on" wheel flares, as well as body color side moldings. Black sidewall P235/65R17 Goodyear Wrangler SR-A all-season tires mount on 17-inch graphite painted cast aluminum wheels. Inside, the Jeep Liberty Freedom Edition features a two-tone appearance incorporating Dark Slate Gray and Light Taupe trim to give it a unique, sporty look. Power windows/locks/mirrors and an AM/FM stereo radio with CD player and changer controls are standard. In addition, unique Mopar equipment was designed to complement this vehicle including a graphite painted front brush guard, side rock rails and tail lamp guards.

The 2003 Jeep Liberty Freedom Edition is powered by the 3.7-liter Power Tech V-6 engine rated at 210 horsepower (157 kW) at 5,200 rpm, and 235 lb.-ft (319 Nm) of torque at 4,000 rpm. Freedom Edition Liberty vehicles are available with either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. Available in both two- and four-wheel drive, four-wheel drive models come standard with the Command-Trac® part-time four-wheel drive system.

The Freedom Edition of the 2003 Jeep Wrangler is distinguished by body colored fender flares, a soft-top with full metal doors, fog lamps and tow hooks. Outlined white letter P225/75R15 Goodyear all-terrain tires mount on 15-inch chrome wheels. Inside, the Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition comes with air conditioning, Sentry Key® theft-deterrent system, easy access Fold-and-Tumble rear seat and a choice of Dark Slate Gray vinyl or cloth seating. Under the hood is the legendary 4.0-liter I-6 engine pumping out 190 horsepower (142 kW) at 4,600 rpm, and 235 lb.-ft (319 Nm) of torque at 3,200 rpm with a five-speed manual transmission. Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition features the Command-Trac® part-time four-wheel drive system.

The entire Freedom Edition Jeep line will be available in red, silver, blue and black. In addition, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Freedom Edition will also be available in Graphite Metallic.

January 7, 2003: 2003 sales recap

(See our earlier sales analysis for details)

Bill Cawthon reported: "All of the final results are in. Chrysler is in better shape than Ford, but not as good as GM. Chrysler did come out with a 13%-plus share of the market for 2002 and a comfortable lead over Toyota. For those who insist on adding Lexus to Toyota, I will happily add Mercedes-Benz to Chrysler (or vice-versa).

"In overall combined sales, the Dodge Ram was #6 in 2002. The Caravan was #11 and the Grand Cherokee was #15. In individual market segments, the Ram was #3 in trucks, the Caravan was #1 in minivans and the Grand Cherokee was #3 in sport-utility vehicles. Best finish by a passenger car was the Dodge Neon at #39 overall and #16 in cars. The Intrepid also made it to the Top Twenty among cars.

"To give you an idea of what that means, sales figures were reported for 272 light vehicle models. This included 150 different car models and 70 SUVs."

For 2002 GM posted a 1 percent decline in light vehicle sales, Ford lost 10 percent in sales, and Chrysler lost 3 percent in sales. All three relied heavily on steep incentives and zero-percent financing. For comparison, GM sold 4.8 million vehicles (excluding Saab), and Ford sold 3.4 million (Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury).

January 10, 2003: Mopar performance

The SRT-4 has started to ship, with the first batch built in late 2002. Production may be nearly tripled to 7,000 units per year.

A Chrysler representative has confirmed that the Mopar Speed Shops, including weekend seminars in performance, will be a part of many dealers showrooms.

Chrysler will also be putting up contingency money for SCCA rally, road, and solo races. There may also be a future Dodge presence in weekly series, perhaps with Hemi-powered vehicles.

January 13, 2003: Pacifica pricing

Chrysler will offer two Pacifica models, an all-wheel drive version and a front-wheel drive model with traction control. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the all-wheel drive Pacifica model will be $32,980. The MSRP for the front-wheel drive model will be $31,230. Both prices include a $680 destination fee.

The 2004 Chrysler Pacifica arrives in Chrysler brand showrooms in the early spring of 2003.

Chrysler Pacifica has easy step-across entry and exit, first-class seating, three rows of seats, and fold-flat second and third row seats. Standard features include three-row side curtain air bags, an inflatable driver-side knee blocker air bag, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, speed control, AM/FM radio with CD player, full-length center console, 17-inch aluminum wheels, and the 250 horsepower 3.5-liter engine from the Chrysler 300M.

Optional features include an in-cluster navigation system, DVD Rear Seat Video entertainment system, Infinity Intermezzo 5.1 digital surround sound system, six disc in-dash CD/DVD changer, Sirius satellite radio, UConnect hands-free communication, second row heated seats, power liftgate, power sunroof, and 17-inch chrome wheels.Pacifica will be offered in a variety of colors including Bright Silver Metallic, Brilliant Black Crystal, Butane Blue, Inferno Red, Light Almond Pearl, Onyx Green, Satin Jade, and Stone White. [Rear Seat Video, Infinity, Intermezzo, Sirius, and UConnect are registered trademarks.]

With the introduction of Chrysler Pacifica and Crossfire, the Chrysler brand continues to build momentum. Chrysler brand sales have nearly quadrupled to 481,000 units in 2002 from 130,542 units in 1991. [We wonder how much of this is the boost from Plymouth Voyagers.]

Chrysler Pacifica will be built at DaimlerChrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant (Canada).

January 17, 2003: Ford faces fraud, fire accusations

Just-auto notes that Ford is being accused of hiding evidence in 15-passenger van rollover suits. The commercial van has been prone to rollovers, resulting in deaths, injuries, and government safety warnings. Meanwhile, Louisiana's attorney general declared that the state cannot buy any more Crown Victorias until Ford can guarantee that the squad car will not burst into flames in a collision. That may be good news for Dodge and Chevrolet, whose own squad cars have proven themselves in independent tests.

January 17, 2003: Chrysler, GM bring profit-sharing back

General Motors will be issuing profit-sharing checks of over $900 apiece to each of its 130,000 UAW workers, as well as to its 49,000 management workers. Meanwhile, Chrysler's 65,700 union workers will receive between $500 and $1,000 each. Ford will probably not have profit sharing this year. This indicates that Chrysler earned a profit in 2002, though we have not yet seen DCX figures.

January 22, 2003: Chrysler, Ford financial results, projections

Chrysler is reportedly set to declare a real profit, even after expenses for restructuring. That leaves Ford as the only member of the former Big Three to be losing money in 2002 - roughly $1 billion ($980 million). 2002 may be known as the year of GM's resurgence, though, with the auto giant posting market share and profit gains.

Meanwhile, speaking in Germany, Chrysler COO Wolfgang Bernhard said that the plant closings would end, and that new capacity was needed for new upcoming models. Will this mean re-opening closed plants? Probably not. A new plant is slated for Windsor, Ontario, partly to pacify the Canadian Auto Workers. Chrysler also has a recently-mothballed plant in Brazil which is close to state of the art, and re-opening it would save millions in fines to the Brazilian government, but it seems unlikely that this will happen. Also, before getting too excited, we should consider that most of the new models will probably be Mitsudodges - vehicles made exclusively by and for Chrysler seem to be increasingly on the decline, with large pickups likely being the last "pure" Chrysler models.

The United Auto Workers seem to have finally found a voice to protest with, as VP Nate Gooden, director of the department which deals with Chrysler, said that Dodge-badged Mercedes Sprinters would have to be assembled by UAW labor. That would eliminate much of DCX's desire to build the vans in Georgia rather than using the existing Windsor large-van plant. Reuters quoted Gooden as saying, "I told the corporation that if the Sprinter has got the Dodge label on it, that truck will be built by UAW members....It's got a Dodge tag on it, it's going to be a UAW plant no matter where it's built." Gooden said the same applied to the new joint venture engine plant. While no plans have been announced, it would be consistent for DCX replace the existing 2.0 / 2.4 liter plant with a new, non-union plant in the Southern United States.

The current UAW contract expires in September, and Gooden's words signal that organization of the Sprinter and other Mercedodge plants would be a key part of the negotiations. The Sprinter is currently sold as a Freightliner, but is being moved over to Dodge. Other Mercedes vehicles are expected to show up with the Dodge label, notably another commercial van which competes more directly with the Ford Econoline.

January 24, 2003: Diesel Dodge sets pickup speed record

Banks Power's "Project Sidewinder," a Cummins diesel-powered Dodge Dakota, set a pickup truck speed record with an average of 213.6 mph - easily breaking the prior diesel record of under 160 mph, and also breaking the overall pickup record of 210 mph, set by Banks itself. The truck arrived at Bonneville not on a trailer, but towing its own spare parts trailer - it is street legal. Banks hopes to beat their own record next year. (Story provided by Ellis Brasher. Note that the Sidewinder, while street legal, is not stock.)

January 27, 2003: Daimler did indeed plot takeover of Chrysler

As reported in a Detroit News article, Daimler-Benz was secretly plotting a takeover of high-flying Chrysler Corporation as early as 1995, when the hot Neon had just been introduced, and the Ram was busy tripling its market share. This news, unearthed in a secret document which emerged as part of Kirk Kerkorian's anti-takeover lawsuit, may be the "smoking gun" of investor fraud that Kerkorian needs for his legal suit, which demands compensation and the undoing of the "merger" as penalties for cheating stockholders by pretending that a takeover was actually a merger. (If it had been seen as a takeover at the time, it probably would not have happened - or Daimler would have had to pay far more.)

Daimler-Benz was assisted in its underhanded efforts by Goldman Sachs, which prepared the Project Blitz report in late 1995. The document noted potential obstacles to the buyout, notably that any efforts to overtly buy the corporation would be fought.

The takeover occurred in 1998, with the top two American leaders fired, many others resigning, promised corporate board seats going to others, the change from Chrysler Corporation to Chrysler Group, product development merged with Mitsubishi and Mercedes, and, along the way, Daimler-Benz CEO Juergen Schrempp saying, "If I had gone and said Chrysler would be a division, everybody on their side would have said, 'There's no way we'll do a deal. But it's precisely what I wanted to do."

January 29, 2003: Chrysler to lose yet more board seats?

As DCX's supervisory board is deciding whether to renew the contracts of more than half of its 13 members, 58 year old Juergen Schrempp has weighed in by saying he wants a younger board. This may be a way to try to oust the only two remaining Chrysler executives, Gary Valade (60) and Tom Sidlik (53).

At the time of the takeover, Daimler-Benz claimed that it was a merger and that Chrysler would have representation similar to Daimler-Benz on the board of the new DaimlerChrysler. Contracts for seven of the management board's members, including both of the former Chrysler people - both of whom are in charge of procurement and supply - expire on December 15. A decision on renewing them is due early this year.

Other board members include Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche, who is 49, and Chrysler COO Wolfgang Bernhard, who is 42. The ages of the five board members who are up for renewal, aside from Valade and Sidlike, are 49 (Zetsche), 52, 61, 60, and 59. /our opinion/ Schrempp's desire for a younger board should start with the DaimlerChrysler CEO. We feel he should set a good example by resigning, preferably tomorrow. (Information from Detroit News).

January 31, 2003: Zetsche already backing away from promises

Dieter Zetsche has started work on either blackmailing the Ontario government into donating cash to Chrysler for its new plant - which is replacing the existing large van plant - or moving it to Mexico or the Southern United States. Denying that he was using blackmail, Zetsche said that unless Canadian governments ponied up some cash - roughly $300 million of taxpayer funds - the plant probably would not be built in Windsor, as agreed in CAW negotiations. The plant would produce a new pickup, the Dodge M80, and possibly other vehicles based on it. Ontario spokesmen noted that the province does not donate money to companies (or give in to blackmail, the choice of words and nuance is yours), and does not want to start a trend of corporate welfare as other automakers, including Ford and Mitsubishi, start sitting plants. Bill Cawthon noted that while labor rates in Canada are comparatively low (we'd add that Canadian workers are also well educated with a high literacy rate), American states are giving away vast sums of cash and services to lure industry, and Mexico has even lower labor costs (we'd add that it also has poor labor and environmental laws).

January 31, 2003: DCX Board Changes - Chrysler loses one more

According to this note, released today to DCX employees, Chrysler is down to a single member of the DaimlerChrysler board.

Stuttgart-Moehringen, January 31, 2003

DaimlerChrysler: Changes in the Board of Management

The Supervisory Board of DaimlerChrysler AG made the following decisions today:

The contracts of Dr. Eckhard Cordes, Member of the Board of Management responsible for Commercial Vehicles, and Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Member of the Board of Management responsible for the Chrysler Group, are extended for five years, effective December 16, 2003. Their respective areas of responsibility remain unchanged.

The contract of Dr. Manfred Gentz, Member of the Board of Management responsible for Finance & Controlling, is extended for another year, effective December 16, 2003. This decision was made in accordance with the DaimlerChrysler policy that contracts of members of the Board of Management over the age of 60 can at any one time only be extended for one year.

The contract of Thomas W. Sidlik is extended for five years, effective December 16, 2003. At that time, he will assume additional responsibility for Global Procurement & Supply. There will then no longer be a member of the Board of Management responsible only for Chrysler Group Procurement & Supply activities.

Bodo Uebber is appointed Deputy Member of the Board of Management, effective December 16, 2003, with responsibility for DaimlerChrysler Services.

Dr. Manfred Bischoff, Dr. Klaus Mangold, and Gary C. Valade will leave the Board of Management at the end of 2003, but will continue to remain available to the company in advisory capacities.

Dr. Manfred Bischoff is appointed DaimlerChrysler Delegate for the Aerospace Industry, as of 2004, to focus more directly on the Group's aerospace activities. In his new function, he will continue to report directly to the Chairman of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler AG. Dr. Bischoff will also continue as Chairman of EADS and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of MTU Aero Engines, thus ensuring the uninterrupted representation of DaimlerChrysler's interests within the European Aerospace industry.

Dr. R¸diger Grube, Member of the Board of Management responsible for Corporate Development, will assume additional responsibility for the Group's alliance with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, effective December 16, 2003.

Dr. Klaus Mangold is appointed Executive Advisor to the Chairman for Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, as of 2004. In his new function, he will report directly to the Chairman of the Board of Management. Dr. Mangold will primarily concentrate on initiatives to increase the Group's business in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in Central Asia.

Gary C. Valade, currently the Member of the Board of Management responsible for Global Procurement & Supply, will advise the Group on Procurement & Supply issues as of 2004, reporting directly to the Chairman of the Board of Management.

January 31, 2003: Pacifica to start production

Dieter Zetsche will be on hand for a public celebration of the launch of the much-delayed Chrysler Pacifica on February 7. The Pacifica, based on a highly modified version of the minivan platform, has been rumored to be the basis of the next-generation vans.

January 31, 2003: Chrysler, MMC to use Hyundai V6 designs?

While previous statements have Chrysler engines supplanting Mitsubishi designs, engines from 2.5 to 3.0 liters may be based on a Hyundai design, with the Korean company receiving "tens of millions" of dollars in royalties. The engines would most likely be made in Japan and the United States, and used in the upcoming "D" car replacements (Galant, Sebring, Stratus). The new engine would presumably replace Chrysler's 2.7 liter, 200 horsepower and Mitsubishi's venerable 3.0 liter, 200 horsepower powerplants. (From a posting by "Mighty Land" based on articles in Detroit News).

February 3, 2003: Wrangler pickup to debut in July 2004

According to Automotive News, Jeep will add a Wrangler pickup called the Scrambler in July 2004, with projected sales of 20,000 per year. The concept, shown at the NADA conference this weekend, uses a stretched Wrangler wheelbase to add a four foot bed behind a two passenger cab. It will be available with long and short wheelbases and four and six cylinder engines.

2003 Wranglers moved to using the 2.4 liter corporate four cylinder engine and the 42LE automatic transmission, replacing the old three-speed automatic. It seems likely that future Wranglers, including the Scrambler, will use a different six cylinder engine as well - or that Jeep hopes to build up enough volume to justify producing the AMC in-line six in an era of DCX standardization.

February 4, 2003: Crossfire being produced

The Chrysler Crossfire started production today. This vehicle had a fast approval-to-production time, largely because it required almost no new parts other than sheet metal, being essentially a reskinned Mercedes.

February 6, 2003: Dodge to concentrate on NASCAR

Even though the Viper was the first American production-based car to win the 24 hour Daytona Le Mans, Chrysler will postpone further Le Mans participation for at least two years to concentrate on NASCAR. John Fernandez (see bio on Allpar) is also focusing efforts within the NASCAR teams on a year-long strategy to win the Winston Cup. In addition to technical advances (and the successful sharing program), Chrysler will start a driver development program patterned on Penske's system. Meanwhile, the Viper will most likely be campaigned by independent teams, given the performance and value of the Competition Coupe and the likelihood of a GTS-R replacement in the future. (Thanks, Doug Hetrick; from AutoWeek)

February 10, 2003: New Chrysler product development chief named

Bill Cawthon wrote:

Chrysler has named a new head of product development to replace Richard Schaum, a veteran engineering chief who is retiring after 37 years with the company.

Eric Ridenour, 44, (who is not German) will take over for the 56-year-old Schaum as executive vice president of product development and replace Schaum as a member of Chrysler's executive committee, the company said in a statement.

Craig Love (also not German) reportedly will be taking over product development at Chrysler's passenger car division.

February 11, 2003: DCX backing away from Windsor plant

DCX officials have indicated that, without substantial government handouts, they will not live up to their half-hearted promise to build a new plant (or rebuild the existing B-van plant) in Windsor, Ontario. Canadian officials, who are not predisposed to corporate welfare - apparently having a desire to spend taxpayer dollars on those in need, rather than on wealthy foreign corporations - are being pressured to match the generous donations of American states and cities. To our knowledge, DCX has not built any new plants in the Northern United States or Canada, and has not built any new union-organized plants. The new factory - wherever it may be located - will continue Chrysler's strategy of strong flexibility and supplier involvement, and, like the Campo Largo Dodge plant in Brazil, will actually have sections operated by key suppliers (e.g. the paint shop would be operated by PPG).

February 12, 2003: Future engine factory site chosen

In a sharp break with past DCX decisions, the corporation has chosen Dundee, Michigan - North of the Mason-Dixon line - as the location for a new joint venture engine factory which will produce four-cylinder engines for use in Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler vehicles. Within five years, around 400 people will work at the plant, though new job creation may be offset if the Trenton facility is closed. The American plant will start producing engines in 2005, though separate facilities in Korea and Japan will start in 2004.

February 13, 2003: SRT-10 production version introduced

Details are at this page.

February 20, 2003: Chrysler launches Crossfire

The Crossfire, designed mostly by Mercedes and built alongside Mercedes coupes in Germany, has been officially launched. Full details are at Chrysler's sales and press Web sites, chrysler.com and media.daimlerchrysler.com.

