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Chrysler at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS)

also see Grand Cherokee, Grand Cherokee SRT8, Compass201120122012 NYCPress Kits

Lighting Photography Crowd Night Event

Jeep Grand Cherokee and Compass Launch

See the press kitsSergio interview
Chrysler chief Saad Chebad interview
Maserati Quattroporte

Despite being the first major launch of the day, at 8 am, Jeep attracted a massive crowd, which grew as reporters came in from the cold. There was not only no room on the stands, or near the stands; the crowd overflowed for a considerable area beyond. The Maserati launch, at a more civilized (though less "news-wire friendly") 3:30 pm, attracted, in total, about as many reporters as were overflowing from the Jeep seats.

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The launch provided little new information that was not already available from the press releases - no specific pricing, no acceleration figures.

The biggest surprise for me, personally, was the change in the Compass' seats. If the Compass on-stage was any indication, we have a new winner for "most comfortable Chrysler Group seats." The leather was soft but gripping, and the seat was both supportive and comfortable - the closest experience was our 100,000 mile 300M.

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The Grand Cherokees look sharp in person, just as they do in photos; the rear seats were overly firm, but the backs reclined, which helped. The front seats were relatively comfortable, though, oddly, to my personal taste, not as comfortable as those in the relatively cheap Compass next to them. The Grand Cherokee interiors were certainly better looking, topping the already fine prior generation.

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The new Launch Control button on the SRT8 is a fine addition; the old invocation of shifting into Neutral and hitting the gas three times while howling at the moon (as you may have guessed, we've forgotten the actual activation method) was clearly not meant to be permanent, and it didn't take Jeep long to find a good place for the button. It's easy to reach, and looks hard to hit by accident.

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Likewise, the customizable dashboard has been improved from its original incarnation on the Dart, mainly due to the use of a new, different steering wheel - the second, if we're counting correctly, in three years. This one has an "arrow key pad" built in, which makes configuring the dashboard easy. We have some photos of various configurations, both from the real car and from the UConnect display... coming soon.

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We have a separate section for Grand Cherokee and other Jeep-launch press kits. They did an amazing job on the kit, with a heavy steel box containing a few odd items along with the books and USB drive.

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Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, SRT, Ram ... Ferrari, Maserati

This year, the dress code seemed to have been significantly relaxed; in the past, suits were practically a requirement, but as time goes on, more people among the press and the manufacturers seem to be able to leave their ties at home, and to wear the comfortable shoes that a large show practically demands. Part of the reason is probably the increase in videographers (who rarely suit up) and, to a much lesser degree, nontraditional media.

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Coming in, one walked past several displays - one from Michelin, sponsor of the large press room; and one large area belonging to the unfortunately named GAC Group, with three smart-looking Chinese cars. Their concept looked more like a rendering than a real car, but it was indeed real ... at least, it was a real body.

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The Chrysler area was invisible from the main entrances, but it's back there, in its customary Detroit spot - in dead center of the show floor. By the main entrance (the middle one), we went past Mercedes and smart, seeing only the Maserati sign until we were practically there.

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Word from the show floor is that dealers will pay over $105,000 for this customized SRT Viper before the Mopar enhancements.

Speaking of Mercedes, it was a bit odd to see the smart car display taking up the same space as the Mercedes one; it seems that Mercedes is going all-out to lose as much money on smart cars as possible. Detroit seems an unlikely place to sell any; it's only well suited to crowded cities with parking-space shortages and slow street speeds. The "uncompromise" slogan hardly seems fitting for a car that's tiny, slow, relatively unsafe, and seems to be priced against the much larger, faster, safer Nissan Versa... without even getting the kind of mileage one would want from a microcar. The smart car makes the Fiat 500 look like a high-end car at a bargain price.

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Every brand got around the same space, according to the show map, but in reality it seemed as though the Fiat premium brands were much smaller. These were Ferrari and Maserati; Ferrari had just two cars, a "conventional" Ferrari and an F1 car featuring a "photograph yourself with the car" setup.

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Maserati, in addition to having the only sign visible from the hall entrance, had the new Maserati Quattroporte, reportedly based on the LX platform, but clearly a Maserati now. The schedule announced by Sergio Marchionne has the Quattroporte coming first, then the similar but smaller Ghibli, then the Grand Cherokee based Levante.

Quattroporte uses two twin-turbo engines, a V6 and a V8, both "pure Maserati." Word from Auburn Hills is that the V6 actually uses the Pentastar block, made by Chrysler, but that all the finishing is done by Maserati in Italy - even the most basic steps. Only the raw block, we were told, is supplied by Chrysler. Even with a Chrysler block, it is still truly a Maserati engine.

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Alfa Romeo was a no-show, not surprisingly, given Sergio Marchionne's statement:

while we're doing all this, we will also progress on Alfa Romeo. But Alfa Romeo and Maseratis are premium vehicles. They can afford absolutely zero degrees of error. Power trains, setup, looks need to be absolutely perfect. So we're going to take our time and make sure that we execute across the whole range the commitment that we're making both on Alfa and Maserati.
As for the Chrysler brands - the best way to describe them, is to show them, starting with a "turbine concept" - which shares the color of its paint with some of the famed Chrysler turbine cars.

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Other brands

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Public Days of the Detroit Auto Show

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Cobo Hall has parking inside, on the roof, and at private garages nearby, along with shuttle service from the Detroit Zoo and other locations; Cobo is also on the People Mover route. If you're not coming first thing in the morning, the Zoo plus shuttle may be the best way in.

The Cobo lots have reasonable prices, but might, for security reasons, have been deemed unavailable to ordinary people (during press days, the lots were both restricted). Surrounding private lots cost more ($10-15), but are nowhere near New York standards ($50).

Parking is reasonable, food is not; try leaving the Hall for a local eatery. Ten dollars will buy a tuna sandwhich in poor condition, inside Cobo. On the lighter side, the main food area, renamed "Go Natural," now has fresh food, never frozen, and with no preservatives or artificial flavoring or colors. While the prices were as unreasonable least year, now at least the ingredients are better - as an example, the eggs come from cage-free chickens.

The most visible parts of the renovation are mainly in the downstairs atrium, which some visitors may not get to, and the main entrance; some of the washrooms have been redone and others are original, but all of them work well, other than not having hot water (on Monday, at least), and were clean. Overall, Cobo remains a far superior hall to New York's Javits Center. Cobo's renovation is still in progress, but so far, it seems to have been going well.

If you live in the area, go to the auto show. It is one of the grandest shows in the country and the facilities have been nicely upgraded.

Games Technology Inflatable Sky World

Also see: 2013 press kitsSergio Marchionne interviewSaad Chebad interview2014 JGC

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