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First Drive: 2015 Chrysler 300

Value and performance in the same package.

by on Dec.23, 2014

The 2015 Chrysler 300 can be had with full-speed forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning with lane keep assist.

The Chrysler 300 isn’t exactly a new car.

It’s been around since the middle of the last decade, but the enduring appeal of its exterior design plus the almost constant attention from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles engineers and product planners has turned the 300 into full-sized sedan that can hold its own against more expensive rivals.

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For one thing, the inside of the 300, initially a wasteland of gray or tan plastic, has been completely rebuilt so the spacious interior with soft-touch materials are presented with artfully selected accents and a variety of textures that serve to create a comfortable ambience throughout the cabin. (more…)

Record Number of New Products Set to Debut at LA Auto Show

More than 30 world intros, up to 60 models to make North American debut.

by on Nov.19, 2014

The new Shelby GT350 Mustang may not be the only Shelby American-Ford Motor Co. collaboration for the new generation Mustang.

It’s going to be a busy week for automotive scribes hoping to keep up with all the news coming out of the Los Angeles Auto Show – and that means great news for car shoppers looking for the latest and greatest offerings.

Based on advance announcements, industry scuttlebutt and the LA show’s latest media schedule, there look to be at least 30 world introductions at the L.A. Convention Center, with twice that many new models on display for the first time in North America if you include those recently shown at the Paris Motor Show and elsewhere.

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The Tinseltown gathering will underscore the increasing diversity of the American automotive market, with everything from battery-cars to high-performance vehicles, entry-level crossovers to ultra-exclusive sedans. If anything, this week’s L.A. Auto Show breaks with recent history. In recent years there has been an emphasis on green machines. This time around, there’s a big push for performance and luxury. (more…)

First Look: 2015 Chrysler 300

LA debut for maker's "gold standard."

by on Nov.19, 2014

In your face, the 2015 Chrysler 300 grille is 30% larger than the outgoing model's.

It’s big, bold and in your face. And to fans, that’s the best part of the Chrysler 300 sedan. If anything, the maker may have backed off a bit too much when the full-size model was redesigned several years ago, says Chrysler’s top stylist. It isn’t making that mistake again as it rolls out an updated 2015 Chrysler 300 family at this year’s L.A. Auto Show.

The mid-cycle update picks up on the most critical cues of the 2005 sedan, as well as the original 1955 Chrysler 300, according to design director Ralph Gilles, who says the goal was to give the 2015 Chrysler 300 “the presence and attitude it deserves.”

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It also gets a new model in the mix, the 300C Platinum, which gives the sedan a much more upscale appearance and feel.

“That’s what this car has to go back to,” adds Chrysler President Al Gardner, who concedes the last update was a little too bland to remain the brand’s “gold standard.”

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Chrysler Delivers Best Earnings in 13 Years

Q1 profit beats all of 2011.

by on Apr.26, 2012

Chrysler is "maintaining its focus," says CEO Sergio Marchionne, after announcing $473 million in profits.

Barely three years after it plunged into bankruptcy, the Chrysler Group is reporting its biggest quarterly profit in 13 years, its $473 million in earnings more than the automaker made for all of last year.

The uptick in earnings reflects the maker’s strong sales for January – March period when demand for Chrysler products rose 39%, handily outpacing the U.S. auto industry as a whole.  But Chrysler also benefited from significant interest savings after having paid off its remaining federal bailout loans.

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“Another positive quarter…is affirmation that the Chrysler team is maintaining its focus,” said Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both Chrysler and Fiat, the Italian automaker that assumed control after the American maker emerged from Chapter 11 protection.

Chrysler’s first-quarter earnings were more than four times the $116 profit posted during the first quarter of 2011 – and the biggest figure since the maker reported a $682 million profit during the third quarter of 1998.

But there are some significant differences between then and now.  In 1998, Chrysler’s product portfolio was largely focused on pickups, SUVs and minivans.  While light trucks are still important to the maker, it is now increasingly focused on passenger cars, such as the full-size Chrysler 300C and midsize 200 sedan, as well as the new Dodge Dart it is preparing to launch.

The introduction of the Dart, which is largely based on the platform of the European Alfa Romeo Giulietta, is a “true melding of Chrysler’s and Fiat’s engineering and styling strengths,” said Marchionne. It is likely to become a major test of the alliance between the makers, Fiat now controlling 58.1% of Chrysler stock and planning to push that to more than 70% in the near to mid-term.

