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2018 Wrangler JL: first test

The B engines

Surprise test: Hyundai Elantra vs Dodge Dart

Rumor: new 4.0 V6 going into production (Update)

Though initial quantities will be small - 50 per day or so, mainly for extended testing and to assure quality - the new 4.0 V6, reportedly an update to the current 3.5, is going into production. Projected ratings are 255 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm; the engine should provide a better feel and improved acceleration and hill-climbing compared with the 3.5 V6 in the Pacifica. It will also be used in minivans, probably replacing the 3.8, and possibly in the upcoming Liberty-based Dodge Nitro, according to sources.

A reliable source suggests that the 4.0 is heavier duty than the 3.5, with extra ribs, thicker bulkheads, and 5 mm larger main diameters on the crankshaft. It's set up for torque over horsepower, appropriate on the heavier vehicles it will be used in.

Some have suggested that the engine ratings are for midgrade gas (with unleaded acceptable, with lower power) and others have said it will be rated at 275 hp.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 01 2006, 10 AM)

Seattle bakery uses 100% biodiesel in Sprinter, others

The Essential Baking Company has switched to a new fleet of B99 (99%) biodiesel delivery trucks. The bakery sold off its entire fossil-fueled fleet in favor of leasing 13 biodiesel-powered trucks, comprised of nine Dodge Sprinters, three Fords, and one Isuzu.

Peter Miller, CEO of the 200-employee Company, said that biodiesel was better aligned with the brand's core values. Finding local sources for maintenance and fueling isn't as difficult as one might think, say company officials.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 02 2006, 10 AM)

North American Int'l Auto Show coming soon

The North American International Auto Show will be held from January 14-22 in Detroit, with a charity preview on January 13 and press and industry previews starting January 8. Transportation is provided via the Detroit People Mover, a shuttle service, and Click and Park. A wide variety of introductions are expected at the show, possibly including the new Camaro as well as the Challenger and Imperial.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 03 2006, 08 AM)

Chrysler announces 2005, annual sales

The actual sales figures are posted here.

Chrysler did not fare to badly in December; compared with December 2004, sales were down 10% in cars and 4% in trucks, or 5% overall.

Jeep brand did well, with sales going up 41% month to month and no models falling; the Liberty was up 38%, Grand Cherokee up 7%, and Commander selling more units than the Wrangler (itself up 17%).

Chrysler brand suffered a bit, with sales falling 13% overall, mainly due to a 35% plunge in Pacifica sales and 10% fall in 300 sales (possibly due to production moving to Chargers). The Town and Country minivan lost 3%, or about 400 units, and the PT Cruiser gained 7%,, or about 600 units.

Dodge fared worst of the three brands, falling 17% overall. The worst casualty in numbers and profit was probably the Durango, selling at about half the volume of last year, a shortfall of nearly 6,000 units! The Ram line also fell 8% (that's 2,800 or so trucks), and the Caravan fell 24% - a seriously blow of another nearly 6,000 vehicles in one of Chrysler's core lines of vehicles. Indeed, Dodge really had no bragging rights in this month compared to December 2004; sales were down across the board for mass-produced vehicles (Viper and Sprinter, both low-volume, gained). The Neon, now discontinued, was down for obvious reasons; and Stratus and Magnum sales are half their former self. on the lighter side, the 7,137 Charger sales beat the Magnum's 6,260 sales from December 2004.

On a full year basis, the picture is much brighter, with Chrysler and Jeep both posting double-digit percentage gains, and only Dodge brand falling by 1%, not bad considering the industry wide drop in big trucks and the loss of the Intrepid (with the late arrival of the Charger). For the whole company, car sales rose 11% while truck/minivan/PT sales rose 3%. At Chrysler brand, The PT Cruiser actually gained in sales by 15%, and while the Pacifica fell 7% despite almost giveaway prices in Michigan, the Town & Country rose 25%. Jeep brand had reason to celebrate with sales of Wrangler and Liberty staying steady, Grand Cherokee rising 17%, and Commander coming on-line. Dodge had a rougher time, with the Neon and Stratus holding steady but the mainstay Caravan dropping by 6% (16,000 minis), Ram falling by 6% (26,000 pickups), and Durango falling 16%. On the lighter side, Magnum sales rose by 34% - though they were only sold part of the year in 2004.

Coming up in early 2006 will be the Caliber and then the Avenger to help Dodge's fortunes, while the Chrysler Aspen may make up for the Durango's shortfall.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 04 2006, 04 PM)

Chrysler definitely to make minivans for Volkswagen

Chrysler Group and Volkswagen today announced that they have reached a formal agreement. Production of the future Volkswagen minivan, which is based on the next generation Chrysler and Dodge minivan platform and will be sold only in North America, will begin in 2008.

Chrysler Group President and CEO Tom LaSorda said, "With our manufacturing and platform engineering flexibility, we can deliver a high-quality product specifically tailored to Volkswagen's customers' tastes with little or no substitution effect on the current Chrysler and Dodge minivan lineup."

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 05 2006, 03 PM)

Jeep Liberty the best selling compact SUV

Erik Latranyi pointed out that, for the first time, the Jeep Liberty has outsold the Ford Escape to be the best-selling compact SUV in America for calendar-year 2005:

1. Liberty - 166,883
2. Escape - 165,122
3. CR-V - 150,219
4. Equinox - 130,542
... Jeep Wrangler: 79,017

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 05 2006, 04 PM)

New Challenger information; intro today

The Dodge Challenger will be formally introduced today. Chrysler has released more information and photos in preparation of the event. We will have on-the-floor news reporting from NAIAS for the intro, and have updated our Dodge Challenger page.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 08 2006, 09 AM)

Chrysler does iPod integration

Chrysler will be the first American automaker to offer iPod integration in their vehicles - and it will be available not just on a single model, but on about 3 million vehicles starting this spring. The kit will cost $175 plus installation, and may be retrofitted to some 2005 vehicles. More details will be released tomorrow.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 08 2006, 03 PM)

News from the NAIAS show floor

From Steve Kasher:

Concept. What a cursed word. Time and again, anyone from Chrysler Group would respond to the most obvious question with the most well-worn answer, "It's just a concept".

Anybody out there believe that? Of course not, but officially no one will say otherwise.

Frustrating. Like watching steak sizzling on the grill and being told "Not yet".

But let's get to the heart of today's unveilings and begin with the Imperial Concept.

From what you've all seen, believe me, photography is not kind to what is a truly beautiful automobile. Whereas most pics show the grille being rather flat, it actually curves softly side-to-side and and over the top.

The taillights are much more detailed than they appear and the tube-like "gunsight" design adds depth and rich heritage to the package.

The deck lid is very elegant and uses one continual horizontal line that gracefully curves across the entire panel.

And while it sometimes appears imposing, it is truly stately and proud and not as somber as the Rolls-Royce Phantom to which it is compared.

The Imperial generates a "wow factor" that emanates from a smile of smartness and not testosterone. It commands visual attention without being offensive or sedated, a mark of true stateliness.

The interior combines some of the best aspects of classic Imperial cues. The expanse and curve of the dash instantly strikes the simples elegance of the 30s and 40s. Extensive lighting techniques provide both task and ambient light. Seating surfaces eschew traditional leather for comfortable suede in upright yet ergonomically supportive style.

With its established platform, the Imperial is not far from production feasibility. Chrysler group would like move a step above the 300 line and if the Imperial can maintain its "craftsman" ambiance while holding its price point, a new Imp could the next smash hit for the winged division.

Our next car obviously needs no introduction....

The Challenger Concept just begs to be built. And that's it. This IS pure testosterone. Even the Viper doesn't create this kind of craving, as the Challenger goes from "oh-I-wish-I-could-afford-one" to "omigod-I-could-actually-BUY-one". Kinda like forgoing the supermodel for the gorgeous girl-next-door.

Mike Castiglione, a 15-year Chrysler veteran, was charged with exterior design. And it was no easy task. He was up against two other competing designs, both of which were more "sports car than muscle car", and he was, in fact, told it was HIS design that wasn't going to go forward. As he related the story, he procured a copy of Popular Hot Rodding months ago that covered the upcoming Charger but strongly lamented the four-door design. He presented his case to Trevor Creed, demonstrating that Chrysler's best fans wanted something resembling his ideas and Creed agreed. Thanks Mike. We all love ya for it.

The design is so clearly a Challenger,'but there many subtleties to be noted. The soft crease above the rear window (the so-called "hardtop line"). The original crease surrounding the wheel openings is there.

But realities of the LY platform, the hard points, force the designer to create innovative solutions while still being recognized as its namesake. While the wheelbase is six inches longer, the hood is actually shorter. But the illusion is created by moving the windshield's center forward and losing the front overhang where the original hood had a drop off. In addition, the classic bullet mirrors are moved rearward compared to today's A-pillar mountings, adding even more visual length to the front end. Just like the old days.

Inside, you can sense the imagery that Alan Barrington was trying to project: the image of milled billet aluminum covered in black rubber, then cutting out sections to reveal the metal below. The kickout at the bottom of the gauges reinforces the feeling of staring down a cylinder head. The door panels allude to the original's one-piece molded design, but take it to a new level by "carving out" the familiar trapezoidal shape, exposing the aluminum underneath. It's quite an effect.

The wheel design was a source of some frustration. Castiglione repeatedly tried to bring the classic Rallye wheel to the car, but it just wouldn't take in today's vocabulary. "It looked too much like a luxury car wheel, so we used the five-spoke". And look closely. Each spoke has a triangular section cut out from its depth that can only be seen from the side. Cool.

The fever that rages over the new Challenger will certainly not abate anytime soon. And "official" word or not, all the reasons I've heard to not build this car add up to the same number: zero.

Plum Crazy, please. Thanks Mike and Alan.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 09 2006, 08 AM)

Compass, new Wrangler, Imperial

Chrysler officially introduced the new Jeep Compass and Jeep Wrangler today. Both are almost exactly as predicted earlier by Allpar's upcoming vehicles page. The Imperial was also released yesterday. See our relevant pages:

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 09 2006, 12 PM)

News from the Auto Show floor

Our intrepid reporters, Kash and MoparBob, are reporting each day from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Click here to read their reporting, and click here to buy show tickets.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 09 2006, 03 PM)

Super Bee revived

In a surprise announcement, Dodge announced that the 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 Super Bee, essentially a cosmetic package on top of the SRT8. There is also a Charger Daytona R/T (the R/T being perhaps over the top) being sold. Originally, the Charger and Super Bee were both based on the four-door Dodge Coronet, while the Charger Daytona was an all-out aerodynamics package designed for speeds of up to 180 mph on raceways (a specially prepared Charger Daytona reached 200 mph).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 09 2006, 09 PM)

German sales figures

"Red LeBaron" noted German sales figures:

Statistics are out for the full year, unfortunately specifics on models are still numbers until the end of November. So, the bad news first: Chrysler lost about 13.9% in overall sales but kept its market share of 0.5%. All in all Chrysler/Jeep sold about 14.000 cars in 2005. Given that in 2005 no Neons were available and that the model range is limited (no Pacifica, no Dodge, etc), 0.5% is not too bad. Toyota and Lexus together have a market share of 4.0% and Honda has 1.3%. Almost 65% of the market belongs to German automakers with VW still at the top.

Best seller was again the PT with all in all 4.382 sales out of which were 2.100 Diesels and 1.349 Convertibles. Second came the Voyager with 2.990 out of which were 2.763 Diesels. The Crossfire sold 1.677 units (mostly convertibles). The 300C sold 1074 units - though the 300C Diesel was available only as of 18 November, half of the November sales were already Diesels. It is a remarkable engine (test drove one) at a competitive price (starts at 36.600 Euro). Sebring only sold 440 units (359 Convertibles). The Viper was sold over 100 times though. Not bad for a 6 figure price sticker.

As for Jeep the most popular is the Grand Cherokee with a little over 2.400 sales (2.000 Diesels), the Cherokee/Liberty followed with about 1.100 (1.000 Diesels) and the Wrangler is a rare niche model with 450 sales. By comparison, the Audi A6/S6 sold 58.763 units in 2005, 6.393 in November alone.

And finally, something to cheer up Mopar: the Lexus brand is still struggling in Germany. Lexus GS 984 (that is less than the 300C ) and the SC is 151. The RX sold about 1.300 and the IS 540. Who says Chrysler cannot compete with Lexus??

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 10 2006, 02 PM)

Dodge Caliber expected to have a high trade-in value

Automotive Leasing Guide announced that all models of the Dodge Caliber will have a three-year residual value over 50 percent-a first for the Chrysler Group in that segment
of the market.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 11 2006, 02 PM)

Rockland County hosts car show

Rockland County College is hosting the 20th Annual Tri-State New Car and Truck Show from January 27-29, 2006, and the Rockland Community College field house to help generate funds for scholarships and other needs. Over 200 new vehicles will be shown indoors, with no parking charge and tickets for $8 (5-11 year olds, $3) -- much cheaper than the New York Auto Show! See their web site for details.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 12 2006, 09 AM)

Registration for Chryslers at Carlisle open

On-line registration for Chryslers at Carlisle has begun. See this link to start, and remember to put in Allpar for your club. We have reserved a big tent already so Allpar registrants can stay out of the sun. The cost is $35 which includes putting your car onto the show field and three days of admission - a very good deal considering that admission and parking are about the same as showing your car.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 13 2006, 08 AM)

WPC Club plans swap meet

The Walter P. Chrysler Club's Great Lakes Region is holding its Annual Winter Swap Meet on Sunday, Jan. 29, at the Macomb Community College South Campus Field House in Warren. Tables cost $20 each, and part of the revenue is donated to the scholarship fund. Click here for details.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 13 2006, 10 AM)

Chrysler to license minivans in China

Chrysler has licensed production of minivans with Fuzhou and Taiwan-China Motor Corporation for domestic use. Chrysler also set up a joint venture with Taiwan-China Motor Corporation for sales and distribution of Chrysler Group vehicles. This is in addition to "the company formerly known as Beijing Jeep."

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 16 2006, 05 PM)

Four Door Wrangler at NYIAS?

According to Autoweek, the all new four door Jeep Wrangler will make its debut at the New York International Auto Show in April of this year.

The new 2007 two door model made its debut at Detroit just a few weeks ago sporting new sheetmetal, new power-plants, and a new roof system. It is expected that the four door model will appear with similar features and options.

Reported by Chris H at (January 23 2006, 08 PM)

Zetsche moves ahead with integration

Dieter Zetsche announced to all employees and contractors a new integration initiative, which appears to be aimed squarely at Mercedes' various operations and seems to include an end to "holding back" technology from Chrysler. He wrote:

This morning we announced our decision to implement a New Management Model for DaimlerChrysler. The objective behind this initiative is to further integrate our organization, to focus our operating units on their core processes, and to enhance cooperation within the company. These actions will unleash the full potential of our global organization. With the new model we aim to:

be leaner, more flexible and faster;
create streamlined, consistent and stable processes; and,
foster collaboration, mutual respect, integrity, discipline and
innovation and make cooperation and know-how transfer routine.

In order to safeguard our future in this highly competitive industry, we constantly have to review our structure and processes and adapt them to a rapidly changing business environment. Over the last several years, we've focused our attention on our operating businesses and started to streamline the core processes in our divisions. We now need to apply the same equation to our general and administrative (G&A) functions ' not only at our corporate headquarters, but throughout our divisions and decentralized
businesses.

Today, many of our operating units are equipped with their own G&A functions, such as finance & controlling, human resources, strategy, etc. This results in redundancies and a high degree of organizational complexity. Furthermore, many of our operating units do business in their own unique way. And we don't have integrated processes and methods.

The new management model addresses these issues. All corporate functions will be consolidated and will report to a respective central head of that function. Major processes will be harmonized and standardized throughout the whole company. Our reporting and decision-making processes will not only become shorter, faster and more efficient ' they will also enable us to systematically facilitate know-how transfer between our divisions.

The new management model will drive organizational changes throughout the company:

The development arm of the Mercedes Car Group will be merged with Research & Technology. The new function will become increasingly more responsible for advanced engineering activities of all automotive divisions.

The Commercial Vehicles Division will be renamed 'Truck Group' and focus on trucks as its core business. We'll run Bus and Van as directly managed separate businesses. This new structure will enable further synergies within the truck brands, as well as a sharper focus on customers and competition. The direct management of our Bus and Van activities will enable us to better meet the specific needs of our customers and the markets in these unique segments, too.

With the implementation of the new business model we'll reduce the cost of G&A functions, which are currently significantly above the benchmark level, by 1.5 billion euros (0.5 billion euros of this is already addressed by other initiatives in the divisions). But this goal won't be achieved by budget reductions only. We'll have to reduce our worldwide G&A headcount by up to 20 percent (30 percent at management levels) by the end of 2008. This represents roughly 6,000 employees.

Of course, we'll do everything in our power to find fair solutions for those who are affected by these measures. Unfortunately, it's a step we need to take to ensure the future competitiveness of our company.

We're confident that the new management model will drive a significant and positive change in our organization. It will put us on track to become the focused and integrated company we must be to ensure profitable growth and to guarantee our long-term competitiveness with compelling products.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 24 2006, 08 AM)

New Mopar-related products

Testors is coming out with an A990 Hemi quarter-scale model in February for about $80, including over 300 detailed parts, electric-drive motor, Hemi sound chip, and visible working valves, pistons, and crankshaft.

In addition, Jim Schild's new book, Maximum Performance: Mopar Super Stock Drag Racing 1962 - 1969" is due shortly.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 24 2006, 04 PM)

Chrysler increases its use of biodiesel

Chrysler now approves the use of 20% biodiesel fuel in its pickups with Cummins diesel engines, as of the 2007 model year, moving up from the Jeep Liberty's B5 (5% bio) blend, as the result of extended testing. (Thanks, Doug Hetrick)

Click on "Full Story" for full details.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 25 2006, 08 AM)

Chrysler overstocked with inventory

Chrysler has been slapping down a thousand dollars on its "hottest" cars, the LX series, to counter rising inventory levels (currently at 86 days of supply, compared with 73 and 78 and GM and Ford, but 32 days at Toyota). While 300 sales are still humming, the Magnum has not been received as well as we suspect Chrysler planned, and the Charger does not appear to have taken off as a "must-have" car. Reports have come in suggesting that the Charger is priced too high for many police markets, and also that ordered squad cars are not being delivered.

Analysts believe that rebates cheapen cars' reputations, as buyers read the underlying message "we'll PAY you to buy these turkeys, because nobody wants them." Part of the problem, according to analysis, is a perception that American cars are not as high-quality as Japanese vehicles in general.

General Motors is trying to reduce its reliance on rebates by introducing standard lower pricing, while both GM, Ford, and Chrysler are all lowering production overall. GM and Ford will be shuttering factories; Chrysler already has cut back on its production capabilities.

Chrysler does have some reason for optimism; the public reaction to the Challenger was highly favorable, and two new and important carlines are soon to be introduced (the Caliber/Compass and Avenger/Sebring). These will replace the Neon and Stratus/Sebring, which both sold about 120,000 units per year (the Neon originally sold over 200,000, but that number dropped as quality issues in early models came to light.)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 25 2006, 04 PM)

Chrysler organizational shakeup

Chrysler Group today announced a broad list of changes to its Global Marketing and Global Product Planning staffs, designed to clarify roles between brand and product marketing functions. Changes were also announced in Street and Racing Technology, Chrysler Canada, and the Sales group.

In Street and Racing Technology (SRT), Don Knott has reportedly been dropped from the salary register, and Michael J. Accavitti, 47, was appointed to the new position of Director - Dodge Motorsports and SRT Product Planning and Marketing. Accavitti was formerly Vice President - Marketing, Chrysler Canada. Kipp D. Owen, 44, was appointed Director - Street and Racing Technology, reporting to Executive Vice President - Product Development Frank Klegon. Owen was formerly Director - Proving Grounds and Durability Testing.

In Global Product Planning and Marketing, Ann M. Fandozzi, 34, is appointed to Director - Front Wheel Drive (FWD) Product Planning and Marketing; Joseph Veltri, 47, is appointed Director - Body on Frame Product Planning and Marketing; and John Sloan, 50, is appointed Director - Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) Product Planning and Marketing. All three will now report to Stephen J. Bartoli, Vice President - Global Product Planning and Marketing.

Meanwhile in Global Marketing, Thomas J. Loveless, 45, is appointed to the new position of Director - Dodge Marketing & Global Communications; David R. Rooney, 50, is appointed to the new position of Director - Chrysler Marketing & Global Communications; and John D. Plecha, 40, is appointed to the new position of Director - Jeep Marketing & Global Communications. Christine A. MacKenzie, 51, is appointed Executive Director - Multi-Brand Events and Agency Relations. All four will now report to Senior Vice President - Global Marketing George E. Murphy.

With these appointments, the positions of Vice President - Global Chrysler / Jeep Marketing and Global Dodge Marketing are discontinued.

Fandozzi was formerly Director - Chrysler Marketing and FWD Product Planning; Veltri was formerly Director - Dodge Truck Marketing and Body on Frame Product Planning; and Sloan was formerly Director - Chrysler Car Marketing and RWD Product Planning. Loveless was formerly Director - Sales Operations; Rooney was Director - Chrysler Global Brand Communications; and Plecha was formerly Director - Jeep Marketing and RWD Product Planning. MacKenzie was formerly Executive Director - Corporate Research and Reporting.

DaimlerChrysler Canada announced Judith K. Wheeler, 44, is appointed to the position of Vice President - Marketing, reporting to President and CEO DaimlerChrysler Canada Steven J. Landry. Wheeler was formerly Director - Dodge Marketing and FWD Product Planning.

In Sales, Service and Parts Operations, Robert M. Richard, 44, is appointed Director - U.S. Market (Retail and Fleet) Volume Planning. He was formerly Director - Market Development and Sales Planning. Mark S. Bosanac, 41, is appointed Director - U.S. Market (Retail and Fleet) Incentives and Programs. He was formerly Director - Incentives and Programs. Richard and Bosanac will continue to report to Vice President - Sales, Service and Parts Operations Raymond M. Fisher. Patrick W. Dougherty's (46) position of Director - Commercial, Rental and Government Sales will be realigned, reporting to Fisher.

In the Sales organization, Steven G. Beahm, 42, has been promoted to Director - Field Operations, reporting to Fisher. Beahm was formerly Senior Manager - Marketing Analysis and Programs. Lewis C. Scott, 40, is appointed to Director - Midwest Business Center, reporting to Senior Vice President - Sales Gary E. Dilts. Scott was formerly Director - Denver Business Center. Fred M. Diaz Jr., 40, is appointed Director - Denver Business Center, reporting to Dilts. Diaz was formerly Director - Dodge Global Brand Communications.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 30 2006, 02 PM)

Reuters predicts poor US sales

According to Reuters, GM and Ford will see January sales at about 10% below last year, while Chrysler will fall 2% to 5%. Toyota and Honda are both expected by Reuters to rise about 10% on the strength of demand for fuel efficient vehicles. The Toyota Corolla, for example, is rated at 41 mpg highway with a manual transmission, while providing roughly the same interior space as the Stratus and Neon.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (January 30 2006, 04 PM)

Chrysler sales rise

Chrysler Group reported January 2006 U.S. sales increased 5 percent to 155,465 units. January 2005 sales were 148,111 units. Reuters had predicted a 5% drop. It is possible that the Challenger re-awakened interest in Dodge. However, inventory levels remain high, and Chrysler is now offering rebates on the LX cars (with financing).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 01 2006, 03 PM)

New openness at DCX?

DaimlerChrysler plans to publish the salaries of individual board members, according to the Chrysler Scoop, which quoted Dieter Zetsche.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 01 2006, 03 PM)

Dodge racing site reopened

Allpar.com member MoparBob has just recently acquired the rights to a Dodge racing website. MoparBob is asking any Allpar member with forum experience for your help as a moderator or assistant administrator. E-mail MoparBob at www.dodgeboybob@dodgeracing.zzn.com

Reported by MoparBob at (February 04 2006, 05 PM)

Dodge Caliber SRT-4 brought out with 300 horsepower; Nitro too.

See our full details: Dodge Caliber SRT-4 and Dodge Nitro.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 08 2006, 12 PM)

Stratuscaster discovers new concept: Dodge Rampage

Our Chicago Auto Show correspondent and father of stratusphere.net discovered a brand new concept car, the Dodge Rampage, on the show floor. It appears to be a new pickup truck, though it's clearly "just a concept" with over-the-top interior details and such. We have been told that it is not based on an existing carline but is unique, and is probably a "what-if" study more than a prototype or shape of definite things to come. See photos at http://www.allpar.com/cars/concepts/dodge/rampage.html

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 08 2006, 02 PM)

Rumor: medium-duty Dodge trucks due March 1

According to "scook6," the medium-duty Dodge pickups, based on Sterling/Freightliner trucks, will be unveiled on March 1 in Atlanta at a fleet show. Observers expect a 6.7 liter Cummins diesel to provide power. See http://www.allpar.com/model/ram/medium-duty.html

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 09 2006, 03 PM)

Challenger - Hemi, stick-shift only?

Currently, the Challenger is believed to have been green-lighted in 6.1 Hemi, stick-shift form.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 13 2006, 08 PM)

Quality Insider article on team-based management at Chrysler

Chrysler's use of empowered teams has been explored in a recent Quality Insider article. Based on discussions with a Chrysler VP, union reps, and others, the article notes the effects of using empowered teams in the factories on quality and performance. The Belvedere plant, which makes Calibers, is the latest to be converted to the empowered team format.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 14 2006, 04 PM)

Dodge Hornet concept introduced in Mexico

This article at Allpar has information on the Dodge Hornet concept car introduced in Geneva. The car, smaller than the Caliber, has a 1.6 liter supercharged engine with 170 hp and 224 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm (presumably the engine built by Chrysler for the BMW Mini); the intercooler is visible from the grille, and includes a functional hood scoop. The transmission is a six-speed manual.

The body features frameless windows and more glass than current models. The seats have thinner but still comfortable cushions to provide more interior space and make folding easier.