February 21, 2003: DaimlerChrysler headcount shrinks

As a result of cutbacks at Chrysler and "adjusted production capacity" in commercial vehicles, DaimlerChrysler (that is, the global corporation) cut its employee count from 372,470 to 365,571 people in 2002. DaimlerChrysler said that last year it had invested $7.5 billion in property, plants, and equipment and spent $6.5 billion on research and development.

February 24, 2003: Ford "almost borders on criminal" in lawsuit

Detroit News noted that Ford has settled a lawsuit related to 15-passenger van safety. A federal judge noted that Ford's conduct "almost borders on criminal," since the company claimed that safety records did not exist (they did). The case involved the flipping of an E350 van in 1996 which killed two passengers. U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said last Friday (according to Detroit News) "I don't want to believe lawyers would come and risk their licenses and livelihoods and professional reputations by making false statements to a court, but that's what is happening, Whether they're being set up by their client to do it ... you know, it's a big company ... and maybe they can do that sort of thing and hope they get away with it ... It almost borders on criminal to be honest with you."

For details on this case, including various instances which could be classified as perjury and probably would be if you or I was doing it, see http://www.autosinsider.com/

February 25, 2003: Jeep in Geneva

Today at the Geneva Motor Show, Jeep celebrated the European premieres of the Jeep Cherokee Renegade and Red River Edition, and the restyled Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Jeep model range has also widened thanks to the new Wrangler Rubicon, and new engineering enhancements for Grand Cherokee, Cherokee and Wrangler.

In 2002, Jeep brand sales outside North America grew by 13 per cent to 78,108 units, versus 69,271 units in 2001. The Jeep share of total Chrysler volume internationally was 44 per cent. Jeep brand sales in Western Europe also increased 35 per cent from 2001 to 2002.

Jeep Cherokee
The Jeep Cherokee Red River Edition features unique exterior and interior treatments. The new Cherokee Renegade also builds on the vehicle's expressive appearance and adds rugged design cues taken from the Dakar concept vehicle. In addition, Cherokee now offers a new powertrain to the line-up: a 2.8 common-rail turbo diesel engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.

Jeep Grand Cherokee
The latest Jeep Grand Cherokee premieres in Europe with a new appearance that accentuates the vehicle's distinctive design and 4x4 leadership. The new Grand Cherokee features a fresh look with a new front fascia, grille and round fog lamps for all models. The top-of-the-range Grand Cherokee Overland version, previously offered with a high-output 4.7 petrol engine, now adds the 2.7 CRD to the mix. Jeep Grand Cherokee is built at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan, USA, and at the Steyr-Daimler-Puch Fahrzeugtechnik AG assembly plant in Graz, Austria.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee's suspension features reduced pressure shocks for improvements in overall ride comfort. Reduced brake pedal effort allowing shorter stopping distances during braking maneuvers was accomplished by increasing the master cylinder output pressure for a "lighter" brake pedal feel. New brake calipers complement the lighter brake pedal feel, providing smoother and more linear braking. Jeep engineers also reduced steering effort both on- and off-centre through the use of a revised steering gear torsion bar.

Standard multi-stage driver and passenger front air bags are designed to deploy at different levels depending on the severity of the impact. Available ceiling-mounted side curtain air bags offer additional head protection for both front and rear outboard occupants.

Utilising a rain sensor attached to the windscreen, Grand Cherokee offers rain-sensing front wipers. When the windscreen wiper control is turned to "AUTO," the wiper system automatically activates when it rains and adjusts its speed according to the severity of the rain. This feature is optional on Limited and standard on Overland.

The diesel engine spends 9.7 liters on 100 km, with 0-62 mph in 11.2 seconds, compared with the 4.7 HO, with 0-62 in 8.2 seconds but requiring a full 15 liters of fuel for 100 km. The old 4-liter six, with an automatic, requires even more fuel but has acceleration similar to the diesel.

Jeep Wrangler
The icon of the brand, the Jeep Wrangler now offers a new four-speed automatic transmission, an improvement over the previous three-speed transmission, mated to its tried and true 4.0 petrol engine. Additionally, for the Wrangler Sport model, a new 2.4 PowerTech™ petrol engine replaces the previous 2.5 engine and provides better performance.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
The Rubicon name is not just for one of North America's toughest off-road trails - it's also what the Jeep brand is calling its ultimate off-road vehicle. The new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is a limited-production vehicle engineered to take on trails previously reserved for only highly modified vehicles.

More than Sixty Years of Jeep Heritage
From July 23, 1941, to the present, the Jeep brand has stood for authentic four-wheel-drive capability, innovative technology and continuous refinement. Through Willys-Overland, the "Jeep" initiated the 4x4 segment over six decades ago and kicked off the compact "sport-utility" boom with its four-door, 4x4 1984 Jeep Cherokee. Today's Jeep vehicles are still directly descended from the first Jeep vehicles.

(This information provided by DCX)

February 26, 2003: Next-gen Grand Cherokee coming soon?

Press kits for the Geneva auto show next month appeared on Chrysler's media site, then were quickly yanked. There was no embargo date - just February 25. The press kits noted a revised Grand Cherokee with round headlights and straight up-and-down grille, a la Liberty and Wrangler, but without photos. There was also a reference to the Airflite concept coupe, with international engineering and American style (in other words, we suspect, a reskinned Mitsubishi or Mercedes). At the moment, we do not have a reply from Chrysler, so we can voice our strong suspicion that the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee will be introduced in about two weeks in Geneva - perhaps the first major new vehicle introduction in Europe by Chrysler.

February 26, 2003: Grand Cherokee revisited

On reflection and further examination, it appears that the Grand Cherokee to be introduced in Geneva will probably be a stopgap redesign, to keep the European version fresh while the Austrian plant awaits tooling for the total redesign. We believe this because it will use the 4.0 liter six as its base engine, and we doubt Chrysler would carry this engine forward any longer than it had to. The optional 4.7 and diesel will probably carry through, with, at least in the US, a Hemi option likely. We'd expect the 4.0 to be dropped completely or replaced with the new 3.7 V6 used in Rams.

February 27, 2003: DCX execs give themselves nice big raise

According to DCX's annual report, DaimlerChrysler's top 13 executives more than doubled their pay, with management board members getting a total of 51 million euros ($55 million) - from 22 million euros last year. 37 million euros of that figure were "short-term and midterm incentive pay." Meanwhile, suppliers report that they are still being squeezed, and Chrysler vehicles appear to be in the midst of a decontenting program.

February 27, 2003: Airflite mystery revealed

Detroit News reported that the Airflite concept coupe is actually built on the LX platform, and is most likely a preview of a real production Chrysler large-scale four-door coupe-styled sedan, with a front end very similar to the Pacifica and the minimum possible amount of glass. The concept will be shown next week in Geneva.

March 3, 2003: Ford admits squad car "fix" doesn't work

by Bill Cawthon

According to a press release issued by the Dallas, Texas, City Attorney's Office, Ford officials have admitted in sworn testimony that a Crown Victoria police car equipped with new fuel tank safety shield flunked the company's own crash test.

Dallas is suing Ford in an attempt to discover whether the police cruiser is safe. Fourteen U.S. law enforcement officers, including one from Dallas, have died in Crown Victoria fires after being rear-ended at high speeds.

The Ford Crown Victoria is the most widely used police vehicle in North America.

Last September, Ford announced it would install fuel tank shields on roughly 350,000 Crown Victorias, claiming a crash test showed the shields to be effective at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour.

In a deposition taken last month, however, a Ford official acknowledged the crash-tested tank actually leaked more than 40 ounces of a fuel substitute. Federal standards limit such leaks to no more than one ounce.

Dallas City Attorney Madeleine Johnson emphasized even small fuel tank punctures can touch off fires because fuel is expelled as an aerosol-like mist, quickly forming a vapor cloud that engulfs the vehicle.

Dallas patrol cars have been equipped with the new shields, but Ms. Johnson says she will continue to press Ford officials about why they persisted with the shield 'fix' in light of its failure in testing as well as why Ford has rejected other technologies she says offer greater protection.

Ms. Johnson noted Ford has announced that it will begin production of a $140,000 Lincoln Town Car with a fuel tank that self-seals if punctured. The new Lincoln "Ballistic Protection Series" is designed to resist high-powered rifles and offer limited bomb-blast protection. This same technology was presented to a Ford technical task force last summer but was rejected as not being production-ready.

Johnson also raised questions about Ford's promise of special trunk packs for police vehicles to guard against heavy objects that might be propelled through the trunk and into the fuel tank in a rear-end collision. Last month, a Texas Department of Public Safety vehicle operating in Bee County suffered a tank puncture when the corner of a videotape mounting bracket punctured the tank.

Johnson said Ford announced just today that it will produce only 12,500 of the safety packs per year, covering a fraction of the affected vehicles in use. Furthermore, there still is no delivery date for the packs, which were promised by the end of 2002. Ford says the trunk packs, which include a Kevlar sheet, will cost $210 each -- four times the company's original estimate. Ford has said it will not pay for the trunk packs.

Ford has claimed repeatedly that the technology does not exist to protect fuel tanks from punctures or leaks in high-speed, rear end crashes.

The Crown Victoria, which was manufactured 24 years ago, has the oldest unchanged design of any car on the market. The longer a car is marketed without a design change, the more profitable it is for the manufacturer.

The City of Dallas and others suing Ford over the Crown Victoria police cars are gathering sworn testimony from Ford officials as part of a consolidated discovery process before a federal judge in Cleveland. The city filed suit against Ford seeking Crown Victoria safety information last December in the wake of Dallas Police Officer Patrick Metzler's death.

Maybe it's time to switch to Intrepids?

March 3, 2003: Big Three sales released

Chrysler's American sales were down 4 percent in February 2003 compared with February 2002, due largely, according to Chrysler reps, to the adverse weather conditions (read: snow) which afflicted large parts of the United States. February also saw the debut of the "Best Values in America" campaign, which emphasizes value without actually saying anything good about the vehicles themselves (an interesting way to sell). There were minor increases in Liberty, Durango, and Dakota sales, rather strong increases in Concorde and 300M sales which more than compensated for a loss of Intrepids, and a six percent rise in Neon sales. Perhaps most important, Dodge Caravan sales were up 17 percent last month -- to 22,849 units -- compared with 19,541 vehicles in February 2002.

The down side included massive drops in Sebring sedans (33%) and coupes (36%), Chrysler Voyagers (down 47%!), Grand Cherokees (down 20% despite snow), PT Cruisers (down 21%), Stratus sedans (down 13%), and Ram vans (down 21%). Town & Country minivan sales also fell year-to-year, by 8%. Even though the snow was down and new models are out, the Ram pickups stayed even with last year.

Overall, cars fell 2%, trucks 5%, SUVs 7%, while minivans rose 2%. Chrysler has a 75 day supply of vehicles, or 532,223 units of inventory.

Meanwhile, GM fell 19% month-to-month, while Ford, once again, climbed - up 1.9% over last February.

All figures supplied by Bill Cawthon - however he is not responsible for commentary.

March 7, 2003: Ford bankruptcy predicted (!)

This article notes that a respected analyst has examined Ford's books and found that the company would already be bankrupt if it did not have such a well-known and iconic name.

March 7, 2003: Chrysler branding, in Europe and North America

According to separate reports, the Dodge brand for cars is being re-introduced not only in Canada, but also in Europe. Canada's first new Dodge since the phase-out of Dodge and Plymouth cars was the SX 2.0, replacing the Chrysler Neon; in Europe, the Dodge Viper will lead the re-establishment of the Dodge brand. Meanwhile, German Jeep dealers are being offered Mitsubishi licenses, according to just-auto.com.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the DCX strategy seems to be gaining some clarity. Mitsubishi, which mainly sells to the under-35 crowd and has successfully tuned its commercials for younger buyers, will replace the recently-dowdy Plymouth brand for the entry level and youth market. Dodge will be the "Chevrolet" brand representing "real" American cars, while Chrysler will reach for the oft-quoted "American Audi" image. (We'd prefer for Chrysler to emulate a more successful brand.) Mercedes will, of course, try to remain right where it is, while countering Rolls, Bently, and other stratuspheric brands with Maybach.

While DCX is indeed trying to position its brands as being very different, the general styling of the LX series seems to be reverting to older forms of brand engineering, with both Dodge and Chrysler versions featuring similar forms, most notably tiny windows. However, specific styling forms are becoming more consistent among models - a strategy last tried in the US by Ford, when Escorts, Tempos, and Tauruses had very similar styling. The Dodge models currently have very similar styling - the completely different Stratus Coupe and Neon are hard to tell apart from a distance - and the new Chryslers are very similar, as well. So far Mitsubishi has escaped this German custom, which bonds all Mercedes models and all BMW models.

March 7, 2003: Neon, Sebring to be combined - confirmation

DCX has confirmed that the next-after-this-next-generation Galant, Sebring, and Stratus would move to the as-yet unproduced Neon/Lancer platform (in other words, the D platform will become an extended C platform). This move would most likely save well over $1 billion in development as well as drive down the number of unique components, and allow the future Galant/Sebrings to use the next-generation four-cylinder engines. Both platforms are being jointly designed by Chrysler and Mitsubishi.

March 11, 2003: Yet another Ford coverup?

According to Detroit News, a citizen's group plans to request the re-opening of a defect investigation because of new evidence. This suit is interesting, because the group in question, the Environmental Working Group, is seeking to show Ford's lack of regard for vehicle safety to discredit Ford's arguments that they oppose increased gas mileage solely because it might lower vehicle safety (an interesting argument from the makers of so many exploding cars). This new evidence showed that Ford knew about the Bronco II's stability problems as it was being designed, but decided to ignore them to avoid increased costs or a delay in bringing out the popular SUV. Ford's best-known safety issue was most likely the Ford Pinto, a vehicle known by the company to have a dangerous flaw - but left unfixed because it was thought the price of lawsuits and penalties would be lower than the price of repair. More recently, Ford has been implicated in safety problems with patrol cars and has been accused of causing many tire blowouts by recommending an unsafe tire pressure in the Explorer.

March 13, 2003: CR rates Chrysler best domestic, Toyota best

Surprising nobody, Consumer Reports rated Toyota as the highest quality car available. However, there were two surprises in the report - Hyundai was rated equal to Honda, both vying for the #2 position - and Chrysler was the highest rated domestic, which may surprise many outside the Allpar community. Toyota had 10 problems per 100 cars, Chrysler 20, Ford 21, and GM 23. BMW equaled Chrysler's reliability rating while Mercedes trailed at 22. However, it is worth noting that there are serious issues with CR's methods, and that they rank makers by the number of problems without regard to how serious they are (their survey asks owners for the number of "serious problems" in various areas).

April 1, 2003: Chrysler March sales

Chrysler Group reported sales of 201,941 units in March 2003, a three percent decline compared with March 2002, calculated on a day-rate basis. Gary Dilts, SVP-Sales, said, "We plan to continue our 'Best Values in America' message in April because it provides a point of clarity for consumers. The campaign combines our product, our warranty and incentive messages into one package that clearly offers the best car and truck values in the U.S. automotive market today."

Chrysler Group's top seller for the month was the Dodge Ram pickup truck. Dodge sold 38,931 units of the Ram in March, an increase of 14 percent compared to March 2002 when 35,457 vehicles were sold. Dodge Dakota pickup truck sales were 11,620 units, up two percent over last year, which helped drive total Dodge truck sales up six percent compared to March 2002. Minivan sales of 45,165 units were up five percent over last year. Dodge sold 29,671 Caravans, up 12 percent compared to March 2002, and Chrysler sold 13,307 Town & Country minivans, up nine percent over last year.

Jeep Liberty posted sales of 14,760 units, an increase of 22 percent compared to last year when there were 12,594 units sold. Also making sales gains was the Jeep Wrangler, with sales of 5,497 units, an increase of eight percent compared to year-earlier levels. Total Jeep brand sales were up four percent compared to March 2002.

The new Chrysler Pacifica reached showrooms in late March. Dilts commented that all indications are that this innovative new vehicle is off to a fast start in the market. "Early reaction from dealers and consumers is that Pacifica will clearly be the vehicle of choice in its segment," added Dilts.

Chrysler finished the month with 535,786 units of inventory, or a 69-day supply that is in-line with industry standards.

Details

Some vehicles had better year-to-date sales. They include the Concorde, up 25% to 10,186 units (January, February, and March); the 300M, up 7% to 8,020 units; the Wrangler and Liberty, both up 8%, to 13,227 and 37,205 units respectively; the Neon, up 3% to 32,156 units; and, most significantly, the Ram up 5% to 97,474 units, and the Caravan up 5% to 63,951 units. (Town & Country and Voyager both declined, so total minivan sales are a year to date loss of 4% - not bad considering increased competition from Kia and Honda.) The Viper also increased a bit, but with production of under 200 units per month, it won't have a huge impact. The all-important profit-center Ram is good news, especially given that the redesigned F-150 just debuted - and Ram sales went up in March!

The really big losers, percentage-wise, were the Intrepid, down year-to-date 28% to 21,666 units - still more than 300M and Concorde combined; the Sebring, down 23% to 24,940 units; the Voyager, incredibly down 52% to 5,104 units (time for that Plymouth logo to go back on?); and the Ram van, down 24%, but the end has come for that venerable vehicle. Equally worrisome, perhaps, are the declines in the PT Cruiser (down 13% to 30,754 units), Grand Cherokee (down 16% to 42,521) and Stratus (down 13% to 25,219). The Durango has also fallen.

One of the interesting things about sales figures is seeing what sells well, and what does not. Based on the past, we'd expect the Neon to be far and away the best seller, especially given its competitive advantages in space, speed, and handling. However, it has not fared that well, with about 32,000 sales in the first quarter, in a segment where Chrysler has in the past had no problem selling 200,000 units per year. But the best sellers appear to be mostly minivans and trucks, with even the Durango, not a standout in its class, pushing 25,000 units. The mighty Dodge Caravan carried 63,951 units over three months, and we suspect if Plymouth was still around we could count on the Voyager to grab another 40,000 or so. As it is, the identical Chrysler versions sold nearly 35,000 units, with the Pacifica coming up as well (with sales of 551 so far). The Liberty, which is in our opinion a class leader, sold 37,205 units, but the aging Grand Cherokee beat it with 42,521. The PT Cruiser, once seen as a mere niche vehicle and then later as a fad, managed 30,754 sales - almost as good as the Neon.

