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New Film Reveals the Reality of the Auto Bailout

“Live Another Day” – but at what cost?

by on Sep.12, 2016

Storm clouds over Detroit. At the depth of the recession, two of the three US makers went bankrupt.

The economy was collapsing more rapidly than during the Great Depression, and nowhere was that more apparent than in Detroit, where the Big Three automakers faced the very real prospect of going out of business – destroying a million or more jobs in the process.

Ford Motor Co. was able to survive by mortgaging everything; not only its factories, but even its Blue Oval logo. General Motors and Chrysler didn’t move fast enough to secure equity lines. They had to be salvaged with the help of the largest federally funded bailout in history. It broke precedent and, many would argue, broke the law. The rescue effort may also have saved the economy, according to its proponents.

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Was it good or bad? “It was something in-between,” contends Bill Burke, suggests Bill Burke. He’s a media industry veteran and co-producer of the new documentary, “Live Another Day,” which has received strong praise on the film festival circuit and which will open at theaters nationwide on September 16th.


“Unnatural Acts” at Chrysler?

Code words may have signaled potentially illegal sales moves.

by on Sep.02, 2016

Were Fiat Chrysler dealers told to commit "unnatural acts" to help boost sales?

When does the “unnatural” cross into the illegal? That’s apparently something that federal prosecutors are looking into as they ramp up an investigation into potential sales fraud by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Both the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into the way FCA handled sales, probes that have already resulted in the trans-Atlantic automaker having to restate its numbers and admit its streak of month-after-month sales increases actually ended several years ago.

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FCA is by no means the only automaker to have pushed the boundaries, according to industry insiders. But the feds want to know if it crossed the line into illegal actions. The probe has uncovered some of the steps FCA took to boost its sales. Among other things, if the numbers were falling short, corporate officials would tell regional managers and dealers that the “unnatural acts department” was open, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.


FCA Earnings Increase Overwhelmed by Sales Reporting Scandal

Maker says profit rose 25% for second quarter.

by on Jul.27, 2016

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has reason to celebrate Q2 - albeit cautiously.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a 25% year-over-year increase in profits for the second quarter, despite hefty recall costs, thanks to strong demand in North America and Europe. That has led the maker to up its guidance for all of 2016.

But recalls aren’t the only problems the maker is dealing with. The trans-Atlantic automaker yesterday acknowledged misreporting its sales numbers in recent years, a problem that has reportedly led to a grand jury investigation. The problem could lead to closer scrutiny by industry analysts and investors.

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“Overall we had a good quarter,” Fiat Chrysler Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer said during a conference call with analysts and reporters.

FCA earned 321 million euros, or $352 million, for the second quarter, a 25% jump from last year’s 257 million euros, or $282 million.


Grand Jury Looking into FCA Sales Reporting Scandal

Maker acknowledges fudging numbers.

by on Jul.27, 2016

The FCA scandal could prove a new headache for CEO Marchionne' search for a merger partner.

A federal grand jury is issuing subpoenas as government investigators expand their investigation into potentially illegal Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sales reporting practices, according to published reports.

The news comes a day after the automaker acknowledged that it has misstated its sales figures for a number of years and that rather than having six straight years of sales records, its upward climb actually came to an end in September 2013.

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But several sources who have spoken to caution that any probe of sales policies could eventually spread beyond Fiat Chrysler and look at broader industry practices that can misrepresent the numbers. Such practices, said a senior executive at one of the nation’s largest automotive retailers, can negatively impact investors, dealers and consumers alike.


Fiat Chrysler Wants Help from Hackers

Automaker offering “bug bounty” to find software vulnerabilities.

by on Jul.13, 2016

Last year, security experts managed to hack into a Jeep Cherokee and remotely drive it into a ditch.

“Help Wanted. Hackers.” That’s the message sent out by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles today as it searches for help enhancing the cybersecurity of its vehicles.

The announcement comes shortly after police in Texas began investigating a series of stolen Jeeps that may have involved the use of laptop computers to start the vehicles’ computerized ignition systems. And it’s been just a year since a pair of security specialists showed how they could remotely take control of another Jeep, sending it into a ditch.

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Cybersecurity, in general, has become one of the auto industry’s biggest concerns, experts worried that hackers will not only be able to break into vehicles – physically or remotely – but also access drivers’ personal data. So, manufacturers are turning to so-called “white hat” hackers for help.


First Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Redefining the minivan – will it win back American family buyers?

by on Mar.21, 2016

Perhaps no other type of vehicle does a better job of delivering what it offers than a minivan.