Chrysler recently announced that it intends to get more than 1% market share in Europe, and will use the Dodge brand, including the Caliber, to do so; the Caliber's hatchback design was thought to be friendlier to Europeans. The Hornet may be a sign of things to come as Chrysler tries to get into Europe with a car more suited to the more expensive fuel and smaller streets. However, given that Chrysler has said it would probably partner with another company to build a smaller-than-Caliber vehicle, one question is - what is the Hornet based on?

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 15 2006, 08 AM)

Chrysler supplier AAM: fire and explosion

AAM ("American Axle"), a key supplier to General Motors and Chrysler/Jeep, experienced an explosion and fire this morning. The company had been having labor disputes due to falling demand, reportedly due to quality issues. Three people were reportedly injured.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 20 2006, 11 AM)

PEI warns of static electricity, but denies cellphone-based fires

The Petroleum Equipment Institute has started a campaign to warn people of the dangers of fire when filling their own tank. In most static-electricity based fires, the person was getting back in their vehicle while the nozzle was still pumping gas. 'When finished, they went back to pull the nozzle out and the fire started, as a result of static. (Most of the time the accidents occurred with women, because men usually do not get back into the vehicle while pumping). If you absolutely HAVE to get in your vehicle while the gas is pumping, make sure you get out, close the door touching the metal before you pull the nozzle out. 'This way the static from your body will be discharged before you ever remove the nozzle. Touching an unpainted metal part of the car before touching the gas pump or nozzle is not a bad precaution. See http://www.pei.org/ for details.

Update: Don Tait of PEI noted that cell phones starting gas fires are an "E-Rumor" and said none had ever been recorded.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 23 2006, 05 PM)

Dodge Caliber review posted at acarplace.com

Though Allpar has yet to get its hands on a Caliber, acarplace.com has posted a Dodge Caliber SXT review.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 27 2006, 10 AM)

2006 PT Cruiser GT reviewed at ptcruizer.com

ptcruizer.com has a Chrysler PT Cruiser GT car review, noting the broad power improvements to the high-output turbocharged engine; there are many photos comparing the first and second generation PTs as well.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 27 2006, 11 AM)

Rumor: new commercial Dodge Ram chassis cabs tomorrow

According to several sources, Dodge will be introducing chassis-cab commercial trucks tomorrow. Powered by a 6.7 Cummins turbodiesel or the Hemi gas V8, these trucks will have an industry standard frame for aftermarket customization. For more details, see our Dodge Ram chassis cab commercial trucks page.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (February 28 2006, 11 AM)

Hubinette ready for Mopar drifting

Samuel Hubinette, will return to California's Irwindale Speedway this Friday and Saturday to take on the best drifters from Japan and the U.S. in the D1 Grand Prix Series Round 1 event. Hubinette posted a tenth-place finish in a recent D1GP All-Star event at Irwindale last December.

The new season brings many changes for Hubinette, owner Shaun Carlson, and the NuFormz Racing team. The biggest and most anticipated change will be the upcoming debut of the new Mopar Dodge Charger, set for the Formula D Drift season opener on April 2 at Long Beach, Calif., (Hubinette will pilot his Mopar SRT10 Dodge Viper for the D1 event). This weekend's D1 competition will also mark the team's first outing with BF Goodrich tires. With a testing session scheduled for this week at Irwindale, Hubinette and the NuFormz Racing team are certain to come to the track well-prepared.

Hubinette said, "My goal is to get a good feel for
the tires and put together some good runs in the D1 event, then build on that momentum with a strong outing when we debut the Dodge Charger in the Formula D opener. I can't wait to get behind the wheel of that car."

Practice and qualifying for the D1 Grand Prix Series Round 1 event will be held this Friday from Noon to 6:30 p.m. Gates will open to the public for the elimination rounds at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with the awards ceremony at 9 p.m.

For more info on Mopar, Hubinette or the D1 Grand
Prix Series, log on to www.mopar.com, www.moparspeed.com, www.samuelhubinette.com or www.d1gp.com.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 01 2006, 03 PM)

Ricko Limited produces quality Dodge and Chrysler minis

Ricko Limited is now producing a range of high-quality 1:87 ratio (very small!) models of Chrysler and Dodge vehicles, including the 300C, Crossfire, PT Cruiser, and Charger police car. Coming up soon, we understand, are the Caliber and the 2006 PT Cruiser.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 01 2006, 05 PM)

February auto sales overview

by Bill Cawthon.

February was another good month for automakers. Manufacturers reported better than 1.26 million light vehicle sales, up nearly 0.6% from February 2005. That translates into a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 16.61 million cars and light trucks, ahead of last year's 16.42 million but well off the torrid 17.64 million pace set in January.

Several new February sales records were set. Honda and Nissan both established new February benchmarks, while Toyota pulled off a hat trick, setting new records for the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. The new Cayman put Porsche over the top, despite falling sales of the once-hot Cayenne. Mercedes-Benz set a new February record with an outstanding performance from the new S-Class which outsold not only every other Mercedes car, but the BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS430 and Lincoln Town car. The revitalized M-Class continues to do well and the new R-Class is off to an excellent start.

Suzuki set its own new February record last month, having enjoyed the second-best sales month in its history. Sales of the new Grand Vitara were 253% ahead of the mark its predecessor set this time last year and the GMDAT-built Forenza beat its 2005 mark by 82%.

Hyundai and Kia also set new February records. At Hyundai, strong car sales overcame weakness in its SUV models and Kia saw improvements in all but two of its vehicle lines.

Chrysler continues to buck the Detroit trend, posting a 2.5% improvement in total volume and coming in with a 15.1% share of the total light vehicle market. The key was a 19% improvement in passenger car sales, which overcame a 2% shortfall in the truck department. The Chrysler 300 set a new monthly sales record and the Dodge Charger had its best sales month since its introduction last year. The new Caliber posted 1,397 sales, pretty good considering the first one rolled off the assembly line at the beginning of the month.

Dodge Ram pickup sales were up 2%, enough to give it the No. 3 spot in overall sales for February.

Sales of the Caravan and Town & Country were down but they still came in 1-2 in the minivan segment. The Caravan outsold the combined totals of all the Ford and GM minivans by over 2,000 units.

Ford and GM deny they're leaving the minivan market but their continuing inability to compete with Chrysler, Toyota and Honda makes one wonder when the folks in Dearborn and the Renaissance Center are finally going to decide to cut their losses and get out.

Jeep not only beat its February 2005 mark, it made a substantial recovery from its January stumble. The Commander came in with its second-best numbers ever and the Wrangler was 8% ahead of last year's mark.

General Motors gave up almost an entire point of market share in February as weak car sales dragged down a 5% improvement in light trucks for an overall loss of nearly 2.8%. Based on manufacturer's reported numbers, GM had less than 23.4% of light vehicle sales last month.

GM also took another hit to corporate pride as Ford wiped out Chevrolet's small lead year-to-date lead as America's favorite brand. The blue oval is now ahead of the bow tie by 23,341 sales.

On the bright side, the new GMT900 full-size SUVs look like they will deliver desperately needed relief from GM's slumping big truck sales. Tahoe sales were 47.2% ahead of last year's numbers and the new Escalade and Yukon are off to a good start.

Ford ended the month 4% shy of their 205 numbers. Ford pointed to improved passenger car sales as reason for optimism but in reality, Ford's strongest player in that segment is still the Ford Taurus. It may be rental-fleet fodder but it still beats the combined sales of the two cars that were supposed to replace it. While sales of the Five Hundred are up from last year they are still mediocre and the Fusion looks less like a home run and more like a double at best. On the other hand, Ford has so far resisted the ploy of jump-starting sales with big rebates which is what GM did with the slow-starting Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G6 and Buick LaCrosse.

I saw the new Ford Expedition and Expedition EL, slated for a fall 2006 rollout, and wondered why Ford is giving GM such a big head start. From over 12,000 sales in February 2003, the big SUV has dropped to less than 7,300 sales last month.

There was some sugar in with the lemons. In addition to beating Chevy, Ford managed to grab the top two spots in the SUV/Crossover segment. The Explorer regained the No. 1 position in year-to-date sales, edging out the new Tahoe and TrailBlazer, and the Escape's 8.9% sales gain boosted it into the No. 2 spot for the month. Sales of the F-Series pickup were up 5.5% as it easily retained its long-standing title as the best-selling vehicle in the land.

Ford got some more good news from Land Rover. The premium SUV brand set a new February sales record in spite of an 11.5% drop in sales of the LR3. The new Range Rover Sport is selling well and upcoming new models should keep Land Rover in the black for some time to come.

Unfortunately, Land Rover is the only one of Ford's Premier Auto Group brands that is doing well. Every single Jaguar and Volvo model line missed their 2005 sales mark and Jaguar is the poorest-selling luxury brand in the U.S. Volvo has new product on the way which should help it, but no one has yet figured out how to make Jaguar a real contender in the luxury segment.

While they didn't set records, Mazda and Volkswagen both reported double-digit improvements, with gains of 13% and 21.3%, respectively. Mazda car sales were up 23% and the new GTI joined the refreshed Jetta and Passat in giving VW another good month. Mitsubishi also posted a modest improvement.

Big loser for the month was Isuzu with 796 total sales, down 31.6% from last year, which was down from the year before. It's true that all the Isuzus being manufactured are just rebadged Chevys, but one has to wonder at what point General Motors is going to realize it's not worth buying the badging. Last year the entire Isuzu line was outsold by the BMW Mini Cooper. Not the brand, just the model. The Mini Cooper S had thousands more sales than Isuzu.

Looking at the total market, the Detroit automakers gave up another 0.6% to the imports last month, dropping to 56.6% of light vehicle sales. In addition, they ceded another 1.9% of the passenger car market, which remains the largest single market segment. Last month, better than 57 of every 100 cars sold wore an import brand and the best-selling American car, the Chevy Impala, only made it to sixth place in the rankings.

Passenger cars gave up all of the turf they gained in January, dropping to 45.4% of light vehicle sales. That's also down about 0.35% from February 2005. Minivans also lost ground, coming in with 6.17%. Pickup share was basically unchanged, up 0.02% to 17.52%, leaving the SUV/crossover segment as the big winner with about 28.4% of the pie. Full-size vans accounted for the rest.

Crossovers continue to account for a growing part of the SUV market as sales of most traditional SUVs remain soft. It will be interesting to see how the big truck-based SUV market plays out in the next few years, especially considering that Chrysler is preparing to join the band. By the time the new Aspen hits dealer lots, all the new GM and Ford full-size SUVs will be on sale and the total market will likely still be shrinking. This means the Aspen will have to be highly competitive as its prospects will depend on conquest sales unless it is going to cannibalize sales of the Jeep Commander and refreshed Durango.

Next month should be interesting, especially as there is a lot of uncertainty about oil prices. I'll be back then with another report.

Note: All figures are based on manufacturer's reported sales of passenger cars and light trucks. Medium-duty trucks that are included in reports from Ford and GM are excluded from the totals as are estimates of sales of ultra-premium brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati which do not report monthly sales.

See Full Story for more sales charts.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 02 2006, 08 AM)

Allpar posts Chrysler Sebring spy shots

Christopher has snapped some unusually clear and sharp spy shots of the new Chrysler Sebring. He noted that the Chrysler badge was clearly showing under the camouflage. See them now at http://www.allpar.com/cars/dodge/avenger.html (the Sebring and Avenger are on the same platform).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 03 2006, 09 AM)

Ralph Gilles, 300 stylist, promoted

Effective April 1, Ralph Gilles will be promoted to Vice President - Jeep/Truck and Component Design, Chrysler Group.' Gilles, who served as Director - Truck Studio since 2005, will replace retiring Ricardo (Rick) Aneiros.

Gilles has held roles of increased responsibility since joining Chrysler Group in 1992.' He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Transportation Design from the Center for Creative Studies and a Master's Degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University.

Aneiros joined Chrysler Corporation in 1969 as a Product Stylist - Interior Styling and most recently was named Vice President - Jeep/Truck, Component Design in 1999.

"It has been a tremendous honor to work with the Chrysler Group, both with the Design team and within the entire organization," Aneiros said.' "The industry has seen many changes since I started, but the professionalism, creativity and friendships' I have experienced have been constant and consistent."

"Over the years, Rick's insight and keen eye have been invaluable to our design family at Chrysler Group," Trevor Creed said.' "His spirit and talent have inspired many designers. His roles here throughout his career have touched every aspect of our products whether they were passenger cars, trucks, minivans or SUVs."

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 16 2006, 04 PM)

Chrysler updates health care plans

With Chrysler still laboring to recover from takeover-based expenses and facing lower demand for large SUVs, changes to health plans - a key expense - are not surprising industry analysts. However, their approach is refreshing in an era of Delphi-style double standards - the health care premium-sharing structure for non-union, salaried employees is based on salary levels, to try to adjust employee costs to their ability to pay.

Under the new health care program, each active salaried employee's health care pre-tax premium increases will be based on their rank and base salary level. For 2007, that means professional-administrative employee premiums on average will not be affected, while the top of the executive ranks will be responsible for up to 100 percent of their health care premium. Mid-managers will see an average premium increase of about $450 in 2007, while the average executive will additionally contribute around $1,500.

Future incremental pre-tax premium increases will follow this pattern of 'the more you make, the more you will be asked to contribute,' and any future percentage increases will be reviewed on an annual basis to reflect health care and wage economics.

Health care is one of the company's largest fixed costs ' expected to be $2.3 billion in 2006 ' and continues to rise each year well beyond inflation. Since 2000, Chrysler Group's health care costs have doubled.

Click on "full story" for more details.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 16 2006, 04 PM)

AAA and Parents Magazine Name Dodge Charger, Chrysler Town & Country and Jeep Commander to top-picks list

Three Chrysler Group vehicles have made AAA and Parents magazine's list of "Best Cars for Families" for 2006. The Dodge Charger, Chrysler Town & Country and Jeep Commander were chosen based upon their safety, performance and value to consumers.

AAA's 100 years of auto safety expertise, combined with Parents' insight into family needs and wants, led to a lengthy list of criteria for 2006 models. A team of reviewers from both AAA and Parents considered everything from air bags and fuel economy to cup holders and cargo space when voting. They installed child safety and booster seats and chose vehicles that are among the top crash-test performers.

The annual list appears in the April issue of Parents magazine, which hits newsstands Tuesday, March 14.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 16 2006, 04 PM)

Second shift started at the Caliber plant

A second shift has been started at the Belvedere plant which makes Dodge Calibers, indicating that initial quality and production issues, if any, have been addressed and full output has been deemed prudent. The Calibers are slowly arriving at dealerships across the country, and the Jeep Compass is due to be produced starting in May. (That may change according to some, as the company appears to be worried about the Compass' reception.)

About a thousand employees will be added to fill the second shift. All of the new jobs were filled with current Chrysler Group employees, many of whom were idled. Employees came from areas such as Newark, Del.; Huntsville, Ala.; Kokomo, Ind.; and Toledo, Ohio. More than 360 of the employees were idled Belvidere plant employees who are now back at work. To ramp up the second shift, new employees will work four hours on the day shift and then four hours on the night shift this week. The split shift will provide hands-on training before launching the full eight hour afternoon shift next week. (This is probably essential due to the move to empowered work teams.)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 16 2006, 04 PM)

New Chrysler registry set up

Allpar has created an all-Chrysler Registry and invited all readers who own a Chrysler Corporation or Chrysler Group vehicle - or a vehicle adopted by the Mopar crowd - to enter their vehicles. At the moment, registering for the forums is required to add a vehicle. The URL is http://www.allpar.com/forums/index.php?autocom=registry

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 17 2006, 02 PM)

Edelbrock giveaway

Edelbrock has partnered with Spy Optic 'to provide 1000 Spy Meteor sunglasses (retail value $85) to the first 1000 people that purchase an Edelbrock Endurashine Carburetor. This opportunity will be available April 15th-30th.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 20 2006, 08 AM)

New plant managers named

Chrysler Group today announced new appointments at five of its powertrain and vehicle assembly plants. Allpar does not know what is happening to the prior managers.

Andrew L. Garibian was appointed Plant Manager ' Trenton Engine Plant, where he will be responsible for directing all activities at the Trenton, Mich. plant. Previously, he served as manufacturing manager at the Chrysler Group's Detroit Axle Plant.

Michael J. Butz was appointed Plant Manager ' Etobicoke Casting Plant, where he will be responsible for all activities at the Toronto-area operation. Butz was formerly Manufacturing Manager ' Indiana Transmission Plant I.

Garibian and Butz will report to General Manager ' Engine/Foundry Alfredo Antenucci.

Kevin D. Hayes has been named Plant Manager ' Indiana Transmission Plant II, where he will direct activities for this Kokomo-area plant. Most recently, he served as Manufacturing Manager ' Indiana Transmission Plant II. Hayes will report to General Manager ' Transmission/Casting/Machining Brian D. Harlow.

Joseph J. Ozdowy will become the Plant Manager ' Newark Assembly Plant, where he will be responsible for all activities at the plant. He most recently served as Director of Manufacturing Operations ' Beijing Jeep Corporation.

Cynthia C. Sidoti was appointed to the new position of Plant Manager ' Toledo Jeep Supplier Park, where she will oversee activities at the new home of the Jeep Wrangler. Sidoti was most recently Director ' Paint and Energy Management Advance Manufacturing Engineering.

Ozdowy and Sidoti will report to Vice President ' Truck and Activity Vehicle Assembly Operations Byron M. Green.

The appointments of Garibian, Hayes, Butz and Sidoti take effect immediately, while Ozdowy will transition to his new appointment between April and July 2006.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 22 2006, 02 PM)

Chrysler pushes biodiesel

As Jeep diesel sales neared 10,000, Chrysler joined today with Ohio Governor Bob Taft, the state's soybean growers and refiner Peter Cremer North America to promote the use of Ohio-made biodiesel fuel.

The Jeep Liberty CRD, the nation's first diesel-powered mid-sized sport-utility vehicle, is filled with 5 percent biodiesel fuel at its plant in Toledo, Ohio. The biodiesel fuel is made from Ohio soybeans, refined at the Peter Cremer facility in Cincinnati.

Sales of the Jeep Liberty CRD diesel are about to surpass the 10,000 mark, double the number expected when Chrysler Group launched the Jeep Liberty CRD diesel in early 2005.

The Jeep Liberty CRD diesel is part of DaimlerChrysler's program to re-introduce American consumers to the benefits of modern, clean diesel passenger vehicles. Jeep Liberty CRD provides the torque of a V-8, the acceleration of a V-6 and the fuel economy of a four-cylinder engine.

"Biodiesel is part of our vision for an America that is less dependent on petroleum, that protects and preserves the environment, and that values a strong sustainable economy," said Deb Morrissett, Vice President ' Regulatory Affairs, Chrysler Group.

In addition to the 30 percent improvements in fuel economy with diesel, biodiesel reduces reliance on petroleum. While diesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions up to 20 percent, biodiesel can further improve the carbon dioxide lifecycle balance, while significantly cutting tailpipe emissions. It is homemade ' contributing to a stronger American economy.

Chrysler Group recently announced that, beginning with the 2007 model year this fall, it will approve and endorse the use of B20 in diesel-powered Dodge Ram trucks by government, military, and commercial fleet customers.

The company is also working with the biodiesel industry, other OEMS, suppliers, nonprofit organizations, and Federal and state governments to develop national quality standards for B20 (20% biodiesel blend).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 22 2006, 02 PM)

Millionth PT Cruiser made in Toluca

The millionth PT Cruiser has rolled out of the Toluca, Mexico assembly plant.

The retro-styled vehicle was originally designed to lead Plymouth's resurgence, but a last-minute change led it to become a Chrysler. Plymouth sales, which had been tailing off since the 1970s - when it was Chrysler's best-selling division - would have nearly doubled with the PT in the mix.

Originally, only about 40,000 PTs were to be built each year, but customer demand tripled that number to well over 100,000 PTs per year. The PT was based on a shortened Neon platform, with a redesigned interior and rear suspension, and a minivan four-cylinder engine (a stroked version of the Neon 2.0).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 22 2006, 02 PM)

Chrysler among cheaper vehicles to insure

According to Quotesmith, the cheapest car to insure is the Chrysler Town & Country minivan; the Caravan comes in at #3, the Grand Cherokee at #7. Overall, four of the ten least expensive cars to insure are from GM, three from Chrysler, and two from Ford. The only import on the list is #10, the Corolla.

The most expensive vehicle to insure is the Ford F-series pickup, followed by the Ram at #2 and the Explorer at #3. Though the Corolla is cheap to insure, the Civic came in at #4 and the Camry at #6; the Accord is #7. Ford has three of the most expensive-to-insure vehicles; GM and Honda have two each; and Nissan, Toyota, and Dodge take up the rest.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 23 2006, 04 PM)

Chrysler starts denying Neon head gasket claims

Bob G. wrote: "Information on discounted head-gasket replacement for 1995-97 Neons is being denied by Chrysler. I started with the dealership, who knew nothing about it, so I called Chrysler at the 800 number (800 992 1997) and they also claimed ignorance. Seems crazy to me that my son's 97 Neon with 42,000 miles, even though it is 9 year old (it was my mothers, and she never drove it) would have a leaking head-gasket. But they claim the original warranty of 3 years or 36,000 miles obviously has expired. I have had several Chrysler products that have gone well over a hundred thousand miles (my 90 Laser has 240k miles), without a head-gasket ever needing replacement."

Allpar has posted that Neon head gaskets, as an obvious and well-known defect, were being replaced for free (or with a $100 deductible) by Chrysler up to about 80,000 miles. With the most recent Neon afflicted by the problem being about eight years old, apparently cost-cutters in the company have reversed that policy.

Allpar invites comment from Chrysler representatives.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 24 2006, 11 AM)

Soldier returns to find restored car

This News-Sentinel article covers the homecoming of an Indiana National Guard soldier who had spent a year in Iraq; on his return, Spc. Bob Metcalf, who had stored a "rusted, hoodless, fenderless 1967 Plymouth Barracuda in his brother's garage," returned to find a "gleaming deep blue car with red and white stripes" with a "hot-rodded Chrysler 318 V-8" under the hood. His friends and family had restored the car while he was away, along with dozens of volunteers; the project had taken six months. (Thanks, Jim Deane.)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 26 2006, 09 AM)

Smart being pared to one vehicle

(by Bill Cawthon)

DaimlerChrysler will pare the Smart brand down to a single car line-by 2007 refresh of the Fortwo Coupe.

According to a company announcement released on March 25, the four-door, four-passenger Forfour will be dropped, subject to approval by Mitsubishi which builds the car at its NedCar facility in the Netherlands.

DaimlerChrysler will spend about a billion euros to terminate the agreement with Mitsubishi, reduce headcount at B'blingen and integrate Smart completely into the Mercedes product line, moves the company says will finally make the brand profitable on a continuing basis.

At one point in time, the Smart brand was to have covered four primary models including the Fortwo, Roadster/Roadster Coupe, Forfour and an SUV, the Formore.

First the Formore, a totally unnecessary SUV that was to have been Smart's lead product in the U.S. market, was killed off after having been assigned to the "Kiss of Death" Juiz de Fora plant in Brazil (the plant was originally built to make the A-Class for the United States, which never happened, and almost every project assigned to it since has come to an untimely end).

Next, the nifty Roadster and Roadster Coupe, which didn't meet sales projections, were terminated to save money. IN 204 a reskinned Smart Roadster made an appearance in America as the Dodge Slingshot concept car. The latest development has DaimlerChrysler signing a memorandum of understanding with Project Kimber of Great Britain which plans to license production of the cars under different names.

There was one more Smart variant, the Crossblade, a special open version of the Cabrio. Introduced in 2002, the Crossblade was the only Smart model to come to an end on its own as it was limited to a production run of 2,000 cars.

DaimlerChrysler made no mention as to whether both coupe and cabriolet versions of the Fortwo will remain in production nor whether the company will finally bring the brand to the U.S. market (It is already sold in Mexico and Canada). DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche has said a decision will come by the end of the year.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 26 2006, 02 PM)

Ford lovers fake Hemi slam?

According to Detroit News, some people doctored a story about Ford giving rebates to buyers of the quality-impaired PowerStroke diesels, substituting Chrysler and the Hemi; this story was printed on a number of Internet blogs. Chrysler has not been giving special rebates to Hemi buyers. One question is whether the instigator is someone acting on their own, or someone spreading lies via indirect orders from Ford in the style of the "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth."

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 26 2006, 05 PM)

Jalopnik: 300C limo due today

According to jalopnik.com, a long-wheelbase (stretch limo) version of the Chrysler 300C will be introduced shortly. It has six inches of extra legroom and is modified by an outside company from the stock 300C. (Which seems like quite a bit of work and expense for six inches.)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 27 2006, 01 PM)

Slight increase in gas mileage rules due

The Bush administration increased gas mileage requirements for pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans from 21.6 mpg to 24 mpg, eliminating a loophole that had made larger SUVs exempt from regulation. The new standards will be phased in over a generous five years, starting in 2008 and finally reaching 24 mpg in 2011.

In some ways countering the modest gain and long time-frame is the first coverage of sports utility vehicles weighing between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds (starting in 2011).

In contrast to trucks, SUVs, and multipurpose vehicles, passenger cars must average 27.5 miles per gallon.

Large and medium-duty commercial trucks will continue to be exempt.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (March 30 2006, 07 AM)

Mercedes, Chrysler to share A-Class platform?

According to Detroit News' commendable article on Dieter Zetsche, not only has DCX moved its executive offices back to the traditional location at a Mercedes plant and started serious cuts of Mercedes managers and workers (not as serious as those at Chrysler post-merger), but Mercedes and Chrysler will be working together on the A-Class. The two companies have already collaborated on the ML/Grand Cherokee, and one Chrysler vice-president has been put in charge of Mercedes manufacturing operations. The open question on the A-Class/unspecified Chrysler is who will be the lead for engineering.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 03 2006, 08 AM)

Chrysler, Mercedes sales rise; Ford falls

Chrysler reported a 2% rise in sales from March 2005 to March 2006 (with the PT Cruiser hitting the top five compact cars and the Caravan staying #1 minivan), while Mercedes posted an 18% March-to-March rise (partly due to the new GL, R, and ML SUVs). Ford posted a 5% loss, mainly due to weakness in large SUVs; car sales at Ford increased (Ford subsidiaries generally saw lower sales, though Land Rover posted an increase). Toyota and Honda also gained. On the dark side at DCX is a huge bank of unsold vehicles piling up. More details to come...