In terms of body families, the minivans sold roughly 100,000 units; the Sebring/Stratus, apparently including coupes even though they are totally unrelated to the sedans, 50,000; the about-to-be-replaced LH, about 40,000. (These are all YEAR TO DATE numbers covering three months.)
Neon32,000Rising
PT Cruiser30,000Falling
Sebring/Stratus sedan, coupe, conv.50,000Falling fast
LH series40,000Falling
Minivans100,000Falling
Ram97,500Rising
Dakota/Durango53,000Falling

Following are the actual numbers, provided by Bill Cawthon, and presumably released by Chrysler itself.

                              Month Sales      DR %    Sales CYTD       DR %
            Model            Curr Yr   Pr Yr  Change  Curr Yr   Pr Yr  Change
   Sebring                   10,525   13,302   -18%   24,940   32,828   -23%
   Concorde                   2,718    2,683     5%   10,186    8,270    25%
   300M                       2,452    2,930   -13%    8,020    7,601     7%
   LHS                            0       88  -100%        0      309  -100%
   Prowler                      200      200     4%      257      535     0%
   CHRYSLER CAR              15,895   19,203   -14%   43,403   49,543   -11%
   PT Cruiser                11,054   14,015   -18%   30,754   35,671   -13%
   Pacifica                     551        0     0%      551        0     0%
   Voyager                    2,187    4,528   -50%    5,104   10,751   -52%
   Town & Country            13,307   12,703     9%   29,665   31,806    -5%
   CHRYSLER TRUCK            27,099   31,246   -10%   66,074   78,228   -14%
   CHRYSLER BRAND            42,994   50,449   -11%  109,477  127,771   -13%
   Wrangler                   5,497    5,263     8%   13,227   12,387     8%
   Liberty                   14,760   12,594    22%   37,205   34,880     8%
   Grand Cherokee            17,965   20,175    -8%   42,521   51,307   -16%
   JEEP BRAND                38,222   38,032     4%   92,953   98,574    -4%
        CP CAR               15,895   19,367   -15%   43,403   49,923   -12%
        CPJ TRUCK            65,321   69,278    -2%  159,027  176,802    -9%
   CPJ DIVISION              81,216   88,645    -5%  202,430  226,725   -10%
   Neon                      11,324   11,795     0%   32,156   31,588     3%
   Stratus                   10,060   12,378   -16%   25,219   29,501   -13%
   Intrepid                   7,448   14,372   -46%   21,666   30,575   -28%
   Viper                        143      158    -6%      589      369    62%
   DODGE CAR                 28,975   38,703   -22%   79,630   92,033   -12%
   Dakota                    11,620   11,825     2%   27,980   29,882    -5%
   Ram P/U                   38,931   35,457    14%   97,474   93,729     5%
   Caravan                   29,671   27,427    12%   63,951   61,768     5%
   Durango                    9,586   10,865    -8%   25,088   27,154    -6%
   Ram Wagon                      0    1,597  -100%        0    3,949  -100%
   Ram Van                    1,942    2,639   -24%    5,224    6,959   -24%
   DODGE TRUCK               91,750   89,810     6%  219,717  223,441     0%
   DODGE DIVISION           120,725  128,513    -2%  299,347  315,474    -4%
   TOTAL CAR                 44,870   58,070   -20%  123,033  141,956   -12%
   TOTAL TRUCK              157,071  159,088     3%  378,744  400,243    -4%
   TOTAL CAR & TRUCK        201,941  217,158    -3%  501,777  542,199    -6%
   Total Minivan             45,165   44,658     5%   98,720  104,325    -4%
   Total Sport Utility       47,808   48,897     2%  118,041  125,728    -5%
   Selling Days                  26       27              75       76
 

April 4, 2003: Plants for Neon, Sebring replacements announced

According to the Oakland Press, DCX has announced that the replacements for the current Neon, Lancer, PT Cruiser, Galant, Eclipse, Sebring, and Stratus will be built at the same plants where they are all built now, even though they are moving onto new, shared platforms. Presumably Chrysler versions will be built in Chrysler plants, with the possible (existing) exception of coupes being made by Mitsubishi. Currently, the Neon is made in Belvedere, the PT in Toluca, the Sebring/Stratus sedan in Sterling Heights, the Sebring/Stratus Coupe and Eclipse in Normal, Illinois.

April 10, 2003: SRT-4 wins Car & Driver Sport Compact comparison

"Chris the Mopar Man" noted that the Dodge (Neon) SRT-4 came out tops in Car & Driver's test of various sport compacts, including both the Mazdaspeed Protege and SVT Focus, two prior favorites.

April 15, 2003: Did Saddam Hussein have the missing Plymouth XNR?

Jim Benjaminson wrote: "Word from Irag in today news is that coalition forces have discovered a cache of "hundreds" of antique cars in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces. Is it possible that the 1960 Plymouth XNR roadster could be among them? When last photographed in the late 1960s, the XNR was in the hands of Kuwaiti car dealer Anwar al-Mulla."

April 15, 2003: Cadillac scoops Chrysler with 400 hp manual CTS-V

Cadillac has already scooped Chrysler's next 300 - not to mention the SRT-8 - with the CTS-V, a 400 horsepower, 390 lb-ft version of the popular CTS. Using a 5.7 liter V8, the General Motors Performance Division's take on the (relatively) small Cadillac uses no supercharger or turbocharger, unlike the Magnum SRT-8 concept, and is coupled to a six-speed manual transmission so that power isn't dissipated into fluid. It is scheduled to go on sale in the last quarter of 2003.

Chrysler will be using the Hemi engine in its large cars. Currently rated at 345 horsepower, it is expected to have higher horsepower ratings in cars, but matching the Caddie's horsepower and torque would be a challenge - and no manual transmissions are expected in any of the LX series cars. The Magnum SRT concept is rated with more power, courtesy of a supercharger, but it only has an automatic. The CTS-V, with its 5-second 0-60 time, will probably be considerably more expensive than the Magnum SRT or the next 300.

April 16, 2003: Chrysler 300M replacement shown

The tradition of naming 300 series cars incrementally has been eliminated, as the new 300M replacement will be the Chrysler 300C. We have a full report including photos and specs.

April 16, 2003: Auto Show: 300C introduced, options discussed

The Chrysler 300C was introduced today. We have details here, but some additional news was announced as well. The LX series will most likely have the 3.5 liter V6 as the base engine, with some having the Hemi. There is currently no manual transmission planned, according to the VP of Engineering. The 4.7 V8, which many had guessed would be an intermediate engine, will not be used. The styling of the 300C is much better in person than in photos, as is the Dodge Magnum. While the 300C preproduction concept has 20 inch wheels and a very low ride, the final model may or may not have smaller wheels. We were told that the 300C will ride as low to the ground as the concept, and that it has been engineered to avoid scraping - the entry and exit angles have been carefully considered. We will have more updates later today, as well as new photos of the Dodge Tomahawk motorcycle. Keep an eye on the main index page.

April 18, 2003: Chrysler fuel-cell minivan to be shown at Pentagon

The Chrysler Town & Country Natrium, a fuel-cell concept vehicle running on clean, nonflammable, and recyclable sodium borohydride fuel, will participate in a ride-and-drive display program at the Pentagon at the request of acting Secretary of the Navy. This program takes place on April 21 part of Earth Day celebrations and is an opportunity for top military officials to experience the advantages of the Chrysler Natrium fuel-cell vehicle.

The Natrium is the first fuel-cell powered vehicle built to operate on sodium borohydride, a fuel made from borax which is a mineral available in abundant supply in the Western United States. In the Natrium minivan, this technology delivers the environmental benefits of a fuel-cell vehicle without the loss of cargo or passenger space, while providing a range of 300 miles, longer than any other fuel-cell vehicle. Hydrogen is extracted from sodium borohydride to power the fuel cell. Sodium borohydride is a compound chemically related to borax, the naturally-occurring substance commonly used in laundry soap.

* Zero dependency on oil for propulsion
* Cargo and passenger space is not compromised for on-board storage of hydrogen
* Byproduct can be rehydrogenated and used again as fuel
* Near-silent operation
* Capable of producing 110- and 240-volt electricity
* Greater driving range than other fuel-cell vehicles
* Potential for zero emissions of smog-forming and greenhouse gasses.

"Chrysler ... has a long and proud history of supporting our national defense efforts," said Bernard I Robertson, Senior Vice President, Research and Regulatory Affairs.  "This unique technology could have great benefits for the military: in particular, it is nonflammable, greatly improving safety in battle zones, and the main ingredient can be transported as a dry powder, dramatically reducing the enormous logistical demands of fueling our military in advanced battle settings. In addition, the greater fleet fuel efficiency would greatly reduce the amount of fuel used by our armed forces--fuel that can cost hundreds of dollars per gallon to deliver to the battlefield. And this technology produces zero smog-forming and greenhouse gases, contributing to a cleaner environment. Finally, sodium borohydride has the potential to reduce or eliminate our dependence on oil for our transportation needs."

The U.S. armed forces have expressed interest in alternative-fuel vehicles in order to stretch the military's mobility into the future with improved fuel economy and range. Benefits include a decreased dependency on oil which significantly decreases cost of operation and increases the range and reach of individual task forces.

April 21, 2003: Ford drops economy plan

Now that it seems certain that gas mileage standards will not be raised by any substantial amount, Ford has, as expected, backtracked on its pledge to raise SUV gas mileage by 25%. The company now claims that goal is not possible to realize, though cynics may question whether Ford was ever serious about it.

April 23, 2003: Chrysler IT man heads Mitsubishi IT

Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) today announced the appointment of Aleksey Beylin as Chief Information Officer and Corporate General Manager of its Global IT Office. Beylin, 40, takes over from Daimler-Benz's Bernd Staudinger, who will head the DaimlerChrysler University in Stuttgart, Germany.

Born in Russia and educated in the United States, Beylin started out at Chrysler in 1988, and was moved from Chrysler IT to become General Manager of DaimlerChrysler IT in 1998, shortly after Chrysler was acquired by Daimler-Benz. He was then made Director of IT Service and Computer Operations - Europe for DaimlerChrysler in 2001.

Analysis: Before the takeover, Chrysler was acclaimed for its efficient, advanced IT department. Many Chrysler IT people were reportedly forced out after the acquisition, though the Mercedes-Benz IT department in Stuttgart was said to be overstaffed. It appears that, over time, the value of Chrysler's IT operations and methods have become known to DaimlerChrysler executives, and have become de facto corporate standards. The appointment of a former Chrysler person to head a Mitsubishi department may be one additional indicator of a new respect for Chrysler Group (and the former Chrysler Corporation) by DaimlerChrysler.

Thanks to Dan Minick for pointing us to Mr. Beylin's appointment.

April 24, 2003: DCX profits rise

DaimlerChrysler first-quarter operating profit was $1.5 billion, a 38% ($420 million) increase over first-quarter 2002.

April 28, 2003: Daimler continues to cut Chrysler

Claiming that rising incentives and slowing sales made the move necessary, DCX announced further cost cutting at Chrysler even as the division posted an operating profit in the first quarter, its fourth consecutive operating-profitable quarter (though thanks to muddy accounting practices, we only have DCX's word that there was ever a loss at Chrysler). Year-to-date sales are down 8 percent through March 2003, and April does not look good. Chrysler is still in the midst of its earlier cost cutting plan, which involves losing 26,000 jobs and six plants.

While DCX says no more job cuts are planned, more assets may be sold within the year. We have a page on this topic. Chrysler's revenues still beat the commercial vehicles division, which does not appear to be facing cost cutting.

April 29, 2003: Plant closing - McGraw Glass?

A plant worker wrote: "McGraw Glass Plant (McGone Glass) has lost 50 % of its employees. The company is on pace to have nearly 95% of its product line outsourced by September 2003. There are NO new products even being discussed. The PM program inside the plant has been scuttled. Machinery gets fixed when it breaks and not a minute sooner. Some of the plant has been walled off. There are plenty of rumors to go around. I give you facts here. NO new work, 50% of the workforce layed off. Management is nearly all retirees (per diem) from the past taking the places of all the newer people who have left the plant. There is no talk of a future at Mcgraw Glass. Most managers are looking for jobs elsewhere in the corporation. Us union people who are layed off sit at the union hall to get a 40 hour check. Dieter and Wolfgang are always smiling when you see them. Have them come to McGraw and tell us face to face we have a place in the corporation."

Despite DCX's positioning of possible additional "asset sales" as a response to rising incentives and lower sales, it should be noted that preparation for plant sales and closings have been taking place for some time, according to employee reports.

May 1, 2003: Chrysler sales

Even as GM reported a nasty 9 percent sales drop over last April, Chrysler lost 10 percent overall, month-to-month, and seven percent, year-to-date (all the following details are year-to-date, which compares Jan-April 2002 against Jan-April 2003).

The best showings were from the Liberty, with a year-to-date improvement of 6 percent, the Viper, up 45 percent (from 530 units to 770 over the first four months of the year), and the Ramp pickup, with a hefty 4 percent rise (127,629 to 133,112 units). Caravan sales rose 1 percent - by 500 units - but Voyager sales fell 53 percent, or 8,000 units, and Town & Country sales fell 4 percent, or 1,800 units, so the minivan news is not good. The soon-to-be-discontinued Concorde managed a 9 percent sales hike, even as the better-selling Intrepid plummeted 27 percent, and the Wrangler posted a three percent gain which reflects about 600 units sold. 88 Sprinter vans - Mercedes vans sold under the Dodge and Freightliner labels - helped boost Dodge truck sales very slightly, while the loss of the Ram Wagon, 5,511 units last year, hurt the overall figure a bit.

That was all the good news. The bad news is continuing losses with key models. The Neon fell 1 percent, despite increased competition. The Stratus and Sebring fell by over 10,000 units - this time around, Chrysler only reported sales of the Stratus as a unified whole, so we cannot separate the Mitsubishi-made Stratus Coupe from the much more popular Chrysler-made Sedan and Convertible. The Intrepid, as noted, fell quite a bit, while the 300M held its own, losing only 90 sales from last year.

In the truck and minivan arena, 2,357 Pacificas were sold, which does not quite make up for all those thousands of lost minivan sales. PT Cruiser sales were down 17 percent as advertising ended and the fad buyers went elsewhere. Grand Cherokee sales dropped 17 percent, possibly influenced a bit by rumors of the new model, and also by the new competition from Chevy, Ford, and others.

Dakota sales fell 9 percent, or 4,000 units, while the Durango dropped seven percent.

Overall, cars were down 12 percent - trucks, 6 percent - minivans, 6 percent - SUVs, 6 percent for the year. Month to month, cars, trucks, and SUVs were all down 10 percent, while minivans fell 12 percent, with a promise of lower sales to come as Toyota's new Sienna makes a splash and Nissan revs up publicity on the upcoming Quest.

May 1, 2003: Pacifica and Crossfire introductions

Pacificas are arriving at dealer showrooms, though advertising has not yet begun. Chrysler will be helped by safety ratings - this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will announce that the Chrysler Pacifica received five stars -- the highest rating a vehicle can earn -- for all frontal and side impact crash tests.

Pacifica is equipped with one of the world's first three-row side curtain air bags, inflatable knee blocker air bag and an advanced energy-absorbing steering column designed within a rigid body structure.

The 2004 Crossfire, a discontinued Mercedes model built in Germany using somewhat different body panels and incorporating tuning changes and minor cosmetic tweaks, will go on sale soon at $34,495, a substantial discount from its current selling price as a Mercedes. Chrysler's press release notes its "proven German engineering," which appears to have racked up unenviable reliability reports (compared with Chrysler) in that famous consumer magazine.

May 6, 2003: Chrysler quality inches up

Despite an industry performance rate that remained flat for the first time since 1999, the Chrysler Group was the only major manufacturer to post quality gains for the 13th straight year, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2003 Initial Quality Studys released today.  The company also made significant strides in existing models, and bucked industry trends by recording better initial quality on newly launched vehicles. 

The J.D. Power report showed that the Chrysler Group as a whole posted a 3-percent gain in overall initial quality rankings, despite a flat industry average.  The company's new-vehicle launch strategy was validated through the performance of the recently launched Dodge Ram light duty (4 percent improvement compared with its predecessor model) and the Dodge Ram heavy duty (10 percent improvement compared with its predecessor model).  In addition, there was continued solid performance of the Jeep Liberty (6 percent improvement over 2002).  Each reflects an improvement over last year's impressive initial scores, and runs counter to the slippage in quality on newly launched vehicles that often occurs in the industry. 

The Dodge Ram heavy duty truck led all heavy duty competition, including models from GM and Ford which have been out for a while.

The J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) ranks new vehicles based on the first 90 days of ownership.

May 7, 2003: Chrysler Pacifica has highest scores on crash test

The Chrysler Pacifica has reached the bar set by competing vehicles by achieving the highest ratings in each type of crash test from the Federal Government. The 5 star ratings have been featured in ads from Hyundai, Ford, and Honda, and have now been given to the Chrysler Pacifica as well. Chrysler reported 27,000 orders from dealers for the new vehicle, but will limit production to 100,000 units per year to retain a premium position.

May 8, 2003: British mag gives Crossfire thumbs-up over SLK

Dan Minick pointed us to a positive article from the British publication CAR. He quoted CAR as saying, among others:

May 9, 2003: Millionth Dodge Ram with Cummins diesel given away

The one-millionth Cummins diesel engine built for the Dodge Ram Heavy Duty was shipped from Cummins' Columbus, Ind. factory today. To commemorate the milestone, Dodge will hand off the keys of its one-millionth Cummins diesel-powered Ram to a lucky sweepstakes winner.

Cummins has supplied Dodge with diesel engines since 1989 and has become the benchmark for diesel power in the heavy-duty segment. Since 1989, the exceptionally durable straight-six Cummins Turbo Diesel engine has increased its horsepower and torque ratings by 91 percent and 39 percent, respectively, culminating in the current High Ouput Cummins Turbo Diesel, which delivers 305 horsepower and 555 lb.-ft. of torque. Fitted with the High Output Cummins Turbo Diesel, the Dodge Ram Heavy Duty features a class- leading gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCVW) of 23,000 lbs.

May 13, 2003: 2004 minivan changes

"2.0 R/T" reported: "There is no Voyager for 2004. Chrysler will offer a short wheelbase Town and Country LX, but it will be an upscale model with a 3.3 Liter V6 standard. Dodge will offer the Caravan SE as a 4 cylinder only (except flleet ) and an SXT high content model with the 3.3. In the Grand Caravan, both the Sport and ES are gone leaving only the SE, SXT, and EX models to find homes in the basic to upper middle range of price points. The Town and Country will begin with an LX, EX, Touring and a Limited edition. The separation of price is to lead the Chrysler division more upscale. Also interesting are 2 special editions of the Dodge Grand Caravan and Town and Country that will celebrate the minivan's 20th anniversary. The Town and Country will be called the Platinum edition, the Grand Caravan will be called the Anniversary Edition, both will feature a-lot of extra content including rear seat DVD players."