Running from the Southern California Coast towards Lake Elsinore, the Ortega Highway is the sort of torturously twisting two-lane highways that motorcycles and sports cars love. Minivans travel it at their own peril, and yet, we’re planning to run nearly the full 111.5 miles of what’s official known as CA-74 this drizzly, late winter morning.

If we were driving Chrysler’s old Town & Country model, or just about any conventional minivan, for that matter, you might have reason to question our choice of routes. But this is our first chance to drive the new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

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No automaker is more closely identified with the minivan. The Detroit side of Fiat Chrysler invented the modern people-move back in 1984, and for years it struggled to meet demand, U.S. sales at one point nudging 2 million a year. These days, the numbers are down for nearly three-quarters and a number of one-time competitors, including Ford and General Motors have dropped out of the minivan market. So, some question whether the new Chrysler Pacifica is the segment’s last great hope.


Chrysler Drops Price on All-New Pacifica

New minivan’s mileage nears top of its class.

by on Mar.10, 2016

Chrysler's new minivan gets a dramatic new look and a new name for 2017: Pacifica.

Chrysler plans to shave about $1,400 off the base price of its all-new Pacifica minivan compared to the outgoing Town & Country people-mover.

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica will start at $28,595, plus a $995 delivery charge. The outgoing minivan started at $29,995. But load the new Pacifica up and you’ll top $42,000, the automaker said today.

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Chrysler also revealed that the gas-powered version of the new minivan will deliver a combined 22 mpg, according to the EPA. That’s a significant bump from the old Town & Country and positions Pacifica as second-best in the minivan market – though Chrysler had been promising to lead the segment with “unsurpassed” mileage.


Fiat Chrysler Idling Midsize Sedan Plant Extra Three Weeks

Sterling Heights line to remain shut a total of nine weeks.

by on Mar.07, 2016

Before the shutdown, the Chrysler 200 stacked up on dealer lots despite hefty incentives.

Fiat Chrysler’s assembly plant in the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights will remain closed until early April, three weeks longer than originally planned, due to sluggish sales.

FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne has already said he wants to end in-house production of two midsize models, the Chrysler 200, as well as the Dodge Dart, shifting manufacturing to a contract supplier. That would free up space for more popular – and higher profit – models, such as the company’s pickups and SUVs.

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Even though the Sterling Heights plant has already been idled for five weeks, there was still a 147-day backlog of Chrysler 200 sedans, as of March 1, according to industry data. While down from a 217-day supply at the start of the shutdown, that’s still more than twice the industry norm of 60 to 65 days’ inventory.


Fiat Chrysler Earnings Slide 40%

Major product realignment set to take place.

by on Jan.27, 2016

Jeep was one of the few real bright spots for Fiat Chrysler last year, especially in the US.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles fourth quarter earnings tumbled by 40%, to $2.2 billion, during the fourth quarter, and for the full-year – a decline would have been even more severe without the contribution of exotic sports carmaker Ferrari, which FCA recently spun off.

The automaker’s results were hammered by slowing global sales, especially in both Latin America, though it did finally get its Jeep brand back into contention with the opening of a new assembly plant in China. And Jeep again scored well in the U.S. where plunging oil prices have spurred a surge in demand for utility vehicles.

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The earnings report was released just hours before FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne was set to reveal a product shake-up designed to adjust to changing global market conditions, including the slowdown in the long-booming Chinese market. Among other things, that is likely to mean a slower ramp-up for the long-struggling Alfa Romeo brand, with more emphasis on Jeep and other truck and utility vehicle lines.


Pres. Obama Set to See Auto Industry’s Resurgence With Auto Show Tour

Legacy likely to include bailouts and safety moves.

by on Jan.20, 2016

Then-candidate Obama at a Jeep plant.

In the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, then-candidate Barack Obama found himself focused on an American auto industry plunging into one of the worst downturns in its history. Among his first duties as president, Obama approved billions of dollars in loans to keep two of Detroit’s bankrupt automakers afloat.

Now, as the two-term president enters his last year in the White House, he’s heading to Detroit for what might be dubbed a victory lap, a chance to see firsthand an industry reporting record sales and, for many companies, record profits.

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As the center of the trip, President Obama will make a stop at the 2016 North American International Show which opened its doors to the public last Saturday after a two-day media preview that brought the debut of about 50 new cars, trucks, crossovers and concept vehicles. Preliminary attendance suggests turnout for the show could also reach record numbers.