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 03 2006, 04 PM)

March sales recap

by Bill Cawthon.

Despite the wind and weather, March turned out to be more of an adjustment than a setback for car and truck sales in the U.S. Automakers sold nearly 1.53 million light vehicles last month. That was about 2.9% behind March 2005 and yielded the lowest seasonally adjusted sales rate so far this year. However, the first two months of 2006 have been above average and industry is still on target for another decent year.

Chrysler once again outpaced the Detroiters, being the only one to post an increase in sales. Led by a big improvement in Ram pickup sales and a strong first-full-month performance from the Dodge Caliber, Chrysler was up 2% for the month and is now 3% ahead of the first quarter of 2005. Chrysler's share of the light vehicle market increased by over 0.6 point.

Perhaps most surprising is the fact Chrysler car sales are the real story behind the big numbers. Chrysler has long been the most truck-dependent of the three hometown automakers but it was a 17% jump in year-to-date (YTD) car sales that proved sufficient to overcome a slight dip in minivan, pickup and SUV sales.

Chrysler brand sales were down slightly, while Dodge and Jeep sales improved. Jeep sales were up 8% as the Commander continues to demonstrate its appeal in a SUV market that is generally weakening and the Wrangler set a new monthly sales record.

The new Caliber is selling well. Its 6,541 sales in its first full month on the market are well ahead of those achieved by the Ford Fusion and better than the first two months' sales of the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G6 when they were introduced.

Despite a stumble last month, Chrysler's flagship 300 is still 8% ahead of the first three months of 2005 and remains the best-selling upscale car model in the U.S.

The Dodge Caravan cruised to another easy victory as America's favorite minivan, over 8,000 sales ahead of the second-place Honda Odyssey. Town & Country sales were off 2% last month, dropping it to fourth place, but the Chrysler minivan still was just 503 sales shy of the combined sales total of every current minivan model from Ford and General Motors.

March's Top 10 included two Chrysler products, the Dodge Ram pickup and Caravan. That's as many as GM placed and one more than Ford.

The other side of the DaimlerChrysler family also had a good month, setting a new record for March sales. The new S-Class is still the hottest premium sedan on the market, outselling the BMW 7-Series and the Lexus LS430 combined. E-Class and M-Class sales were also up and the new R-Class looks like a real winner. Mercedes sales were up 17% for the first quarter.

Over at the Renaissance Center, things weren't quite so rosy. GM sales plunged 14.6% in March. Car sales were off 22% and light truck sale were down 9% in spite of good results from GM's new SUVs. GM's new value pricing did increase the average transaction value by a nice margin, but its market share shrank to 23.3%, a drop of more than three points from last March.

Ford's domestic brand sales were down about 4.7% as the retreat from traditional SUVs continues to hurt sales of Ford's once-dominant Explorer and Expedition. Almost every mature Ford, Mercury and Lincoln model was in the red last month. The new Fusion, Milan and Zephyr joined the F-Series pickup and E-Series van as the only models to show improvement. Still, it was enough to widen Ford's YTD lead over Chevrolet to 46,175 sales.

The imports continued to grab more of the U.S. light vehicle market. In March, Japanese, Korean and European brands accounted for almost 44.8% of sales, up nearly 2.9% from last year. Nearly 6 of every 10 passenger cars sold wore a non-domestic badge. Toyota is now the most popular brand of passenger car in the U.S., followed by Ford. Chevrolet is in third place.

Lots of sales records last month. In addition to Mercedes' new benchmark mentioned earlier, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota all had their best-ever March. Porsche sold more 911s last month than it has in any month since it set up operations in the U.S.

Incentive spending was up in March as automakers try to overcome rising fuel prices and interest rates. Chrysler had the highest average incentives, but spending was up across the board. Incentives on import brands are at their highest level ever. Competition is especially intense in the pickup segment, where everyone is trying to beat the introductions of GM's new full-size pickups and the new, larger Tundra coming from Toyota.

Market share by segment changed very little last month. New models and crossovers helped SUVs pick up an extra 0.7%, mostly from pickups and passenger cars. Sales of full-size vans were also up.

We're one-quarter of the way through what should be an exciting year with a number of significant new vehicle introductions and a lot of unanswered questions about the future for at least one U.S. automaker.

See you next month with another report.
(See Full Story for more.)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 04 2006, 09 AM)

New introductions

The Jeep Patriot and 2007 Dodge Durango were recently announced by Chrysler. See our home page for details.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 11 2006, 10 PM)

Auto Show Coverage

Full auto show coverage is at http://www.allpar.com/history/auto-shows/ny-2006.html

It may not be completed until tomorrow.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 12 2006, 03 PM)

Denso adds oxygen sensors to catalog

Denso introduced a new Oxygen Sensor catalog with over 90 new parts covering over 1,800 applications, including a new 2.0 Ohm Sensor designed by DENSO designed with a faster light off time, faster switching cycles, and an increased lifespan.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 13 2006, 02 PM)

Stratus, Sebring to continue - in Russia

OAO GAZ, a Russian automaker, is buying Chrysler's entire Sterling Heights production line and moving it to Russia, where the Sebring and Stratus will get a new lease on life - under license. This is not the first such deal for Chrysler - the Horizon was made by Volkswagen in South America, for example. In this case, 65,000 vehicles will be made each year - well under the plant's capacity but quite a bit for Russia. GAZ will also buy Chrysler 2.4 liter engines made in Mexico (the ones used in the Stratus and Sebring, not the new World Engines) for GAZ's own vehicles, in a long-term contract. The Sterling Heights plant will cease to build the JR cars in May 2006. Their successors are due to be shown within two months.

Chrysler is investing $278 million in the plant, which is, like other Chrysler plants, being converted to a more flexible manufacturing process so that it can make not only the new Sebring and Avenger, but also other models, at the same time.

The cars will be renamed and moderately restyled for Russian sale.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 14 2006, 03 PM)

Mopar Hemi Challenge to expand

The Mopar HEMI Challenge is being expanded for the 2006 season. The popular event, which has headlined the Friday night racing action at the NHRA U.S. Nationals for the past five years, will feature a three-event schedule this year to become a series, with both a series champion and and event champion.

'The expansion of the Mopar HEMI Challenge represents Mopar's commitment to the growth of this authentic event,' said David Hakim, Marketing Manager, Mopar Performance Parts. 'The 1968 and 1969 Plymouth Barracudas that compete in the Mopar HEMI Challenge represent the high water mark of the production super stock package cars. This event helps to preserve the legendary status of these machines while, at the same time, implementing modern technology to further their status in the sport of drag racing.'


Featuring events at the Cajun SPORTSnationals, the Northern SPORTSnationals and NHRA U.S. Nationals, the Mopar HEMI Challenge will offer over $25,000 in prize money in 2006. The Sports Nationals and Northern Sports Nationals events will feature a $5,000 purse, while the NHRA U.S. Nationals event will continue to feature $10,000 to win. A yet-to-be determined cash prize will also be awarded to the series winner at the conclusion of the Indianapolis event.

The 2006 season will also see the Super Stock AA (automatic) vehicles compete head-to-head with the newly formed Super Stock A/HEMI Class. Former winners of the Mopar HEMI Challenge event include Buckey Hess (2001), Richard Beshore (2002), Jerry Jenkins (2003), Jeg Coughlin Jr., (2004), and Charlie Westcott (2005).

The first event in the 2006 Mopar HEMI Challenge event will be held at the Sports Nationals on April 21'23. The second leg will be run at the Northern Sports Nationals on July 28'30. The series finale will be held at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind., on September 1, 2006. The finale will be featured on ESPN2's coverage of the NHRA U.S. Nationals.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 18 2006, 10 AM)

Chinese Chrysler minivans start rolling off the line

One year after announcing that the Chrysler Group would license China Motor Corp. (CMC) to produce the Chrysler Town & Country, the first customer-ready vehicle is rolling off the production line at CMC's Yangmei facility.

Tom LaSorda, Chrysler Group President and CEO, made his second trip to Taiwan in eight months to review the Chrysler Town & Country production launch and celebrate the first customer-ready vehicle.

"Thanks to the hard work of the men and women of CMC and the Chrysler Group to help prepare this launch, the Chrysler Town & Country produced here meets our high worldwide standard and is ready for our customers in Taiwan," said LaSorda. "With the roll-off of the first customer-ready vehicle, CMC joins the family of Chrysler minivan production facilities in the U.S., Canada and Austria. I've been in hundreds of plants, and helped launch dozens of vehicles, and I can tell you that this is a world-class operation, and we are proud of our ongoing partnership with CMC."

"Today is another milestone for DaimlerChrysler in Northeast Asia, and we believe there are tremendous opportunities to continue to grow the business of all our vehicle brands here," said Dr. Till Becker, Chairman and CEO of DaimlerChrysler Northeast Asia. "Licensed manufacturing is a very efficient way to bring vehicles to the market quickly. Working together, we were able to combine the best attributes of the world's best minivan with features tailor made for the Taiwanese market. We appreciate the partnership and support of CMC for this and other projects."

"Our team has been working closely with the Chrysler Group colleagues to ensure that every vehicle that rolls off the line meets the high international standards customers in Taiwan expect," said Mr. Kai Tai (Kenneth) Yen, Vice Chairman of CMC. "We are proud to produce the best-selling minivan in the world, and are pleased that Tom is here to help us celebrate the first vehicle. It underscores the importance of the Chrysler Group's plans in Taiwan, and the expansion of the cooperation between CMC and DaimlerChrysler."

CMC and DaimlerChrysler officials celebrated the first customer-ready vehicle at CMC's production facility in Yangmei, with hundreds of guests and CMC employees. Employees from U.S. and Canadian operations where Chrysler minivans are produced welcomed CMC into Chrysler Group's minivan production family through videotaped greetings.

The locally assembled Chrysler Town & Country was specifically adapted by CMC to meet the needs of Taiwanese customers, including detailed touches on the exterior that better cater to Taiwan customers' preferences, and adjustments to provide safety and comfort for the driving environment of Taiwan.

In addition to licensing Chrysler Town & Country production, DaimlerChrysler Taiwan and CMC created a joint venture last year called Chrysler Group Taiwan Sales Ltd. (CGTSL) to manage sales and distribution of Chrysler Group vehicles for the local market. CGTSL is tripling the number of Chrysler Group retail outlets over the next two years.

China Motor Corporation was established in 1969 and is based in Taiwan. It has multiple subsidiaries and affiliates involved in automotive distribution, parts manufacturing and related services. It is a publicly traded subsidiary of the Yulon Group. DaimlerChrysler Taiwan is a joint venture between Lei Shing Hong and DaimlerChrysler AG.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 18 2006, 02 PM)

GM posts $323 million loss for first quarter

GM posted a $323 million loss for the first quarter, which would have been roughly double that amount had one-time sale revenues not been taken into account. However, cost cutting measures are taking time to implement, and with the sale of half of GMAC, will give GM a large amount of operating capital and "breathing room."

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 20 2006, 12 PM)

Distraction cause of most accidents, study says

An NHTSA study analyzing about 2 million miles of driving by 241 drivers with 82 crashes and 761 near-crahses found that eight of ten accidents involve drivers who are drowsy or doing something else - such as using a cell phone or putting on makeup. The study used body videotape of the drivers and auto sensors.

The largest problem was reaching for a moving object, which multiplied the odds of a crash by nine times. Reading, applying makeup, or dialing a cell phone tripled the odds of crashing; dialing was the most dangerous part of cell phone use.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 20 2006, 01 PM)

Ronnie Sox, Mopar legend, dies

At 7:55 PM on Saturday, Ronnie Sox passed away. No arrangements have been made at this time. They will be sent shortly along with further details.

Drag racing legend Ronnie Sox had been fighting cancer, and died in his sleep. He had been visited in his final days by Herb McCandless, Richard Petty (via phone), Buddy Martin, and other legendary racers. Sox and Martin had dominated the tracks in the 1960s and 1970s; Sox was the driver, while Martin handled business arrangements. The NHRA rated Ronnie Sox as the 15th greatest driver of all time, and the best four-speed driver. He is a five time world champion and a member of six drag Hall of Fames; he met with Richard Nixon in 1972, and was featured on the first issue of Super Stock magazine in 1964.

Ronnie Sox competed actively from 1963 to 1980 or so, and continued to compete periodically through the 1990s; even after he stopped competing, Sox continued to show up for exhibitions, and got over 50 e-mails, cards, and letters a day.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 23 2006, 04 PM)

Kopper in the clear

German prosecutors have dropped an insider trading investigation of DaimlerChrysler's supervisory board chairman Hilmar Kopper due to lack of evidence. Kopper, who was once on the board of Deutsche Bank, was accused of telling Deutsche Bank's CEO about Juergen Schrempp's resignation ahead of time. Schrempp's resignation brought a rapid rise in DCX stock.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 26 2006, 09 AM)

Upcoming Mopar open wheel racing

Engine builder Gary Stanton has teamed with Pennsylvania Posse member Don Kreitz Jr., to bring Mopar into one of sprint car racing's hotbeds.
Kreitz debuted the Stanton-built powerplant on April 14 at Williams Grove Speedway.

Kreitz and his team will return this week to Williams Grove Speedway with Mopar power under the hood. The team plans to compete in the Spring Classic for Sprints event, which is an A-Diamond Series event, on April 28. This will mark the team's second outing utilizing the Stanton-built Mopar powerplant. The team garnered a fifth-place finish at the facility on April 14.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 26 2006, 03 PM)

Tundra challenges Ram, F, Silverado

Toyota's most - or only - credible challenge to the Dodge Ram was introduced recently. Featuring a maximum towing capacity of 10,000 pounds and a substantially enlarged body with more options, the 2007 Tundra may pose a serious challenge to Dodge, if not Ford and GM. It has two locally built V8 engines matching Chrysler V8 displacements, 4.7 and 5.7 liters, with intelligent variable valve timing and other high-tech features to boost horsepower ratings (as well as a 4.0 V6 for those who need a big pickup's size, but not necessarily heavy towing power). The Tundra also ups the ante with a six-speed automatic.

Dodge does have some reserve potential - the Hemi does not have variable valve timing yet, a 6.1 Hemi could be tuned for trucks, and an automatically operated manual transmission could be completed and brought to market.

Tundra details are at this Toyota truck and car site.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 26 2006, 03 PM)

DCX profitable, Chrysler earnings down

DCX had a 4% rise in first-quarter profit thanks to increased earnings from vans and the credit arm (incorporating what was Chrysler Credit, a major factor in Chrysler's pre-merger profitability). Mercedes continued to sustain losses (a whopping $823 million in the first quarter alone - a bit better than the over-$1 billion in losses for Q1 2005), despite what some have called a movement of costs to Chrysler. Chrysler itself saw earnings fall from $306 million (first quarter 2005) to $144 million (first quarter 2006) in the face of stronger discounting and, presumably, the cost of a number of near-simultaneous introductions.

DCX's profits of $363 million for the quarter seem impressive until one considers that this was based on sales of $45 billion.

The first quarter of 2006 marks the eleventh consecutive quarterly proft for Chrysler Group at a time when Ford and GM are both losing money. Chrysler's sales rose 4%, to 690,000 vehicles in the first quarter (three months), with US sales rising 3% year-to-year. However, these vehicles sold with an average discount of over $4,000 per vehicle, the highest of any automaker. Chrysler, along with General Motors, has announced that it wishes to do without rebates; but GM has taken more decisive action in recent months.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (April 27 2006, 01 PM)

Trenton Engine gains new lease on life

Rumors have flown regarding both a new series of engines named Phoenix and, separately, the possible loss of the Trenton Engine plant, in operation since 1952. Both have now been somewhat clarified: an $800 million V6 engine plant is planned next to the current Trenton Engine plant, and it will, if built, make the new Phoenix engines. In exchange, employees at Trenton voted for new work rules, similar to those of the GEMA factory making "world engines" -- work would be moved to a team-based structure (which is generally preferred by employees), with workers being cross-trained on different jobs and people being moved around as needed. There would be only two classifications (production and technical workers), tougher attendance policies, less break time, changes to overtime rules, and fewer union delegates. In addition, the work week would be changed to four ten hour days.

Unlike the current plant, the new one will not make camshafts, rods, and pistons, which will probably be outsourced. Currently, Trenton Engine builds the 3.3, 3.8, and 4.0 liter engines, all of which are slated for replacement before 2015 (the 3.3 dates back over 15 years); the new plant is to be running by the middle of 2011. The plan is conditional on tax breaks from the state and city, and approval by DCX's management board.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 01 2006, 08 AM)

Allpar gathers over 3,000 cars with over 200,000 miles

The Allpar 200,000 Mile Club has now reached 3,000 vehicles. Some owners will be featured in the next issue of Forward magazine. Allpar thanks those who have taken the time to register their vehicles.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 01 2006, 08 AM)

Enterprise adds B20 cars

Enterprise has added a small number of diesel-powered cars to its Portland rental fleet. These cars are filled by default with 20% biodiesel. Five biodiesel filling stations have been approved by Enterprise in Portland.

As a major producer of diesel engines, DaimlerChrysler has been pushing diesel, with Chrysler in particular supporting minor biodiesel blends.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 01 2006, 10 AM)

Sales recap for April (Bill Cawthon)

The other shoe finally dropped in April ' Toyota outsold Chrysler by 5,191 units. The new Yaris sub-compact provided 6,393 extra sales which was enough to put Toyota over the top.

Of course, it didn't help that Chrysler sales were down nearly 8% on volume and about 4.4% when adjusted for daily sales rate (DSR). In the meantime, Toyota sales were up 5.9% on volume (almost 10% when adjusted).

Chrysler and Jeep brand sales were down by double digits based on either volume or DSR. Chrysler was almost 10,000 sales shy of its 2005 total in spite of good sales of the 300 and Crossfire. Sales of the Sebring, Pacifica and PT Cruiser all came up short. Town & Country sales were down 24%. Jeep took an even bigger hit as sales of the Grand Cherokee plummeted over 40%, followed closely by a 30% drop in sales of the Liberty.

Dodge was Chrysler's shining light in April. Led by an outstanding 11,236 sales of the new Caliber and good numbers from the Stratus and Charger, Dodge totals were up by an adjusted 5% and volume was up by 1%. That's in spite of the fact that every Dodge truck line, except the Sprinter, missed its 2005 mark. Durango sales were down 37% and are now 39% behind the first four months of 2005 making it the least successful Chrysler product so far this year. Makes you wonder if Chrysler really needs an almost identical clone.

However, clones of the Caliber might be a good idea. The Caliber has now racked up almost 20,000 sales in its first two months on the market. That's far better than any other new car from Detroit in recent memory. The upcoming Compass and Patriot might provide a nice shot in the arm for Chrysler sales later this year.

The key to Toyota's April upset was cars; Toyota had them, Chrysler didn't. Always the most truck-dependent of the Detroit automakers, Chrysler's lack of depth in passenger cars may haunt them in months to come, especially if gasoline prices stay high. The 300 and Charger still look healthy, but Chrysler can't depend on pumping up rental fleet sales of the Sebring and Stratus to keep it ahead of the Toyota juggernaut.

The Daimler side of the family fared somewhat better, setting a new April sales record and coming in third among luxury brands. The new S-Class continues to outsell every other premium import sedan and the new GL-Class started off with 499 sales in its first month on the U.S. market.

Total U.S. light vehicle sales volume was off about 3.7% compared to April 2005 but factoring in a shorter month it was essentially flat. According to manufacturer's reported numbers, a total of 1,447,573 cars and light trucks found new homes last month. This translates into a seasonally adjusted sales rate of 16.74 million light vehicles, which is down from the 17.24 million pace set last April but up from the rates forecast by sales in February and March of this year. For the first four months of 2006, the industry is only about 0.3% behind its total for the same period in 2005.

High prices at the pump caused a major shift in consumer buying preferences last month. Passenger cars claimed their highest percentage of light vehicle sales since January 2003 creating a perfect opportunity for import brands to capitalize on their strengths. And capitalize they did: Toyota had its all-time best sales month ever, as did Porsche. New monthly sales records were set by Acura, Hyundai and Suzuki as Detroit's market share shrank to less than 54%.

Other brands have made inroads, as well. Volkswagen, which has been on the ropes for a couple of years, is now 20.4% ahead of the first four months of 2005. BMW was up nearly 20% in April upsetting Lexus to take the top spot among premium brands.

Chrysler wasn't alone in missing its 2005 numbers. Ford and General Motors fell short of their marks, too. Helped by improved passenger car sales from all three of its domestic brands, Ford came out best of the Detroit automakers. Ford, Lincoln and Mercury sales were down just over 6.7% on volume which translated to just over 3% adjusted for the short selling month. [Webmaster note: the Fusion was recently introduced to the general public with an ad barrage, the right car at the right time?]

GM volume declined nearly 11% in April. That adjusts to a 7.4% drop in sales. Unlike Chrysler and Ford, however, GM truck sales were up, led by the new Escalade, Tahoe and Yukon. GM's Silverado and Sierra were the only full-size pickups reporting improved sales. The Chevy Equinox and Saturn VUE also beat their 2005 sales.

GM's Achilles heel is still its car lineup. Now that it's facing some real competition from better cars, sales of Chevy's entry-level Aveo are down nearly 23% this year. In fact, the only Chevrolet cars to beat their 2005 numbers were the Corvette and Impala. The Buick LaCrosse is barely into its second year on the market but it's already missed its April 2005 mark by over 30%. There are similar sad stories about the Cadillac STS and Pontiac G6.

GM advertising is still beating the drums about Chevrolet being America's favorite brand, but that's last year's news. In 2006 the blue oval is whipping up on the bow tie and the margin is increasing each month. So far this year, Ford is ahead by 52,686 sales.

While crossovers are still attracting new buyers, many traditional SUVs are languishing. This is true of both the Detroit and import brands. Looking at its sales, about the only thing Ford's warmed-over Explorer is attracting is flies and it's going to take a lot more than was on display at the auto shows to revive interest in the Expedition. Sales of Toyota's Highlander and Sequoia are down by double digits for the first four months of the year and even the Lexus RX350 missed its mark. The giant Armada has met its match at the gas pump and is falling short, not just of Nissan's expectations, but its own 2005 sales pace. It's worth noting the top two spots in this segment went to the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4. Over the five years I have been keeping records, the Escape has made it to No. 2 a couple of times but this is the first time a traditional SUV has not been at the top. [Webmaster note: the RAV4 was just redesigned and is larger but fairly thrifty at the pump for its class. Toyoland will be reviewing it next week.]

This doesn't mean that rational purchasing has suddenly gripped Americans shopping for new vehicles. The Hummer H3 is still selling briskly, though sales of the larger H2 have dropped over 50% from their 2003 peak and GM is said to be considering dropping the H1 altogether. Sales of the Cadillac Escalade were up 127% over April of 2005, bringing joy to the hearts of bling merchants everywhere.

In fact, GM's new full-size SUVs, like the Escalade, are so strong the General's total sales of mid-size and larger SUVs are down less than 4% this year, putting it way ahead of most of the competition.

We've got at least one more month of rising gas prices ahead and we're looking good to set a new record before (hopefully) prices start to come back down a bit. This could translate into another tough month for Chrysler and the other Detroit automakers. Chrysler has already announced a new zero-percent financing program that runs through July and it is likely incentive spending will increase, especially on trucks and SUVs.

Click on Full Story for top ten sales lists.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 03 2006, 10 AM)

Chrysler and industry sales (additional)

In this space, we'll add to what Bill Cawthon wrote, starting out generally and moving on the Chrysler specifics.

First, despite pundits' blathering on about how gas mileage is making a huge difference in sales, it's worth noting that the two two sellers remain the Ford F-series and GM equivalents (which combined beat the F-series). There are several reasons for this, the main one, I believe, being that there are still only three of four really serious full-size pickup players, and there are only four names they sell trucks under: Ford F-series, Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra, Dodge Ram and Toyota Tacoma (and the Tacoma wasn't really a full sized pickup until the newly announced version, whose sales impact won't be seen for a while). In short, the domestics reign supreme with a mere four nameplates; whereas in cars, there are many more brands for any particular category, and the domestics split up sales among more models (e.g. Chrysler and Dodge). Even in SUVs, you can buy a Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln version of the same truck - or a Dodge and Chrysler version, or a Dodge and Jeep version. That said, with an astounding 130,000 or so big pickup sales just by GM and Ford (Dodge comes in with another 31,000), gas prices are clearly not at the top of everyone's mind.

The best selling car is as always the Toyota Camry, which is the "default car" of America now - you have to work to get people to look outside of the Camry and Accord (#5). The Corolla, the world's best-selling car ever, is at #4 with 36,000 sales, no surprise given its 41 mpg highway rating (with stick), efficient automatic, peppy acceleration, quiet interior, reliability, and size that is now about even with 1999 mid-sized cars (and the current Stratus).

The top selling Dodge is the Ram, coming in at #7, followed by the Caravan at #9. The Caravan remains the best selling mini, but Chrysler really did lose a lot of sales when it dropped the Voyager nameplate, and other minivans are slowly catching up. For some reason the Odyssey did well despite quality issues (#15), while the new Sienna, which will probably be the first minivan to beat the Caravan, languished at #22 (14,000 sales, not challenging the Caravan's 22,500 just yet).

The best selling Chrysler car is the Chrysler 300, with 12,800 sales, coming in at #27 (behind the Altima, Cobalt, Focus, Mustang, Hyundai Sonata, and Chevy Malibu!). That's right, a Ford specialty car and a Hyundai both beat the best-selling Chrysler Group sedan, and by a pretty good margin. The 300 is also notable for being one of the rare Chrysler cars to outsell its Dodge counterpart, the Charger, which at #44 sold under 10,000 copies - well below the outdoing Stratus and Taurus, as well as the niche (small, pricey, and unreliable) VW Jetta! How the mighty have fallen. The Magnum, meanwhile, is far, far down in the listings, the 112th best selling car, with a mere 3,812 sales - far below the Prius, Passat, H3, and even the Hyundai Tucson.