Pacifica gets five stars in each test

5/21/2003

The Chrysler Pacifica gained NHTSA's highest rating, five stars, on all frontal and side impact crash tests, after an intensive effort to make the vehicle as safe as possible. In addition to having gone through computer and real crash testing throughout the development process, the Pacifica has three-row side curtain airbags mounted in the ceiling, which provide full side window coverage, and an inflatable knee blocker to protect the driver's leg and position the driver for best airbag coverage. The Pacifica was also designed to avoid accidents with optional all wheel drive and "sport sedan cornering and handling."

DCX reneges on Canadian promises

5/22/2003

DaimlerChrysler has gone back on a pledge to open a new plant in Ontario to replace the Windsor full-size van facility, which will soon be closed down as Dodge sells rebadged Mercedes vans instead of its own, long-neglected full-size vans. DCX blamed economic conditions and the Canadian government for not providing corporate welfare. The Windsor factory had been upgraded at substantial cost around the time of the merger, with rumors hinting at full-size SUV production. More recent rumors suggested that a compact pickup and the Razor would be built at a new Windsor plant. "Wheatking" commented: "The way I read that is: We wanted to build the Razor/M80.. but marketing says it won't sell, and we'd need a new plant and new tooling etc... so the ends don't justify the means..Windsor was our first choice but the government didn't pony up the cash.. and with the climbing Canadian dollar, Mexico is looking like a better choice. So we're gonna stick with the cars that we said we'd bring out (no Razor/M80) that are based on current platforms and use current Mercedes parts that we can bill Chrysler for, rather than have Dodge/Chrysler have a vehicle not based around Mercedes parts."

Neon SRT-4 notes

5/22/2003

We spent half an hour in a Dodge SRT-4 today. The well-tuned Neon combines desirable Neon traits with desirable Spirit R/T traits, and in the process absolutely blows away most competitors, especially the Toyota Celica and Acura RSX. Acceleration is very strong but also very smooth, so that while it posts similar figures to the Spirit R/T, it does so without as much need for driver skill and cooperative roads. Acceleration is strong from any engine speed, with no need to be up in the high (4,000+) rpms before getting turbo boost and a kick in the pants. The interior is nicely done, with tasteful chrome accents and a visible if small boost/vacuum gauge. Handling is very good but ride is not compromised - again, a vast improvement over the Celica and RSX, not to mention the Camaro. As a modified Neon, the SRT-4 has a good-sized rear seat and trunk, too. The engine is fairly loud with a rumbling, Camaro-style sound that could easily be muted with a muffler if the owner desired a sleeper. The seats are very supportive with clear sides which make it a little hard to get out, and may cause larger people some consternation, but help to keep people in the targeted size range very stable around turns. They can most likely be replaced with Neon seats quite easily. This is a very enjoyable car, and Chrysler could probably sell three times as many, especially if they were to actually place television ads.

Pay hikes delayed

5/23/2003

Chrysler is once again delaying merit pay raises for salaried workers and raising white-collar workers' co-pays for prescription drugs. Merit raises are being delayed until at least October 1 from July 1. The moves are being justified by DCX because sales are down 7.2 percent, while the US market is down 4 percent as a whole. The drug co-pay brings Chrysler employees to rough parity with GM and Ford, at $7 for generics and $15 for brand name pharmaceuticals.

Mitsubishi execs told to buy Mercedes

5/23/2003

Mitsubishi's CEO, Rolf Eckrodt, who was brought in from and by Mercedes, asked Mitsubishi executives to trade in their cars for Mercedes models to feel a part of the DaimlerChrysler family. He notably did not mention Chrysler, with which Mitsubishi is sharing a large number of new cars - all of Chrysler's upcoming cars and one SUV will be on Mitsubishi platforms or share at least 20 percent of their parts with Mercedes. Mitsubishi is the fourth largest Japanese automaker, and the most popular among younger Americans. As with Chrysler, Mitsubishi has been assigned a role within DaimlerChrysler, and will not be on Mercedes turf - within three months of his arrival, Eckrodt eliminated funding for luxury cars, saying he wanted Mitsubishi to be an "Asian- oriented, stylish, sporty brand."

Mitsubishi is profitable in North America, but loses money in Japan and Europe. Eckrodt has cut costs in development by sharing platforms and components with Chrysler and Hyundai, and has increased quality by using Chrysler's and Mercedes' models. He also sold most of its truck and bus division to other Mitsubishi companies and DaimlerChrysler, and eliminated 14 percent of the company's jobs.

Jeep Compass reportedly approved

5/27/2003

Mike's Jeep News cited sources saying that the Jeep Compass has been given a green light for production. While not Rubicon-trail capable, the price should be a little less than the Liberty it will be based on. It will focus on on-road ability, and will probably have a base 2.4 liter four-cylinder. Production is unlikely before 2005.

Chrysler Group $100 million for marketing

5/27/2003

According to The Car Connection, Chrysler will be spending an additional $100 million over the summer months to try and boost their sluggish sales. This money will reportedly NOT be spent on incentives, but rather, real advertising! We'll have to wait and see...

Shakeup in Chrysler management

5/30/2003

Marketing and sales head Jim Schroer, hired from Ford only two years ago, will be leaving at the end of this month. Joe Eberhardt, 39, will succeed Schroer as the head of the Sales, Marketing and Service organization, effective June 1, 2003. [This can only bode well for Chrysler's failing sales and marketing efforts].

In addition, DaimlerChrysler Board member Thomas W. Sidlik will take over the corporation's Global Procurement and Supply post, succeeding Gary C. Valade, who will retire at the end of the year. (Both were Chrysler Corporation executives.) Peter M. Rosenfeld, 45, will move up to Chrysler Group Executive Vice President for Procurement and Supply in December, and will, like Eberhardt, be on the Chrysler Group Executive Committee.

Joe Eberhardt, 39, is, not surprisingly, a Mercedes import. He has been the President and CEO of all DaimlerChrysler U.K. operations (including Mercedes and Chrysler) since October 1999. Under his leadership, DCX sales in the United Kingdom have more than doubled while dealer profitability has improved. Eberhardt had previously been in sales leadership positions at Mercedes-Benz in the United States for over ten years. During that 1988-99 period, Mercedes more than tripled its sales volume in America. He also led the product marketing and development area for the Mercedes-Benz passenger car business both in the United States and on a global basis.

Joe Eberhardt was born in Stuttgart, Germany, on August 26, 1963. Peter Rosenfeld joined Chrysler in 1982. (Thanks, "91redbaron.")

Jeep Compass to ride on Mitsubishi Lancer platform?

6/02/2003

Paul Lienhart at globalautonet.com wrote that the "Jeep" Compass "soft roader" will not simply be a softer, lower, lighter Liberty, but will actually be based on a car platform. The Compass now has program code MK74, platform GS (the next-generation Mitsubishi Lancer, which does have Chrysler engineering input), and a plant (Belvidere, where the Neon is currently made). It will go into production around January 2006. It is possible - maybe even likely - he is mixing up the Compass (which was to appear in 2004 or 2005) with a small "Dodge" SUV.

Daimler incriminated in falsifying statements

6/03/2003

Bloomberg News found out that Daimler-Benz strategy head Ruediger Grube referred to the acquisition of Chrysler Corporation as a takeover, not a merger,three months before the event. This was among 12,000 documents made public in the $15 billion Kerkorian lawsuit, which is based on the idea that DCX would be more valuable if it had been a merger - or that D-B would have had to pay a premium for Chrysler instead of receiving a discount if it had been honestly titled an acquisition. The "merger of equals" was to have five representatives from each company on the supervisory board, but Chrysler is now represented on the management board by two members, one of whom is soon to retire. This discovery is bolstered by a number of other documents showing Daimler-Benz's plans to discard Chrysler's standing as an equal as soon as the combination was completed. When confronted, DCX executives have tended to say they changed their minds about an acquisition in favor of a merger, but Juergen Schrempp told the Financial Times he had misled the public and always intended to have an acquisition.

Chrysler resorts to yet more incentives

6/03/2003

With Dieter Zetsche frequently telling reporters he does not want to resort to incentives, Chrysler has countered poor sales of the brand new Pacifica not with lowered prices or even - gasp - advertising to tell people what it is and why they should buy it, but with $1,000 rebates and yet more cost cutting. New incentives including 1.9 percent 6 year loans, more interest-free five year loans, and $500 to $1,000 boosts on existing rebates. The new ad campaign, which we reported on earlier, focuses exclusively on incentives, and breaks down brand identities by using the same slogans for each one.

Chrysler drops Hummer lawsuit

6/03/2003

Chrysler has dropped its trademark lawsuit against Hummer, whose GM-based H2 has entered the mass market with a seven-slot, vertical grille. GM is planning an H3, presumably a TrailBlazer with new sheet metal.

Chrysler announces May sales with mixed results

6/03/2003

Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales of 217,411 units in May 2003 vs. 216,563 from May 2002, a three percent decline when calculated on a day-rate basis (though Bill Cawthon noted that May 2003 sales are actually greater than May 2002).

Bright spots included record May sales for the Ram, up 26 percent from last year, and a surprising spike in Durango sales, up 38 percent to 12,588 vehicles for the month. Other May bright spots include a hike in Liberty sales (up 17 percent) and Wrangler sales (up 8 percent). The Chrysler Concorde went up 32 percent, the Stratus up 13 percent, and the dying Ram Van up 20 percent.

Year to date, Chrysler is down 6%, losing over 50,000 units - Chrysler brand down 14%, Jeep 4%, Dodge Car 10%, Dodge Truck 2%. Minivans are down 11%, cars 10%, trucks 5%, SUVs 3%. Winners year to date are the Ram (up 9%), Viper, Concorde (up 15% but it hardly matters with the better-selling Intrepid down 26%!), Liberty, and Wrangler, with the Durango holding roughly steady.

         U.S. Sales Summary Thru May 2003

                                Month Sales      DR %    Sales CYTD      DR %

             Model            Curr Yr   Pr Yr  Change  Curr Yr   Pr Yr  Change

    Sebring                   10,540   11,763   -14%   45,875   55,252   -18%

    Concorde                   4,502    3,280    32%   17,089   14,782    15%

    300M                       2,909    2,930    -4%   13,402   13,513    -2%

    LHS                            0      192  -100%        0      552  -100%

    Prowler                       21      144   -86%      408      815   -50%

    Crossfire                      0        0               0        0

    CHRYSLER CAR              17,972   18,309    -5%   76,774   84,914   -10%

    PT Cruiser                10,563   13,727   -26%   51,303   62,526   -19%

    Pacifica                   2,471        0     0%    4,828        0     0%

    Voyager                    1,880    4,918   -63%    8,538   19,144   -56%

    Town & Country            14,131   14,250    -5%   55,374   57,321    -4%

    CHRYSLER TRUCK            29,045   32,895   -15%  120,043  138,991   -14%

    CHRYSLER BRAND            47,017   51,204   -12%  196,817  223,905   -13%

    Wrangler                   7,557    6,723     8%   26,672   25,218     5%

    Liberty                   15,908   13,082    17%   65,958   60,399     8%

    Grand Cherokee            15,919   16,700    -8%   74,629   87,149   -15%

    JEEP BRAND                39,384   36,505     4%  167,259  172,766    -4%

         CP CAR               17,972   18,511    -7%   76,774   85,519   -11%

         CPJ TRUCK            68,429   69,400    -5%  287,302  311,757    -9%

    CPJ DIVISION              86,401   87,911    -5%  364,076  397,276    -9%

    Neon                      13,364   12,903     0%   56,027   55,981    -1%

    Stratus                   11,376    9,704    13%   48,523   49,207    -2%

    Intrepid                  10,942   13,450   -22%   42,588   56,751   -26%

    Viper                        274      155    70%    1,044      685    51%

    DODGE CAR                 35,956   36,212    -4%  148,182  162,624   -10%

    Dakota                    11,417   13,806   -20%   49,599   55,917   -12%

    Ram P/U                   44,074   33,657    26%  177,186  161,286     9%

    Caravan                   23,872   31,944   -28%  110,486  118,048    -7%

    Durango                   12,588    8,799    38%   46,179   44,846     2%

    Ram Wagon                      0    1,844  -100%        0    7,355  -100%

    Ram Van                    2,987    2,390    20%   10,362   11,831   -13%

    Sprinter Van                 116        0     0%      204        0     0%

    DODGE TRUCK               95,054   92,440    -1%  394,016  399,283    -2%

    DODGE DIVISION           131,010  128,652    -2%  542,198  561,907    -4%

    TOTAL CAR                 53,928   54,723    -5%  224,956  248,143   -10%

    TOTAL TRUCK              163,483  161,840    -3%  681,318  711,040    -5%

    TOTAL CAR & TRUCK        217,411  216,563    -3%  906,274  959,183    -6%

    Total Minivan             39,883   51,112   -25%  174,398  194,513   -11%

    Total Sport Utility       51,972   45,304    10%  213,438  217,612    -3%

    Selling Days                  27       26             128      127

$1.2 billion loss forecast

6/04/2003

DCX has forecast a $1.2 billion loss for Chrysler in the next fiscal quarter. The implications of this are unclear since Chrysler is part of a larger corporation, and profits and losses are determined partly by costing and revenue formulas.

Lemon list out - Chrysler does relatively well

6/05/2003

"hemidakota" noted that the lemon list, for the cars with the highest complaint to sales ratios, is out. The Ford Escape has the worst position (the Mazda version isn't listed!), with a ratio of 24,916 - the next worst is, believe it or not, the Toyota Prius, with 14,625. Ford had four models in the Top Ten (including the Lincoln LS), GM had two, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Toyota had one apiece, and Chrysler had one - the Jeep Grand Cherokee, #10. In the top 25, Ford had 5, GM 5, Chrysler 4, and Toyota 3. Others included VW (2), and Subaru (2).

Intrepid, Concorde to be renamed

6/10/2003

As they move onto new platforms, the popular Dodge Intrepid and somewhat less popular Chrysler Concorde will receive new names, on the logic that the current names are only attractive to current buyers.

Anti-Daimler lawsuit moves forward

6/12/2003

Merger-related shareholder lawsuits against DaimlerChrysler have now been given class action status. This includes Kerkorian's $3 billion suit, which is also being pursued separately. At issue is whether Chrysler stockholders were damaged by Daimler-Benz's apparently false claims of a "merger of equals." Anyone who owned Chrysler stock that was exchanged for DaimlerChrysler stock, or who acquired DCX shares from the merger through November 2000, can join the lawsuit.

LH and LX schedules

6/12/2003

Jim (Stratuscaster) gained this information from fleet news (where Chrysler is pushing the Mercedes assocation hard): Production of the 2004 Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde will end in August. 2005 LX vehicles will them in the 1st Quarter 2004. Fleet Operations will offer specially packed and priced vehicles such as the Sebring LXi, Grand Cherokee, Liberty, and Dodge Caravan, equipped with high value content fleet discount packages to reposition the vehicles near the 2004 Intrepid 22C price point and equipment level. Production of the LX vehicles will begin in late December, 2003/early January, 2004. Production of the Dodge Magnum (the Intrepid replacement) will begin first. It is anticipated that order placement for the Magnum will be available in November with the first deliveries in February. Production of the Concorde replacement should begin 30 days after the Magnum. The LX will include stability control systems (active suspensions.)

First shared-platform car appears

6/12/2003

Dan Minick of globalauto.org wrote: "Smart's first four-door four passenger auto (was released)...the Smart forfour shares a platform with Mitsubishi's new Colt. This is the first co-devloped platform to hit the streets in the DaimlerChrysler empire...the forfour and the Colt look nothing alike. Each model looks like a full-blooded family member of the division whose surname they carry. I would bet you'd be hard pressed to notice that these two were even related unless you studied stampings and under carriage bits...I think we'll be expecting great things from the new platforms DC has planned. Expect no cookie-cutter clones, but distinct brand specific models. This is the kind of platform sharing that works."

More Chrysler cutbacks

6/18/2003

Chrysler's white-collar workforce will be cut by another 2 percent in response to losses at nearly all DaimlerChrysler units. The goal is to save $1 billion by the end of the year, mainly by squeezing suppliers, but also through attrition - that is, losing the most experienced people and not replacing them. Chrysler has already ordered suppliers to provide them with "world class" pricing - according to some, that means the prices Chrysler would get from companies building parts in China, with no engineering costs. In the past, Chrysler won accolades for its supplier relationships, which saved money overall - even though some parts costs were higher - by having suppliers provide engineering and design expertise, and point out ways to make cars more cheaply.

Chrysler most improved in plant efficiency

6/18/2003

According to the Harbour Report, Chrysler's productivity gained 8.3 percent over last year, the best gain in Chrysler's history and the second-best for anyone since the report began in 1981. Every single plant gained in 2002 over 2001.

Chrysler's Tom LaSorda gave credit to American employees, saying, "We know that our workforce is the key to all the equations that make up the Harbour numbers. Machines alone can't produce vehicles; people produce vehicles, and people are behind all the improvements we are seeing in our plants."

Chrysler led The Harbour Report's year-over-year improvement in assembly operations, with a gain of nine percent in efficiency. The St. Louis (Missouri) North Assembly Plant was the most-improved plant in the report. The plant, home of the Dodge Ram pickup trucks, improved by 28.6 percent during the launch of the Dodge Ram heavy duty pickup trucks, a phase when manufacturing efficiencies are usually difficult to achieve. The Belvidere (Illinois) Assembly Plant moved up in the report's "Subcompact Vehicle" segment, to become the number three performer.

Chrysler achieved an 8.4 percent improvement at its engine operations and a 3.7 percent gain in transmission efficiency. The Kokomo (Indiana) Transmission Plant led the "Front Wheel Drive Transmission" segment to become the benchmark plant in this year's report, with a 3.6 percent improvement.

Japanese automakers Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are the most efficient overall, but there were also improvements at General Motors, which had the most efficient plant in North America, (Oshawa #1 plant in Canada, which makes the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo).

Mid-size and large cars are assembled with fewer labor hours than are subcompact and compact cars, though they may have more parts and components.

Mitsubishi actually gained efficiency by reducing automation in its Illinois plant, relying on humans instead, for savings in monitoring and maintenance.

