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Less Than Perfect: Consumer Reports Worst Four Vehicles

Magazine flogs cellar dwelling 2015 models.

by on Sep.02, 2015

The Chrysler 200 was rated one of the four worst vehicles in 2015 by Consumer Reports.

Lost in all the fanfare surrounding Consumer Reports awarding a perfect score to the Tesla Model S in its recent listing of best vehicles is the fact that there is a bottom of the list and the cellar dwellers may be surprising.

The four worst vehicles for 2015 are: Chrysler 200, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Lexus 200t/300h and Kia Sedona. The magazine separated these four vehicles from the pack in its annual analysis of new vehicle releases.

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The 200 may be the most disappointing to see on the list as it’s substantially better than the 200 it replaces. However, once you get past the dramatically improved styling and quality improvements, buyers are saddled with a “raspy” four cylinder engine, a balky transmission and a “klutzy” handling package. Editors also noted the back seat is not large enough to be comfortable for adults. (more…)

Buttons, Dials and Paddles – This Isn’t Your Father’s Old Transmission

New tech improves performance, mileage, user operation.

by on Aug.11, 2014

The new Lincoln MKC opts for a pushbutton transmission rather than a conventional shift lever.

Button, button, who’s got the button?

Slip inside Lincoln’s new MKC and you may be in for a surprise when you fire it up and reach to put the 2015 crossover into gear. That’s because the traditional shift lever is gone, replaced by a set of buttons on the instrument panel.

The new Chrysler 200 sedan, as well as the maker’s big Ram 1500 pickup, adopts a rotary dial to shift gears. Jaguar uses a similar system on its XF sedan, though here the knob rises out of the center console when the driver presses the start button while an indicator light pulses like a heartbeat.


A growing number of new models, from the new Mini Hardtop to the Porsche Panamera Turbo, have adopted paddle shifters akin to what you’ll find in a Formula One race car, meanwhile. Mercedes-Benz and BMW, meanwhile, have downsized the steering wheel-mounted shift levers, while Maserati and Alfa Romeo’s center console shifters are little bigger than the joysticks you’ll find on videogame controllers.


First Drive: 2015 Chrysler 200

Chrysler finally gets into the (midsize) game.

by on Mar.20, 2014

Chrysler is looking to make inroads into the competitive midsize market segment with the news 2015 Chrysler 200.

Anyone looking for a midsize car has a wealth of choices from a wide variety of carmakers which have brought some very good options to U.S. showrooms in recent years.

Now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has entered the competition with a very good alternative that could provide an unexpected challenge to such formidable rivals as the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda6, and Chevrolet Malibu, never mind the midsize segment-leading Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

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For those familiar with the old Chrysler 200 – or worse, the old Sebring – the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 that made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year is likely to come as a very big surprise. Start with its distinctive exterior styling – which harkens back to the era, two decades ago, when Chrysler routinely set the industry agenda when it came to design. (more…)

Chrysler Dropping Convertible 200 – But Ragtops Live On

Ragtops shift to sporty, high-line model segments.

by on Mar.18, 2014

Chrysler has no plans to add a convertible version of the new 2015 200 sedan.

Convertibles have been part of the model mix at Chrysler ever since the mid-1980s when then-Chairman Lee Iacocca re-introduced the Chrysler LeBaron. And it lived on in the later Sebring model — which itself was renamed the Chrysler 200 a few years back. But as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles gets ready to launch its new Chrysler 200, the “D-segment” convertible is going away, with no plans to replace it, the maker confirms.

“We built the last (Chrysler 200 convertible) in October,” Andy Love, senior manager for the Chrysler brand and the Chrysler 200, told “Dealers still have some stock so we’re still going to be selling them,” he added, but once the old model runs out there’ll be no 200 convertible to follow.

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Love explained that the ragtop segment is steadily shrinking.  The days when manufacturers automatically included a convertible version of their midsize and compact models is rapidly coming to an end.  That doesn’t mean the convertible is going away, it’s just shifting to sportier and more luxurious product segments.


Fiat Chrysler Ready to List on New York Stock Exchange

Alfa readying 4C with second model to follow, says Marchionne.

by on Mar.17, 2014

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne (r), with UAW Pres. Bob King at the Sterling Heights plant.

FCA is set to go NYSE — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the new company created by the merger of the Italian carmaker Fiat and Chrysler, the once bankrupt American carmaker, wants to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange by October1, says Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne.

The move would be the next, long-awaited step in completing the tie-up of the two makers who are officially incorporated in the Netherlands, though for now the new FCA continues to operate a dual headquarter strategy, with bases in suburban Detroit and Turin.

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“October 1. That is the target,” Marchionne said. “But it’s a target. It could slip thirty, sixty or ninety days,” he added, following a ceremony to market the renovation of the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, a suburban Detroit factory that was originally supposed to close following the U.S. maker’s 2009 bankruptcy.  Instead, it has undergone a more than $800 million upgrade to handle production of the new Chrysler 200 sedan and other products to follow.