Chrysler’s first-quarter performance was buoyed not only by strong sales but a jump in its average transaction price, or ATP, consumers spending about 5% more per vehicle, at $29,234, according to the data tracking service TrueCar.com.

“Chrysler gained 2 full percentage points of US market share compared to a year ago, while increasing their transaction prices and lowering inventory turn times significantly –all resulting in a much improved bottom line,” said Jesse Toprak, Vice President of Industry Trends and Insights at TrueCar.com, who added that Chrysler should get, “full credit for having the most desirable line up of vehicles that they have ever had in their showrooms.”

For the quarter, Chrysler Group revenues rose 25% to $16.4 billion.

There is significant competition in today’s automotive market but the market also continues on an upswing that, barring another economic meltdown should see overall new vehicle sales reach 14 million for 2012, at least 1 million above 2011’s numbers.  Chrysler is expected to maintain its sales and revenue growth, especially if it can hold onto its current market share, 11.5% compared to 9.4% for all of 2011, analysts forecast.

Also assisting its earnings surge, Chrysler is now paying less to borrow money after getting out from under the terms of its federal bailout.  Having paid off its remaining government loans last May it saved $71 million in interest charges during the first quarter, it revealed.

Chrysler received $12.5 billion in assistance from the government before, during and after its emergence from Chapter 11.  The U.S. Treasury has recouped $11.2 billion of that and has written off the remaining $1.3 billion.

The maker does have a number of challenges ahead.  It has to successfully launch the new Dodge Dart, which not only goes up against traditional compact segment leaders like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, but also new domestic challengers such as the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze.

The first-quarter surge in fuel prices – now near record levels in most U.S. markets – could further weaken demand for the pickups and SUVs that remain a core part of the Chrysler line-up. The automaker has been hoping to offset that with updated designs and advanced powertrains, such as the more fuel-efficient V-6 it will offer in the 2013 Ram 1500 truck.

One of the biggest challenges remains the need to build Chrysler’s presence overseas.  It can no longer count on the North American market, Marchionne readily acknowledges.  The maker is now supplying a number of models to European dealers – though they are being sold there through various Fiat brands.

Meanwhile, Chrysler has a number of offerings on display in Beijing this week at the huge Auto China 2012 auto show.  It marks the return to what is now the world’s biggest automotive market.

First Drive: Dodge Charger Blacktop

Given up for dead, this four-door shows maker is back making cars people actually want.

by on Apr.06, 2012

Add the Blacktop package to a Dodge Charger SXT for this bad-ass look.

In 2008 when the Detroit Lions were hitting rock bottom, there was little point in talking about Xs and Os because the team was so horrid as to be utterly noncompetitive. It wasn’t so much a football team as just a collection of players brought together by one of the most inept front-office leaders in the history of professional sports.

It’s interesting that precisely as the hometown Lions were hitting rock bottom, so was one of the hometown automakers, Chrysler. Sure General Motors was having its own financial misadventures at the same time, but at least it was making some good cars with many more on the drawing board.

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The same could not be said about Chrysler. After years of making a name for itself with innovative, segment-defining vehicles, Chrysler was forced by its corporate masters of the moment to build uninspired, poorly constructed vehicles with old powertrains and cheap, boring interiors.

But after coming within a whisker of the company being dissolved and sold off in pieces, Fiat came in and saved the day for Chrysler, doing in just a couple of years what Daimler wasn’t able to do in more than a decade.

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First Look: Chrysler 300C SRT8 and 300 Executive Series

More power, more style.

by on Apr.21, 2011

The Chrysler 300 Executive Series and Chrysler 300 SRT8 make their New York Auto Show World Debut.

Chrysler likes to say that its products are “imported from Detroit,” and the company is backing up that statement by producing new versions of the redesigned 300C flagship sedan that hark back to the city’s muscle car days.

The 300C SRT8 follows the formula of other SRT* models in the Chrysler and Dodge portfolio—add a honkin’ engine and some evil-looking styling cues.

The big motor under the hood in this case is a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that makes 465 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. All that power is directed to the rear wheels via a 5-speed automatic transmission, which gains paddle-mounted shifters.

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Chrysler is attempting to alleviate fuel-economy concerns by giving the SRT8 a cylinder-deactivation system. An adaptive-damping suspension with “Auto” and “Sport” modes exists to give the car sporty handling characteristics. The Brembo brakes consist of 14.2-inch (front) and 13.8-inch (rear) rotors with four-piston calipers.

