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Jeep Shows Off Four Beijing Concepts, Plans to Launch China Production

Fiat Chrysler aims to gain momentum in world’s largest car market.

by on Apr.20, 2014

The Jeep Cherokee Urbane, one of four concept vehicles the maker is showing in Beijing.

Beijing Auto Show-goers will get a look at four new Jeep concept vehicles this week, vehicles the maker said are “uniquely designed for China,” the world’s largest automotive market.

But perhaps more significant is the news that parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has finally locked down a long-sought joint venture that will allow it to begin producing Jeeps in China for the first time in nearly a decade. The SUV brand was the first foreign maker into China but lost that Beijing production base after the break-up of DaimlerChrysler AG.

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The tie-up with China’s Guangzhou Automobile Group is a critical step for Jeep which has been pushing to expand its presence abroad in recent years. The maker sold 731,000 vehicles worldwide in 2013 and brand CEO Michael Manley recently announced a target of 1 million for 2014, well ahead of earlier plans.

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Russian Auto Industry Could Be Hurt by Ukraine Crisis

Ford cuts jobs, production..

by on Apr.04, 2014

Workers on the line at the Ford plant in St. Petersburg, where 700 jobs are being cut.

The temperature might finally be warming up after the frigid Russian winter, but the country’s auto industry is suddenly feeling a big chill.

Russia has been the target of increasing sanctions in the wake of its disputed annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and the threat that Russian President Vladimir Putin might send troops into the neighboring country in an expanded land grab.  That has led to a flood of capital leaving the country and signs that the crisis could strike hard the Russian economy.

The crisis is causing “uncertainty in the marketplace,” warns consulting firm Accenture.

The Last Word!

Ford sent a chilling signal this week when it announced plans to trim 950 jobs at its two Russian plants, including 700 full-timers at its primary facility in St. Petersburg – almost one in five of its employees in the country. The maker is blaming an already weak economy, as well as the weak Russian ruble, but observers warn that this could be just the first sign of a serious setback for the country’s auto industry – especially if the Ukrainian crisis drags on, or rose, escalates.

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Ram Outsells Silverado for 1st Time

Ford F-150 retains solid segment leadership.

by on Apr.02, 2014

The addition of the Ram 1500 Diesel has helped the truck gain new momentum in the market.

One month doesn’t a trend make.  And it’s too early to see whether General Motors’ worsening recall problems are having an impact – but for the first time ever, Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 1500 outsold rival GM’s Chevrolet Silverado 1500 last month  to become the U.S. market’s second-best-selling full-size pickup truck.

March also marked the first time since 1978 that Chevy’s big rig wasn’t in second place in the fast-reviving truck segment, behind only the long-dominant Ford F-150.

Keep on Truckin'!

The numbers were close, Ram delivering 42,532 pickups last month compared to the Silverado’s 42,247. And Chevy can take solace in the fact that it remains entrenched in second place for the year to date, holding a more than 10,000-unit lead over the Ram brand: 107,757 Silverado 1500s to 96,906 Ram 1500s.

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Fiat Chrysler Hopes to Boost Global Production by 25%

CEO Marchionne aiming for 6 mil target by 2018.

by on Apr.02, 2014

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has big plans in mind for the newly-merged company.

Automakers often talk about economies of scale – a moving target in an industry where industry giants like Toyota Motor Co., General Motors and Volkswagen AG are all shooting to reach 10 million annual sales during the next year or so.

By comparison, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is little more than an also-ran, with a total worldwide sales volume of “just” 4.4 million vehicles last year, and a goal of 4.6 million in 2014. But with the company’s formal merger of its U.S. and Italian operations now complete, CEO Sergio Marchionne has some big aspirations.  He is targeting a nearly 25% increase in production over the next four years.

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“By 2018, Fiat will be able to make more than 6 million cars,” Marchionne said after a shareholders’ meeting in Turin, where the Fiat side of the company is headquartered. “I don’t want to give any details of the plan, but we are going in that direction.”

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Chrysler Recalling Nearly 900,000 SUVs

Service action focused on possible brake problems.

by on Apr.02, 2014

Jeep calls back its latest-model Grand Cherokee due to potential brake problems - especially in colder climates.

The U.S. side of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to recall nearly 900,000 recent sport-utility vehicles because of potential brake problems that could become especially severe in colder climates.

The automaker originally said it didn’t see a recall-worthy problem when it notified federal regulators of a possible issue with brake line corrosion last year, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration thought otherwise after learning that the problem can be worsened if the vehicles are operated in sub-freezing conditions.

We Brake for News!

The recall involves 2011 through 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs, 644,354 of them sold in the U.S., 42,380 in Canada, and another 181,061 delivered to customers in Mexico and other parts of the world.

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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.

Product News!

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…)

Viper Defanged as Chrysler Halts Production

Slow sales lead to two-month plant shutdown.

by on Mar.19, 2014

Storm clouds brewing for Viper as sales plunge?

It may be one of the fastest cars on the market, but the SRT Viper has also proven to be one of the slowest off dealer lots, and unexpectedly weak sales have forced parent Chrysler to shut down production for nearly three months – though some sources suggest that could stretch on until well into the summer.

The Viper has never been a high-volume product, especially when compared to General Motors’ Chevrolet Corvette. But demand has lagged unexpectedly since the Viper nameplate was revived last year after several years out of production.

High-Performance News!

Total sales came to just 591 in 2013 and have been on a downward trend this winter – even as Chevy struggles to keep up with demand for the all-new, seventh-generation “C7” Corvette.

Officially, production of the Viper is set to go on hiatus at the end of the week of April 14, with the Connor Avenue Assembly Plant scheduled to start back up during the week of June 23. That move follows an earlier production cut announced last autumn due to weak sales.

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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 TheDetroitBureau.com. “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.

Clear the Air!

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.

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Despite Pressure from Public, Lawmakers, Are Unsafe Cars Still Sidestepping Recall Process?

GM ignition switch scandal could lead to crackdown.

by on Mar.17, 2014

A Jeep Grand Cherokee fire. The maker long fought a recall - but critics aren't happy with the final settlement.

Things were supposed to change a decade ago.  After an estimated 270 people were killed in rollover accidents involving Ford Explorer SUVs and Firestone tires, Congress passed the so-called TREAD Act.  Short for the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, it was intended to create a new process by which manufacturers had to reveal known safety-related issues – while encouraging motorists to report their own complaints.

But while federal safety regulators and automotive industry officials alike insist the new process is working, there are plenty of skeptics – all the more in the wake of the recent revelations that General Motors may have known for more than a decade that many of its compact cars were equipped with faulty ignition switches that could inadvertently shut the vehicles off and disable their airbag systems – a problem that last month led to the recall of 1.6 million vehicles and which has been linked to at least 12 deaths.

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What some are dubbing “Switch-gate” has already spawned a series of investigations – including hearings on both sides of Capitol Hill, a preliminary Justice Dept. criminal probe, a query by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a new internal investigation at GM itself ordered by the maker’s new CEO Mary Barra.

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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.

Automotive Insight!

“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.

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