All in all, Chrysler has its work cut out - the Caliber is doing well for a brand new intro, but the days of Dusters doing 300,000 units a year (not including Valiants and Dodges) are long past. (Thanks to Bill Cawthon for the vehicle rankings.)

Here at Chrysler



Looking April-to-April (2005 to 2006), there were some remarkable numbers. Chrysler brand fell 15%, Jeep brand 21%, while Dodge stayed about the same, for a combined drop of 19% in trucks and a gain of 32% in cars. The big losers were Neon (since it's not made any more!) dropping 71%, all three existing Jeeps (dropping 22% to 43%), minivans (dropping 27% for Chrysler and 6% for Dodge), Durangos (losing a whopping 39% in line with other big non-GM SUVs), Pacificas (down 23%), Sebrings (down 20%), PT (down 19% but last April was quite good, as Bill noted), Magnum and Dakota (both down 28%), and Ram (down 14% - but that's 5,000 trucks!). Good news was more than doubled Crossfire sales - an increase of about 1,400 cars - and an odd increase in Stratus sales (up 13%).

The Caliber, at 11,230 sales, beat the Neon's 2005 sales by a good 2,300 units. However, the Neon had been neglected and people knew it was going by then. Still, the Caliber surprised a lot of people with its strong sales.

If we look at year to date sales, we see much more balanced figures. There, however, the news is still not wonderful. The gap between Neon and Caliber production, while unavoidable, led to a 20,000 car shortfall. The Town & Country fell 16% in sales, while the Caravan fell 1%. Big vehicles all fell, some more than others - Grand Cherokee (22%), Liberty (18%), Ram (3%), Durango (39%). On the lighter side, Commander gained 24,578 sales, more than compensating for Grand Cherokee's lost 14,000 sales, and Wrangler held steady. Pacifica actually saw a sales increase of 6%, possibly due to a lower cost base model.

In cars, the 300 continued its slow climb with a 6% sales gain, while the Magnum fell by 20% - probably due to the appearance of the Charger, which sold 38,570 units in the first four months of the year. The Sebring gained 3%, the Stratus 8%, and the PT Cruiser a nice 5%, winding up with 41,509 Cruisers sold for the first four months of the year - about what was expected for annual sales back in 2000. Not bad for a failure, as they say.

Overall, then, year to date, Chrysler Group sold 21% more cars and 6% fewer trucks, which led to an ever so slight gain of 900 vehicles or so over the first four months of the year - holding perfectly steady against last year, with moderately falling market share as Toyota, Hyundai, Mitsu, and others expanded. Given the freefall of large-vehicle sales, though - the brunt of which was borne by Ford - Chrysler has done better than many expected it would.

Poised to make an impact for next year's numbers are the new Avenger and Sebring (though there will be lost sales as the plant is converted), the two Caliber-based Jeeps, more-efficient Hemis in trucks as MDS is moved to new vehicles, and possibly, depending on how quickly low-sulfur fuel is made available and how ready Chrysler is to take advantage of it, diesel versions of the Caliber, 300, Grand Cherokee, and Wrangler (and an updated diesel for the Liberty). We can see a 40-mpg Caliber doing quite well in the market.

See Full Story for the sales table.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 03 2006, 12 PM)

Interview with Garrett turbo tech head

Acarplace.com has posted a new interview with the technical head of Garrett, the makers of turbochargers.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 05 2006, 09 AM)

Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep recalls

Chrysler is recalling 45,000 LX models (300, Charger, Magnum) with the 2.7 liter engine and 2006 model year because brake fluid may leak and cause a fire. The EGR tube can brush against the brake tube, causing a break. There are nine reported fires with no injuries or accidents. Dealers will install a clip after inspecting the brake lines.

Around 7,000 Jeep Wranglers with manual transmissions, all 2006 model year, will also be recalled because the clutch master cylinder rod could break, making it possible to disengage the clutch. There have been 17 complaints, with no reported crashes or injuries.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 05 2006, 04 PM)

Dodge gets ambitious in Europe

Chrysler is planning to double its European market share within the next few years, partly by an advertising blitz (funded by hundreds of millions of dollars) to introduce Dodge, starting with the Caliber. In a form factor one could say was designed with Europe in mind (though some would say it was designed first to be a Jeep), as well as a diesel option, the Caliber may be attractive in a market segment where no one company dominates. Chrysler plans to sell over 20,000 Calibers outside of North America in 2007, and plans to sell about 20,000 Dodges per year in Europe. Over 95% of existing Chrysler and Jeep dealers agreed to sell Dodges as well.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 08 2006, 10 AM)

GM makes profit, Toyota reorganizes, gov't lowers economy

GM made a $445 million profit in the last quarter - restated from a $235 million loss - due to an accounting change, resulting from their renegotiation of their union contract (with more favorable health-care terms).

Meanwhile, Toyota not only replaced the head of their American division with an American, but also set up a task force to investigate issues around harassment and discrimination after an accusation of harassment was made by an employee (and covered prominently in American newspapers).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 09 2006, 08 AM)

Cars at Carlisle to be featured on SPEED

Cars At Carlisle, two television specials featuring highlights of the 2005 Carlisle Events show season, will premiere on the SPEED channel on Wednesday, May 10th at 8pm and Wednesday May 17th at 8pm.

Cars at Carlisle takes the viewer on a full-season's tour of each of the Carlisle Events' eight specialty shows, including the All-Chrysler Nationals (sign up for 2006 and you may get a spot under the Allpar tent - click here for details.

Carlisle Events CEO John Detrick is pleased with this year's production. 'Carlisle Events has put together a pair of great shows that illustrate what occurs during a Carlisle Events season. ... It's the next best thing to being here. Viewers will be able to see the excitement that emanates from each of our shows. They will see the pleasure and awe on the faces of visitors upon seeing their dream cars, trucks or motorcycles. The audience will also experience the many celebrities that attend Carlisle; guests like ... Tom Hoover, Godfather of the Hemi engine."

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 09 2006, 03 PM)

Belvidere gets third shift again

The third shift is returning to Belvidere, providing 1,000 more jobs, to pump out an increased number of Calibers. Dodge had been ramping up production at a relatively slow rate in order to make sure the market was not flooded and to help keep quality high.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 10 2006, 05 PM)

Delphi to give bonuses to execs again?

Even as Delphi insists that its union contracts must be nullified, and that union wages must be cut in half or more, the company is planning to give managers and executives up to $60 million in performance bonuses this year, $36 million of that going to 500 executives. The company said this was needed because white collar employees were paid less than average salaries while union workers were paid more.

Delphi is seeking to cut wages from an average $27 per hour to an average $10.50 per hour, and to slash benefits at the same time. Delphi, meanwhile, has been concentrating on offshore production. A strike, which has been increasingly likely, would greatly hurt recovering General Motors, Delphi's largest customer.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 11 2006, 08 AM)

Nate Gooden retires, preaches cooperation

Nate Gooden, head of Chrysler's UAW local, has sent a parting message, stressing the need to work together with Chrysler (presumably against foreign competitors, though he did not say that outright) and citing the recent decision to change work rules as an example of partnership for a common cause.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 12 2006, 02 PM)

Pro Stocker dies at 40

Scott Geoffrion, a nine-time national event winner, died May 8 at 40 of a heart attack. He had driven for Warren Johnson until 1991, when he started racing for the Wayne County Speed Shop/Dodge Boys team with Darrell Alderman. He ran for Dodge until 2001, when he was picked up by Ford. He was apparently well liked in the community. His family has requested that donations be made to the Drag Racing Association of Women, www.drawfasthelp.org. (Based on a story at NHRA.com.)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 12 2006, 04 PM)

Chrysler to help employee health for lower costs

Chrysler is working to reduce the costs of providing health care for its employees through "wellness" programs, community activism, and HMO-style moves such as paying doctors to keep costs down. The company believes it will spend $2.3 billion for health care this year, and over $4 billion by 2013. That works out to about $1,400 per vehicle. Chrysler already offers health savings accounts to reduce the cost of prevention, and tries to keep employees aware of health issues, including providing cholesterol and other tests at work (these year-old programs have already resulted in measurable savings). Community activism covers trying to increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of community health care delivery.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 18 2006, 11 AM)

Last Dodge Stratus

The last Dodge Stratus, painted red, will be built today at Sterling Heights, marking the end of an era. 1.3 million Dodge Stratuses were built from the year 2000 through 2006. The Stratus was, with the PT Cruiser, one of the last cars engineered and built by an independent Chrysler Corporation (though final work was done as DaimlerChrysler), and possibly the last car to be engineered entirely within Chrysler. The assembly line will be moved to Russia, where the basic Stratus design, complete with 2.4 liter engines made in Mexico by Chrysler, will be sold under a new name.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 18 2006, 11 AM)

2007 Pacifica revealed

Photos of the 2007 Chrysler Pacifica have been posted to http://www.allpar.com/model/cs.html - showing both interior and exterior. Some details of the revisions, including a six-speed automatic, have also been revealed.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (May 25 2006, 03 PM)

Diesel Grand Cherokee on the way

Detroit News confirmed that a Jeep Grand Cherokee with diesel power is due for early next year (Allpar noted one being test-driven in Detroit last year). Tom LaSorda is to introduce the new vehicle, powered by a Mercedes 3-liter CRD engine; LaSorda will note the use of biodiesel as an alternative fuel along with the better mileage (about 25% higher than a standard gasoline engine).

The Grand Cherokee diesel will reportedly have average gas mileage of 19 city, 23 highway. The Mercedes diesel will be use the "Bluetec" technology. The Liberty, powered by an older VM Motori engine, more than doubled its original sales target, selling 11,000 units in 2005.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 01 2006, 08 AM)

Chrysler improves again in Harbour Report

The Harbour Report, which uses man-hours per vehicle produced to measure productivity, rated a Ford plant as the most productive, but that Atlanta facility is scheduled to close soon. Overall, Nissan led North American plants with an average 28.5 hours per vehicle (Toyota trailed at 29.4), while Ford anchored the bottom with 36 hours per vehicle. Harbour said the difference worked out to about $450 per vehicle.

In 1998, the difference between American and Japanese firms was nearly 17 hours; in this report, it had shrunk to a bit more than 7 hours.

GM and Chrysler were close to Honda: Honda took 32.5 hours to build a vehicle, while GM took about 33 and Chrysler about 34. (It's worth noting that the type of vehicle being built does have a bearing on the numbers).

Perhaps more important than hours per vehicle was capacity utilization - nearly 100% at Chrysler, Toyota, and Nissan, but under 80% at Ford. Part of this may be due to the shutdowns of a number of Chrysler plants and the introduction of flexible manufacturing. However, part may be due to Chrysler overproducing some slow-selling vehicles.

Chrysler was the only domestic to make a profit ($223 per vehicle), with GM dragging down the average at a loss of $2,500 per vehicle - a number which will probably dramatically improve over the next two years as GM's health-care, IT, and plant closing savings add up.

Five Chrysler Group plants scored at the top of their segment. They are:
-- Minivan St. Louis (MO) South Assembly Plant
-- Front-wheel drive transmission Kokomo (Ind.) Transmission Plant
-- Rear-wheel drive transmission Kokomo (Ind.) Transmission Plant
-- 8-Cylinder OHC engine (4.7L) Mack (Detroit, Mich.) Engine Plant
-- 8-Cylinder OHV engine (HEMI(R)) Saltillo (Mexico) Engine Plant

The Chrysler Group transmission productivity improved 8.3 percent - to 3.55 hours per transmission, the industry benchmark.
Assembly
Assembly operations made a 5.7 percent improvement, topping all other manufacturers in year-over-year improvements. Chrysler Group's minivan plant in St. Louis topped its segment at 20.84 hours per vehicle.

Chrysler Group also demonstrated expertise in stamping operations. Belvidere (Ill.), home of the Dodge Caliber, Jeep(R) Compass and the upcoming Jeep Patriot, was among the top 10 stamping plants - the highest for a domestic manufacturer.
The company is employing a number of initiatives intended to continue improving manufacturing excellence in the future. Among them are increased support of assembly employees, continued employee training and new workplace practices that are designed to foster greater creativity and innovation among employees on the plant floor. The company will also redesign material handling operations, employee work stations and will continue to invest in plants.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 01 2006, 12 PM)

Chrysler falls 11% while Mercedes posts Jeep-aided gain

Chrysler Group posted sales of 191,261 vehicles in the U.S., a decrease of 11 percent from May 2005. Chrysler is in the midst of replacing its mid-sized cars and, in May, was still ramping up production of the Caliber, which fills in for the Neon in the low-price category.

Following global sales growth of 4.7 percent to 2.83 million units in 2005, Chrysler Group will take the Dodge brand to international markets in 2006, beginning with the Dodge Caliber.

Toyota brand (including Scion but excluding Lexus) outsold Chrysler again. Toyota division sales were 205,709 (187,576 excluding Scion) vs. 191,261 for Chrysler Group. Total for DaimlerChrysler: 212,882, total for Toyota Motor Sales (including Lexus): 235,708.

Chrysler Group is now 66,131 sales ahead of Toyota Division (excluding Lexus) in year-to-date sales. It seems unlikely but still possible that Chrysler will end the year ahead of Toyota. On the plus side are the new Avenger/Sebring and the popularity of the Caliber.

Mercedes-Benz USA posted sales of 21,621 units, up 21 percent compared to the same month last year and posting its best May on record. Boosting sales for the month was the introduction of what it is calling (mistakenly, given the existing G-Wagon and Land Rovers) the first European full-sized SUV: the GL-Class, which launched in late April and helped increase Mercedes-Benz light truck sales by 84 percent over May 2005. The GL is a variation of the M Class, which in turn is heavily based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was engineered in by Chrysler in Michigan.

More to come.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 01 2006, 01 PM)

Sales Recap (by Bill Cawthon)

May wasn't pretty for Chrysler. Not only did it post a large sales drop, it was outsold by Toyota Division for the second month in a row.

With 191,261 sales, the Auburn Hills gang managed a May market share of just 12.84%, their worst showing since December 2005. Steep declines in light truck sales swamped a stellar performance by the Caliber, which continued its impressive debut with 12,422 sales, the best numbers for any Chrysler car model. The Charger's 10,725 sales were second only to its February 2006 total. The Chrysler 300 stumbled slightly to 11,859 but still retained its standing as America's favorite premium automobile.

Unfortunately all that good new was offset by 40-plus percent collapses in sales of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge's Dakota, Durango and Magnum. Ram pickup sales were down 25%, dropping to their lowest level since January.

Chrysler passenger car volume was down just one percent, but the extra selling day last month ballooned that single percentage point into a four percent drop in daily sales rate (DSR). Truck volume was off 14% which translated to an adjusted 17% slump.

It may be cold comfort but Chrysler is still in the best shape of any of the Detroit automakers. Year-to-date (YTD) sales are only about one percent behind the first five months of 2005. Compare that to the 3.5% deficit at Ford or the 8% shortfall at GM.

As happened last month, the Mercedes side of the house had a record month with sales up 21% thanks in large part to the new GL-Class SUV [which is based on the Grand Cherokee -ed.]. While a number of reviewers have compared the GL unfavorably to the flashier Cadillac Escalade, it appears there are still a reasonable number of luxury SUV buyers whose tastes do not run to sheer bulk, chrome and oversized wheels. The S-Class also continues to be a hot item, handily outselling BMW's 7-series, the Audi A8 and Lexus LS430.

May light vehicle sales came in just under 1.49 million units, 4.3% behind May 2005's DSR and 0.4% short of last May's volume. That total translates to a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 16.10 million light vehicles, the industry's weakest showing since November 2005.

Ford had the best month of any of the Big Three. Blue oval sale volume was down by a comparatively small two percent and adjusted sales were down 5.9%. Car sales were up with good numbers reported for the Focus and the Fusion, Milan and Zephyr trio. Total truck sales were down, but Ford's SUV sales have been bleeding so long the damage was comparatively light and was partially offset by increases in sales of the Ford Escape and Freestyle, Mercury Mariner and Lincoln Navigator.

General Motors, on the other hand, must have a vision of itself as the world's biggest lemonade stand. Considering the effort they put into getting some sweetness out of the sourest numbers of any of the major automakers, they may well succeed. Based on reported domestic light vehicle sales, GM's piece of the pie dropped to 22.52% last month, down over three points of market share from May last year. GM cited reductions in fleet sales and reduced incentive spending as being largely responsible for a 12.4% decline in sale volume, a number that turned into over 15.9% adjusted for DSR. However, even the newly revamped Tahoe and Yukon missed their 2005 numbers as gas prices exacted their toll on light truck sales. The Cadillac Escalade and Hummer H3 continue to sell well, but they don't generate the volumes that GM needs for growth and profitability.

Toyota, on the other hand, seems to have a patent on success. In spite of recent massive recalls that would have gotten Chrysler, Ford or GM hung out to dry, Toyota set an all-time sales record in May. The secret is that Toyota has a strong car line, from the new Yaris to the Avalon, something all three of the Detroit automakers lack. Car sales were up 19.6% and solid performances from the new RAV4 and FJ Cruiser offset double-digit declines in sales of the 4Runner, Highlander, Sequoia and Land Cruiser. Even Lexus SUV sales took a hit, dropping 18.6%, but once again, the cars were ready, soaring nearly 39% to set an all-time sales record.

Honda set its own monthly sales record as buyers snapped up the new Fit and Civic. In fact, of all Honda's models, only the Odyssey missed matching or exceeding its 2005 record.

Honda's success didn't carry over to its premium line, however. Acura sales were down nearly 17 percent.

Hyundai and Suzuki reported new May sales records while Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Subaru all reported sales that beat their May 2005 marks.

Success was not limited to the Asian carmakers. Volkswagen sales numbers were up 35.6% led by a 133% increase in sales of the new Passat sedan. Audi and BMW also posted nice gains. Land Rover set a new May sales record.

Of course, not all the import brands reported good news. Nissan sales were down 10.47% adjusted for DSR and Infiniti sales were off by 15.2%. Volvo sales continue to decline and Saab and Jaguar have taken up residence at the bottom among the luxury brands. Combined sales of all the Isuzu models fell short of the mark set by the Chrysler Crossfire in May.

May's numbers showed just how much strength still remains in the passenger car. Despite all the hoopla about SUVs, CUVs and America's love affair with the pickup, passenger cars have always been the largest segment of the light vehicle market. In each of the past two months, passenger cars have come within a point of matching the combined sales of every other light vehicle category. Foreign-badged passenger cars captured over 30% of light vehicle sales, but desirable cars, domestic and foreign did well. This is not to say the day of the big truck is over, just that long-term success depends on having a product balance, something that has been lacking in Detroit until recently. This was clearly demonstrated in May when the three Detroit automakers' domestic brands captured less than 53% of the light vehicle sales, a new low.

Gas prices are easing and automakers are ratcheting up the incentives with free gas and cheap financing, so June's results will be interesting to watch. Stay tuned'

(Top Ten Lists - see Full Story)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 02 2006, 08 AM)

Liberty diesel dropped

The Jeep Liberty diesel option is being dropped for 2007. This is not especially surprising, since it uses an older VM Motori diesel engine that may not pass stricter emissions standards, and because it was mainly run as an experiment to judge the depth of demand. Libertys were reportedly built in the US and sent to Austria to be fitted with Italian engines before being sent back to the US, which could hardly have been a profitable undertaking.

Analysts expect to see the Liberty reappear with a new diesel engine after stricter fuel standards appear in 2007.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 05 2006, 08 AM)

Edmunds: Chrysler to engineer more Mercedes vehicles

The successful GL and ML SUVs have been bolstering Mercedes' bottom line, but most people are unaware that they ride on a modified Grand Cherokee platform - and that much of the engineering work was done in Auburn Hills.

Now, it looks as though Mercedes will be using more than just Chrysler trucks. According to Edmund's, the E-Class, R-Class, and CLS, starting in 2010-2012, will be using the Chrysler LY platform, along with the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger, and second-generation Dodge Charger. The LY is the next generation of the LX platform, which was heavily influenced by Mercedes.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 07 2006, 02 PM)

Cars movie features Petty Daytona/Superbird

The Pixar movie "Cars" recently hit the big screen. One of the featured "good guys" is a car called The King, Richard Petty's nickname, drawn in Petty Blue, given #43, and unmistakably a Superbird/Daytona. Another hero is Doc Hudson, a Hudson Hornet (Hudson joined Nash to form AMC which was eventually swallowed by Chrysler).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 11 2006, 05 PM)

Chrysler releases Grand Cherokee diesel specifications

Chrysler has released more information the Mercedes 3.0 liter V6 diesel engine to be used in the Grand Cherokee. It produces 218 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, both at fairly low rpm, and totaling about 1/3 more power than the previously used 2.8 liter diesel (sold in Europe). The engine uses an aluminum crankcase with iron cylinder liners, common-rail injection, and a variable geometry turbocharger. Fuel pressure is 24,000 psi. Equipped Jeeps are estimated to get 23 mpg combined city/highway and should be able to run on good quality biodiesel or petrodiesel fuel (Chrysler has not yet released biodiesel specifications for this engine and may choose to recommend against using it.)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 13 2006, 02 PM)

Chrysler takes a hit, shuffles execs

In light of revelations that Chrysler has been stockpiling unsold vehicles and relying on low-margin fleet sales to maintain favorable market figures, Gary E. Dilts, 56, senior vice president U.S. sales, and Raymond M. Fisher, 53, vice president sales, service and parts operations, will both retire on July 1. Steven J. Landry, 47, currently president and CEO of Chrysler Canada, will become vice president of sales and field operations after only a few months in his Canada-CEO position, while Michael Manley, 42, will be vice president for sales strategy and dealer operations. Both will report to Joe Eberhardt, the ex-Mercedes sales and marketing chief.

Chrysler is currently designing its plants to be more flexible, but with the engineering staff cut to the bone by post-Daimler cost-cutting, the company may find it hard to engineer enough new models to keep the flexible plants fully used. Shortfalls in the product line may have been highlighted by rising fuel prices - like Ford, Chrysler was caught with no vehicle comparable to the Civic or Corolla, much less the Yaris and Fit.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 14 2006, 03 PM)

Foose to build "new" 1970 Challengers

Unique Performance and Foose Design will convert a small number of 1970 Plymouth Challengers into "world-class performance machines with ultra-cool design and 21st century speed technology." Production will begin in July.

Unique Performance President and CEO Douglas Hasty said, 'Our 1970 Challenger program is designed to fulfill those wishes with a very, very small run of an even more exclusive Mopar. Working with Chip, our team will turn a handful of these vintage muscle cars into pink slip winning, Z06 eating supercars.'

The team will transform 1970 and 1971 Challengers with contemporary wheels, engines, suspensions, transmissions and interiors. Each Foose Challenger will be clad in DuPont's Hot Hues' custom finish and have a sleek custom interior. Either a 347 c.i.d. HEMI small block or a 426 c.i.d HEMI big block can be mated to the TKO 5-speed transmission. The car will feature a Unique Performance Parts rear suspension, 4-wheel disc Wilwood Brakes, Foose 18' wheels and BF Goodrich tires. Styling cues include Foose emblems, a custom front grill, shaved bumpers and custom hood. Each car will have a unique serial number for documentation purposes.

'I've always loved the lines of the '70 Challenger,' stated Chip Foose. 'It may be the quintessential American muscle car from that period. We're adding contemporary speed gear and updating the Challenger's style to redefine the vintage car as the ultimate limited edition MOPAR.'

Chip Foose is the creative head and driving force behind Foose Design (www.chipfoose.com). Headquartered in Huntington Beach, Calif., it specializes in illustration, graphics, ideation model making, surfacing and complete construction of automobiles and automobile-related products.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 16 2006, 07 AM)

Chrysler falling back into German engineering trap

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chrysler will again be pushing its "German engineering," this time more strongly, in radio and TV ads. While Mercedes will not be mentioned, the phrase "German engineering" will be prominent.

While the LX cars use a Mercedes suspension architecture and all Chrysler vehicles are moving to the Mercedes electronics architecture, several Mercedes cars are now riding on a Jeep platform, and sharing is expected to continue. Some Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep models use a Mercedes five-speed automatic which has been called "a bad copy of a good ZF transmission."

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 16 2006, 07 AM)

Dodge Challenger concept to be at Chrysler show

The Dodge Challenger concept will be at the Chryslers at Carlisle show in early July.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 16 2006, 10 AM)

2007 Sebring unveiled: 3.5 V6, 6-speed auto, and more

The 2007 Chrysler Sebring, looking somewhat like a Crossfire with more doors, has been unveiled. Allpar has full 2007 Sebring details, specifications, and photos.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 22 2006, 08 AM)

Money back guarantee at Chrysler Group

Rumors of a 30-day money back guarantee that appeared on Allpar's forums over the past few days have been confirmed: unsatisfied Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler owners can return a new vehicle within 30 days, paying only a small penalty and mileage fee. This, along with the return of "employee discounts for everyone," is designed to help clear out a massive stockpile of vehicles and keep plants active.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 22 2006, 10 AM)

Two Mopars top CNN list of class muscle stars

CNN's Peter Valdes-Dapena put the Plymouth Hemi-Cuda convertible at the top of a list of the top muscle-car stars; the Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Charger R/T also made the list, which is based on price increases since 2000. CNN noted that most of these cars, valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more), were unpopular when first produced.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 22 2006, 05 PM)

Detroit News covers closure of Jeep-Overland plant

The Jeep Parkway plant, which made 11 million vehicles over 96 years and is the United States' longest-lived auto plant, will be closed this week when the last of the current Wranglers is produced, and production shifts to a new, $900 million plant elsewhere in Toledo. The 1920s smokestacks of the plant still spell out Overland in brick, a remnant of the first owner, Willys-Overland, which built the plant starting in 1910, as an expansion of an older Pope Motor Car plant.

The parts of the plant where World War II Jeeps were made have already been demolished (in 2002), despite obvious historical and marketing interest. A museum on the plant's history was sacrificed at the same time, with most of its collection either transferred elsewhere or returned to its owners; Chrysler officials have scavenged the plant for other items of historical value for the Chrysler Museum.