Back From the Abyss: Chrysler 200 Plant Defies Death

Slated to close as Chrysler went bust, Sterling Heights plant now maker’s most modern.

by on Mar.13, 2014

Fiat Chrysler is ready to begin production of the new 2015 Chrysler 200 at the Sterling Heights, Mich. plant it once planned to close.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will officially mark the start of production of the 2015 Chrysler 200 with a ceremony Friday at the company’s suburban Detroit Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. It’s the same factory the Detroit maker planned to close after emerging from bankruptcy in 2009 and now, along with the new 200 sedan, has become a critical part of Chrysler’s turnaround.

The maker – now part of the newly merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – is betting on the 200 to help it gain a foothold in the huge but highly competitive midsize segment where it will go up against tough competitors like the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu, as well as such imports as the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord and Toyota’s traditionally best-selling Camry.

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An earlier version of the 200, launched with the help of a widely seen 2011 Super Bowl commercial featuring rapper Eminem, helped gain some traction for the midsize model – and saved the Sterling Heights plant. Chrysler’s bankruptcy plan called for permanently shutting it, any cash from the sale of the property going to the maker’s creditors. (more…)

Chrysler Reinvents Itself with Next-gen 200 Sedan

Got their mojo rising.

by on Jan.13, 2014

Chrysler will offer both sporty 200S and more sophisticated 200C versions of the new midsize sedan.

Few cars have been more closely tied to an automotive turnaround than the Chrysler 200, the midsize model giving some desperately needed momentum to the smallest of the Detroit makers when it was launched with the help of an unusual, two-minute commercial during the 2011 Super Bowl featuring rapper Eminem.

But while the current Chrysler 200 has certainly fared better than the unloved Sebring model it replaced, it’s little more than an afterthought in a market segment Chrysler Brand President Al Gardner describes as “brutal.” It takes a lot to go up against such powerhouses as the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

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But while the current Chrysler sedan isn’t quite there, the maker is betting it can challenge the established order with the all-new model making its debut at the North American International Auto Show.

And bet is probably the right word considering Chrysler is investing more than $1 billion to bring the new sedan to market, including not just the cost of product development but the money being spent to upgrade the suburban Detroit plant that will assemble the new Chrysler 200.


Leaked Chrysler 200 Photos Show Stunning New Compact

Newest iteration more sophisticated import from Detroit.

by on Jan.10, 2014

The all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 features a sleeker and more elegant design.

Automaker secrets continue to be exposed in the run up to this year’s North American International Auto Show as photos and some details of the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 have been revealed.

The new version is clearly a step up from its predecessor, which was a slightly updated version of the largely unloved and unremarkable Chrysler Sebring. The maker did wonders with the old version with a reskin of the exterior, an upgraded interior, a new name and a fantastic ad campaign featuring Eminem, which debuted during the Super Bowl a few years back.

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However, the 2015 version is clearly a significant break from the past. Using the same basic “architecture” as the Dodge Dart – a modified-for-the-U.S. version of a Fiat’s compact car structure in Europe – it is miles ahead of the old 200. (more…)

10 Debuts to Watch at the Detroit Auto Show

From subcompact sedans to aluminum pickup trucks.

by on Jan.10, 2014

The year gets its big kick-off with the upcoming Detroit Auto Show - where Ford is expected to reveal a new F-150, the production version of this Atlas "aluminum intensive" pickup.

We’ve already gotten some momentum for the New Year thanks to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with automakers rolling out an array of new high-tech features and even a few concept vehicles, such as the Toyota FCV hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle and the Ford Solar Energi, a version of the C-Max plug-in hybrid that can recharge using just the sun’s rays.

But the season’s – arguably the year’s – biggest automotive event is still days away, work crews putting the final touches on the displays down at Detroit’s Cobo Hall for the opening of the 2014 North American International Auto Show.

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Don’t be surprised to hear that more than 5,000 automotive journalists from around the world, along with more than 700,000 consumers, will stream through the turnstiles once the show begins.

But whether you get down to the Detroit riverfront or keep track of events from afar, you‘ll have lots to check out, at least 50 new cars, trucks, crossovers and concepts making their debuts. Here are 10 we will be particularly keen to check out: (more…)

Chrysler Takes Alternative Approach to Build Sales

Partnership with Carhartt behind new 200 S Special Edition.

by on Mar.22, 2013

The new Chrysler 200 S Special Edition was developed in cooperation with Carhartt.

It may be the smallest of the big three automakers but Chrysler has some big ideas to extend its reach – and its borrowed some of its ideas from marketing powerhouses as diverse as Nike and Starbucks.  Credit limited production runs, coupled with targeted partnerships and clever ads with helping Chrysler deliver 34 consecutive months of sales gains on a relatively small budget.

Speaking at a meeting of the Automotive Press Association, Chrysler brand President Saad Chehab outlined Chrysler’s maverick approach to automotive marketing. He also confirmed the next generation Chrysler 200, which is based on technology from Chrysler’s Italian partner Fiat, will debut at next year’s North American International Auto Show.

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The automaker could use some new product because it has been struggling to build sales without the support from new models. However, Chrysler has succeeded in offering unique versions of the 300, 200 and Town and Country. For example, a version of the Chrysler 200 designed specifically for the California market helped the brand boost its sales in the normal domestic-averse market by 200%.