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Chrysler & Fiat Planning Major Roll-Out in Geneva

Makers set to underscore breadth of trans-Atlantic partnership.

by on Jan.31, 2011

With a Lancia badge on the grille, the new Chrysler 300 will take another bow at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.

While there are dozens of new product roll-outs scheduled for the upcoming Geneva Motor Show, Chrysler and its Italian ally Fiat hope to steal much of the thunder with an assortment of new offerings set to underscore the breadth of their fast-growing, trans-Atlantic partnership.

Perhaps the most significant of the pair’s previews will be the debut of the Lancia Thema, an all-new flagship for the Fiat subsidiary, and a replacement for a top-line model that has been missing from the Lancia line-up for some time, said Olivier Francois, brand manager for both the Lancia and Chrysler brands, during an interview with TheDetroitBureau.com.

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While the executive hinted there will be other offerings coming, he acknowledged that the Geneva event also will see the debut of a new version of the Chrysler Voyager, the European version of the American Town & Country minivan, as well as the new Chrysler 200 and the Lancia Ypsilon, the first model for that brand based on the popular Fiat 500 microcar.

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Chrysler Will Pay Back “Every Cent” to Taxpayers, Says Marchionne

Reorganized Chrysler won’t “bleed to death” in a downturn.

by on Jan.13, 2011

Chrysler CEO Marchionne loosens up during a roundtable at the Detroit Auto Show.

Chrysler plans to pay back “every cent” of the money it was loaned by the federal government, said CEO Sergio Marchionne, and it will almost certainly do that before the IPO the executive said he wants to hold in the second half of 2011.

Chrysler is already planning to cover about $2.0 billion of the remaining $5.6 billion in loans from Washington, said Marchionne, who also serves as CEO of Chrysler’s Italian affiliate, Fiat.  Meanwhile, the maker will soon pay down $600 million of the remaining $1.5 billion it owes the Canadian treasury.

“It would be advantageous to repay it all” before an IPO, said the Canadian-educated Marchionne, during a meeting with reporters.  “It would have better optics” in the eyes of potential investors – and would also make it possible for Fiat to increase its stake in Chrysler from the current 20% to a majority 51%.

Earlier this week, Ron Bloom, the Obama Administration’s “car czar,” said that could not happen without complete recovery of the outstanding Chrysler loans.

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Chrysler Introductions: 200, Town & Country and 300

After a depressing 2010 show, Detroit's smallest automaker comes back with a wealth of new products.

by on Jan.10, 2011

Chrysler's revamped 300 leads a resurgent lineup.

For the 2010 Detroit auto show, Chrysler’s stand was little more than an Dodge Ram mounted upside-down to the ceiling and journalists following CEO Sergio Marchionne around the sparse display.

The automaker’s display at the 2011 North American International Show is markedly different, and Chrysler’s people know it. Chrysler marketing chief Olivier Francois started his introduction of the new Chrysler 300 by talking about how grave the situation was at last year’s show.The biggest problem? New products. Chrysler hardly had anything to show.

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“This is a story about how people react when their backs are against the ropes,” Francois said in his heavily accented English.

Today’s Chrysler isn’t quite back from the brink, but the outlook from Auburn Hills is far rosier than a year ago. Jeep has the Grand Cherokee, which is getting rave reviews and Dodge’s Durango is getting positive early returns.

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Chrysler Sets Sticker on Next-Generation 300 Sedan

Flagship aimed at reviving struggling Detroit maker.

by on Jan.06, 2011

Pricing for the 2012 Chrysler 300 will start at $28,000 and nudge up to $42,000.

Chrysler will launch its new 300 sedan, early this year, for a starting price of just under $28,000, the automaker today announced.  A fully-loaded 300C will push into the mid-$40,000 range.

One of the most important launches for the Detroit-based maker this year – and arguably the foundation of a planned comeback for the Chrysler brand – the 300 is aimed at re-establishing the maker as more than just an also-ran in the luxury car market.

The outgoing 300 was an instant success after its launch, seven years ago, critically hailed for its retro-tinged styling.  The new model maintains many of the bolder styling cues but introduces a more refined feel to the design – especially when it comes to the interior.

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Chrysler has redesigned the interior of most of its key products for 2011, addressing one of the biggest and most consistent criticisms leveled against the maker.  (For a closer look at the 2012 Chrysler 300 sedan’s design, Click Here.)

The base version of the 2012 Chrysler 300 will carry a $27,995 sticker, while a top-line 300C with a Hemi V8 and all-wheel-drive will list for $41,195.  Add destination and option prices and the new model could push several thousand dollars higher.

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