Chrysler is moving to more flexible assembly plants, which can, for example, make the Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited, with considerably differences in wheelbase and components, on the same line, interchangeably, along with (possibly) other models.

See the Detroit News article.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 26 2006, 09 AM)

CNN talks about new PT; interviews allpar editor

Peter Valdes-Dapena's CNN Autos article talks about the "beloved Cruiser" in its next generation. Unlike many writers covering the PT, Valdes-Dapena noted the Plymouth origins of the Cruiser, and put a good deal of thought into his article on the future of the iconic car.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 26 2006, 11 AM)

GM downsizes rapidly

Faced with a sudden need to confront their lower market share head-on, General Motors has offered buyout packages from $35,000 to $140,000 to its workers, and reported that 35,000 hourly employees have agreed to take them. In addition, 12,600 union workers at Delphi have agreed to early retirement, faced with the threat of a judge voiding all Delphi labor contracts.

This will leave GM and Delphi with temporary shortages of workers, which can be filled by recalled laid-off workers, transfers, and temporary employees.

The cost to General Motors will be $3.8 billion, which will come out of second quarter earnings, but the company will be able to reduce its annual fixed costs by $1 billion (not including savings from shuttering underused factories), so GM will be ahead after four years. GM lost nearly $11 billion last year, but has been working with unions to reduce medical costs; has worked with IT suppliers to reduce IT costs; and announced that it would close at least 12 plants and engineering centers. GM still holds onto roughly one quarter of all US vehicle sales and remains the world's largest automaker by a sizeable margin, even as Toyota has surpassed Chrysler and is gaining on Ford's #2 spot.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 27 2006, 08 AM)

Mercedes' smart cars go on sale in US

Beginning in 2008, the successor to the smart fortwo will be available in U.S. markets in three models, sold exclusively by UnitedAuto Group, Inc., which will designate dealers and maintain a sales and service network in the US and Puerto Rico.

The smart fortwo successor will be equipped with safety technology, including the 'hard shell' tridion safety cell, ESP and various airbag systems. UnitedAuto's Chairman is Roger Penske, who has been credited with having an automotive "Midas touch."

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 28 2006, 09 AM)

WSJ: Challenger has been approved

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chrysler will announce that the Dodge Challenger will be produced as a coupe, to arrive in dealerships as early as next year (2007). According to Chrysler and the WSJ, the 300 cost $1 billion to develop, and each additional variant (e.g. Charger) cost about $330 million. All four vehicles will be built on the same line in Brampton, Ontario. The V8-powered Challenger should beat the Camaro to production by at least a year, according to the article. (Thanks, Bob Marks.)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (June 30 2006, 08 AM)

Challenger officially to be made for 2008

As predicted, the Dodge Challenger will be produced in calendar-year 2008 as a 2008 model year car. No further details were announced. See this page for all the likely scenarios.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 01 2006, 03 PM)

Chrysler cutting top management by 15%

Once again, Chrysler is going lean, only this time, it's the managers who are leaving, in the opposite of the Delphi model. CEO Tom LaSorda said Chrysler would be dropping about 180 of its 1,200 top executives; about 126 are due to leave before the end of the year, mainly through buyouts, attrition, and early retirement.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 03 2006, 09 AM)

Gettelfinger to replace Nate Gooden on DCX board

UAW president Ron Gettelfinger is set to replace retiring Nate Gooden on the DCX Supervisory Board. The Supervisory Board contains 20 members; 10 are employee representatives and 10 are stockholder representatives. Nearly all are Germans; exceptions are Nate/Ron, Earl Graves (of Black Enterprise Magazine), Arnaud Lagardere (CEO) of Lagardere SCA), Peter Magowan (President of the San Francisco Giants), William Owens (of Nortel), and Lynton Wilson (of Nortel). Only two members of the board were on Chrysler's board, and no representatives of Chrysler management are on the board; nine out of ten employee representatives are German, hardly representational of actual employee counts at the German and American arms of the corporation.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 03 2006, 10 AM)

Chrysler sales down year-to-year

DCX reported total group sales of 206,748 passenger vehicles in the U.S. for June 2006, a 13 percent decrease compared to June 2005. Chrysler Group posted sales of 185,946 vehicles in the U.S., a decrease of 15 percent. The fall was cushioned by increases in Mercedes sales of Grand Cherokee-based vehicles.

Many expect Chrysler sales to fall next month as well, as inventories are high on most vehicles. However, the launch of the Caliber and Compass may counter the inventory adjustments of other vehicles, and the new Sebring may increase sales of that model. The Pacifica may also attract more buyers when released with the new engine and transmission.

Toyota outsold Chrysler Group for a third consecutive month, this time by 10,000 units, cementing its probably permanent spot in the automotive hierarchy.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 03 2006, 12 PM)

Chryslers hit Carlisle this weekend

The Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals are held on July 7-9, 2006. The show includes a stream of events, classic and new racers and builders (including Dick Landy) talking about their craft, and the 2006 Dodge Challenger concept car.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 03 2006, 04 PM)

Chrysler sales detail, June 2006

(by Bill Cawthon)

Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales for June 2006 of 185,946 units, a decrease of 15 percent compared to June 2005 sales of 220,032 units. Sales for the second quarter declined 12 percent to 567,302 units. Second quarter 2005 sales totaled 641,153 units. Year-to-date sales totaled 1,129,546 units, a decline of 5 percent versus 2005 year-to-date sales of 1,187,885 units. All sales are reported on a day-rate adjusted basis unless otherwise indicated.

"Consumers are wrestling with the effects of higher gas prices and other economic uncertainties that are impacting the entire automotive industry, including the Chrysler Group," said Steven Landry, Chrysler Group, Vice President - Sales and Field Operations. "Products like the Dodge Caliber and the upcoming Jeep(R) Compass along with the Employee Pricing Plus program with the 'Ask Dr. Z' advertising campaign are the tools the company will use to build sales momentum."

Sales of the Dodge Caliber totaled 12,098 units in June, marking the third consecutive month of sales in excess of 11,000 units. Sales of the Dodge Ram pickup performed comparably during June, with sales only declining 1 percent year over year to 32,375 units. June 2005 sales totaled 32,825 units. The Dodge Charger posted sales of 9,710 units, an increase of 123 percent over previous year sales of 4,354 units. Monthly sales of Dodge brand vehicles totaled 96,485 units, a decrease of 11 percent over June 2005 sales of 107,997 units. For the quarter, the Dodge brand posted sales of 302,692 units, down 7 percent over second quarter 2005 sales of 325,274 units.

The Jeep Commander posted sales of 8,958 units for June 2006, 40 percent higher than May 2006 sales of 6,138 units. For the month, Jeep brand sales declined 19 percent, posting sales of 37,475 units. June 2005 sales totaled 46,441 units. Quarterly sales for the Jeep brand totaled 104,965 units, a decline of 18 percent from previous year sales of 127,257 units. Launching on the heels of the Dodge Caliber and coming from the same manufacturing facility, the 2007 Jeep Compass expands the Jeep product lineup. The Jeep Compass is just beginning to arrive at dealerships to a positive reception.

Chrysler PT Cruiser posted sales of 14,693 units, an increase of 25 percent over previous year sales of 11,727 units. Monthly Chrysler brand sales totaled 51,986 units, a decrease of 21 percent over previous year sales of 65,594 units. Quarterly Chrysler brand sales totaled 159,645 units, down 15 percent from second quarter 2005 sales of 188,622 units.

"The launch of the company's Employee Pricing Plus program, driven by the 'Ask Dr. Z' advertising campaign, provides a unique opportunity for the Chrysler Group to leverage its global resources and U.S. dealer network to produce and distribute unique, customer driven products like the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass," said Michael Manley, Chrysler Group, Vice President - Sales Strategy and Dealer Operations. "We remain focused on launching great products and improving sales through year-end."

Chrysler Group finished the month with 647,695 units of inventory, or a 91-day supply.

Chrysler got hit hard by discontinued models; something that will continue to hurt for the next few months until we see some of the new models coming on line. It also took a blow in light trucks, just like everyone else.

Bottom line: too many trucks, too few cars. Caliber may be a long-term dud, but it is still selling strongly; about 1700 units behind the Ford Fusion.

It's interesting to note that even though gas prices eased in June, demand for light trucks still dropped.

July may be a tough month, too, unless the various promotions pay off. Chrysler had a hot July last year as it kicked in its own employee pricing program.

By the way, GM numbers aren't surprising: June 2005 was the month it kicked off its employee pricing program and really kicked butt in sales. GM sold over 544,000 light vehicles last June; a huge number.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 03 2006, 04 PM)

June sales recap: the full story (by Bill Cawthon)

June wasn't pretty for Chrysler. As the old Sebring and Stratus were being cleared out to make way for the new versions and supplies of the Crossfire and Neon dwindle, car sales plunged 33% compared to June 2005. Adding to the pain, this was the first month since last August the Chrysler 300 didn't break 10,000 sales. Charger sales, while 570 ahead of the 300, also failed to break into five figures.

The Caliber continues to sell strongly, though it missed last month's record volume by 424 units. With 12,098 sales it was Chrysler's hottest car line, coming in 2,388 sales ahead of the second-place Charger.

Light truck sales were down ten percent, led by a 55% collapse in sales of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and a 49% shortfall in sales of the Dodge Magnum (you know it's a station wagon and I know it's a station wagon but Chrysler counts it as a light truck). PT Cruiser sales were up by 25% and Ram pickup sales were within one percent of their June 2005 mark. It's worth noting the PT Cruiser is still ahead of Chevy's PT Cruiser wannabe, the HHR.

The Chrysler minivans easily took the top two spots in that segment. There was a gap of 4,392 sales between the Chrysler Town & Country and the third-place Honda Odyssey.

Double-digit drops were the rule of the day at Jeep except for the Commander which had its best month ever in June. The new Compass is shipping to dealers now and the Patriot and new Wrangler will be coming later this year, so the future isn't too bleak.

The car shortage couldn't have come at a worse time for Chrysler going into the third quarter of the year. Ford actually sold more cars this June than they did last year and that was the secret to the fact it was the best-performing of the Detroit automakers. General Motors' car sales were within two-tenths of a percent of their employee-pricing-driven sales month in June 2005.

The small cars many thought would never sell at all in the United States are gaining ground. Toyota's Yaris and Scion lines racked up a combined 22,725 sales in June and the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa are just hitting the ground. Hyundai set an all-time sales record in June even though sales of their Santa Fe and Tucson SUVs were down. The Toyota Prius outsold the Chrysler 300. Chrysler may yet come to regret the fact they don't have a competitive product even though their sibling in the DaimlerChrysler family has vehicles ranging from the tiny Smart to the giant Maybach. While the Smart will come to the U.S. in 2008, it will be through Roger Penske's UnitedAuto Group, so Chrysler will still be without a car smaller than the Sebring.

Despite the fact gas prices moderated somewhat in June, consumer tastes continued to shift away from traditional pickups and SUVs. In fact, if it had not been for Chrysler's 80/20 truck/car split, passenger cars would have outsold the combined totals of all pickups, SUVs, crossovers and vans for the first time in since May 2002. As it was, cars were up 1.6% compared to last June while overall light truck sales dropped 19.5 percent.

Based on numbers reported by the major manufacturers, U.S. light vehicle sales totaled 1,499,785 last month, down nearly 10.6% from June 2005. That works out to a seasonally adjusted sales rate of 16.3 million sales, well off last June's SAAR of 17.86 million units and the second-poorest showing this year. Since June had 26 selling days in each year, there's no adjustment for daily sales rate. For the first six months of 2006, total light vehicles sales are about 2.4% behind the same period last year.

As mentioned earlier, Ford came out best among the Detroit automakers, with sales of its domestic brands down less than 7 percent. Decent sales of the Five Hundred, Focus, Fusion and Mustang mitigated another plunge in sales of Ford's light trucks. Sales of the Ford F-Series are now down almost two percent this year.

At first glance, General Motors' 25.7% sales shortfall looks like a major disaster, but it must be remember that June 2005 was when GM rolled out its employee pricing promotion and recorded its best sales month since 1986 and its best light truck sales month ever. That's a tough act to follow, especially in the profitable light truck department. Sure enough, even though GM came close in passenger car sales, total light truck sales were off over 37 percent. Still, sales were an improvement over May and GM came up with its largest share of the market so far this year. Compare that to Chrysler, which came up with its smallest market share since September 2004. Ford's share increased by about 0.65 points. GM picked up a bit of good news as Chevy outsold Ford for the first month since January, erasing a bit of the deficit that has built up since then.

Big sales drops weren't limited to the American brands, Nissan sales fell nearly 19% while Infiniti sales dropped nearly 20%. Acura was down by a similar margin. With the exception of Land Rover, sales at the captive imports were down across the board, with Saab leading the way with a 50% deficit. Almost miraculously, considering how small its sales were in 2005, Isuzu managed another big drop and posted just 638 sales for the month.

As much bad news as there was, the winners actually outnumbered the losers for June. Hyundai set an all-time sales record and Honda, Lexus, Mercedes, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota set new monthly sales records. Porsche posted its best first-half performance in company history with strong sales of the new 911.

Volkswagen is up 20% this year and Audi is hopeful of setting a new sales record. Mazda was so happy with their June sales they actually wrote a press release instead of just posting the numbers. Mazda was up 7.5% in June and came in 4% ahead of the first six months of 2005.

Looking at sales by segment, cars were the big winners, with just over 48% of total light vehicle sales. Sales of full-size vans were up slightly while minivan sales were down by about a half-point. SUVs and crossovers gave up nearly two points of market share. Full-size pickups were the big losers with a 16.7% market share, down over 4 point compared to June 2005. I have seen some comments citing this as a temporary aberration, but the pickup segment has been showing signs of weakening all year. If this continues, it could be bad news not just for Dodge, Ford and GM, but for Nissan and Toyota which have made massive investments in new full-size trucks. Sales of Nissan's Titan were down over 28% in June and are almost 12% down on the year. Tundra sales are off about 10%, a larger margin than either Dodge or Ford.

July's numbers are likely to come up short again, even with the new incentives put in place in the past few days. The highly successful employee pricing programs offered by Chrysler, Ford and GM combined to rack up huge numbers, including an all-time high seasonal sales pace of over 20 million vehicles. Chrysler had an all-time best sales month and Ford set a new July record and recorded the all-time best monthly sales for any light vehicle line with 126,905 sales of F-Series pickups. With this in mind, Chrysler fans would be best advised to measure success by reductions in inventory and the results in key lines rather than huge numbers. There's some good new product coming but it looks like could be a long and not-so-hot summer for the gang in Auburn Hills.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 03 2006, 08 PM)

Sterling's Ram; Zetsche's message; Freightliner

Sterling has announced their version of the Dodge Chassis Cab, to be called the Bullet. Dieter Zetsche, on the introduction, wrote about how this was the result of cooperation between different DCX entities, and how DCX would thrive by sharing rather than having different people in different companies and countries duplicating each others' work.

Meanwhile, this might not be the best time to come out with a commercial truck. One analyst has cautioned that many people purchased a truck in 2006 to avoid 2007 and later emissions regulations, leading to Freightliner having its best sales ever despite two strikes that lost a significant number of sales (despite the plant running nights and weekends for the rest of the year). The next two to three years are expected to bring a substantial dip in sales - perhaps as much as 20% - which the rest of the DCX empire will need to compensate for.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 06 2006, 07 AM)

UPS using Dodge Caravans?

It appears that UPS, which tested Ford minivans a while back, may be testing Dodge Caravans as an alternative to their standard custom-built delivery trucks in some markets. (Thanks, anonymous photographer!)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 06 2006, 07 AM)

Lemon list features only one Mopar

The Center for Auto Safety and Jack Gillis obtained lemon-law complaint information from the American government. The top 20 cars with the highest number of lemon-law complaints per vehicle sold (that is, adjusted for sales) includes three Fords (five from Ford as a corporation), three Hondas, and one each from Kia, Mercury, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Land Rover, Audi, Hyundai, Lincoln, Jeep, Volkswagen, Buick, Chevrolet, and Suzuki. Only the Ford and Honda labels graced more than one of the top 20 lemon-complaint cars.

Whether a car is deemed a lemon is influenced by manufacturer reaction, dealer service quality, and vehicle reliability / engineering / construction issues.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 06 2006, 02 PM)

Allpar at Chryslers at Carlisle

Today was the second day of Chryslers at Carlisle this year, and for the first time Allpar has been represented in force, with a tent on one of the main drags (aisle Q) and a good group of people - 26 people signed up as allpar members, which is one reason our tent wasn't pitched on the far end of the field, over the ridge and far away. Indeed, from our location at the end of two of the B-body rows, we could wave to the tour bus and see all the way down to the central lane that holds the information booth - and people could see the allpar banner from quite a distance.

Today was an action-packed day, starting with the 10 am talk led by Bob O'Neill on auto painting and prep, filled with practical tips for the do-it-yourselfer and with full detail for start to finish successful painting. From there we went on tour of members' cars - all members who registered at the tent, at least - and, when votes were tallied, provided prizes to people in each of the ten categories. Prizes were generously supplied by Stratuscaster (Jim), who provided a surprising variety of Chrysler-logo sweaters, wine glasses, and a highly desirable jacket (all produced legally under license). Then, at 4 pm, Marc Rozman, Secretary of the Chrysler Employee Motorsports Association, spoke about CEMA and the High and Mighty restoriation.

It was generally a fun-filled and sociable day, and as far as I can tell everyone had a great time. We'll be there tomorrow, too. We'll have lots of news and pictures later this week once we get a chance to process them. We will do a few things differently next year, particularly in terms of registering allpar members' cars for judging so that more cars are seen, but this year has turned out surprisingly well all around. Everything cooperated - the weather, the location, and most of all, the people - the friendly, helpful people that I am proud to see every day at allpar.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 08 2006, 08 PM)

Buddy Martin to be at Mile-High Nationals

Buddy Martin, half of the famous Sox and Martin duo that took the NHRA, IHRA and AHRA Super Stock and Pro Stock division by storm in the 1960s and early 1970s, will attend the upcoming Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals event. Martin will be reunited with the 1968 Super Stock HEMI Plymouth Barracuda that Ronnie Sox piloted during the 1968 and 1969 racing seasons. Sox won the 1969 NHRA U.S. Nationals Super Stock championship behind the wheel of the well-known machine.

Martin and his 1968 HEMI Barracuda will be a part of the Mopar Big Block Party in downtown Golden, Colo., on Thursday, July 13. Race fans will be able to purchase posters made in Sox and Martin's honor, with the proceeds going to the Ronnie Sox Foundation. The foundation benefits both the Virginia Cancer Society and the St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Martin will also be on hand to sign autographs and greet fans, from 5 to 7 p.m. MDT.

Race fans may take this opportunity to leave tributes to Ronnie Sox, who passed away in April, and Scott Geoffrion, who passed away in May of this year. Photo collages of both drivers will be on display at the Mopar Big Block Party and at Bandimere Speedway throughout the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals event. The boards will be located near the Sox car display at the Mopar Big Block Party and at the Mopar Direct Connection display at Bandimere Speedway, and will be forwarded to the families of the late drivers after the event.

The Mopar Big Block Party will kick off in downtown Golden, Colo., with an open press conference on the stage from 6:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. MDT.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 10 2006, 10 AM)

Mopar Block Party in Colorado

The Mopar Big Block Party on Thursday, July 13, will feature the Challenger, Gladiator, Hornet and Rampage concept vehicles, which will also be on display at Bandimere Speedway for the duration of the 27th Annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.

Mopar will also debut a new merchandise trailer, with Mopar gear.

This year's festivities will be caught on film, as 'SpeedFreaks' tapes a live show from the event.

The Mopar Big Block Party will kick off at 6 p.m. MDT in downtown Golden, Colo., on Thursday, July 13. There is no charge for admission.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 12 2006, 08 AM)

Delphi demands more pay hikes for execs

As Delphi goes through bankruptcy and tries to have its union contracts voided, slashing the salaries of union workers and cutting tens of thousands of employees, it is trying to implement a $60 million executive bonus program, claiming executives are underpaid. The program would cover all salaried employees.

Delphi was split from General Motors and still counts GM as its largest customer, but it also makes components for other automakers.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 12 2006, 04 PM)

2008 Viper rumor update

We have updated our Viper rumors page with news from one of our most reliable sources. http://www.allpar.com/cars/viper/

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 13 2006, 08 AM)

Chrysler, Mercedes to share new V6 engines

As reported previously by Allpar, Chrysler will be introducing a new line of V-6 engines, to debut around 2010. Chrysler has now announced details, including the investment ($2 billion) and the fact that Mercedes will share the basic engine architecture. The Phoenix engines, long discussed on Allpar's news and rumors forum, will be made in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Trenton, Michigan (with parts machined in Toledo, Ohio), as well as in Germany for Mercedes. Dieter Zetsche, DCX and Mercedes CEO, said the new engine family would operate on a modular base, reducing the corporation's V6 engine families to one (from five - four at Chrysler and one at Mercedes). The World Engine experience may provide some illustration of how that will be done.

The engines will, not surprisingly, be built on flexible assembly lines that will allow the mix to be changed quickly and easily, to adjust to market demands.

Plants will switch to new job rules that include 10 hour four-day work weeks and a much smaller number of job classifications (two). Production will begin for the 2010 model year, with final phaseout of the existing Chrysler V6 engines in calendar-year 2012.

Mercedes versions will most likely have more sophisticated and expensive control and fuel features such as direct injection.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 24 2006, 11 AM)

Detroit News: Caliber plant having teething problems

According to this Detroit News article, the Belvedere plant which makes Calibers, as well as the Compass and Patriot, is having a number of teething problems with its Swedish robots, which is causing the plant to be about 25% below its maximum production. Chrysler officials noted that some issues were to be expected in a very complex and ambitious flexible-manufacturing program, in a factory designed to be able to make numerous different vehicles one after the other that would normally have had to occupy different lines or be made in different long batches.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 25 2006, 12 PM)

DCX profit gains from Jeep-based Mercedes

DaimlerChrysler AG's second quarter earnings increased by 11 percent, which it said was the result of better profits from the Mercedes car group. Mercedes enjoyed a 6% sales increase, largely due to strong sales of the Jeep Grand Cherokee-based M and G SUVs. It is difficult to judge in reality how much profit should be attributed to Chrysler Group vs. Mercedes since many of Mercedes' costs have de facto been shouldered by Chrysler.

The Truck Group has improved operation profit, largely due to "pull" sales as people buy Freightliners and other large trucks before tougher emissions standards are imposed. Next year's sales are expected by some analysts to be significantly lower.

Financial Services showed a higher profit as well. Before the takeover, Financial Services would have contributed its profits to Chrysler's bottom line.

While smart sales were flat, Chrysler sales fell 9 percent compared with the same period a year ago, largely due to lower demand for trucks, as well as model changes (both Neon and Stratus/Sebring ended, and the Caliber has not yet fully ramped up).

Chrysler expects stronger earnings in the fourth quarter as eight new models are launched, despite excessive inventories of a number of models which will result in lower production. Some expressed concern over Chrysler's huge "sales bank" of unsold vehicles, currently stored in fields and large parking lots.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (July 27 2006, 10 AM)

Mopar rally racers to compete in X Games

Doug Shepherd and Pete Gladysz, rally racers with 25 years of experience, will carry the Mopar colors in the Rallying competition at X Games 12, scheduled for this week, August 3-6, in Los Angeles (covered on Saturday, August 5, at 3 p.m. ET on ABC.)

For more details, click on Full Story, below.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 01 2006, 10 AM)

Chrysler sales down, down for July

Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales for July of 150,349 units, a decline of 35 percent compared to the record July sales of 240,146 units. All sales are reported on an adjusted basis unless otherwise reported.

"This month is a tough comparison against last July when our Employee Pricing Plus program delivered the strongest July in company history," said Steven Landry, Vice President - Sales and Field Operations, Chrysler Group. "However, in the face of higher interest rates and higher energy costs, the launch of our current Employee Pricing Plus program helped drive showroom traffic and grow our monthly retail sales 9 percent."

The Dodge Charger continues to be a strong market performer with sales of 8,074, an increase of 53 percent over July 2005 sales of 5,495 units. Sales of Dodge brand vehicles totaled 76,394 units, a decline of 35 percent compared to previous year sales of 122,673.

The Employee Pricing Plus program will continue through August 31, 2006. With Employee Pricing Plus, customers receive employee pricing on virtually all 2006 model year vehicles, plus zero percent financing for 36 months (or cash back), plus the 30-Day Return Program, allowing customers to return a vehicle for any reason within 30 days after purchase.

Coming up are the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and the Jeep Wrangler in the next few weeks, along with the Chrysler Sebring, Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Nitro following this fall.

Chrysler Group finished the month with 560,210 units of inventory, a 93-day supply and a decrease of 87,485 units from the end of June 2006.

Stratus/Sebring sales fell dramatically from 2005, as production shifted to the new Sebring. Sales increases were registered for the Dodge Charger (up 47%), Sprinter (up 1%).

The Caliber had a strong launch with 7,187 sold (compared with 10,049 Neons in July 2005).

The largest drops were in the Neon (discontinued), Stratus (no longer made), Magnum (down 59% with Charger taking sales), Dakota (down 45%), Ram (down 33% - that's a whopping 16,000 units!), Caravan (down 47% - a stunning 11,000 units!), Durango (down 68%), all three Jeeps (down 36% overall with Liberty and Grand Cherokee especially hard-hit, but Commander making up for some of Grand Cherokee's 14,000 lost sales with its own 7,000 units), Crossfire, PT (down 26%), Pacifica (down 52%), and Town & Country (down 47%).

Year to date, the figures are less devastating, with some models still eking out increases - the PT (up 2%), the Charger (introduced in mid-2005), the Springer van (up 25%). Overall, however, year to date ended up down 14% for trucks and vans, up 3% for cars, and down 10% overall, with 1.28 million units for the first six months of 2006 compared with 1.43 million in the first half of 2005.

The drop in minivans must surely be worrying to Chrysler, as if this drop is sustained Chrysler will have watched its minivan market leadership be taken by Honda and Toyota - the same companies that took much of Chrysler's car market.