The report also noted that only 12-17% of the total cost of a car is labor, though the three Japanese companies that are the most efficient were also the most profitable. Honda, on average, earned $1,661 on every vehicle it sold in North America last year. Nissan earned $1,289. Toyota earned $1,182. Conversely, GM only made $337, Chrysler lost $1,679 and Ford lost $1,913.

Rumor - 2004 Minivans

6/19/2003

"Kerryman" reported: DCX has simplified the entire line of domestic minivans for '04. The "Sport" model is gone in both SWB (short wheelbase) and LWB (long wheelbase) with the SXT having additional content to fill the gap. The eL is also gone [not that most people knew it existed].

Dodge loses the ES model to give the high end customers over to Chrysler Town & Country. Content on the SXT and eX Grand Caravans will target the Honda LX and EX, respectively.

Short wheelbase Caravan SE now only will have the 4 cylinder, no V-6 option [apparently giving up against the Sedona]. Chrysler will not have the 4 cylinder option on their SWB Town & Country.

Dodge will also have an "Anniversary Edition" Grand Caravan, with some additional doo dads and badging, limited production run of only 10,000 vehicles. No signs of avy external changes to body panels or appearance. [This report implies that the Chrysler Voyager has quietly been dropped.]

"Eddievedder" reported: "2004 model buildout is December 23, 2003. look for something in the 2005 that the world has been waiting for from Chrysler minivans. 2005 model year job 1 (start of production) is slated for the first week of January 2004."

Jeep, large car teams merged

6/20/2003

Automotive News noted that Chrysler is combining its Jeep and large-car (LX) product development teams. A single vice president will oversee future Jeeps and large, rear-wheel-drive vehicles, though product developers and engineering chiefs will remain separate. The goal is to gain cost savings by using more common components in the two lines, and to apply lessons in refinement from the LX to the Jeeps. Eric Ridenour, Chrysler group vice president of product development, said no employees would be lost in the move.

According to the article, Craig Love's job as vice president of Jeep and large-car development will become more strategic in nature, with daily operating responsibilities pushed down to vehicle line chief engineers.

The rationale for putting large cars and Jeeps together is their longitudinal engine placement and unit body construction (except Wrangler, which is still body-on-frame).

Perhaps most soothing to those concerned about Jeep's future are quotes in the article from George Murphy, senior vice president of global brand marketing. "We wouldn't make a CR-V, a Ford Escape or a RAV4 for the Jeep brand. Jeep is the real thing...We will set a floor. If we can do it on a car-based vehicle, I wouldn't rule it out. But there are minimum standards for Jeep so that Jeep is always Jeep."

It is worth noting that a Jeep that could handle the Rubicon trail was once built on the extended K platform. The JJ concept was never put into production, apparently due to financial constraints at the time.

(Thanks, Doug Hetrick!)

Chrysler productivity comparison

6/20/2003

Chrysler PR noted that the company had major improvements in productivity in 2002 over 2001, but Chrysler still lagged far behind Nissan, Toyota, Honda, and GM, and was marginally behind Ford. Several people have noted since then that, from 1994 through 1996, Chrysler actually had the highest productivity of any company producing cars in North America, according to a 1997 Chrysler release. Without having appears that Chrysler's productivity has fallen while other companies have risen.

In 1998, before the merger had an impact, though, Chrysler was spending 32 hours per vehicle, while GM spent 30 and Nissan spent 17. (In 2002, Chrysler spent over 40 hours per vehicle). GM lost $104 per vehicle, while Chrysler made $1,520 per vehicle.

It must be noted that labor time is only about one fifth the cost of building a vehicle. Development, marketing, and other costs may be more significant.

Chrysler chief engineer profiled in Detroit News

6/24/2003

Chrysler chief engineer Eric Ridenour was profiled by Detroit News - see the link below for details. It also describes changes to the platform teams and some details on future product moves which have not been publicly discussed.

Chrysler sales, June 2003

7/01/2003

Chrysler reported sales of 198,962 units in June, a 6.6% increase compared to June 2002, calculated on a day-rate basis. Chrysler had the most improved sales of any U.S. manufacturer on a day-rate basis, though in terms of actual volume, Chrysler dropped about 1.9% from 2002. GM reported a 1.5% day-rate basis increase, though total sales volume was down 6.5%. Ford, which no longer reports based on DSR, reported a drop of 7.7%.

The Chrysler Pacifica recorded sales of 6,642 units in June 2003, more than double the total in May 2003 when 2,471 vehicles were sold, but still disappointing. The Crossfire was just introduced and registered 275 sales even though officially it will start to sell in July.

The Ram was as always the top seller with 41,115 units sold in June alone, over 34,053 in June 2002. Though it will soon be replaced, the Durango managed a 10 percent hike. The Wrangler also increased seven percent month to month. Month to month figures often fluctuate considerably, so Allpar uses year to date sales (on a day sales rate basis) as a bellweather. By those standards, the picture is not so bright.

The Chrysler Concorde posted a 16% gain, offset by a 7% fall in the 300M and a whopping 25% fall in the Intrepid. Since the Intrepid outsells the Concorde by a fair margin, this is not a good sign. On the lighter side, this is the last year for the LH series, so the company has done little to market them. Overall, Chrysler's cars experienced an 8% loss year to date.

Chrysler minivans were pounded, with the Town & Country down 3% but the Voyager down 56% and the PT Cruiser down 17%. That's a loss of over 13,000 units for the PT, another 13,000 units for the Voyager, and 2,000 for the Town & Country. All in all, Chrysler vans and such were down 10%, even with 11,000 Pacifica sales so far (which almost make up for the loss of the Voyager). Perhaps Chrysler will do some serious "why you should buy it" advertising on the Pacifica to boost sales. Product advertising on the other Chryslers would probably help, too, rather than the current incentive mania.

Jeep saw moderate rises in Wrangler (5%) and Liberty (7%) sales, with a 13% drop in the soon to be replaced Grand Cherokee - Jeep's volume leader and highest-cost vehicle with 103,298 sold last year to date and only 89,728 sold this year to date. The result was a net loss for Jeep.

The Neon, now sold only as a Dodge in the US, posted another 3% decline, even though it remains very competitive and its new transmission tuning makes both the automatic and manual more attractive. Dodge has not advertised these changes, however.

The Stratus posted a moderate increase of 5%, most of it coming in the past month. As noted, the Intrepid is down 25%, a loss of 17,000 units which dragged total Dodge Car sales down 8% year to date.

Dodge trucks were a mixed bag, with the Dakota falling 12%, the Caravan falling 7%, the Ram Van falling 11%, and the Ram Wagon gone - but the Ram Pickup gaining 12% (23,000 units!), the Durango climbing 3%, and the Mercedes Sprinter being phased in with 298 units, most of them in June. Total Dodge Truck change - an increase of 5,000 units for no daily-sales-rate change at all.

Overall, year to date, Chrysler is down 4% on a daily sales rate basis, with cars down 8% and SUVs down 2%. As the Honda Odyssey increases production and new minivans from Toyota, Ford, and Nissan make a buzz, the minivans are falling to the tune of a 10% drop - over 26,000 units in the first half of the year alone!

On the lighter side, with Chrysler’s marketing hopefully in much more capable hands, and a huge number of new vehicles due in the next two years, the company’s fortunes may well change.

(Thanks to Bill Cawthon for sending us the release and for bringing the competitive sales information to our attention.)

Setback for DaimlerChrysler in Shareholder Suit

7/02/2003

A U.S. judge has struck down part of DaimlerChrysler’s motion to dismiss multibillion-dollar shareholder lawsuits over the merger that formed the company.

The lawsuits contend that Daimler-Benz’s 1998 merger with Chrysler, though billed as a "merger of equals," was planned and executed as a takeover. Investor Kirk Kerkorian and other former Chrysler shareholders contend that had they known the deal was to be a takeover of Chrysler, they would have demanded a higher price for their shares

Delaware District Judge Joseph Farnan said investors could not have been reasonably expected to suspect the deal was a takeover. He did not rule on the rest of DaimlerChrysler's motion to dismiss, saying he would do so at a later date.

Chrysler moving to flat-folding third-row seats in minivans

7/07/2003

DETROIT -- Acknowledging that flat-folding third seats have become a major selling point for soccer moms and other minivan fans, Chrysler is planning to outfit its Chrysler and Dodge minivans with flat-folding third-row seats sometime in 2004.

The change is designed to help Chrysler compete against minivans from Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda, where the third-row seat stows in a well to create cargo space. The redesigned 2004 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans will have the feature when they go on sale this fall.

The popularity of the Honda Odyssey minivan is attributed in part to its self-stowing third-row seat. The back on the third-row bench seat in Chrysler minivans folds down, but to maximize cargo room, the heavy bench seat must be fully removed, which can require two people.

Chrysler hopes the change will allow it to continue its domination in minivan sales. It held a 38.3 percent share of the segment with 211,867 sales through June, but it has lost 0.8 percentage points of market share compared with the first half of 2002.

-RICHARD TRUETT | Automotive News

Mercedes least reliable DCX brand?

7/08/2003

According to J.D. Power's survey of three year old cars, designed to provide a better indicator of long-term quality than the initial quality studies (which can measure factory and dealer prep more than actual quality), the lowest-ranking DCX brand was Mercedes, with 318 defects per 100 vehicles. That's over double Toyota's level, and higher than Plymouth, Dodge, or Chrysler. The article noted the irony of Mercedes' posturing about improving Chrysler's quality. It is also worth noting that Honda was beaten by three American brands, two from General Motors.

Kia was the worst performer in the study, followed by Ford's expensive Land Rover. Other unusually poor performers in three-year defect rates were Volkswagen, Suzuki, and Daewoo. It is worth noting that Volkswagen and Land Rover sell at a premium - as do Volvo, Mercedes, and Audi, which appeared to "deteriorate" rapidly after good initial-quality showings.

Chrysler sues lawyers

7/09/2003

In a case of "man bites dog," Chrysler is suing three Texas lawyers who fabricated a product liability lawsuit with evidence tampering and attempted bribery. The company also is filing a grievance with the Texas Bar saying the lawyers, Robert Kugle, Robert "Trey" Wilson III and Andrew Toscano of the former Kugle Law Firm of San Antonio, should no longer be permitted to practice law.

The lawsuit accuses the three of an "attempt to extort settlement" in a lawsuit seeking $2 billion from Chrysler. A Texas appellate court has described their conduct as "an egregious example of the worst kind of abuse of the judicial system."

Today's actions by Chrysler followed its discovery that an investigator hired by the Kugle Law Firm offered bribes and tried to influence witnesses, including police officers and a paramedic, during preparations for the Fabila v. DaimlerChrysler Corporation case. The original product liability lawsuit followed a fatal rollover accident in Mexico in 1996. In the hours after the accident, the driver's wife told officials that her husband had fallen asleep while driving and the car drifted toward oncoming traffic.

After the lawsuit was filed, the plaintiffs changed their story and alleged that a steering defect in their 1995 Dodge Neon prompted the accident.

After the accident, Tom Persing, an expert hired by the Kugle Law Firm, took photos showing that the steering system was intact and functional. However, when the Kugle Law Firm made the vehicle available to Chrysler for inspection, the steering decoupler was broken. The Kugle Law Firm never disclosed the Persing inspection and photographs.

Shortly before the photos were obtained and the fraud was exposed, Wilson admitted to Persing that "we were running a bluff and they called our hand."

In depositions, police and emergency personnel testified under oath that they had been contacted by an investigator for the Kugle Law Firm asking them to change their testimony. The paramedic testified that an investigator for the Kugle Law Firm had tried to "intimidate him" with surveillance photos of himself and his family. After a week-long hearing to investigate those actions, the judge dismissed the case against Chrysler Group, sanctioned the attorneys for almost $1 million and referred the attorneys to the State Bar of Texas for disciplinary action.

Trey Wilson and Andrew Toscano still practice law in the same courthouse in which they were sanctioned. Robert Kugle relocated to Mexico.

Union talks open

7/19/2003

Contract talks between the United Auto Workers and the Detroit automakers opened this week, with DaimlerChrysler AG first to go to the bargaining table with the UAW.

DaimlerChrysler cautioned the union, however, that financial realities, among them rising health care costs, smaller market share and smaller profits, won’t allow a contract as generous as 1999’s — the last year a contract was negotiated.

The 1999 contract granted yearly 3 percent pay increases, extra holidays, and a ban on plant closings.

General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. talks also opened this week. Contracts with the UAW expire in September.

NHTSA studies headlamp complaints

7/21/2003

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports it has received nearly 5,000 complaints from citizens since 2001 regarding glare from high-intensity discharge, or HID, headlamps. The lights, also known as xenon, have been available on premium cars since the mid-1990s and have lately been appearing on more affordable models.

Drivers who own them seem to swear by HID lamps, but other motorists claim they are distracting or generate excessive glare. Part of the problem may be that HID lamps, with their unusual bluish tint, tend to draw more attention to themselves.

NHTSA is exploring the possibility of regulations to control glare from automotive lighting, such as headlamp height limits for light trucks, or new rules regarding headlamp aiming.

NHTSA looks into Chrysler complaints

7/22/2003

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun a safety investigation of 450,000 1998 through 2003 Dodge Durangos, spurred by complaints centered on the upper ball joints. NHTSA says it has received complaints alleging that ball joints have failed, causing suspension collapse or loss of steering control. Other complaints allege premature wear of the ball joint.

Additionally, NHTSA has begun an “engineering analysis” investigating the ignition/transmission interlock on 1999 Dodge Stratus, Plymouth Breeze, and Chrysler Sebring cars. NHTSA says it has received complaints that the cars can roll unexpectedly when parked. More rigorous than an investigation, an engineering analysis may lead to a recall. 217,000 cars could be affected. Allegedly, 28 accidents have occurred, with five minor injuries.

(A personal observation here: I know from reading some bulletin boards that Dakota ball joints wear out quickly, and mine have been making ominous noises the past couple of months. I think Dakotas use the same ball joints as Durangos. Dodge dealers will only sell them as part of the control arm assembly, which could cause people to put off having the work done. I hope DaimlerChrysler will do the right thing and replace these parts for free before someone gets hurt.)

No new small car for Dodge

7/24/2003

Chrysler’s executive president of global sales, marketing and service, Joe Eberhardt, says there are no plans to develop a sub-Neon small car for Dodge, saying the subcompact market is probably too competitive for such a car to turn a profit. He acknowledges the need for an entry-level car, but offers no clue how Chrysler might meet that need.

Big loss for DaimlerChrysler

7/24/2003

DaimlerChrysler reported second-quarter earnings of $115 million while also announcing losses by Chrysler Group totaling $1.1 billion. DaimlerChrysler’s net second-quarter earnings were off last year’s by 91 percent.

DaimlerChrysler issued a profit warning last month for Chrysler for the second quarter, due mainly to the cost of incentives and slimmer margins. Chrysler Group expects new models to contribute to a better performance for the remainder of the year.

So soon? Incentives for Pacifica

7/25/2003

Chrysler is offering a $1,600 navigation system for free on the Pacifica, its long-awaited new crossover wagon. The program is intended to stimulate sales, especially of the loaded models. Though the Pacifica was only recently introduced, sales have been off to a slow start.

(Opinion mode again: An unusual new model like Pacifica should be selling like gangbusters without incentives. This doesn’t portend well for the new design direction. Where is the marketing? I can’t recall the last Chrysler ad I saw on TV or in print.)

Chrysler Group announces 2004 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep produ

8/02/2003

As a public service, I've cut through most of the press-release fluff (some of which is entertaining in its foolishness) and extracted some of the most interesting highlights for the 2004 model year, which I’ll post here over the next day or so.

2004 Dodge Highlights, Part I

8/02/2003

2004 Durango

The Durango is all-new for 2004 with styling similar to the recent concept Durango, a meaning huge grille and headlamps set down in low-mounted fenders. Maybe not beautiful, but at least striking. Engines are the 3.7 L V6, the 4.7 L V8, and the 5.7 L Hemi. A “Fold-and-Tumble” third row seat is offered. The Durango is longer, wider, and taller than the previous model and with that third row down and the second row up, Dodge claims it has more cargo room than a Tahoe, Expedition or Sequoia. A “tow/haul” transmission on V-8s improves transmission performance while towing and downshifts automatically on long downhills. UConnect™ hands-free communications system with Bluetooth™ technology can recognize up to seven different Bluetooth-equipped cellular phones and responds to voice commands, utilizing a microphone in the rearview mirror and the stereo system’s speakers for hands-free conversations. If people are going to talk and drive, anything that makes it safer is good, I guess. Side curtain airbags are available for all 3 rows. Oh, and, believe it or not, for the first time on Durango, a sunroof is offered.

2004 Ram 1500 For 2004, Ram 1500 adds the UConnect™ hands-free cellular with Bluetooth™ technology, too. A new electric-shift, full-time four-wheel drive system splits torque 48%/52% front/rear under normal driving conditions, and it has high and low ranges and a transfer case lock for people who understand what four wheel drive actually is. The “tow/haul” feature appears here, too. A 34 gallon gas tank is available on Quad Cab standard bed trucks (That’s a $51.00 fill-up with gas at $1.50 a gallon). There’s also a “Work Special” package, which seems to be a nice way of saying it’s stripped.

2004 Ram Heavy Duty (2500/3500) For 2004, Dodge Ram Heavy Duty features a new automatic transmission for the High Output Cummins Turbo Diesel, a new “Off-Road” package and a factory-built “box off” option for the commercial market. UConnect™ hands-free cellular phone system with Bluetooth™ is available. The high-pressure common-rail injection High Output Cummins Turbo Diesel becomes more user friendly, adding the optional 48RE automatic transmission. The V-10 Magnum is gone. And Dodge would also like you to know, and this is a direct quote: “The rear suspension, common to both two-wheel and four-wheel drive models, is equipped with leaf springs. “

2004 Ram SRT-10 Dodge’s F-150 Lightning butt-kicker is the Viper-powered 2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10, with 500 horsepower, 525 lb.-ft. of torque, 505 cu. in. and a 500-watt “ear-melting” (sounds messy) sound system. Dodge claims it runs to 150 mph and hits 60 mph in just over five seconds. The Dodge Ram SRT-10 rides on a Performance Vehicle Operations (PVO) modified suspension, lowering it and adding new front and rear strut assemblies and a rear sway bar. Standard shocks are replaced by Bilstein mono-tubes. Also new are performance-tuned springs and 22-inch custom “Viper-style” wheels with 305/40R22 Pirelli Scorpion tires. Standard ABS brakes squeeze 15-inch rotors in the front. Rear brakes are modified Ram Heavy Duty brakes with 14-inch rotors. Front and rear, the calipers are red and the front fascia incorporates cooling ducts to promote brake cooling for track use. Dodge claims the SRT-10’s rear wing is fully functional at reducing lift and drag. The SRT-10 is available only in black, red or silver.