See the Full Story link for sales of each model.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 01 2006, 03 PM)

July sales recap (by Bill Cawthon)

No two ways about it; July wasn't pretty for Chrysler. Sales volume was down 37.39% and even adjusting the daily sales rate (DSR) for the fact July had one less selling day this year only softened the blow to a 34.89% deficit. The decline was the largest of any major automaker and was only exceeded by a 43.45% drop at Saab.

Mopar pride took a couple of big hits. First, Toyota Division (including Scion but not Lexus) passed Chrysler Group's year-to-date (YTD) sales total to take the No. 3 spot among the major automakers. Second, Chrysler's share of the light vehicle market plunged to just over 10%, its lowest level in years. Third, the Dodge Caravan dropped to #3 in minivan sales, its worst showing ever. Even the Dodge Caliber failed to provide any relief, posting its lowest sales numbers since the initial ramp-up. Caliber sales dropped 4,911 units from June.

However, before anyone starts polishing up their doomsday predictions, some things need to be put into perspective.

First and foremost, Chrysler Group had its best retail sales month in history last July. Fueled by the then-new employee pricing program, sales volume soared 39% compared to July 2004 and records were set by every division. It's true last month's figures fell an adjusted 14.37% short of the July 2004 mark, as well, but that brings up another factor: in the midst of a consumer shift to cars and smaller vehicles, Chrysler is missing three critical players, the Neon, Stratus and Sebring, leaving it more dependent on light truck sales than either of its Motown competitors. In fact, Chrysler ranked seventh in July passenger car deliveries, behind GM, Toyota, Ford, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai. As I mentioned last month, Chrysler is likely to be hurting either until its replacement vehicles arrive this fall or fuel prices take a significant drop.

Next, unlike Ford, GM and a number of foreign brands, Chrysler reduced its incentive spending by an average of $1,400 per vehicle in July, coming in with the lowest amount of cash on the hood of any Detroit automaker. In comparison, GM was spending about $1,900 more per vehicle than Chrysler. Incentive spending by European and Japanese automakers also hit record highs in July, something that is no doubt reflected in the number of new sales records set by the import brands.

Incentive spending likely had some impact on Caliber sales. When automakers pile on the sweeteners, vehicles that don't get a share of the sugar suffer. The same phenomenon was seen last year when cars and trucks not covered by the employee pricing programs took a hit in the numbers.

There was some genuine good news, as well. Retail sales were up 9% over June 2006 and some models, like the Chrysler 300, Charger, PT Cruiser, Viper and Sprinter van, posted better sales numbers than they did last year.

Considering July 2005 was the best sales month in automotive history, it's not surprising that last month came up a bit short. Sales volume was down over 17.4% and DSR was down just over 14%. Manufacturers reported just over 1.49 million light vehicle sales compared to better than 1.8 million sales last year. This yields a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 17.24 million units, well shy of the 20.72 million rate of July 2005, but one of the best monthly sales rates so far this year and up nearly a million units from June 2006.

While the July slump left Chrysler's YTD numbers about 10% behind the first seven months of 2005, GM is in worse shape with more than a 14% shortfall. A very good sales month for Chevrolet cars was more than offset by a really terrible month for GM trucks which had to compete with a strong July 2005 sales record. GM light truck deliveries are now 16.8% behind last year's pace.

On the other hand, that good sales month for Chevy cars gave the bowtie another winning month and put it within 17,675 sales of replacing Ford as America's favorite vehicle brand.

Ford is in marginally better shape than Chrysler or GM, down just 9.9%, but Ford's truck sales are still a big problem and, while Ford car sales are up, the company still doesn't have the hit it needs to replace the Taurus. Last Sunday, Ford kicked off a new promotion for the Fusion. The company bought 600,000 diecast Fusion models from Hot Wheels and packed them inside boxes of Kellogg's cereals to be sold in Target stores. One lucky person will find a specially marked car in their Frosted Flakes or Fruit Loops and win a real Fusion sedan.

Chrysler's Stuttgart sibling posted a July sales record coming in second only to Lexus for the month. Mercedes has now moved into third place, ahead of Cadillac, in YTD sales among the luxury brands.

Lexus set its own July sales record, but that achievement was eclipsed by a new all-time record monthly sales record set by Toyota Division. In July, Toyota and Lexus combined to not only outsell DaimlerChrysler, but the combined totals of Ford's domestic and PAG brands, as well.

Honda set a new July record though Acura sales were down nearly five percent. Some sources claim Honda outsold Chrysler, but that's a fun-with-numbers game that requires combining Honda and Acura and comparing them to Chrysler Group alone. If you either subtract Acura from Honda or add Mercedes to Chrysler, this claim is shown to be inaccurate.

Other July records were posted by Kia, Porsche, Subaru and Suzuki. Hyundai came in with its second consecutive all-time record sales month.

Volkswagen had a good month, reclaiming its title as the best-selling European brand in America at least for the month. VW is still second to BMW in YTD sales, but has passed Mercedes.

The domestic brands' share of the total light vehicle market dropped to just over 52% in July, nearly a point less than the previous low set in May 2006 and a new record. Detroit's share of the passenger car market dropped as well, to just 37.5%. Pickups, crossovers, SUVs and vans still combine to outsell passenger cars, but not by the margins common as recently as last year. With rising interest rates and the likelihood that fuel prices will remain high for the foreseeable future, Detroit's dependence on big engines and big vehicles will probably continue to prove costly.

I am not sure why this hasn't percolated through yet, but Chrysler needs to give serious consideration to replacing the Neon. Americans bought over 34,536 Scions, Yarises, Fits and Versas in July accounting for nearly 5% of all passenger car sales. With the exception of Scion, these are foreign-market cars that were given little chance of success in America. Add in slightly larger vehicles like the Kia Rio, Chevy Aveo and such and that segment of the passenger car market deserves serious consideration. Ford has finally figured out they blew it when they decided against bringing in the revised European Focus a few years back and is moving to refresh the line in about a year and completely overhaul it before the end of the decade. GM has several small cars from its European and Asian operations it can rebadge for the American market. One option for Chrysler that comes to mind is the Smart ForFour, which was produced at Mitsubishi's NedCar factory until recently.

Looking ahead, the incentives are locked and loaded and August has a far less formidable record to beat. The Compass will have its first full month on the market, though supplies are still likely to be limited. DaimlerChrysler faces challenges because of its current product mix, but is still in a position to finish the year in good shape.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 02 2006, 08 AM)

Liberty recall

Jeep is recalling 800,000 Libertys due to possibility of ball-joint failure. There have been 100 reported cases of failure (out of those 800,000 vehicles) with three reported injuries.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 02 2006, 01 PM)

Chrysler does well in Canada

Chrysler Canada posted a small rise in sales in Canada in July 2006 (over July 2005), even as GM sales dropped 24% and Chrysler sales fell 14%. Ford dropped a mere 1% and Toyota sales increased 16%. Other falls included Nissan (16%) and Honda (3%), while other gains included Volkswagen (12%). Canadian auto sales as a whole fell about 9% off last year. The Canadian auto market is, not surprisingly, much smaller than that of the US, with about 140,000 vehicles sold in July 2006.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 02 2006, 03 PM)

Ford: yet another fire related recall

The pyrotechnic auto company has recalled 1.2 million vehicles for cruise controls that can corrode and cause fire. Affected models include 1994-2002 F-series Super Duty trucks, 2000-2002 Excursions, 1994-1996 Econolines, 1996-2002 E-450 vans, and 1998 Explorers and Mountaineers.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 03 2006, 09 AM)

Rock Auto discount for allpar members

Rock Auto is offering a discount to Allpar members. Enter FDD03B5F01FC into the "How did you hear about us?" box to qualify. Valid through November 1, 2006. Rock Auto covers a full range of replacement parts and accessories.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 16 2006, 02 PM)

Dodge Nitro starts; SRT-4 to be unveiled?

The Dodge Nitro has started production in a flexible manufacturing plant that can switch from Libertys to Nitros without any appreciable delay. Meanwhile, Dodge has apparently set an unveiling for later this week, which some believe will be the SRT-4; rumor also has the Avenger or Sebring Convertible to be unveiled at the upcoming Paris Auto Show.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 16 2006, 03 PM)

SRT-4 sets new Bonneville record

Team Mopar's Jorgen Moller set his fifth land speed record last week in a production Dodge SRT4 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The record-breaking average was set at 221 mph on the five-mile course, establishing the Dodge SRT4 as the fastest four-cylinder production car in the world.

"It is amazing how well the car performed at over 220 mph when you consider that the body, transmission and engine block are exactly the same as the (street version) SRT4," said Moller. "We've got to hand it to the Dodge engineers for building such a great performance car. The 2.4L SRT4 motor is a fantastic platform to work from, and we have been able to create reliable 700'800 horsepower that survives the long five-mile runs at full power on gas,' Moller said.

Moller's Dodge SRT4 competed in the PS/F class (2.1 to 3.0 liter motor ' production Supercharged /Turbo). This class showcases vehicles that compete with factory bodies and transmissions. The powerplant must be of the same configuration as the vehicle's factory production settings. Vehicles must also be gas compatible.

Moller has set over ten land speed records and currently holds five existing records. He also has a Dodge SRT4-powered 1932 roadster in the F classes where he set a record in the Blown Street Roadster class at over 200 mph, making it the fastest 4 cylinder street roadster.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 16 2006, 03 PM)

Caliber models available

A 1:87 (HO) Caliber model is available now in Inferno Red and Sunburst Orange and will be offered in Black Clearcoat and Brilliant Silver in the fall. It can be obtained from Burbank's House of Hobbies.

The Caliber model and the forthcoming Charger, 300C, and PT Cruiser models made by Ricko can be obtained through any retailer served by Horizon Hobby, Models 11, or William K. Walthers, Inc.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 18 2006, 08 AM)

Chrysler to build new engine plant?

Chrysler may be on the verge of building another new engine facility, this time in Trenton, Michigan, which lost production of Chrysler's four-cylinder engines to a new Dundee, Michigan factory. The company is currently working with the city council to make room for the factory, which would be situated between two rail lines and would cover a length of Van Horn Road, forcing some drivers going to Gross Ile to detour. Construction must be started by November 1 to produce new V6 engines for Chrysler Group in time for 2010 model-year vehicles (which presumably means pilot testing in 2008 or early 2009). At risk for the city are an additional 600 "high quality" jobs. The factory itself would cost $800 million.

The existing Trenton plant opened in 1952, and currently builds 3.3, 3.8, and 4.0 liter engines; it will close in 2014, and with it all production of the last remnants of the first Chrysler V6 will stop.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 21 2006, 02 PM)

Hubinette finishes #8, remains close to lead in points

After testing Team Mopar's Samuel Hubinette's Mopar Dodge Viper SRT10 last Thursday, the team determined they needed to replace the engine, which had been used in competition for nearly three years, a remarkable feat in itself. With practice rounds set for Friday, it looked as if Hubinette's championship hopes would be dashed. Mopar personnel, and it ensured the new engine would be sent rapidly, and NuFormz Racing, led by owner Shaun Carlson, and local Viper shop Maltby Motorsports did the engine swap in less than ten hours.

The result was a No. 7 qualifying spot and Great Eight finish for Hubinette, preserving his championship run, as he now trails Rhys Millen by just 11 points.

For more info on Formula D or Mopar, log on to www.formulad.com, www.moparspeed.com, or www.mopar.com. For information on the 'Mopar D1 All-Star Duel presented by ShiftIntoGear,' which will pit eight NASCAR stars, such as Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Robby Gordon and Bill Elliott, against eight of the best drifters in the world, including Hubinette, Vaughn Gittin Jr., Rhys Millen and Yasuyuki Kazama, log on to www.irwindalespeedway.com or www.kaseykahne.com/drift. All proceeds from the event will go to the Kasey Kahne Foundation.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 21 2006, 04 PM)

Dodge releases prices on Nitro, Chassis Cab

The Dodge Nitro will start at just under $20,000, including destination, with the 3.7 liter V6 standard; an R/T version with the 4.0 liter V6 is available starting at $25,970. The Dodge Ram Chassis cab starts at $22,535, including destination and Hemi; it starts at $28,090 including the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 23 2006, 12 PM)

Dodge to lower truck production

Dodge will cut production of slow-selling Dodge Durangos and Ram pickups, mainly affecting the Newark (Delaware) Durango factory, by about 3% in the fourth quarter. Dodge has already cut about 10% of its overall output in the third quarter. Ford announced that it would cut its overall production by 20% for the remainder of the year.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 24 2006, 08 AM)

4-cylinder Barracuda sets record

Another record fell with the help of Mopar power at the Bonneville Salt Flats during the Bonneville Speedweeks. Hot rod builder George Poteet piloted his 1969 Blowfish Barracuda, powered by a Mopar 4-cylinder Midget engine and a Mopar Performance P5 Hemi head, to a new record in the Blown Fuel Competition Coupe/Sedan Class F with a run of 255.7 mph.

The pass bettered the previous record of 230 mph, set in 1990, by 25 mph. The record-setting run followed on the heels of the performance laid down by Team Mopar's Jorgen Miller. Miller set his fifth career land speed record at Bonneville earlier in the week with a pass of 221 mph, establishing his production Mopar Dodge SRT4 as the fastest four-cylinder production car in the world.

The Blowfish Barracuda project was first conceived during the 2004 Autorama in Detroit by Poteet and fellow car builder Troy Trepanier. Trepanier, along with his father Jack, built the car at their shop, Rad Rides by Troy, based in Illinois. Dodge Motorsports engineer Terry Dekoninck worked on aerodynamics with the group, with Mopar Performance engineer Jim Szilagyi also helping on the build as designer of the Mopar 4-cylinder Midget engine used in the 1969 Barracuda.

The group, certain the record would fall entering the event, decided to run the car conservatively at about 950 horsepower. The team is confident another 500 horsepower can be added with slight modifications, enabling the Blowfish to run in the 280-plus mph range.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 24 2006, 11 AM)

Dodge, GM to offer more diesels in 2010

Both Dodge and GM are set up to sell V8 diesel engines in their light-duty trucks (Ram and Silverado 1500) around 2010. The GM diesels will be 330 hp models, the Dodge (Cummins) most likely about 300 hp but with 460 lb-ft of torque. GM would also use the diesels in their full-sized SUVs, increasing gas mileage by about 5 mpg, while Dodge is apparently planning to put Cummins V6 diesels into the Dakota and Durango. Diesel engines offer a large boost in fuel mileage along with longer life, the ability to use "grown" fuel (biodiesel), and greater torque, at the cost of some horsepower and a narrower operating range.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (August 25 2006, 08 AM)

Sales recap, August 2006



At the end of August, it became official: Toyota Division (including Scion) moved ahead of Chrysler Group to become the No. 3 automaker in the U.S. market. Record August sales for Toyota put it 37,712 year-to-date (YTD) sales ahead of Chrysler Group, which is still suffering from a lack of passenger cars and declining SUV sales.

Chrysler sales volume was down 4.23% compared to August 2005. The bad news was made worse by an extra selling day in the month just ended which gave Chrysler a 7.78% deficit adjusted for daily sale rate (DSR). The Auburn Hills gang's numbers continue to be dragged down by the discontinued Sebring, Neon, and Stratus.

Honda's Odyssey minivan racked up all-time record sales, beating its July 2006 mark, to blow by the Dodge Caravan for a second consecutive month. This time, though, the Sienna dropped back to number three, just ahead of the Town & Country. Incidentally, the word is that Ford will drop out of the minivan market. Production of the Mercury Monterey has been shut down and the plant that was making the Freestar/Monterey transmissions has been told production would be ending. The Freestar will likely be dropped next spring. The minivan market, which is estimated to drop below a million sales for the first time in fourteen years, has essentially become a 4-way race with the Odyssey, Caravan, Sienna and Town & Country accounting for almost 70% of minivan sales. Eleven domestic and foreign models are competing for the remainder, including four models from General Motors.

Buried in all the negatives was a surprising positive: Sales of Chrysler's mature models (those current models that were also in production last August) were up an average of 3%. Strong performances by the Chrysler 300, PT Cruiser, Town & Country and Dodge Charger, Magnum and Dakota are encouraging, especially as all of them are ahead of the first eight months of 2005 in YTD sales.

In addition, Chrysler's market share rebounded from July's dismal showing, coming in at just over 12%. Chrysler did increase its incentive spending but still had the lowest average incentive cost of the Detroit automakers. The Japanese and Korean automakers increased their incentive spending in August.

Caliber sales have lost some steam in the past couple of months but remain good. In seven months on the market, the small Dodge has racked up almost sixty thousand sales.

The Compass improved in its second month on the market but it remains to be seen if it can take off like the Caliber. Jeep will have some competing products, so it may not have the clear field the Caliber enjoyed.

Grand Cherokee sales were down 19% but they were still strong enough to give the most popular Jeep model an August fourth place among SUVs and crossovers, less than a thousand sales behind the Ford Explorer and well ahead of the best-selling GM SUV, the Chevy TrailBlazer. It's an indication of the state of the overall SUV segment that the top two spots in August went to the Honda Pilot and Honda CR-V. Given their current sales, it's quite possible the Pilot could be one of the top three SUVs by year's end. [Dave note: adding together the Commander and Grand Cherokee brings a sales total just higher than last year's Grand Cherokee sales, despite new competition from the Mercedes version.]

On the other side of the DaimlerChrysler house, Mercedes racked up another record month as the S-Class continues to dominate the BMW 7-series and Lexus LS430 premium sedans. M-B sales for the year are now up by 13%.

Industry-wide sales volume was up about a quarter-percent, but the fact there were 27 selling days in August 2006 left automakers in the red by 3.47%. Automakers reported light vehicle sales totaling 1,486,810 cars and trucks, about 3,600 sales ahead of August 2005 but YTD numbers are down by about 4.3%. The results translate to a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 16.06 million light vehicle sales, the lowest SAAR since last November.

General Motors had the best month of the Detroit automakers. While adjusted sales were essentially flat because of the extra selling day, sales volume was up by 3.82% and market share improved by about eight-tenths of a point. In addition, the bowtie finally overtook the blue oval to recapture the best-selling brand title in YTD sales.

While the Ford F-series did manage to beat the combined sales of GM's four full-size pickups and looks like it will celebrate record twenty-five consecutive years as America's favorite vehicle, other good news was hard to come by in Dearborn. Ford sales volume was down 11.67% and DSR was down nearly 15%. While sales of the Mustang soared 64% and the Fusion/Milan/Zephyr are finally hitting their stride, every single truck line except the E-series full-size vans was off, most by double digits. Despite the hype, the new Expedition may encounter unfavorable conditions. GM's new Tahoe and Yukon have had a big head start picking up sales in a shrinking market.

In addition, all of the Premier Auto Group brands, including Land Rover, came up short this month. Ford looks like it will sell Aston-Martin and the betting is Jaguar won't be far behind.

Even with record August sales, Toyota Division couldn't upset Ford's domestic brands for a second month. However, adding in Lexus and Ford's PAG brands, the totals are within 13,516 of each other. The two divisions of Toyota Motor Sales both reported record August sales. In the case of Lexus, the total was likely enough to give it a lock on the luxury sales crown for a sixth year. BMW, as it seems to do about this time every year, looks to be running out of steam, though it's still a solid second.

Honda and Nissan both came up losers in August. Honda reported record light truck sales and Nissan's volume was actually up slightly, but they were down an adjusted 6.49% and 3.2%, respectively.

Hyundai and Kia posted new August records with good sales from their cars and their crossover SUVs.

Even though it missed its 2005 mark by 2.30%, Volkswagen sold more cars this year and was the best-selling European brand for the second month in a row. The new Rabbit is taking off like its namesake.

Small cars continue to gain new customers. Toyota's Yaris took the top spot in the segment in August and has now passed the Chevy Aveo in 2006 total sales. The Nissan Versa outsold the Honda Fit, which is hampered by low allocations for the U.S. market. Toyota's Scion tC and xB continue to lead in total sales.

Domestic brands gave up another 1.88% of the light vehicle market in August, coming within 2.28% of parity with the foreign badges.

U.S. consumers are getting a break from high gas prices, something that usually triggers a rush to light trucks. However, rising interest rates and a softening economy may counter that as cars and the smaller crossovers generally offer lower entry prices and more content per dollar than the big, profit-laden SUVs that have been Detroit's bread-and-butter for the past several years. All the U.S. automakers have now announced production cuts for the fourth quarter with most of the trimming being done to truck lines.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 02 2006, 01 PM)

No Volkswagen-based Dodge, blog says

Autoblog wrote that Volkswagen's bid to provide the platform (mainly, a set of dimensions) for the upcoming Hornet was rejected due to a high cost. Chrysler still plans to make a subcompact car, but will link up with a different automaker. The current rumor-mill candidate is Fiat, which has a long history both of making small cars and of licensing or selling its designs to other automakers. The car would not necessarily be made by Fiat, and would have a substantial level of Chrysler engineering.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 10 2006, 02 PM)

Wrangler priced lower, comes with more

Jeep has announced pricing for the 2007 Wrangler, including the Unlimited. Including destination charges, the Wrangler starts at $18,765

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 11 2006, 03 PM)

Racing:

After leading the Formula D Drift points race for the entire year, Team Mopar's Samuel Hubinette fell to second following the Round 5 event at Seattle.

Hubinette piloted his NuFormz Racing Mopar Dodge Viper SRT10 to his third win of the season on Saturday at New Jersey's Wall Township Speedway, taking a 36-point lead over Rhys Millen entering the last event, scheduled for October 14 at Irwindale Speedway in California. If Hubinette, the inaugural 2004 Formula D champ, emerges on top after Irwindale, he will have earned his second championship in the first three years of the series.

Hubinette had his best qualifying effort of the year, taking the second spot and knocking out Seigo Yamamoto in the Top 16, followed by Kenji Yamanaka in the Great Eight round and Hiro Sumida in the Final Four, setting up a final round match-up against Tanner Foust. With his win over Foust, Hubinette now has notched eight career Formula D event victories.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 12 2006, 08 AM)

Supply, sales per dealership

Chrysler has been selling relatively few cars per dealership, according to recent results published by Automotive News. While Toyota managed to sell 173 vehicles per dealer, Honda 132, and Lexus 146 in August 2006, the best Chrysler brand - Dodge - only managed to sell 31 vehicles/dealer, and Chrysler and Jeep mustered just 16 and 15, respectively. That puts them well below Mercedes (62), Chevy (51), and Ford (56). On the lighter side, Chrysler Group managed far better than Mercury or Lincoln, with fewer than ten sales/month/dealer in August.

In terms of supply, Chrysler vehicles were at a 71 day supply as of September 1, with Dodge at 41 days for cars and 92 days for trucks, and Jeep at 77 days; the corporate total for Chrysler Group was 76 days. By contrast, GM had a total 72 day supply, Ford 73 days, Toyota 29 days, Honda 28 days, and Hyundai 51 days. The industry overall had a total supply of 59 days - 44 for cars, 74 for trucks. (The ideal is said to be 60 days.)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 12 2006, 01 PM)

Carl Cameron, Chrysler designer, passes

Carl A. Cameron passed away on September 5, 2006 at Emanual Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Memorial contributions may be made to Habitat for Humanity or Heifer Foundation, c/o Macy & Son, 135 NE Evans Street, McMinnville, Oregon, 97128.

Carl A. Cameron was born in Oregon on April 24, 1935. As a child, he lived with his parents all over the West while his father, a civil engineer, worked on the highway system. Due to the nature of his father's employment, he lived many places, including a tent in Yellowstone Park.

At his 30th La Grande class reunion, he became reaquainted with his former classmate, Suzanne French Kofford; they were wed in 1985. He went on to receive his B.A. in Automotive Design from Art Centre School in Pasadena, California.

Carl retired from Chrysler Corporation after working as a designer for 31 years. He created the original 1966 Dart, 1966 Dodge Charger, and the 1970 Dodge Challenger, among others. He also was the holder of 35 patents and the executive of one of Chrysler's design teams. After his retirement, he was nationally recognized and honored at various car clubs and conventions, and continued designing by starting Cam Design.

Carl searched for the right look and material for the 1970 Challenger grill (eggcrate from florescent light fixture diffuser), and based off a sketch for a 1966 Charger Turbine prototype.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 14 2006, 02 PM)

Freep: plants idling

According to the Detroit Free Press, Chrysler is idling three truck plants to reduce inventories.

Jefferson North (Grand Cherokee, Commander) is idling for four weeks. 2800 workers affected.

Warren Truck (Ram 1500, Mitsu Raider, Dakota) is idling for two weeks. 3172 workers affected.

Mack Avenue 1 and 2 are each eliminating a shift in January.

(Thanks, "IMPERIAL4EVER")

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 15 2006, 09 AM)

Engineer Greg Reeves passes

"Mopar mourns the passing of Greg Reeves, Engineering Manager for Dodge Motorsports and Mopar Performance Parts. Reeves suffered an apparent heart attack at his Michigan home on Sunday, September 17. A scholarship in Reeves' name is being arranged in cooperation with Northwood Institute. Memorial contributions can be made in Greg's honor to:

Northwood University
4000 Whiting Dr.
Midland, MI 48640
Attn: Private Donor Scholarships

Reeves had been a vital part of the Mopar/Dodge racing effort. His passion for the NHRA Pro Stock Series was among his notable program influences."

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 19 2006, 08 AM)

Dieter's note to employees

At almost the same time Chrysler warned analysts about higher than expected third quarter losses, Dieter Zetsche sent a note to all employees explaining the reasons. In essence, Zetsche pointed to three issues: high gas prices pushing people towards small, economical cars, higher incentives by other automakers raising price pressures, and high dealer inventories. While Chrysler tried to avoid substantial production cuts, those are now inevitable. While Chrysler Group will probably lose $1.5 billion for the quarter, profitability is expected for the fourth quarter (but not for the full year).

Zetsche noted a number of new products being launched; the Sebring will be available with a four-cylinder in all trim lines to provide some fuel efficiency even to those who want all the luxury items. Zetsche also ended on a high note, expressing certainty of long-term profitability.