Dodge 2004 Highlights, Part II

8/02/2003

2004 Caravan and Grand Caravan They get a tire pressure monitor warning lamp, a new keyless entry/security key design, and some updated audio/entertainment options. 2004 Dakota Finally gets the 210-hp 3.7 L V6 from the Jeep Liberty. The 5.9 L V8 and the R/T model are finished. The Stampede package continues, with front and rear body-color fascia moldings, ground-effect bodyside moldings, 16 x 8-inch aluminum wheels, wheel flares and rear stabilizer bar.

2004 Sprinter With the creaky old Ram Van finally discontinued, the Dodge Sprinter, sourced from Mercedes, carries on as the commercial-grade work van. A few highlights: stability control, heated windshield with rain sensor, three wheelbases, and two roof heights. The engine is a 2.7 L diesel with 154 horsepower and 243 lb.-ft. of torque. Dodge claims 22 average mpg and a vehicle range of nearly 550 miles. The five-speed auto features manual shifting by tipping the gearshift left or right. Oil change intervals are stretched to every 10,000 miles, and extended maintenance intervals are possible with the optional Active Service System (ASSYST). ASSYST adapts service intervals to engine load, allowing intervals up to 20,000 miles. Oil changes at 20,000 miles? Scary.

Dodge Cars to follow...

Dodge 2004 Highlights Part III (or They Still Make Cars Too)

8/02/2003

2004 Dodge cars have fewer new developments to report than the trucks:

2004 INTREPID Gets an SXT package with the high-output 3.5-liter SOHC V6 (250 HP, 250 lb.-ft. of torque), 16-inch chrome wheels, P225/60R16 all-season “touring” tires, an “touring” suspension, a spoiler, and a bright exhaust tip.

2004 NEON Trim levels for are the SE, the SXT, the R/T, and the SRT-4. The SRT-4 was Sport Compact Car magazine’s 2003 Sport Compact Car of the Year. Its 2.4-liter turbo (230 HP and 250 lb.-ft. of torque) gets a new engine control module with updated calibration for a broader torque curve. A new torque-sensing limited-slip differential is standard for 2004, as are BF Goodrich KDW2 three-season tires. An sunroof becomes available.

2004 STRATUS COUPE A new SXT package. 2004 STRATUS SEDAN Four trim levels (SE, SXT, ES, and R/T) get a restyled front end and a freshened interior in 2004. An autodimming rearview mirror is available, as are steering wheel radio controls.

2004 VIPER SRT-10 Viper White paint joins Viper Red, Viper Black and Viper Bright Silver Metallic. When you're a Viper, you don't need special names for your colors, you just name them after you. Other new appearance features are red brake calipers, trunk carpet and a folding tonneau cover.

Jeep 2004 Highlights

8/02/2003

2004 GRAND CHEROKEE Jeep reports a freshened look with a new front fascia, new grille and new fog lamps, which they say debuted at the beginning of 2003. Five trim levels are available: Laredo, the new Special and Freedom Editions, Limited and Overland. A new Navigation Radio has a 4.9-inch full-color display, AM/FM Stereo, CD Player and navigation system that uses DVD technology all in one unit. 2004 LIBERTY Liberty gets the Bluetooth cell phone system being introduced on other Chrysler models.Liberty Renegade is offered with rock rail protection and black accent bodyside moldings. 2004 WRANGLER An AM/FM/CD radio is now standard. New colors are offered along with a few interior upgrades.

2004 Chrysler Highlights

8/02/2003

300M

New is a navigation system featuring turn-by-turn voice prompts, with an Infinity® Premium sound system.

CONCORDE

Little new to report here.

CROSSFIRE

This new model features about 39% Mercedes engineering combined with out-there boattail styling. Under its hood is a Mercedes-sourced 3.2-liter, 90-degree V-6, 18-valve SOHC engine available with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. About 15% of production is scheduled to be sold outside the U.S. (Isn't crossfire what happens when your plug wires are too close together?)

PACIFICA

Another new model, Chrysler’s tall wagon/short SUV "sports tourer" features a navigation system integrated with the speedometer, Infinity® Intermezzo™ 5.1 digital surround sound system, six-disc in-dash CD/DVD changer, SIRIUS® satellite radio, UConnect™ hands-free communication, power liftgate and sun roof. SecureShield laminated glass is said to improve safety and reduce external noise.

PT CRUISER

PT adds a second turbocharged engine, putting out 180 HP, to join the existing 220 HP unit. With these turbos, the PT can finally cash the performance check written by its street rod looks.

SEBRING CONVERTIBLE

Gets a restyled front fascia, with scalloped headlamps, new grille and wheel designs. SEBRING COUPE

Little new to report.

SEBRING SEDAN

Gets a light restyling with new headlamps and grille, and a new Limited trim level.

TOWN & COUNTRY

A Platinum series will offer 16-inch chrome-clad platinum finish wheels, chrome interior door handles, two-tone leather seating, Rear Seat Video® entertainment system, six-disc CD/DVD changer, embroidered floor mats and Platinum Series badging.

Chrysler posts quality gains

8/11/2003

Chrysler reported that its quality has been rising according to external and internal metrics, thanks partly to better launches (such as the PT Cruiser, Liberty, and Ram, which used methods developed by the former Chrysler Corporation). The new Aero-Acoustic Wind Tunnel facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan, has also enabled the Company to successfully manage two of consumers' primary, industry-wide concerns: vehicle wind noise and fuel economy.

Some of the results include a 15% improvement on first-time-through powertrain manufacturing capability, resulting in smoother, more efficient assembly processes; a 68% reduction of problems per vehicle; cutting in half of overall warranty expenses since 1996; and a 13% lower expense per unit after nine month in service, comparing model year 2003 to 2002.

Chrysler announces platinum series

8/14/2003

To celebrate 20 years of minivan leadership, Chrysler will introduce a limited edition Platinum Series of vehicles this fall. Each pre-DCX vehicle will receive a platinum model: the 300M, Sebring Convertible, PT Cruiser, Sebring Sedan and Coupe, and Town & Country.

The Platinum Series Chrysler vehicles will be available in Graphite Metallic, Bright Silver Metallic, or black. Features include leather seats, satin silver bezels, chrome or platinum clad wheels, and unique interior features. Each features special Platinum Series badging.

The Platinum Series Chrysler 300M is enhanced by a distinctive Deep Slate/Light Taupe two-tone interior, chrome door handles, deep gloss black turn signal mirrors, and 17-inch chrome wheels. The model comes complete with a standard 360-watt Infinity II Cassette/CD player and a SIRIUS satellite radio system, with a one-year SIRIUS subscription. The MSRP is $31,425, which includes the destination fee.

The Platinum Series Chrysler Sebring Touring Convertible features a black cloth roof, stylish two-tone leather seating with preferred suede inserts, unique 16-inch Platinum clad "Bladerunner" wheels, a power driver seat, satin silver interior accents, and interior chrome door handles. The MSRP is $28,585, which includes the destination fee.

The Platinum Series Chrysler Sebring Touring Sedan features Platinum clad "Bladerunner" wheels, two-tone leather seating, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio steering wheel controls, satin silver interior accents, and a power driver seat. The MSRP is $22,555, which includes the destination fee. The coupe, at $25,615, gets a two-tone leather interior, chrome wheels, power driver seat, four-disc CD changer, and an automatic day/night mirror.

The Platinum Series Chrysler PT Cruiser features the new 180 horse turbo engine with an automatic transaxle. An AM/FM six-disc CD changer radio with SIRIUS satellite radio capability, unique two-tone leather seats with power seat height adjuster, and chrome clad wheels on the exterior augment the premium, dynamic feel of this vehicle. The Platinum PT also features bright pedals and a new, leather-wrapped steering wheel with satin silver painted spokes, a chrome/body-color front fascia, chrome bodyside moldings, a chrome exhaust tip, chrome door lock knobs, front door sill scuff plates with bright winged logo inserts, a chrome shifter bezel, and a satin silver shift ball. The MSRP is $24,965.

The Platinum Series Chrysler Town & Country celebrates 20 years of minivan leadership by including a Rear Seat Video system, six-disc CD/ DVD player, pop-up rear cargo organizer, and removable center console. This ultimate minivan comes complete with a body-color roof rack, platinum clad wheels, two-tone leather interior, chrome interior door handles, and a satin silver instrument panel bezel. The MSRP is $34,320.

PT Convertible, Charger dates

8/18/2003

The Detroit News wrote that the Dodge Charger would finally be produced in March of 2005, as a 2006 model. Meanwhile, AutoWeek wrote that the PT Cruiser Convertible would appear in March 2004 - but had no price estimates, and pricing of the various PTs has been erratic.

One lawsuit down, one to go

8/22/2003

DaimlerChrysler AG has settled a class action lawsuit for $300 million, providing cash to former Chrysler investors who (collectively) approved what they believed to be a merger, but which was in reality meant to be a takeover. The plaintiffs had been seeking $22 billion, the estimated difference between the stock price for a hostile takeover and the stock price for a true merger. The settlement is pending "a definitive agreement" and court approval.

A separate $8 billion case by investment company Tracinda is still pending.

LH soon to disappear, LX to be produced

8/25/2003

Several sources have now confirmed that the LH production line is very soon to be torn out and replaced by the more flexible LX lines. The LX, which is said to cover at least seven different vehicles at this point, will be made starting in January 2004 or so, but will not be available in dealers until about March, as preliminary models will be field tested in controlled situations (e.g. rental outlets, fleet duty). The LX will have rear wheel drive, a variety of wheelbases, and wagon, sedan, and (reportedly) coupe versions.

Site posts secret Ford documents, anti-Jewish writings

8/27/2003

blueovalnews.com, which was shut down by Ford through a legal battle some years ago (a Federal judge actually claimed that no Web site could be considered as "press") but came back to life after an appeal, is currently posting not just the direct phone numbers of key executives, but a list of "secret warranties," internal Ford documents on the cost benefits of safety reductions and other issues, and, now, a link to a sample of Henry Ford's fabled anti-Jewish rhetoric, which Adolph Hitler claimed to be his inspiration. It's an interesting read, especially at Ford's 100-year anniversary, when the company is doing its best to link itself to an ideal and imaginary history, bringing back Henry Ford's relationships to famous innovators of the day, and promoting Bill Ford as an inheritor of Henry's ideals. We only hope that Bill has left a few of Henry's ideas behind.

2004 Durango introduced - bigger, more efficient

9/01/2003

Chrysler has introduced its 2004 Durango, making its interior room on par with full-sized SUVs, while raising gas mileage and improving safety and interior conveniences. Click here for details.

Chrysler August sales

9/03/2003

In August, GM was up about 4% compared to 2002, while Ford was down about 15% and Chrysler was down 6% yet again. Toyota made substantial gains in its bid to become America's #3 automaker, actually beating Chrysler in the month of August to be #3 in overall sales. Toyota already sells more Corollas than Chrysler and Dodge sell cars, and sells more cars than Chevrolet or Ford (thanks, Bill C).

Dodge Ram continued to post gains, up 12% over August 2002 on the strength of new models. The Pacifica moved up to 7,436, its best month but still disappointing, and perhaps one reason for a new, lower price on 2004 models. The Caravan actually increased month-to-month 33% in August, very good news. Durango sales also went up 21% month to month. Chrysler Group finished the month with 468,643 units of inventory, a 66-day supply.

Looking at year to date sales:

Cars

The Neon, despite its best-in-class performance and the halo effect of the SRT-4, has been falling both year to date and month to month, currently at 7% (over 6,000 units) below 2002 levels. Stratus and Sebring both fell, 7% and 20% respectively - that's about 25,000 units lost. Concorde continues to be up a little year to date over last year despite a rather nasty 45% fall in August, with the 300M down 16% for the year despite a 44% fall in August; Intrepid is down 24% for the year after holding steady in August. The Crossfire is up to 1,593 units all told, beating the Prowler's final-year production. The Viper is still gaining, at 1,631 units.

Minivans, SUVs, and pickups

Toyota's Sienna seems to be a runaway success, and may be limited only by production for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Chrysler minivans are down 8% for the year, which translates to over 25,000 units, despite a 10% rise in August over last August.

The PT Cruiser continues to fall, now down to 23% below 2002 levels, with August 2003 sales half that of August 2002. Still, it's at 77,629 so far this year, which is far above what CHrysler was predicting, and a good compensation for low Neon sales.

The Pacifica is now at 25,763 sales for the year, and should sell better than the Chrysler Voyager but not the Plymouth Voyager. Profit margins may be higher - we do not know with the new pricing scheme.

Jeep is still seeing better sales of the Wrangler and is holding steady with the Liberty, with the Grand Cherokee down 12% as the replacement comes closer. The Durango is actually up 5% for the year. Sprinters are still moving very, very slowly. Total SUV sales are down 3% year to year, 7% month to month.

The Ram continues to sell well with over 300,000 units so far this year, a 13% rise over 2002 (that's over 40,000 vehicles!). The Dakota likewise continues to slip, with a 17% decline that is now accelerating.

Overall, Chrysler is down 7% month-to-month, 3% year-to-year.

(Thanks, Bill Cawthon, for sending the sales information to us.)
Month Sales DR % Sales CYTD DR %
Curr Yr Pr Yr Change Curr Yr Pr Yr Change
Model
Sebring 7107 11200 -0.34 69762 87351 -0.2
Concorde 1311 2461 -0.45 23229 22275 0.05
300M 1716 3162 -0.44 19007 22725 -0.16
LHS 0 0 0 0 552 -1
Prowler 0 101 -1 511 1136 -0.55
Crossfire 706 0 1593 0
CHRYSLER CAR 10840 16924 -0.34 114102 134039 -0.14
PT Cruiser 6745 14035 -0.5 77629 101430 -0.23
Pacifica 7436 0 0 25763 0 0
Voyager 1179 2922 -0.58 12689 29604 -0.57
Town & Country 9967 11011 - 0.06 90311 92391 -0.02
CHRYSLER TRUCK 25327 27968 -0.06 206392 223425 -0.07
CHRYSLER BRAND 36167 44892 -0.16 320494 357464 -0.1
Wrangler 6797 6794 0.04 46908 44484 0.06
Liberty 16352 21511 -0.21 108296 108739 0
Grand Cherokee 20050 23298 -0.11 128340 146763 -0.12
JEEP BRAND 43199 51603 - 0.13 283544 299986 -0.05
CP CAR 10840 16924 - 0.34 114102 134644 -0.15
CPJ TRUCK 68526 79571 - 0.11 489936 523411 -0.06
CPJ DIVISION 79366 96495 - 0.15 604038 658055 -0.08
Neon 9681 12849 -0.22 83637 90094 -0.07
Stratus 5578 10762 -0.46 71662 77767 -0.07
Intrepid 5671 5909 0 63430 83549 -0.24
Viper 222 98 1.35 1631 1072 0.53
DODGE CAR 21152 29618 - 0.26 220360 252482 -0.12
Dakota 9382 14659 -0.34 78446 94910 -0.17
Ram P/U 43824 40440 0.12 302480 269395 0.13
Caravan 21194 16585 0.33 172525 180288 -0.04
Durango 12647 10875 0.21 78083 74972 0.05
Ram Van/Wagon 2612 2183 0.24 17369 28360 -0.38
Sprinter Van 211 0 0 731 0 0
DODGE TRUCK 89870 84742 0.1 649634 647925 0.01
DODGE DIVISION 111022 114360 0.01 869994 900407 -0.03
TOTAL CAR 31992 46542 - 0.29 334462 387126 -0.13
TOTAL TRUCK 158396 164313 0 1139570 1171336 -0.02
TOTAL CAR & TRUCK 190388 210855 -0.06 1474032 1558462 - 0.05
Total Minivan 32340 30518 0.1 275525 302283 -0.08
Total Sport Utility 55846 62478 -0.07 361627 374958 -0.03
Selling Days 27 28 205 206

DCX to cut costs yet again

9/05/2003

Following the old adage "to grow the tree you must cut the roots," DaimlerChrysler is embarking on another round of cost-cutting, according to Motor Trend quoting Focus Money magazine. An internal source said all managers are being asked to save money, and a task force is looking at further consolidating development, purchasing, and sales of Chrysler and Mercedes. This time, it is notable that the cost cutting extends to both primary DCX brands - that is, Mercedes is included. (Thanks, Doug Hetrick)

Mopar announces SRT-4 parts

9/08/2003

Mopar®, Chrysler Group's parts and accessories brand, is launching a complete line of performance upgrades designed to make the Dodge SRT-4 even quicker.

These Mopar Performance Parts are - or soon will be -- available at local Dodge dealers.

The Stage 1 Turbo Upgrade Kit pushes the power and performance of the 2.4-liter turbocharged engine in the 2003 Dodge SRT-4 to 240 horsepower and 260 ft.-lbs. of torque. The kit consists of four fuel injectors, which produce a10 percent greater flow rate than stock injectors, and one Mopar Performance powertrain control module (PCM). The PCM has been calibrated for increased wide-open throttle and part-throttle boost, more aggressive exhaust note during deceleration, improved turbo response, enhanced first-gear boost schedule for a higher performance launch and a boost hold feature during wide-open throttle shifts. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the Stage 1 Turbo Upgrade Kit (P5007862) is $399. (A Stage 1 Turbo Upgrade Kit will be offered for the 2004 Dodge SRT-4 - part number, pricing and timing to be announced.)

The new Mopar Performance SRT-4 Cat-Back Exhaust System is a mandrel bent, 2.5-inch diameter T304 stainless steel system, compared to the production 2.25-inch, providing reduced back pressure and a deeper exhaust note. The dual outlet tips are a full 4-inch outside diameter of highly polished stainless steel, giving a no-nonsense appearance from the rear of the vehicle. The MSRP for the SRT-4 Cat-Back Exhaust (P4510461) is $385.

Mopar's limited-slip differential is another high-quality component that helps make the SRT-4 even quicker. The Quaife automatic torque-biasing (ATB) differential is available exclusively from Mopar. The unique design improves handling and steering, and powers both drive wheels under nearly all conditions. It senses which wheel has better grip and biases the power to that wheel. It does this smoothly and continuously, and without ever completely removing power from the other wheel. Available in October, pricing is not yet announced for Mopar’s LSD (P5007923). Note: This LSD is standard equipment on the 2004 Dodge SRT-4. (An installation kit - P4510588, available in October - is required when ordering this part.)

The Mopar Coilover Suspension Kits are a result of a partnership between Mopar Performance and KW Suspensions. Utilizing DaimlerChrysler specifications to ensure optimum performance, the kits feature new stainless steel INOX technology exclusive to Mopar Performance. The Mopar Coilover Kits’ thread design and aluminum spring perches allow SRT-4 owners to easily adjust vehicle height. Additionally, the special thread shape and specific properties of the polished suspension struts ensure that virtually no corrosion occurs - even after years of the strongest weather influences.

The basic Stage 1 suspension components include a set of higher rate drop springs (P4510458) that utilize production Dodge SRT-4 dampers and an anti sway bar kit (P4510454). Both components will be available in early October.

The Stage 2 Mopar Coilover Suspension Kit is an introductory coilover system - height adjustable only. Its fixed-valve dampers are calibrated to provide a balance between “comfortable” road feel and sporty driving.

Stage 3 Mopar Coilover Suspension Kits are height- and rebound-adjustable, and include up to 50 percent more adjustability than Stage 2 settings. This allows the driver to tune the SRT-4 suspension to even greater degrees, from a “comfortable” ride, to sporty, to stiff - tailoring road handling to the driver’s specific needs.

MSRP for Stage 2 is $1,395 (P4510447), while Stage 3’s MSRP is $1,625 (P4510586). Stage 2 and Stage 3 Suspension Kits - for the 2003 and 2004 Dodge SRT-4 - are now available.

The Mopar Performance Short-Throw Shifter is a direct, bolt-on, self-contained unit. It offers a dramatic improvement in shifting performance due in large part to reduced shifter travel or "shifter throw." In performance driving scenarios, the additional seconds -- or fractions of a second -- a factory-equipped shifter takes to go from one gear to another may result in slower lap times. The Mopar Short-Throw Shifter gives the racer a competitive advantage. The Mopar Performance Short-Throw Shifter (P4510485) is available for a MSRP of $119 (for both the 2003 and 2004 Dodge SRT-4).

The new Mopar Performance Turbo Blow-Off Valve Kit reduces intake air charge temperature by venting the hot compressed air to the atmosphere and not re-circulating it into the intake system. The Blow-Off Valve Kit is a must-have accessory that enhances the distinctive turbo sound of the Dodge SRT-4. The BOV Conversion Kit (P4510548) is now available for the 2003 and 2004 Dodge SRT-4 for an MSRP of $69.

Mopar Performance has developed a full line of gauges to fit the needs of the street-performance enthusiast. These gauges are available only through Mopar and feature an aluminum bezel and four different face styles. The styles include silver with the SRT logo, silver with the Mopar logo, carbon fiber with the Mopar logo and white with the Mopar logo. The types of gauges available are boost, nitrous, voltmeter, exhaust gas temperature, oil pressure, fuel pressure, air-fuel ratio, water temperature, a 2-inch tachometer and a 5-inch tachometer. Mopar also offers single or dual gauge pods that mount on the driver's side "A" pillar. MSRP for Mopar Performance gauges range from $45.73 for a 2 1/16-inch voltmeter to $318.26 for a 5-inch tachometer. Pods for the Dodge SRT-4 range from $29.50 for single pods to $37.80 for dual pods (all pods are for 2 1/16-inch gauges).

Chrysler denies new turnaround plan

9/08/2003

Chrysler has denied that Dieter Zetsche is set to present a new turnaround plan to the DCX Board, contradicting an earlier "leak." Since DCX CEO Juergen Schrempp is only now returning from a deal in China, the presentation of a new plan today is less than likely - though it is possible that yet another shake up indeed in the works, but will not be presented at this time.

Zetsche presents to Board after all

9/09/2003

Though Dieter Zetsche updated the Board on Chrysler's current problems and his plans to resolve them, DCX has not released any information on what he said or will be doing.

Chrysler, UAW reach deal; parts factories to go?

9/15/2003

The UAW and Chrysler have reached a four-year deal which will be the pattern for pacts with GM and Ford. As expected, there will be no major cuts to health care coverage, but slight increases in copayments will reduce costs for the automaker. There will be a combination of lump sum payments, annual wage increases, and pension increases, with greater flexibility for Chrysler to sell plant, move workers from place to place, and cut indirect costs such as maintenance.

Chrysler reportedly wants to sell no less than five parts plants, while Ford is looking to move production to Mexico and close both the Edison and St. Louis plants. Chrysler has already lost 26,000 jobs. We do not yet know whether Chrysler was given the ability to sell its parts plants, or whether the UAW negotiated its way into Mercedes' plants.

UAW contract allows sale of seven plants

9/16/2003

The new UAW contract provides Chrysler with "flexibility," including the right to sell seven parts plants. Based on past actions, Allpar expects these plants to be sold or closed within the next two years. We do not have word on whether the plants would remain unionized under their new owners, whether they would be sold or closed, or whether they would be moved offshore or to other states.

On the lighter side, now that the contract negotiations have ended, DCX is expected to announce a variety of new vehicles, including a small pickup (referred to as the M80, the name of a concept truck).

Chrysler plant sales and closing

9/17/2003

The UAW not only did not win rights to organize the Mercedes plants in the United States, according to the Detroit News, but also agreed to allow a number of Chrysler parts plants to close. This is the News' list:

To be closed: Indianapolis foundry, McGraw Glass

To be sold: New Castle, Indiana to Metaldyne, Huntsville Electronics, Alabama (we believe to Siemens), Detroit Axle, New Venture Gear in Syracuse, NY (makes manual transmissions - former joint venture with GM), and Toledo (Ohio) Machining and Forge.

DCX gives up on increased sales

9/25/2003

Detroit News posted a meandering article by Doron Levin on DCX's direction regarding Chrysler, pointing out that strategy of using the brand as a way to sell Mercedes components and vehicles (such as the Sprinter and Crossfire) is in full force. While her article sounded like something written by Mercedes publicists - "With hindsight, DaimlerChrysler is realizing how far behind GM and Ford it is...Lately, though, Chrysler models are using more and more Mercedes technology..." - it does point out that DCX has been unable to figure out the American auto market. However, we have been noticing another round of cost-slashing throughout Chrysler Group, additional plant sales, and an almost total lack of investment in whipping up enthusiasm among employees, fans, and, most important, potential buyers.

MMC to get Dakota version

9/30/2003

Just-Auto notes that Mitsubishi will be getting its own version of the Dodge Dakota pickup, albeit with a V6 and no V8 option. This may help to attract buyers who only buy Japanese vehicles, while rounding out Mitsubishi's American lineup. At one time, Mitsubishi designed and built the Dodge D50 light pickup.

Tomahawk a reality...sort of

10/01/2003

Chrysler will be selling the original Tomahawk concept as well as up to nine replicas through Neiman Marcus, for $555,000 each. The motorcycle, however, cannot be licensed, so they cannot be legally driven on public roads. A Chrysler spokesman told Reuters they were meant as rolling sculptures.

Rumors had the Tomahawk selling for under $200,000, most likely at a loss or breakeven price, for publicity purposes - but still fully drivable. Wolfgang Bernhard, Chrysler's not particularly respected first mate, was said to be enthusiastic about that project.

Chrysler sales fall, GM rises

10/01/2003

General Motors reported a 15% rise in sales, 10% in cars alone; however, Chrysler's sales continue to freefall, despite the popularity of the group's biggest seller, the Dodge Ram. The Grand Cherokee was also a bright spot with a 9% increase over September 2002. The Pacifica has slowly started to increase in sales, with 7,589 sold in September. In general, though, there is no good news in this month's sales reports, unless you count the Neon not losing any more ground.

There will be ten new product introductions over 12 months, starting with next month's Durango launch (November 15). Chrysler ended the month with an 86 supply of vehicles.

Note that for the month and the year, minivans are down 9%. The Concorde and 300M are selling at half the volume of September 2002, with the Intrepid down 30% as well, month to month. PT Cruiser is down 42%, Voyager 46%, Sebring 23%, Wrangler 29%, Liberty a stunning 38% on this new, class-leading vehicle. Month to month, even the Ram is down in sales! It almost seems as though someone has been running ad campaigns that devalue the Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep brands, making it seem that Chrysler - sorry, DAIMLERchrysler - doesn't value them much itself. The bright spot is a new set of commercials, reportedly made with Peter DeLorenzo's help, that actually spotlight Chrysler's current products and their advantages, without resorting to bragging about a few German parts in a way that suggests the rest of the vehicle, being American, is substandard.

By brand, Chrysler is down 8%, Jeep 18%, Dodge 16%. Year to date Chrysler is down 6% overall (Chrysler brand down 10%, Jeep brand down 6%, Dodge brand - which by far has the most volume - down 4%).


                        Month Sales      DR %         Sales CYTD       DR %

  Model              Curr Yr   Pr Yr    Change    Curr Yr     Pr Yr   Change

  Sebring              6,299    7,871     -23%      76,061    95,222    -20%

  Concorde             1,328    2,606     -51%      24,557    24,881     -1%

  300M                 1,479    2,701     -48%      20,486    25,426    -19%

  LHS                      0        0       0%           0       552   -100%

  Prowler                  0       56    -100%         511     1,192    -57%

  Crossfire              578        0                2,171         0

  CHRYSLER  CAR        9,684   13,234     -30%     123,786   147,273    -16%

  PT Cruiser           6,305   10,424     -42%      83,934   111,854    -25%

  Pacifica             7,589        0       0%      33,352         0      0%

  Voyager              1,163    2,067     -46%      13,852    31,671    -56%

  Town & Country       7,022    7,446     -10%      97,333    99,837     -3%

  CHRYSLER  TRUCK     22,079   19,937       6%     228,471   243,362     -6%

  CHRYSLER BRAND      31,763   33,171      -8%     352,257   390,635    -10%

  Wrangler             4,770    6,448     -29%      51,678    50,932      1%

  Liberty             10,253   15,783     -38%     118,549   124,522     -5%

  Grand Cherokee      16,410   14,412       9%     144,750   161,175    -10%

  JEEP BRAND          31,433   36,643     -18%     314,977   336,629     -6%

       CP CAR          9,684   13,234     -30%     123,786   147,878    -16%

       CPJ TRUCK      53,512   56,580      -9%     543,448   579,991     -6%

  CPJ DIVISION        63,196   69,814     -13%     667,234   727,869     -8%

  Neon                10,574   10,121       0%      94,211   100,215     -6%

  Stratus              7,117    8,950     -24%      78,779    86,717     -9%

  Intrepid             5,127    7,416     -34%      68,557    90,965    -25%

  Viper                  110      263     -60%       1,741     1,335     30%

  DODGE   CAR         22,928   26,750     -18%     243,288   279,232    -13%

  Dakota               8,285   11,133     -29%      86,731   106,043    -18%

  Ram P/U             31,669   33,924     -11%     334,149   303,319     10%

  Caravan             12,522   12,344      -3%     185,047   192,632     -4%

  Durango              7,225    8,685     -20%      85,308    83,657      2%

  Ram Van/Wagon        1,014    2,747     -65%      18,383    31,107    -41%

  Sprinter Van           275        0       0%       1,006         0      0%

  DODGE   TRUCK       60,990   68,833     -15%     710,624   716,758     -1%

  DODGE DIVISION      83,918   95,583     -16%     953,912   995,990     -4%

  TOTAL CAR           32,612   39,984     -22%     367,074   427,110    -14%

  TOTAL TRUCK        114,502  125,413     -13%   1,254,072 1,296,749     -3%

  TOTAL CAR & TRUCK  147,114  165,397     -15%   1,621,146 1,723,859     -6%

  Total Minivan       20,707   21,857      -9%     296,232   324,140     -9%

  Total Sport Utility 38,658   45,328     -18%     400,285   420,286     -5%

  Selling Days            24       23                  229       229

Thanks again to Bill Cawthon for sending over Chrysler's figures. The opinions stated are not his.

Chrysler cutting jobs yet again

10/07/2003

As Daimler continues its "grow the tree by cutting the roots" program, Stuttgart is considering cutting 4,500 jobs after losing $1.1 billion in the second quarter (making Chrysler's losses since the takeover almost equal to its cash reserves at the time). Jobs cut would be factory electricians, toolmakers, and machine-repair specialists. These positions would presumably be outsourced.

It is worth noting that insiders have said that Chrysler funds are still being siphoned off to Mercedes via creative accounting, such as royalties on parts or designs, and consulting fees during joint operations.

Pacifica available in Canada

10/08/2003

Chrysler Canada has announced the introduction of the "M" Package on the 2004 Chrysler Pacifica with the front-wheel drive version selling for a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $39,900 (Canadian - that's under $30,000 US).

The new Pacifica models come without heated leather seats, power lift-gate, and six-disc CD/DVD changer as standard equipment, and without heated leather seats as an option. The all wheel drive version is $42,500 (Canadian). The savings for this package is about $3,500 (Canadian).

In any version, the Pacifica remains a six-passenger four-door vehicle that blends the attributes of a sports sedan, a minivan and a sport-utility vehicle. It features the same 250-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 engine and AutoStick automatic transmission. The tall wagon-like body and fold-flat second- and third-row seats provide the utility of minivan. The three rows of seats and available all-wheel drive provide the seating/cargo flexibility and traction of a sport-utility vehicle (SUV).

The Chrysler Pacifica debuted earlier this year as an early 2004 model. Canadian-specification M package vehicles will be produced beginning later this month and are available immediately for ordering at any one of over 500 Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge retailers across Canada.

The Pacifica is built exclusively at Chrysler Canada's Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ontario, the original home of the minivan.

Chrysler triples SRT-4 production

10/08/2003

The Dodge SRT-4, a turbocharged, hot-rodded version of the Neon, was originally projected at 3,000 units per year. According to a Chrysler marketing executive, the SRT-4 is now up to 9,000 units per year. We at Allpar believe that the SRT-4 is the main reason why the Neon has not lost ground (indeed, the month the SRT-4 came out, Neon sales actually rose), 2003 to 2002: its cachet have caused people to look at the Neon in a new light, and possibly to realize that the Neon beats all other cars in its class in performance.

Dodge, Jeep to unveil new ad campaigns

10/15/2003

The Jeep Trail Rated ad campaign mentioned earlier and the 2004 Dodge Durango ads will be previewed for reporters on October 22.

Chrysler Group will be replacing all TV ads and quite possibly all print ads across the line, thanks to a new marketing chief from Mercedes USA and the consultation of on-line columnist Peter DeLorenzo. The new ads, some of which have been briefly aired possibly as part of a test campaign, have moved far away from the "please, please, buy our cars, here's some money back" ads which we believe have done more to destroy Chrysler's reputation than to sell cars. One, for example, cleverly extolls the virtues of the Dodge Caravan over SUVs and cars. Focusing on product advantages is a new trend in Chrysler advertising for the 21st century.

Pillette Road plant to be torn down?

10/17/2003

Chrysler's Windsor, Ontario plant on Pillette Road will reportedly be torn down despite the recent addition of a new paint shop, according to Allpar sources. It is believed the plant will be replaced by a state of the art flexible production facility.

In more sobering news, we have heard that the automatically shifted manual transmission developed by Chrysler engineers may be entirely jettisoned, despite its clear advantages over competing systems - including an instant-start feature (no rolling downhill, and faster takeoffs), dual clutches for extra smooth shifts especially between first and second gear, and the ability to easily override the system for "manual" shifting. The replacement would be a version of a DaimlerChrysler AG system already in use on Freightliner trucks. This system was reportedly to replace the four-speed automatic in truck use. Either system would clearly be an improvement, with little loss of power compared with the current 17-20% losses (the old TorqueFlite had roughly-7% losses).

Chrysler profits, DCX does not

10/22/2003

Using DCX's possibly misleading accounting systems, Chrysler Group posted an operational profit of $170 million, but losses on Airbus holdings led DaimlerChrysler AG to post a loss of $1.9 billion. This may be the reason why there is yet another cost-cutting push within Chrysler (apparently and unsurprisingly not Mercedes), with a $1 billion target, despite the imminent launch of nine vehicles in 2004 and a substantial number in 2005 and 2006. To be introduced in 2004 are the Chrysler 300C / Dodge Magnum, moderately revised minivans, the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible, Dodge Dakota, Dodge Ram SRT-10 (finally), redesigned or face-lifted Jeep Wrangler, and redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee (the basis of the new M-Class). Coming in 2005 - not announced but based on our beliefs - are a raft of vehicles based on a new small car platform jointly created by Chrysler and Mitsubishi, the Wagoneer version of the Grand Cherokee, yet more LX models, and possibly re-redesigned minivans.

2004 Durango specs released; production starts

10/31/2003

Production of the 2004 Dodge Durango has begun, and Chrysler has released more specifications, including towing capacities and gas mileage (depending on the engine, around 14 city, 18 highway). See our report for details.

Dodge wins informal truck challenge against Ford

11/03/2003

A local Ford dealer thought they would show off the new F150 by challenging Chevy and Dodge to a pull challenge. The only one who came to meet the challenge was the Dodge dealer.

Ford backed up their 2004 F150 Triton V8 to the 2004 Dodge 1/2 ton Quad 4x4 Hemi for the first pull. The first pull was done in four wheel drive, high gear. A dead heat, neither truck gave in.

The second pull was in two wheel drive... lots of rubber and smoke... the Dodge dragged the Ford across their lot.

The Ford dealer thought the Dodge had a slight downhill advantage, so they tried again changing vehicle directions. The Dodge pulled them a second time!

Lots of surprised Ford customers on the lot that day...

Sales figures show Chrysler up 11%

11/03/2003

Even as GM fell 7% October 2003 to October 2002, Chrysler sales rose 11%, with all three brands showing a rise in sales. Big gainers were the Wranlger, up 60%, the Viper, up 135%, the Ram, up 46%, and the Pacifica, which did not exist last year but sold 7,703 units in October. Grand Cherokee rose 8% while Liberty stayed even. The Dakota went up 19%, possibly on the heels of the Ram.

Losers abounded, including the 300M (down 37%) and Concorde (down 19%); the PT Cruiser, down 32%; the Intrepid, down 58%; and the Durango, down 36%.

Looking at year-to-date, the figures are much more bleak. The LH series, in its last year, received no real marketing except for NASCAR racing, where they are called Dodges and not Intrepids. 300M was down 21%, Intrepid 27% (year to date). The Sebring and Stratus were both down, 18% and 8% respectively. The Prowler with 511 units last year was replaced by the Crossfire, with 587 so far this year, but made in Germany from a modified Mercedes design. The PT is down 25% but still far higher in production than original estimates, which it's still beating. Voyager is down to half its 2002 sales. Wrangler, despite this month's surge, is up only 6% this year, which is offset by the Liberty's 4% shortfall. The Grand Cherokee is down 8% for the year. The popular Neon, which still has strong competitive advantages over many other small cars - not least of which is its "out of the box" performance - is down 6% as Chrysler has done no advertising to resurrect its reputation or point out its racing successes. The Dakota remains down 13% year to date, the Caravan 4%.