The former Chrysler Credit, a substantial profit generator, is no longer included in Chrysler Group profit-and-loss statements.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 19 2006, 10 AM)

Zetsche faces reality, Chrysler cuts production

Chrysler will cut third quarter production again, this time by 90,000 units, reducing shipments to dealers by 135,000 units through the end of the year. That is about 20,000 more vehicles than previously announced. Zetsche noted the slowdown in sales and rather than throwing incentives at the problem, has chosen to reduce excess inventory by slowing production of vehicles to match market changes. While this reduces capital utilization, it also avoids cheapening of the product through over-incentivization and directly addresses issues of where to store unpurchased vehicles.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 19 2006, 11 AM)

2008 Liberty

Two sets of Liberty spy shots have just surfaced. Here's our latest 2008 Jeep Liberty page:
http://www.allpar.com/trucks/jeep/liberty-2008.html

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 20 2006, 03 PM)

Mercedes, Caliber to share parts

According to Dieter Zetsche, as quoted by Automotive News, the Mercedes A and B classes will be sharing parts with the Dodge Caliber starting in 2010. He was quoted as saying, "We must not talk about a common platform for creation of siblings with Chrysler models," which does not technically mean that this is not what will happen. He also pointed out that simple component sharing would provide economies of scale, albeit benefiting Mercedes (with its small volumes) more than Chrysler, which may actually have higher costs from the arrangement as it has to use parts compatible with the Mercedes engineers' preferences.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 26 2006, 04 PM)

Revolutionary new transmission in the works?

Chrysler and Getrag are considering a new $560 million joint-venture plant in Kokomo for "a new line of wet dual clutch transmissions," according to Chrysler's Dave Elshoff, speaking to the Kokomo Tribune. This may be an indication that technology from Chrysler's automatic-shifting manual transmission will be used in the foreseeable future.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 28 2006, 08 AM)

Deja vu: Chrysler to sell Chinese cars as its own?

According a German newspaper, Chrysler will beat Bricklin to the punch, importing cars made by Chery of China to be sold under the Dodge name with no actual Chrysler engineering. Including Chrysler in joint engineering of Chery cars for sale in the United States is said to be a mere possibility for future models at an unspecified date.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 28 2006, 11 AM)

New model at the Chrysler Museum

Pete Hagenbuch noted that the Walter P. Chrysler Museum has commissioned a Signature Models replica of the 1928 Le Mans Chrysler, which won third place. It is to be sold exclusively by the museum gift shop. It's $49.95 and can be ordered by phone at 248-944-0434 or 888-456-1924. The model can be seen at the Museum's site, www.chryslerheritage.com.

In addition, the Chrysler Atlantic and Chronos have been put on display.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (September 28 2006, 04 PM)

Chrysler and other sales figures

Chrysler Group, which consists of the Chrysler, Jeep(R) and Dodge brands, posted sales of 168,888 vehicles in the U.S., a decrease of 4 percent (year to date decrease, 9 percent). Details will be posted later today.

By comparison, Toyota, supported by trucks as well as the fuel-efficient Yaris and Corolla, boasted a 25% year to year increase; GM sales fell 3% largely due to slacking fleet sales; and Ford sales gained 5% with their passenger cars gaining 26%. Of note is the nature of Toyota's gain -- truck and SUV sales rose 35% while car sales rose only 18%.

Toyota is the second largest automaker in the world after General Motors. In the US, Toyota sold 223,000 cars in September, compared with GM's 338,000 and Ford's 239,000. Chrysler Group sold 169,000 vehicles in the US, while Honda, a distant fifth in America sales, sold just over 116,000 cars.

Ford benefited from sales of the Asian-designed Focus and the Mustang, which increased 21% and 31%, and by final fleet sales of the Taurus, which is about to be discontinued.

Chrysler will jump-start sales with a massive $6,000 in rebates or no-interest five-year loans on 2006 cars (aside from the LX series) to clear excess inventories. Chrysler already has huge rebates and dealer incentives.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 03 2006, 12 PM)

Dodge Sprinter passenger van; spy shots

We now have supporting evidence for the upcoming passenger-van version of the Mercedes-Dodge Sprinter, thanks to quick-thinking photographer Tim Massey.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 03 2006, 06 PM)

Sales recap: Bill Cawthon

The bad news kept on coming for Chrysler in September. After forecasting a $1.5 billion-dollar loss in the third quarter, Chrysler also posted the worst performance of the Detroit automakers. Sales volume was down 3.8% and the extra selling day last month magnified that figure into a 7.5% drop in daily sales rate (DSR). Chrysler gave up 0.734 points of market share and was knocked out of third place again by Toyota's namesake division.

Of course, there were some rays of sunshine trying to pierce the gloom; Chrysler's performance wasn't quite as bad as some had predicted. Edmunds had forecast Chrysler sales volume would plunge 10.3% for an adjusted DSR decline of 13.7%. More important to the bottom line is that it appears rapidly dropping gas prices and hot deals sparked a late-month rally in consumer appetites for light trucks. This helped Chrysler, which is more dependent on minivans, pickups and SUVs than any other full-line manufacturer. By the end of the month, Chrysler's minivans had recaptured the top two spots in their segment and both Chrysler and Jeep posted improved sales compared to September 2005. Jeep had an especially strong month; sales were up an unadjusted 26% thanks to solid sales growth from the Commander, which posted its best numbers of the year, and the Compass. September was also the best sales month this year for the Chrysler Crossfire.

The major problems came from Dodge, where big gains posted by the Charger, Magnum and Caravan weren't enough to overcome the big losses racked up by the Ram and Dakota pickups and the Durango SUV.

The new Dodge Nitro and Chrysler Aspen both posted better first-month sales than the Jeep Compass. The Nitro's debut total was just about 400 sales behind the Caliber's first month, so we may be able to hope for good things there.

Chrysler can also take some comfort that it did better than Honda, which came in with both a larger volume shortfall and an 8.0% decline in daily sales rate. The folks in Auburn Hills also outperformed Nissan and Hyundai, which was suffering the effects of labor problems in Korea.

Ford had the best performance of the Detroit Three. Sales of Ford's domestic car brands increased over 30% and the Explorer, Expedition and Mercury Mariner and Mountaineer all posted improved sales. Sales of the critical F-Series pickup also increased slightly. When all was said and done, Ford's September volume was up 5.29% and DSR improved by 1.24%, allowing Dearborn's favorite automaker to gain another half-point of market share. Both Volvo and Land Rover came in with better sales numbers, though the improvements weren't quite enough to stay out of the red when the numbers were adjusted for DSR.

GM gave up more than a point of market share as it came up short in car sales. Overall sales were down 7.17%, adjusted for DSR, on a volume drop of 3.46%. Truck sales were helped by the improving fuel situation and GM's new warranty but the improvements were relatively modest. It appears consumers are still leery of committing to large trucks, even new models like the Tahoe and Yukon. The brand that did the best was Cadillac where the Escalade, Escalade ESV and Escalade EXT all posted double-digit gains. Chevrolet remains America's favorite brand in year-to-date sales but Ford's improved September sales cut the bow tie's lead to just over 7300 units meaning it's still a close race.

Total light vehicle sales for September came in at just over 1.35 million units. Compared to September 2005, which had only 25 selling days, volume was up by 1.86% but daily sales rate was down 2.06%. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate was 16.63 million units, up from 16.52 million a year ago and the best showing since July.

By far the best performance of the month was delivered by Toyota. Both the Toyota and Lexus divisions posted new September sales records. 'Toyota Division sales volume was up a whopping 26.13% and it added nearly three points of market share to its total. Additional monthly sales records were set by Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Kia, and Suzuki.

September was a tough month for identifying trends. Crossovers remain the hot story but late-month sales were skewed by the dramatic drop in the price of gasoline and other factors. Domestic brands lost another 1.54 points of market share to the import brands, but picked up a bit more of the passenger car market. Passenger cars and pickups gave up share while minivans and SUV/crossovers gained. Manufacturers were offering big discounts and incentives on 2006 vehicles and even moderate incentives on some new models. According to Edmunds, Chrysler spent an average of $4,080 per new vehicle, the most of any automaker, after the disappointing results of some of their recent incentive programs.

It still seems to me Chrysler's woes are due strictly to poor product planning. The Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger are fine automobiles, but the lack of cars like the new Sebring and upcoming Avenger on dealer lots is costing Chrysler sales. The Caliber and Compass are neat vehicles, but the fact remains that Chrysler is the only full-line automaker without what consumers will identify as a mid-size car. Chrysler would have been well-advised to postpone the Aspen, fast-track the Sebring and devote significant effort to replacing the Neon. Tom LaSorda, Joe Eberhardt and Eric Ridenour are on the hot seat now, but it's pretty obvious there are some pointed questions stockholders and board members need to be asking Dr. Z about what was happening on his watch.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 04 2006, 08 AM)

Chrysler shuffles plant managers

We do not know what happened to the old plant managers, but this is Chrysler's press release:

Michael E. Orlowski has been appointed Plant Manager - Twinsburg Stamping Plant. Orlowski most recently served as Senior Manager - Business Planning Center. Twinsburg Stamping produces stampings, assemblies and miscellaneous sub-assemblies for the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan, Dodge Durango, Dodge Caliber, Dodge Ram, Dodge Dakota, Jeep Grand Cheorkee and Jeep Liberty.

Orlowski will report to Warren D. Miller, Vice President - Stamping and ASME.

Brian E. Garrison was named Plant Manager - Kokomo Transmission Plant. Previously, Garrison served as Plant Manager - Indiana Transmission Plant I. Kokomo Transmission Plant produces transmissions for front- and rear-wheel-drive Chrysler Group vehicles, including the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chrysler Town & Country, Chrysler Sebring, Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler 300, Chrysler Aspen, Dodge Caravan, Dodge Dakota, Dodge Durango, Dodge Charger, Dodge Magnum, Dodge Nitro, Dodge Ram, Jeep Liberty and Jeep Wrangler.

Joe M. Per will become Plant Manager - Indiana Transmission Plant I. Per was previously Plant Manager - Kenosha Engine Plant. Indiana Transmission Plant I produces 45 RFE RWD transmissions for Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango, Dodge Dakota, Dodge Ram and Jeep Liberty (diesel applications).

Garrison and Per will report to Brian D. Harlow, General Manager - Transmission / Casting / Machining / Axle Division.

Kevin G. Sell was appointed Plant Manager, Kenosha Engine Plant. He was formerly Manufacturing Manager, Mack Avenue Engine Plant II. Kenosha Engine Plant builds the Chrysler Group's 3.5-liter V-6 engine used in the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum and Dodge Charger; and the 2.7-liter V-6 engine used in the Chrysler 300, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum.

Sell will report to Fred Antenucci, General Manager - Engine / Casting Division.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 05 2006, 03 PM)

Controversial report finds Jeep Wrangler greenest vehicle

A report by CNW Marketing Research of Oregon studied the environmental impact of vehicles from building through scrapping, and found that the Jeep Wrangler used the least energy including manufacturing, shipping, servicing, maintenance, design, and other normally neglected aspects of car creation and use. The #2 and #3 spots were filled by the Toyota Yaris and Corolla, with other small cars (Aveo, Focus, Accent, Mazda3) rounding out the top 7 - and Jeep coming in again with the Liberty/Cherokee in the 8th slot. Overall, Jeep dominated the top 15 , followed by Toyota. Maybach came in dead last, in company with the Volkswagen Phaeton, Rolls-Royce Phantom, Bently Arnage, and a trio of Audios. The Toyota Prius ranked #74 in the 96 cars studied in the report. It should be noted that the report is controversial and has been criticized for over-emphasing the production process; assumptions about vehicle life and maintenance may be at issue too.

While many Chrysler vehicles were not in the report (including Neon, Caliber, Sebring, and Viper), it is noteworthy that no Chrysler vehicle was in the bottom half of the liset - and the PT Cruiser was in fact the lowest ranked Chrysler at #16 (of 96).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 05 2006, 05 PM)

Small, odd recall

Chrysler is recalling a small number of 2007 models with four-speed automatic transmissions, all made by mid-August 2006 (300, Magnum, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Nitro, Ram 1500, Liberty, but totally under 5,000 units) because, when the transmission is shifted from Drive to Neutral to Drive, it automatically goes to first gear - so shifting to neutral and back while driving at over 40 mph could cause the wheels to lock, resulting in a possible crash. We're not sure who drives like that, but they will need to have their computer reprogrammed.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 09 2006, 01 PM)

Ram diesels getting a little biodiesel

Dodge will start filling up its Cummins-powered Ram pickups with a 5% biodiesel fuel with the 2007 model year, expanding a program started with the Jeep Liberty. Researchers have found that as much as 100% biodiesel, properly created, can be used long-term without harm; Dodge noted however that until strict biodiesel standards propagated, only smaller proportions could be supported.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 10 2006, 02 PM)

Allpar noted in NY Times article

Ray Wert's wrap-up of ten "Snarky or Authoritative or Both" auto web sites in the New York Times listed Allpar in the #3 position, right after the BBC's Top Gear. Thanks, Ray.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 25 2006, 08 AM)

Jeep to build Hemi Wrangler pickup for SEMA; spy shots

Allpar has spy shots purported to show an upcoming Hemi-powered Wrangler pickup built for SEMA, but signalling an actual production vehicle. Currently the belief is that this will be a limited production truck made in the Conner Avenue Viper plant between Viper runs, but that an actual (non-Hemi) Jeep Wrangler pickup (to be called the Scrambler) will be made in full production, once initial demand for the new Jeeps is satiated. See the photos at http://www.allpar.com/trucks/jeep/scrambler.html

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 26 2006, 11 AM)

Jalopnik sees inside Chrysler design studio

Jalopnik was able to get into the Chrysler design studio to see SEMA concepts before the show - including a SEMA Sebring. Click here to see the photos.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 27 2006, 04 PM)

AEV introduces the Brute, Jeep Wrangler-based pickup truck and kit

AEV will formally introduce a new Jeep Wrangler pickup conversion kit, as well as new facilities to build pickups for customers who would rather have a turnkey vehicle. Their current kits work for the 1997 to 2006

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 28 2006, 10 AM)

Chrysler tries to push out old inventory

With the largest inventory in the business - including 50,000 hitherto unaccounted for vehicles sitting on lots, and dealers now refusing new shipments despite full corporate pressure - Chrysler is finally taking action to clear out inventory, at the risk of filling up its buyer channel. For employees and their relatives, Chrysler Financial has lowered its standards for extending credit, and is offering a full five year loan with no interest on all Ram 1500s, Dakotas, minivans, Libertys, and PT Cruisers. In addition, lease deals include a PT, Pacifica, Grand Cherokee, or Commander for an incredible $129 per month with under $2,000 due at signing.

An aged inventory bonus rebate of $1,000 for vehicles shipped before April 2, 2006 is also being applied. Each employee and retiree can get two Employee Choice numbers for 2006, so friends can also get these deals.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 30 2006, 12 PM)

Rumor/Speculation: DCX planning to split off Chrysler?

Rumors of a split within DaimlerChrylser were furthered even after a full disclaimer by Dieter Zetsche, as Der Spiegel quoted a board member as saying that exit scenarios were being planned. Though Chrysler and Mercedes are now closely linked in current and future product, with future V6 engines and current Mercedes SUVs based on Chrysler engineering and Chrysler using Mercedes electronics and transmission designs, the rumor mill appears to have settled on the possibility of making Chrysler a separate corporation with Daimler-Benz continuing to hold a majority share. This would bring new capital into the corporation and may even allow it to be used for mass investment by indexed American mutual funds, depending on how large a share Daimler maintained.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 31 2006, 12 PM)

Jeep Wrangler wins 4x4 of the Year

According to Mike's Jeep News, the 2007 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon beat out three Chevys, a Hummer, a Toyota, a Kia and a GMC to capture the 4x4 of the Year award by 4-Wheel & Off-Road Magazine.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 31 2006, 02 PM)

Industry update

Dura Automotive Systems filed for bankruptcy, the fifth major parts outfit to seek Chapter 11 protection since February 2005. Dura makes parking brakes, seat recliners, door hinges, and other parts, and was squeezed between rising materials costs and cutbacks by the former Big Three. Other recent bankruptcies include Tower Automotive, Collins & Aikman, Dana, and Delphi. Dura will continue to operate.

Delphi, meanwhile, has seen a large number of well-paid executives charged with fraud; six former executives including the former CFO settled with the SEC, while the former CEO, J.T. Battenberg III, has not yet settled. Thirteen executives were charged with securities violations.

ExxonMobil posted $10.5 billion in profits for the third quarter alone, giving it two records - in 2005, it posted a record-setting $10.7 billion in profits in a single quarter. ExxonMobil is expected to post a $40 billion profit for 2006.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 31 2006, 03 PM)

SEMA news

In order to feature all the new SEMA cars, we've started a SEMA 2006 wrap-up page at http://www.allpar.com/cars/concepts/sema-2006.html

Reported by DaveAdmin at (October 31 2006, 04 PM)

Sales up all 'round - adjusted for daily selling rate

GM and Ford both showed gains in October 2006 compared with October 2005, but Toyota had yet another record month, and Chrysler showed a gain only when adjusted for the daily selling rate; otherwise sales dropped 3%. Month to month, the big losers in terms of volume (not percentage) were the PT Cruiser, 300, Grand Cherokee, Neon, Stratus, and Caravan, each of which lost over 3,000 sales. On the lighter side, there were gains for the Wrangler - which nearly doubled its October 2005 sales - the Commander, which more than doubled, and the Ram, whose percentage gain was modest but whose volume gain was over 3,000 units.

Year to date, gainers were the PT Cruiser (up 4,500), Commander (a new model with nearly 73,000 sales for the year at a nice high profit margin), Charger (another new model, nearly at the 100,000 mark), and Sprinter van; the Caliber squeaked out nearly 76,000 units after a midyear introduction. However, these were more than offset by major drops in the soon to be replaced Sebring and Stratus, the already-replaced Neon, the minivans, the Pacifica, Liberty, Grand Cherokee, Magnum, Dakota, Ram, and Durango. So far this year, sales are down 9% from the same months last year, which translates to a nearly 200,000 vehicles. Chrysler currently has the highest incentives per vehicle of any manufacturer, but will need to do more to clear out the worst inventory in the industry.

More to come. Click on Full Story to see actual numbers by vehicle.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (November 01 2006, 04 PM)

October sales recap, by Bill Cawthon

Good news: the fact there were 25 selling days last month and 26 selling days in October 2005 allowed Chrysler to claim a small (0.7%) increase in sales last month. Actual sales volume was down 3.17% as a 9% improvement in light truck sales was unable to overcome a 33% deficit in passenger car sales.

Jeep was the hero in October, posting a 24% improvement in sales volume that became a 29% gain when adjusted for daily sales rate (DSR). Wrangler sales more than doubled and Commander sales were up better than 150%. Even the Liberty came in with a nice adjusted gain of 10%. The Grand Cherokee, which is fighting newer competitive models, was Jeep's weakest link with sales volume down 39%. Compass sales were off slightly from September, but still decent. To no one's surprise, the Compass isn't taking off like the Caliber. Caliber sales are well off their summer peak, but still robust and at least some of the shortfall is due to supply issues, which should be a nice problem except for the fact Chrysler needs every sale it can get right now.

When totals are adjusted for DSR, Dodge broke even in October. Volume was down about 3% because of the discontinued Neon and Stratus and weak showings from the Magnum and Caravan. Both Dodge pickups picked up some extra sales; the Ram improved by 13% in volume and the Dakota gained 7%. Minivan sales were weak across the board in October, so the Caravan hung on to its lead position by a 484-sale margin over the Toyota Sienna.

The new Nitro had the best two-month growth of any new Chrysler vehicle since the Caliber. It went from 966 sales in September to 3,044 sales in October as product became available.

Charger sales were off from September, but it's still selling in the range that has been reported all year.

One Dodge that hasn't received much notice is the Sprinter, which has been sort of a background product. It has now outsold the full-size GMC Savanna for three months in a row and scored a new sales record last month. The Sprinter isn't any threat to the Ford E-Series van, which has owned about half the total full-size van market for years, but it's nice to see the Sprinter finally establishing itself in the market.

That brings us to the flagship brand, where it was not a pretty story at all. Sales volumes for every mature line were down. The new Sebring has actually gotten off to a better start than the Compass, but it has a long way to go to match the numbers of the previous version. Of course, a lot of those numbers came from sales to rental fleets and Chrysler made a point of noting it was selling more cars at retail and fewer cars to the rental companies, but the large incentives Auburn Hills is having to slap on existing inventory is likely eating up any additional profits realized through increased retail sales.

And that's the problem. In October, Chrysler spent more than anyone else to move the metal. Chrysler incentive spending was up a few dollars, but everyone else was spending less. GM lowered its average incentive per vehicle by $676 per vehicle sold and Ford chopped $845. Chrysler's average incentive was almost $1000 higher than Ford's and over $1700 higher than General Motors'. Jeep and Dodge spent the most on incentives; Jeep's outlay averaged $5,763.

As if to rub salt in the wound, both Ford and GM announced significantly improved sales in October. GM was up an adjusted 21.5% and Ford came in right at 13.2% ahead of October 2005. Ford got an added bonus as its namesake brand passed Chevrolet in year-to-date sales.

Thanks to big incentives and lower gas prices, light trucks, including pickups, vans and SUV/crossovers, claimed their largest share of the light vehicle market since last December. GM's new full-size SUVs nearly tripled their year-ago sales and Ford's new Expedition and Navigator posted substantial improvements. Pickups were the big winners, though, picking up nearly 2.4 points of market share. Full-size pickups captured their largest piece of the pie since March.

Overall industry sales volume was up 6.14% in October with a total of 1,216,760 light vehicle sales reported by the major manufacturers. Adjusting for the fewer selling days, the improvement grew to 10.39%. That translates to a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of about 16.16 million light vehicles. That's down from September, but well ahead of October 2005's anemic 14.84 million. By the way, that's one reason GM and Ford looked so good; both had terrible months last year. In October 2005, after the summer of employee pricing, payback was painful as Ford sales dropped 23% and GM plunged nearly 33%. By contrast, Chrysler's sales results were pretty much the same as this year's: a small decline in volume turned into a small gain adjusted for daily selling rates.

Toyota set another sales record, as did Lexus. Toyota is now about 72,000 sales ahead of Chrysler for the year and Lexus has another lock on the luxury segment crown.

Another brand reporting record sales was Chrysler's sibling Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes came within 225 sales of knocking BMW out of second place for the month. Mercedes volume was up 12.26%, well ahead of the 10.18% increase recorded by Toyota.

Other makes with improved sales include Honda and Nissan, which reported improved sales for the first time in several months. Honda is becoming increasingly dependent on its light truck line, as sales of its Accord and Civic are declining. The once-mighty Accord, which battled regularly with the Taurus and Camry for the top spot in the passenger car segment, is now in third place, over 70,000 sales behind the Camry, which will cruise to another easy victory. Nissan also got a nice boost from its light trucks, but car sales were up, as well.

Domestic brands picked up 1.37 points of total market share in October as well as nearly a half-point of the passenger car market.

The coming months could be interesting and it's going to be tough to call the trends. Due to the unusually calm tropical weather and the current international situation, gas prices are at levels not seen in a couple of years. However, OPEC is already taking steps to boost the price of oil and the Farmer's Almanac is forecasting a cold winter for much of the United States, meaning there could be heavy demand for home heating oil, which competes with gasoline for refinery capacity. Plus, action on any number of international fronts could drive oil prices quickly back to the levels we saw earlier this year. In addition, the economy does seem to be weakening and some economists are already raising flags about the effects of the production and personnel cuts that are already making themselves felt, not only in the auto and supplier industries, but in the general economy. Even with October's overall improvement in light vehicle sales, the industry is still roughly 3% or about 415,000 sales behind the first ten months of 2005 and analysts are looking for year-end totals around 16.5 million sales, well below the nearly 17 million recorded last year. November isn't usually a strong month, meaning automakers will be looking for big December sales to finish the year.

On the other hand, there is some great new product out there; something for nearly every taste and pocketbook. And the signs are showing that automakers are a bit nervous; rebates are still healthy and some credit requirements are being loosened to allow more consumers to get preferred financing rates. So get set for an interesting ride, we still have two months to go.

See Full Story for detail tables, or the prior news item for Chrysler-only sales tables.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (November 02 2006, 09 AM)

State of the Minivan on about.com

About.com has posted an article on the 2008 Chrysler minivans and Chrysler's market-share issues. The Dodge Caravan currently remains in the lead by less than 500 units, and the 2008s are said to be a serious departure from current minis. About.com's article includes a perspective on minivans from Chrysler's Ann Fandozzi.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (November 02 2006, 09 AM)

smart to be sold in the US - by Roger Penske

Roger Penske's United Auto Group will retail the smart fortwo in the United States starting in early 2008, providing 30 to 50 dealerships, according to the Associated Press. Last year, smart sold 4,000 vehicles in Canada, doubling their forecast. The fortwo, powered by a three-cylinder, 0.7 liter engine, should average 40 miles per gallon in combined driving and is projected to sell for under $15,000 (roughly the price of base Corollas).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (November 02 2006, 01 PM)

CEOs meet with Bush

After six years in office, George W. Bush agreed to meet with domestic auto industry CEOs (Chrysler Group is, for these purposes, counted as domestic). He had already visited several foreign-owned assembly plants operating within the United States. According to a joint statement, the CEOs covered the following ground:

1. Energy security and the need to lessen the use of petrochemicals, stressing E85 and biodiesel as options.

2. Manufacturing competitiveness and the number of jobs (7 million) and investment ($38 billion over four years) directly or indirectly coming from the domestic automakers. The CEOs noted that "Some of our principal foreign competitors benefit immensely from national control and subsidization of health care costs in their home countries, and from fiscal and trade policies which keep local currencies weak and make import of U.S. products difficult."

3. Health care - the CEOs noted the problem of spiraling health cost and asked the government to exercise its power "both as the largest purchaser of health care and as a policy maker to stabilize costs" and increase quality and information accuracy. They also called for a greater focus on those with serious or chronic illnesses, who they said were 1% of the population running up 30% of the tab.

4. Currency - the CEOs said that part of their problem was the "artificially weak value of the yen," which they said gave the japanese automakers a $3,000 to $9,000 per vehicle cost subsidy.