The Durango is holding stead, at least, and the Pacifica has sold 41,055 units since its launch, which may make up for the loss of Voyager and Town & Country sales - depending on its development costs.

Based on GM and Chrysler figures, it seems that the Ford F-150 is hurting GM more than Chrysler, with GM sales of the Silverado pickup down 6%, or 3,500 units. GM sold 51,624 of the full-size pickups in October 2003, while Dodge sold 41,162 Rams in the same month. (Year to date, GM has much more of a sales lead, at 568,540 to 375,311).

The Pacifica is at least out-selling the Buick Rendezvous, which is being actively advertised.

At 166,262 units sold in October 2003, Chrysler seems to be safely in the #3 position for now. By comparison, incidentally, Chrysler Group sold 1,787,408 vehicles so far in 2003, while Chevrolet alone sold 2,207,250, GMC sold 472,810 trucks, and Pontiac sold 389,800 (GM as a whole came in at just a shade under four million vehicles).

Chrysler Sales Summary Thru October 2003

Month Sales DR % Sales CYTD DR % Model Curr Yr Pr Yr Change Curr Yr Pr Yr Change Sebring 7,001 6,296 11% 83,062 101,518 -18% Concorde 1,593 1,957 -19% 26,150 26,838 -3% 300M 1,570 2,480 -37% 22,056 27,906 -21% LHS 0 0 0% 0 552 -100% Prowler 0 58 -100% 511 1,250 -59% Crossfire 587 0 2,758 0 CHRYSLER CAR 10,751 10,791 0% 134,537 158,064 -15% PT Cruiser 6,511 9,537 -32% 90,445 121,391 -25% Pacifica 7,703 0 0% 41,055 0 0% Voyager 1,979 1,958 1% 15,831 33,629 -53% Town & Country 7,866 7,772 1% 105,199 107,609 -2% CHRYSLER TRUCK 24,059 19,267 25% 252,530 262,629 -4% CHRYSLER BRAND 34,810 30,058 16% 387,067 420,693 -8% Wrangler 6,485 4,052 60% 58,163 54,984 6% Liberty 14,815 14,792 0% 133,364 139,314 -4% Grand Cherokee 18,968 17,626 8% 163,718 178,801 -8% JEEP BRAND 40,268 36,470 10% 355,245 373,099 -5% CP CAR 10,751 10,791 0% 134,537 158,669 -15% CPJ TRUCK 64,327 55,737 15% 607,775 635,728 -4% CPJ DIVISION 75,078 66,528 13% 742,312 794,397 -7% Neon 8,921 9,173 -3% 103,132 109,388 -6% Stratus 7,203 7,221 0% 85,982 93,938 -8% Intrepid 2,315 5,568 -58% 70,872 96,533 -27% Viper 127 54 135% 1,868 1,389 34% DODGE CAR 18,566 22,016 -16% 261,854 301,248 -13% Dakota 9,542 8,043 19% 96,273 114,086 -16% Ram P/U 41,162 28,218 46% 375,311 331,537 13% Caravan 15,399 15,155 2% 200,446 207,787 -4% Durango 5,271 8,218 -36% 90,579 91,875 -1% Ram Van/Wagon 923 2,076 -56% 19,306 33,183 -42% Sprinter Van 321 0 0% 1,327 0 0% DODGE TRUCK 72,618 61,710 18% 783,242 778,468 1% DODGE DIVISION 91,184 83,726 9% 1,045,096 1,079,716 -3% TOTAL CAR 29,317 32,807 -11% 396,391 459,917 -14% TOTAL TRUCK 136,945 117,447 17% 1,391,017 1,414,196 -2% TOTAL CAR & TRUCK 166,262 150,254 11% 1,787,408 1,874,113 -5% Total Minivan 25,244 24,885 1% 321,476 349,025 -8% Total Sport Utility 45,539 44,688 2% 445,824 464,974 -4%

Dodge Charger rumors

11/05/2003

Rumors are flying on the Dodge Charger, which according to latest reports from the forums and elsewhere will have "suicide" doors a la Saturn Ion and Mazda RX-8 to provide the function of a four-door and the appearance of a two-door. The Charger will reportedly be available with a variety of engines, with the handling and acceleration of a Corvette in SRT-8 trim, thanks to a shortened wheelbase and weight reductions. The styling will most likely make few concessions to the past.

Chrysler 300 ads appear

11/05/2003

Chrysler is advertising the 300 Hemi on various portal sites, noting 340 horsepower - a number which may indicate that the engine is being detuned to prevent damage to the transmission or other components, since it has 345 horsepower in Ram trucks, and normally engines are tuned to have greater horsepower (and less torque) in cars.

Michigan releases squad car test report

11/06/2003

The Michigan State Police have released their annual squad car test report, an industry standard for determining the performance and feasibility of different squad cars. Four were tested this year: the Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Intrepid (no longer in production!), and Ford Police Interceptors (Crown Victorias) with two different axle ratios, 3.27:1 and 3.55:1. The Dodge had the smallest engine at 3.5 liters; the Chevy had 3.8 liters, the Ford a 4.6 liter V8. Four special service vehicles were also tested, the Ford Explorer and Expedition, and Chevrolet Tahoes with 5.3 liter engines and two and four wheel drive. This is the first year in some time that neither Dodge nor Jeep had a special service vehicle, possibly because both the Durango and Grand Cherokee are being replaced.

Once again, the Chrysler proving grounds were used. This year, the term "DaimlerChrysler" was removed from its place in the past before "Dodge" (as in "DaimlerChrysler Dodge Intrepid). The cars were driven multiple times by four different drivers. Ford removed underbody air deflectors, saying they were not on the 2004 models.

The overall performance of the two Fords and the Dodge were within a hair of each other, with the Impala lagging slightly - the Dodge and the two Fords did the course in 1 minute, 42 seconds, while the Chevrolet took one minute, 45 seconds. The Dodge actually beat the V8 Ford with the 3.27 ratio, and was only four hundredths of a second behind the 3.55:1 V8 Ford.

The Fords had the best acceleration across the board, with the Dodge only a little behind, and the Chevrolet lagging more. 0-60 times were 8.25 and 8.44 seconds for the two Fords, 8.56 for the Dodge, and 9 for the Dodge. 0-100 times were 22.5 and 23.3 seconds for the Fords, 23.6 for the Dodge, and 26.4 for the Chevy. Quarter mile times were, respectively, 16.3, 16.4, 16.6, and 16.9 seconds, fairly close together, with the Dodge and Fords having nearly identical speeds (86-87 mph) and the Chevy not far behind (84 mph). The top speed of the Dodge was highest at 135 mph, trailed by the 3.27:1 Ford (128), the Chevy (123), and the 3.55:1 Ford. All had electronically limited top speeds.

One of the most important facets of police car performance is probably stopping power. The Impala did best here, in 134 feet, while the Dodge took second place at 137 feet. Neither showed evidence of severe fading, and there were no repeats of the embarassing brake overheats of the first Intrepid squads. The Fords both stopped in similar but excessive times - 150 feet, fully 26 feet more than the Impala.

This year, surprisingly, the Impala took the prize for ergonomics and communications, with a score of 207. The Fords took second at 199.5, the Dodge close behind at 197.

Gas mileage for the Chevy and Dodge were similar at 23 and 22 mpg (respectively), while the Fords trailed considerably at 18 mpg. Oddly, both Fords attained identical mileage despite gear ratio differences.

Compared with last year, the Impala and Ford improved in lap times, while the Dodge stayed the same. All improved their acceleration, and Dodge and Chevy raised their top speeds. Interestingly, Dodge was the only one to have better stopping distances this year - Ford did not improve at all, even though they had the longest stopping distance last year. Indeed, the Ford Expedition and Explorer, and the Chevy Tahoe, all stopped faster than the Police Interceptor!

Minivan 20th Anniversary celebration

11/07/2003

On Saturday, 15 Nov, 2003, there will be a celebration at the W. P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Michigan (on the grounds of the Chrysler Technology Center) for the birth of the Plymouth Voyager, Dodge Caravan, and Chrysler Town & Country minivans.

All are welcome to attend and help celebrate.

On a personal note- this is about the life and times of minivans and their owners, NOT DaimlerChrysler AG, so check any bad attitudes on the street.

More minivan celebrations

11/11/2003

Chrysler continues to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the modern minivan, a vehicle that fits eight people, yet can get into the average garage and achieves roughly 20 mpg. Auburn Hills product teams are having an employee food drive November 1 to 20, Mike Donoughe (VP, Family Vehicle Product Team) is holding radio interviews on November 10, Windsor Assembly has an event November 12, and the WPC Museum has an event November 15, 10 am - 3 pm, with family activities, contests, prizes, and more, which is free and open to the public. Details on this are at chryslerheritage.com.

DCX in joint venture with Brembo

11/12/2003

DCX and Brembo are setting up a 50/50 joint venture in Italy to make ceramic brake discs. Brembo is currently the supplier of choice for many high-performance upgraders. While any part of the DCX empire might use the products, we suspect it has specific applications for the AMG and PVO high-performance groups, since they are selling to people who are more willing to trade off brake lifespan for braking distance. This may also help DCX to avoid using Continental/Teves, which has not provided as much reliability as they could with their ABS and braking systems.

Dieter tells about all 2004 launches

11/18/2003

From total secrecy to total transparency in one day: Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Group head, has told the press about upcoming models to be introduced within the next year. Absent is the Charger, but many other models will probably stir optimism in enthusiasts and stock analysts. Zetsche himself has been on tour in nine cities, showing off new vehicles to selected dealers and press representatives. The next vehicles, whose introductions were already known, will be the Viper-powered Ram SRT-10 (January), convertible PT Cruiser (March), Chrysler 300C (April), Dodge Magnum (May), Dakota pickup and Crossfire roadster (September), and Grand Cherokee (November). New to the confirmed-rumors scene is the Wrangler Unlimited in April, the Crossfire SRT-6 in May, and a refresh to the Liberty in November.

Chrysler 300 pricing is now confirmed at $25,000 for the base model (2.7 V6) and $35,000 for a Hemi V8 300C. The 3.5 V6 option was also confirmed. We have heard there will be power boosts for both V6 engines, particularly now that the transmission can handle the extra power.

The Wrangler Unlimited adds 15 inches of length, providing more cargo and rear seat space but also better road manners thanks to a wheelbase extension. Off-road ability is reportedly uncompromised, and a new soft top has two sections for a sunroof effect.

The Liberty refresh appears to be mainly cosmetic, but the Grand Cherokee is much deeper. The wheelbase is longer, as most other SUVs have grown, and the Hemi is optional. A longer vehicle, presumably the Wagoneer, will debut in 2005 with three rows of seats, according to several sources.

The SRT-6 has long been rumored, since it is basically a recast Mercedes Kompressor model, carrying forward existing components to create more excitement. The company is claiming 330 horsepower and 0-60 in just over five seconds, a time similar to the SRT-10 Ram.

Speaking of the Dodge Ram SRT-10, earlier releases had suggested a 0-60 in the mid-6-seconds or even higher; apparently Dodge was trying to hold back to avoid competitors' countermoves. The current figure is for 0-60 in just over 5 seconds.

Bad news for many is the loss of the Jeep Scrambler, a Wrangler-based pickup that had been done in Jeep's distant past.

Chrysler's revisions to the minivans will be shown in January as well, with second and third row flat-folding seats. Also primed for January showings will be the Dodge Slingshot, a three-seater with a three-cylinder engine with 95 horsepower and 45 mpg, reportedly having 0-60 times of around ten seconds. This could be an attempt to bring over a Smart revision, and could also be the basis for the Razor-style vehicle. The Jeep Rescue concept will also be shown, apparently answering GM's use of Jeep-style grilles for Hummers with a Hummer-style boxy body on a Jeep.

SRT-10 Ram introduced

11/20/2003

Dodge has unleashed the fastest and most powerful production pickup ever in the new 150 MPH Viper-powered 2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10. With 500 horsepower and 525 lb-ft of torque, the Ram SRT-10 does 0-60 in just over five seconds, beating even the SRT-4. For details, click here or visit http://www.allpar.com/model/ram/ram-srt-10.html.

GM, Dodge compete for hybrid truck market

11/24/2003

Years after the Toyota Prius first entered production - so many years, in fact, that the Prius has entered a second generation - all of the Big Three are readying their hybrid gas-electric vehicles. Ford has made the most headlines with its hybrid Escape, but Dodge and GM are both competing for both civilian and military sales with their big pickups, where the hybrid system may save the most fuel. GM is reportedly starting production before the end of the year, while Dodge is six months away. The GM system copies Dodge's on-board electrical generator, so that contractors and military personnel can use the pickup as a mobile, efficient, less-polluting generator, saving fuel, money, and cargo space; but Dodge will make its first hybrids using Cummins turbodiesels. They are expected to not only be faster than current models but also considerably more economical (the Cummins is already arguably the most efficient diesel available in a one-ton pickup), with generators powerful enough to supply an entire house, with both 120V and 220V outlets. Both GM and Dodge trucks will reportedly shut their engines while at idle. The Dodge may not be able to move under electric power alone at low speeds, except in military versions.

The military (unlike other sectors of government) has expressed a strong interest in fuel-sipping vehicles to enhance mobility and reduce support costs; they also are interested in a "stealth" mode where vehicles can operate under electric power alone, to avoid giving away their position via heat and engine noise. The Army will get test vehicles next month. A total of 10,000 per year are planned. (Thanks, Doug Hetrick. Some information from AutoWeek.)

Marketing and sales chief to retire

11/24/2003

Chrysler brand sales and marketing chief Thomas R. Marinelli is expected to announce his retirement next week, according to the Detroit News. At 51, Marinelli has not reached normal retirement age, and his retirement may be the result of Joe Eberhardt's review of the department (though the article notes some say it is for personal reasons) - which may result in 25 to 30 other departures. Marinelli joined Chrysler in 1975 as an administrative trainee in the Boston sales region, and had been vice president of marketing for Chrysler Canada and president of Chrysler Jeep Automotive in Brussels.

Lawsuit status

11/24/2003

James P. HoldenJuergen Schrempp, Robert Eaton, James Holden, and DCX Chief Financial Officer Manfred Gentz will be required to testify in the Kerkorian lawsuit, due to start in court on December 1. Kerkorian is seeking $3 billion in damages, but is apparently not seeking to have DCX split back up. The lawsuit is based on what Kerkorian believes to be fraudulent misrepresentation over the nature of the joining of Chrysler and Daimler-Benz: Schrempp claimed it was a merger so that no premium would be paid for Chrysler stock, but later said he always meant it to be a takeover. A Daimler-Benz executive had noted the deal as a takeover before it occurred. Detroit News quoted an analyst as saying that Daimler had actually overpaid for Chrysler, but this discounts the negative effects of Daimler's many management blunders and the merger-related departure of key executive and engineers.

Chrysler shakes up marketing again

11/26/2003

With many informed people within and outside of Chrysler blaming marketing for slumping sales - really, how many people who don't visit Allpar know about the 300M? Or know that the PT Cruiser handles well? - Chrysler Group has taken another step to fix marketing, sales, and service. Joe Eberhardt, the executive VP of sales, marketing, and service - a Mercedes implant - noted that 25 product introductions in the next three years requires streamlining, though Chrysler seemed to do pretty well with such things back in the early 1990s.

Jeff Bell, current Vice President-Jeep® Marketing, has been given responsibility for the Chrysler brand as well.

Julie Roehm has been named Director-Marketing Communications. She will oversee all marketing communications for the Company’s three brands. Roehm joined the Chrysler Group in 2001 as Director-Dodge Brand Communications.

Christine MacKenzie has been named to the newly-created position of Vice President-Corporate Research and Reporting. The position centralizes various functions, including the economist, sales reporting, and analysis of the customer dealership experience. Previously, MacKenzie was Vice President-Dealer Operations.

Additionally, Mike Manley has been appointed Vice President-Dealer Operations, succeeding MacKenzie. Before joining Chrysler Group, Manley was Director-Network Development, DaimlerChrysler United Kingdom. He will report to Gary Dilts, Senior Vice President-U.S. Sales.

Mark Norman has been named Chairman and President of DaimlerChrysler Canada [this only handles Chrysler, not Mercedes, despite the title], reporting to Joe Eberhardt. Previously, Norman was Vice President-Sales and Marketing Operations. He joined the Chrysler Group in 2001. Norman succeeds Ed Brust, who has announced his intention to retire effective December 31, 2003, after 36 years in the automotive industry.

The new appointments are effective January 1, 2004.

Astute observers will note that Roehm and Norman both arrived in 2001, post-takeover.

Germans rate German cars at bottom of pile

11/26/2003

A German survey of over 38,000 car owners found that Mercedes, Volkswagen, and Opel were among the lowest rated brands in terms of satisfaction. Of all the German brands, only Porsche made it to the top ten, while Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Mazda, and Nissan (in that order) were the top five. The survey was conducted by a German driver's association and the Centre for Automotive Research, reported on by Reuters, and passed to us by "Bearhawke."

IIHS gives Pacifica its top safety rating

12/01/2003

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the Chrysler Pacifica its highest safety rating in its new high-speed crash test, based on a driver's side crash against a barrier at 40 mph. This means that the driver, if wearing a seat belt, would not be seriously injured in a real 40 mph front offset crash. A number of other vehicles also earned the top rating. Honda and Nissan mid-sized SUVs were retested after their air bags deployed late in the first test.

The tests, started in 1996, appear to have greatly increased safety as manufacturers have worked to redesign their new vehicles to pass not only the government's head-on tests, but also IIHS' front-offset tests, which are arguably closer to real-life crashes. A greater proportion of tested vehicles pass each year.

Chrysler sales report, November 2003

12/02/2003

The Neon, with no effective advertising but some buzz around the largely unadvertised SRT-4 - which seems to be rolled into Neon numbers - dropped 5%, from 119,000 to 112,000 units. Most people are surprised to hear it outperforms the Civic and Corolla (easily) - but that's what Grassroots Motorsports found. The moderately related PT Cruiser is down 25% from last year, but a healthy 97,317 units were still sold. That's less than the Neon, but far, far more than the Neon Coupe it replaced, and far above what anyone expected.

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