5. Material costs - the domestic steel industry is now profitable, but is still protected by various barriers, driving up the cost of steel to the domestic auto industry.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (November 15 2006, 02 PM)

Chrysler 300 video

Midwest Media recently completed a full length DVD (1hr 40min) commemorating the 50th anniv of the Chrysler 300 Letter Car. This project took nearly 2 years to complete and includes vintage footage provided by Chrysler as well as interviews and footage of 300 owner's and their cars. It has a special clip from Burt Bouwkamp speaking about Bob Rodger and his work with the early 300 letter cars during the NASCAR racing days. For details, see http://www.the300project.com/

Reported by DaveAdmin at (November 17 2006, 02 PM)

Chrysler Nassau, Jeep Trailhawk concepts

The Jeep Trailhawk concept, a mid-sized SUV built on the Wrangler platform, and the Chrysler Nassau, a luxury version of the 300 series with Cadillac influences, were released in drawing form and will appear at NAIAS. Chrysler spokesman Rick Deneau said the Nassau "could be the face of the future Chrysler cars, though certainly none of that has been decided."

We now have a page showing these concepts.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (November 22 2006, 08 AM)

DCX to drop one Chinese joint venture, go to another?

According to the 21st Century Business Herald, DaimlerChrysler AG will buy nearly a quarter of Beiqi Foton Motor Co Ltd (SHA 600166), a company listed in China which makes heavy-duty trucks in local markets.
Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co has 32% of the company. While talks have reportedly been ongoing, China only allows foreign companies to have limited investments, and DCX already has joint ventures in DaimlerChrysler Vans (China) Ltd and Yaxing Benz Ltd. To acquire 24% of this new company, DCX will sell its share of Yaxing Benz to its partner, Jiangsu Yaxing.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (November 22 2006, 09 AM)

Chrysler targets new groups

Chrysler has started to target nontraditional groups, according to Automotive News, with ads in Mandarin, Korean, Spanish, and Hindi. Though black and Hispanic buyers are now less than 5% of Chrysler-brand's new vehicle sales, and just over 1% for Asian-Americans, the company is now using TV commercials and Web pages in multiple languages to try to appeal to these groups; the company is also appearing at Hispanic-targeted events. A separate campaign, including ride-and-drive events tied to Patti LaBelle's gospel tour, will hit large black churches as well. The Chrysler Sebring is being particularly promoted.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (November 26 2006, 06 PM)

Chrysler shows Sebring Convertible

Chrysler is unveiling the 2008 Sebring Convertible today, complete with not one but three tops. Read about the 2008 Sebring Convertible at http://www.allpar.com/cars/chrysler/sebring-convertible.html.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (November 29 2006, 07 AM)

Chrysler reports sales uptick

Chrysler reported higher sales in November 2006 than in November 2005, with a 3% gain. Details will be released later along with Bill Cawthon's analysis, but a preliminary look shows Chrysler Group selling 165,556 vehicles in November 2006 vs 159,898 in November 2005. Year to date Chrysler is doing poorly, with an 8% decline from 2.12 million to 2.0 million vehicles.

Addition: Ford saw an overall 10% drop, cars falling 3% and trucks 13%. GM is expected to show an 8% increase due partly to weakness in Novmber 2005. Toyota showed an amazing growth spurt of 16% thanks partly to the Camry, but Toyota trucks were the real winners, jumping 23%. Nissan fell about 2% despite a 12% rise in car sales.

See full story for the individual sales figures.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 01 2006, 01 PM)

Chrysler sales in depth

A few days before new car sales figures are released, I get a press release from a well-respected auto authority with their predictions of the coming results. Sometimes they're pretty close, but this wasn't one of those times. On the other hand, some market analysts were looking at predictions based on information from the folks at another automotive authority, which predicted a slow month. They weren't right either.

Chrysler confounded the prognosticators by posting its best November totals in five years. Contrary to a predicted shortfall of 3%, Chrysler sales were up 2.91%, thanks to solid performances from several models. 'Most improved' honors go to the Jeep Commander which posted a 95% improvement. Runner-up is the new Wrangler with a 95% gain over November 2005. The Wrangler also set a November sales record. Double-digit increases were also posted by the PT Cruiser, Pacifica and new Sebring. Sales of the Ram pickup and Caravan were also up by 8% and 7% respectively.

More encouraging is the fact dealers are placing plenty of orders for the new Wrangler and Dodge Nitro. Sebring sales are also good news, hitting their highest point since last April.

Of course, the biggest news for November is that Toyota Motor Sales (Toyota and Lexus) and DaimlerChrysler (Chrysler Group and Mercedes) both passed Ford, including Ford's Premier Automotive Group brands Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Toyota Division also outsold Ford's domestic brands and Chrysler Group itself was within 1,638 sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury. Toyota and Lexus combined outsold Ford's combined domestic and PAG sales in July 2006, but this is the first time Toyota Division, by itself, has outsold Ford's domestic brands as well as the first time the combined totals of Chrysler and Mercedes sales came in ahead of Ford.

Ford also confounded the market seers, who had predicted an improvement of about 2.1%. Instead, a drop in car sales, led by a 53% plunge in sales of the lackluster Five Hundred, combined with continued weakness in light truck sales to leave Ford 10.6% behind November 2005. Especially painful was a 16% drop in sale of Ford's vital F-series pickup, a deficit some industry observers attribute to Dodge's aggressive promotion of the Ram. When it was all over, Ford had given up over two points of market share and fallen behind Chevrolet as America's best-selling brand.

GM, on the other hand, enjoyed a very good November. Sales were up over 5.9% and the new GMT900 light trucks continue to sell at a good pace. The Impala moved up to third place in passenger car sales, the first time an American car has been among the top three since the Chevy Cobalt in June 2005. GM actually managed to pick 0.7 point of market share.

Contrary to predictions of a shortfall, overall industry sales were up 2.89% compared to November 2005. Light vehicle sales totaled 1,198,486 yielding a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 16.04 million light vehicles, the lowest rate since October 2005. Year-to-date sales are running about 2% behind the first eleven months of 2005 and some economists and financial analysts are hinting there may be trouble ahead as a softening economy takes a toll on new car buying.

Despite the good results from Chrysler and GM, the Detroit automakers gave up another 1.39% of the market to foreign brands and were able to claim just 51.88% of light vehicle sales, their smallest share ever.

Toyota sales were up over 18% and Lexus sales were up 4% as both divisions once again set monthly sales records. But this month, results from the Asian carmakers were very uneven. Honda and Nissan both missed their marks while their premium divisions improved. Acura set a new November sales record. Hyundai sales were off 14.88% while its subsidiary, Kia, brought in a 10.51% improvement. Mazda sales were up 16.8%, putting the company 4.1% ahead in year-to-date (YTD) sales. Subaru, Suzuki numbers were up and Mitsubishi continued its long recovery. Isuzu, which really can't be counted as an import brand, since all it sells is rebadged GM vehicles, continued its descent into oblivion with total sales of 565 vehicles. To put that number into context, Mercedes sold almost that many SLKs.

Several of the European automakers had good Novembers. Mercedes came in with one of its best sales months in 42 years. Sales were up 20.76% driven by strong performances from the E-Class, S-Class and GL-Class. Mercedes got a little additional boost from sales of 20 special CL600s. The Signature Edition coupes, which went for $160,000 each, were the featured gift in a Saks Fifth Avenue promotion and sold out in eight minutes.

Volvo and Audi also finished with double-digit gains. The new Audi Q7 SUV had a very good month and may propel Audi to a new annual sales record.

BMW and Volkswagen stumbled. The new 3-series is just now hitting its stride and X5 sales are down during the changeover to the new version. While it's still ahead in YTD numbers, Volkswagen is now missing the sales from its diesel-powered cars which have been withdrawn and won't be available again until next year. The company now says its U.S. operation may not be profitable until 2009.

Even though there's still another month to go, there are already some safe predictions. Ford's F-150 will celebrate a quarter-century as America's best-selling light vehicle. It's nearly 142,000 sales ahead of the second-place Chevrolet Silverado. The new Chevy is nice, but the gap's too large. The Toyota Camry will rack up another year as the top passenger car; it's about 50,000 sales ahead of the Corolla and more than 80,000 sales ahead of the Honda Accord. The Dodge Caravan's unbroken reign will continue for one more year but Chrysler better be looking out; there were some close calls this year and the Odyssey and Sienna aren't that far behind. The SUV race will come down to the wire; just 3,402 sales separate the Ford Explorer and Chevy TrailBlazer. Lexus will repeat as the top luxury brand and Cadillac will drop to number four for the first time since 2003.

Next month should be interesting. December is traditionally a good month for light trucks, which may play to Detroit's advantage. If Chrysler's new vehicles can stay on track, there could be some more good news from the fine folks in Auburn Hills.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 02 2006, 01 PM)

Chrysler sales in depth

A few days before new car sales figures are released, I get a press release from a well-respected auto authority with their predictions of the coming results. Sometimes they're pretty close, but this wasn't one of those times. On the other hand, some market analysts were looking at predictions based on information from the folks at another automotive authority, which predicted a slow month. They weren't right either.

Chrysler confounded the prognosticators by posting its best November totals in five years. Contrary to a predicted shortfall of 3%, Chrysler sales were up 2.91%, thanks to solid performances from several models. 'Most improved' honors go to the Jeep Commander which posted a 95% improvement. Runner-up is the new Wrangler with a 95% gain over November 2005. The Wrangler also set a November sales record. Double-digit increases were also posted by the PT Cruiser, Pacifica and new Sebring. Sales of the Ram pickup and Caravan were also up by 8% and 7% respectively.

More encouraging is the fact dealers are placing plenty of orders for the new Wrangler and Dodge Nitro. Sebring sales are also good news, hitting their highest point since last April.

Of course, the biggest news for November is that Toyota Motor Sales (Toyota and Lexus) and DaimlerChrysler (Chrysler Group and Mercedes) both passed Ford, including Ford's Premier Automotive Group brands Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Toyota Division also outsold Ford's domestic brands and Chrysler Group itself was within 1,638 sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury. Toyota and Lexus combined outsold Ford's combined domestic and PAG sales in July 2006, but this is the first time Toyota Division, by itself, has outsold Ford's domestic brands as well as the first time the combined totals of Chrysler and Mercedes sales came in ahead of Ford.

Ford also confounded the market seers, who had predicted an improvement of about 2.1%. Instead, a drop in car sales, led by a 53% plunge in sales of the lackluster Five Hundred, combined with continued weakness in light truck sales to leave Ford 10.6% behind November 2005. Especially painful was a 16% drop in sale of Ford's vital F-series pickup, a deficit some industry observers attribute to Dodge's aggressive promotion of the Ram. When it was all over, Ford had given up over two points of market share and fallen behind Chevrolet as America's best-selling brand.

GM, on the other hand, enjoyed a very good November. Sales were up over 5.9% and the new GMT900 light trucks continue to sell at a good pace. The Impala moved up to third place in passenger car sales, the first time an American car has been among the top three since the Chevy Cobalt in June 2005. GM actually managed to pick 0.7 point of market share.

Contrary to predictions of a shortfall, overall industry sales were up 2.89% compared to November 2005. Light vehicle sales totaled 1,198,486 yielding a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 16.04 million light vehicles, the lowest rate since October 2005. Year-to-date sales are running about 2% behind the first eleven months of 2005 and some economists and financial analysts are hinting there may be trouble ahead as a softening economy takes a toll on new car buying.

Despite the good results from Chrysler and GM, the Detroit automakers gave up another 1.39% of the market to foreign brands and were able to claim just 51.88% of light vehicle sales, their smallest share ever.

Toyota sales were up over 18% and Lexus sales were up 4% as both divisions once again set monthly sales records. But this month, results from the Asian carmakers were very uneven. Honda and Nissan both missed their marks while their premium divisions improved. Acura set a new November sales record. Hyundai sales were off 14.88% while its subsidiary, Kia, brought in a 10.51% improvement. Mazda sales were up 16.8%, putting the company 4.1% ahead in year-to-date (YTD) sales. Subaru, Suzuki numbers were up and Mitsubishi continued its long recovery. Isuzu, which really can't be counted as an import brand, since all it sells is rebadged GM vehicles, continued its descent into oblivion with total sales of 565 vehicles. To put that number into context, Mercedes sold almost that many SLKs.

Several of the European automakers had good Novembers. Mercedes came in with one of its best sales months in 42 years. Sales were up 20.76% driven by strong performances from the E-Class, S-Class and GL-Class. Mercedes got a little additional boost from sales of 20 special CL600s. The Signature Edition coupes, which went for $160,000 each, were the featured gift in a Saks Fifth Avenue promotion and sold out in eight minutes.

Volvo and Audi also finished with double-digit gains. The new Audi Q7 SUV had a very good month and may propel Audi to a new annual sales record.

BMW and Volkswagen stumbled. The new 3-series is just now hitting its stride and X5 sales are down during the changeover to the new version. While it's still ahead in YTD numbers, Volkswagen is now missing the sales from its diesel-powered cars which have been withdrawn and won't be available again until next year. The company now says its U.S. operation may not be profitable until 2009.

Even though there's still another month to go, there are already some safe predictions. Ford's F-150 will celebrate a quarter-century as America's best-selling light vehicle. It's nearly 142,000 sales ahead of the second-place Chevrolet Silverado. The new Chevy is nice, but the gap's too large. The Toyota Camry will rack up another year as the top passenger car; it's about 50,000 sales ahead of the Corolla and more than 80,000 sales ahead of the Honda Accord. The Dodge Caravan's unbroken reign will continue for one more year but Chrysler better be looking out; there were some close calls this year and the Odyssey and Sienna aren't that far behind. The SUV race will come down to the wire; just 3,402 sales separate the Ford Explorer and Chevy TrailBlazer. Lexus will repeat as the top luxury brand and Cadillac will drop to number four for the first time since 2003.

Next month should be interesting. December is traditionally a good month for light trucks, which may play to Detroit's advantage. If Chrysler's new vehicles can stay on track, there could be some more good news from the fine folks in Auburn Hills.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 02 2006, 01 PM)

Chrysler resorts to massive dealer subsidies

According to this Detroit News article sent in by Paul Holmgren, Chrysler is offering about half a billion dollars in extra subsidies to dealers, of up to $7,000 per vehicle, to make deals with customers to clear out remaining 2006 inventories. The company's astonishing 647,000 vehicles on hand in July have been reduced to roughly half a million vehicles in November, if figures are accurate and fully inclusive. About 1/3 of the inventory is 2006 models, according to the article. This ties into a direct mail campaign that sent 3.4 million customers a $1,000 coupon.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 04 2006, 10 AM)

Joe Eberhardt takes the rap

Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda announced that the much anticipated departure of Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing Joe Eberhardt is official, with Eberhardt tossed back over to Mercedes, where he will work with the American Mercedes-Benz dealer network. His departure appears to be immediate, and those who reported to him will now report directly to LaSorda. Eberhardt was sent to Chrysler in 2003, and has been unpopular among fans and dealers alike; he has been blamed for the creation of the sales bank of un-ordered vehicles, a financial and marketing disaster. Campaigns conducted under his watch, including two "German engineering" campaigns that correlated with sales downturns and the Dr. Z ads, have been criticized as ineffective or actually harmful.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 05 2006, 02 PM)

Aspen reviewed at acarplace

Acarplace.com has posted a Chrysler Aspen car review. An Allpar version will arrive on Monday with photos.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 05 2006, 04 PM)

New Cragar wheels for A-bodies

Newstalgia Wheel has made a deal with Cragar to produce the 5 x 4 small bolt Cragar SS wheels (for A-bodies) in a limited production run of 14 x 6 up to 15 x 8 sizes. They will be taking pre-orders since it is a limited production run. Newstalgia Wheel is at 800-281-2819.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 11 2006, 01 PM)

Freep on out of control sales bank

According to this Detroit Free Press article, not only does Chrysler still have 100,000 vehicles in its sales bank, but it does not intend to stop building cars without orders. The article quoted Jason Vines as saying that every volume maker produces some un-ordered vehicles, and noted that GM and Ford both deny following this practice. The article questioned Chrysler's commitment to closing the sales banks (vehicles produced without orders), and noted that even without the sales bank, Joe Eberhardt - a Mercedes import - had been pressuring dealers to over-order. (Inventories remain high even if the sales bank is not taken into account.)

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 11 2006, 03 PM)

Chrysler to continue Limited Edition Signature Series in 2007 models

Chrysler announced that it would make Limited Edition Signature Series Models of the 2007 Chrysler 300, Pacifica, PT Cruiser and Town & Country.

The Chrysler Signature Series package was available for the past two model years. In each case, it includes Signature Edition labels or nameplates. All prices listed include destination charge.

On the 300 Touring, it will add a navigation system, unique two-tone leather front seats, Sirius Satellite Radio, 17 inch chrome plated wheels, chrome front grille, and Boston Acoustics six speaker stereo. The list price will be $30,690.

On the Pacifica Touring, it will add the navigation system, rear backup camera and sensors, heated seats, cargo convenience group, 19 inch bright wheels, and unique interior trim. The total cost will be $32,570 (the all wheel drive model is another $2,040).

On the Town & Country Touring, it will bring rear seat video, navigation system, moonroof, unique leather trim, and a silver/woodgrain center stack bezel. The total cost will be $33,645.

On the PT Touring, it will add 16 inch chrome-plated wheels, cruise, a six-way power driver's seat, moonroof, lumbar adjuster, YES Essentials cloth seats, leather wrapped steering wheel, front seat mounted side airbags, chrome cupholder rings, chrome automatic shifter bezel, and Sirius Satellite Radio, bringing the PT price to $20,050 (add $835 for an automatic).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 12 2006, 03 PM)

Jeep Wrangler gets five-star crash test rating

According to Jeep News Now, the Jeep Wrangler got a five star crash test rating from NHTSA for both driver and passenger. The chance of rollover in a single car crash was set at 19% for rear wheel drive (four stars) and 27% for four wheel drive (3 stars). The tested vehicles had electronic stability control.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 13 2006, 01 PM)

Chrysler to finally stop production on overstocked vehicles

According to a Detroit News article, Chrysler will temporarily stop making the Dodge Ram, Commander, Liberty, Magnum, PT Cruiser, and some minivans in January, extending the normal holiday break. Chrysler currently has at least 164,000 vehicles in inventory. A recent article in the Detroit Free Press noted the irony of running plants on overtime to build vehicles for the sales bank, a collection of roughly 100,000 vehicles never ordered by or sold to dealers.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 14 2006, 08 AM)

DCX found guilty of shifting money around

This Oregon Live article discusses how DaimlerChrysler and its acquired Freightliner subsidiary moved money around illegally to create the illusion of not having money, which would make Freightliner unable to meet its legal obligations. Some analysts have noted that this makes Chrysler's many stated losses - and Mercedes' stated profits - highly suspect, as profits could easily have been siphoned out of Chrysler accounts and into Mercedes accounts, giving the appearance of losses at Chrysler. This would provide the needed excuse for DCX to slash jobs and factories in the United States, theoretically providing higher short-term profits for use by German divisions while hollowing out the American industrial base.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 17 2006, 05 PM)

Chrysler Firepower idea killed off

The Chrysler Firepower, essentially a modified Viper with a Hemi and automatic instead of a V-10 and manual, was to have helped spread the engineering costs of the Viper over more vehicles, not unlike the current Corvette and Evoq. However, Chrysler determined it would cost too much to build, according to Ward's Auto, and has cancelled the project.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 18 2006, 08 AM)

Delphi gets new lease on life

Parts supplier Delphi, once part of General Motors and currently a major supplier to Chrysler, has gotten a $3.4 billion financing deal; the board also named Rodney O'Neil to replace ex-Chrysler executive Robert S. Miller as CEO. Delphi had been criticized for demanding that union workers take drastic cuts as it gave multimillion dollar rewards to executives, and for its plans to move large amounts of work to China. Delphi still plans to close 21 of its 29 United States plants, either dropping their business entirely or moving it to offshore.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 18 2006, 10 AM)

Kasey Kahne racing sponsored by Mopar

Kasey Kahne Racing has been selected as Mopar's factory race team in the USAC National Midget and Sprint Series, as well as the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, for the 2007 racing season. Kasey Kahne Racing will field two USAC National Midget Car Series teams, two USAC National Sprint Car Series teams, and a World of Outlaws Sprint Series team for the upcoming racing season.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 19 2006, 10 AM)

Chrysler show cars for NAIAS

Though we'll be at NAIAS on January 8 and 9 to get a first-hand look at the concepts, you can get a preview now at Jalopnik, which has surprisingly detailed photos or drawings of the new concepts.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 19 2006, 04 PM)

Freightliner moves work to Mexico

Even as Freightliner reportedly makes deep cuts in its American production workforce, the DaimlerChrysler commercial truckmaker is opening a new $300 million plant in Saltillo, Mexico to meet 2009 demand. This will be the division's second Mexican plant.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 20 2006, 01 PM)

New die-cast Challenger car

Highway 61 Collectables now has a 18:1 scale die-cast Challenger concept car, which is reportedly more detailed than the Maisto version. The Walter P. Chrysler Museum is selling these for $65 from the gift shop.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 20 2006, 01 PM)

Mercedes makes massive incentives

Lost in the news about Chrysler's inventory problems was Mercedes' own apparent issues. While Mercedes is not cheapening their brand with open rebates, dealers are currently getting incentives to move 2006 models out the door, ranging from a mere $1,500 on the CLK to $20,000 on the CL65 AMG. Five-digit ($10,000 and up) incentives to dealers have also been placed on the CL55 AMG, CL Class, ($12,500 to $20,000), and R Class ($7,000 - $10,000). Chrysler is not currently offering dealer incentives, but its top rebate of $7,000 is available for the Durango and some Rams. Even Toyota is offering some dealer incentives and rebates, including up to $2,000 in rebates on the truck-based Sequoia plus a dealer incentive of up to another $2,000 (Information reported by Automotive News).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 20 2006, 03 PM)

Patriot production started today

The Jeep Patriot started production today. For details, see our full Patriot page.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 20 2006, 03 PM)

Superchips produces Cummins component

Superchips has released a new Firefly computer for the 2004 1/2 to 2007 Dodge trucks with 5.9 liter Cummins engine. The company claims gains of up to 65 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. It plugs into the factory sensor connectors and can monitor boost pressure and exhaust temperature. Power levels can be changed on the fly. Allpar has not tested this device.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 21 2006, 02 PM)

Mercedes caught on EPA violations

Mercedes agreed to pay $1.2 million in fines for not telling the EPA about problems with pollution control systems on over 100,000 vehicles made from 1998 to 2006. Mercedes also agreed to improve its investigation and reporting of emission systems failures, which is estimated to cost about $1 million per year. Fixing the pollution control defects in these cars is estimated to cost about $59 million, including two recalls and extended warranty coverage. 79,000 of the vehicles were the M-Class, with defective catalytic converters. About 20,000 S and CL Class cars will get an extended warranty on the catalytic converters to 10 years with unimited miles.

In addition, and separately, 29,000 AMG Mercedes will need a secondary relay to be replaced in their air pumps; they will also get a software update.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 22 2006, 08 AM)

LaSorda to present yet more cutbacks?

According to the Detroit News, Tom LaSorda presented a "turnaround plan" to the DCX management board in Germany. The official announcement will be in February. Likely to be eliminated is the Newark Durango/Aspen plant. McKinsey is currently working on the plan, which some organizational consultants say is not a good sign; the choice of McKinsey was probably made in Stuttgart, since they worked with Mercedes on their turnaround plan. Mercedes reduced staff, cut costs, and allegedly funneled extra cash in from Chrysler to regain profitability.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 22 2006, 08 AM)

New Viper's cover blown by Road & Track

Autoblog noted that Road & Track has blown the 2008 Dodge Viper embargo by posting a thumbnail of its upcoming February issue, with the caption "600 BHP Dodge Viper SRT-10" over a photo of what appears to be a 2008 Viper, complete with what appears to be hood vents. Autoblog noted that the release of the 2008 Viper information was January 9.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 27 2006, 07 PM)

Bristol fighter uses turbocharged Viper power

For those who find that 525 lb-ft of torque is not enough, British automaker Bristol, which has long used Mopar engines, has added not one but two turbochargers to the Viper V10. The Bristol Fighter T, due in September 2007, delivers more than 900 lb.ft of torque from 5,350 rpm to the rev limit of 6000 rpm. The potential maximum speed of more than 270 mph has been electronically limited to 225 mph at 4500 rpm. Bristol claims that 0 to 60 mph is achieved in less than 3.5 seconds.

Peak ratings are 1012 bhp at 5600 rpm, with 1036 lb.ft of torque at 4500 rpm.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 28 2006, 09 AM)

2008 Viper unveiled

Thanks to a major magazine releasing embargoed Viper information a week ahead of schedule, Allpar has posted details of the new 2008 Dodge Viper (click here).

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 28 2006, 10 AM)

NAIAS intros, early: Nassau, Trailhawk, 600 hp Viper

Thanks to various print magazines and blogs spilling the beans, we can bring you news on the new 600 horsepower Viper, Hemi-powered 0-60-in-5-second Nassau, and CRD-powered Trailhawk a bit early. See these links: 2008 Dodge Viper, Chrysler Nassau concept car, and Jeep Trailhawk.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 29 2006, 09 AM)

China car to arrive in 2008

We don't know if the name Hornet will remain, but a B-sized car will be made in China by Chery Automobile for Chrysler to sell under the Dodge brand throughout the world. The car will have a Chrysler engine, possibly imported to China, and will ride on a basic Chery chassis with a body-shell designed by Chrysler - again, though, riding on a basic Chery architecture and chassis. This means that Chery or Chrysler may design the suspension - we don't know yet. The cars are due to arrive for sale in the United States and Canada within calendar-year 2008. The primary competition will be the Japanese-built Yaris and Fit, and the Korean-built Aveo (which includes GM engineering). Volumes are expected to be small in the US with most sales in Europe and other markets. The idea of building cars in China appears to have originated with Daimler's Ruediger Grube.

Reported by DaveAdmin at (December 30 2006, 02 PM)


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