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Infotainment Systems are the Plague of the Auto Industry, Says Consumer Reports

Japanese makers retain lead in quality, reliability.

by on Oct.27, 2014

CR gives thumbs up to the Toyota Camry, the magazine predicting good reliability for the 2015 update.

The quality of the cars sold on the U.S. market has hit a plateau, and motorists can put the blame on new technologies – especially the infotainment systems that have become increasingly common on today’s models, according to a new study by Consumer Reports.

The influential non-profit publication likened the issue to a “reliability plague,” chief auto tester Jake Fisher noting that, if anything, the latest annual Consumer Reports Automotive Reliability study might be downplaying the problem because it reports only actual defects.

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The situation would be even worse if the study included complaints about just how difficult many infotainment systems are to operate.

“The big problem is infotainment. Take that out and (the quality of) cars would be improving,” said Fisher, during an appearance before the Detroit Automotive Press Association.


Chrysler Earnings Soar Nearly 900%

Only domestic maker to gain market share in 2012.

by on Jan.30, 2013

General Manager Fred Diaz with the Ram 1500 pickup, recently named North American Truck of the Year.

Offering up another sign of its ongoing recovery, Chrysler reported 2012 earnings jump nearly nine-fold, to $1.66 billion, while the maker’s fourth-quarter profit was up 68%, to $378 million.

The news reflects a sharp increase in sales and revenues – Chrysler being the only one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers to gain market share in 2012.

“We pause for a moment to enjoy our accomplishments, but we will not stop,” Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both Chrysler and its Italian alliance partner Fiat, said in a statement.

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Marchionne pointed to soaring demand for key products such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the new 2013 Ram 1500, the pickup getting another boost earlier this month when it was named North American Truck of the Year by a jury of 49 U.S. and Canadian journalists.


Chrysler Q3 Earnings Surge 80%

“We’ve changed the conversation,” says CEO Marchionne.

by on Oct.29, 2012

Strong demand for the new Dodge Dart helped drive up Chrysler sales and earnings.

Buoyed by the largest sales increase among all domestic makers, Chrysler saw its earnings surge by 80% during the third quarter, while revenues gained 18%.

The U.S. maker – which is partnered with Italy’s Fiat SpA – has scored the biggest sales gains of any of the Detroit Big Three this year, the increase in demand lagging only key Japanese makers Toyota and Honda which have been recovering from last year’s serious inventory shortages caused by Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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“We’ve changed the conversation at Chrysler Group,” said Sergio Marchionne, who serves as CEO of both Chrysler and Fiat, the Italian maker now holding a majority stake in its U.S. ally.

Chrysler’s July – September earnings shot to $381 million from $212 million a year ago.  Sales and other revenues rose to $15.5 billion from a year ago.


Tops in Quality Toyota Still Lags in New Survey

VW, Ford, Chrysler lead in "Things Gone Right."

by on Aug.27, 2012

The Chevy Volt proves a surprise winner in the midsize segment, according to the 2012 TQI.

As it has so often over the years, Toyota is coming out tops in the new Total Quality Index – at least when measured according to the least problems per vehicle – what is often referred to as “Things Gone Wrong,” or TGWs, inside the auto industry.

But that’s only one way to measure things, cautions Alexander Edwards, president of the California-based consulting firm, Strategic Vision.  Consumers don’t just look at what’s wrong, he stresses.  They’re also looking for the features that surprise and delight – like an unusually powerful engine, better-than-expected fuel economy, or a well-appointed interior.

When you add in those factors which are commonly referred to as “Things Gone Right,” or TGRs, the picture is quite different, and Volkswagen surges to the top of the 2012 Total Quality Index.  Perhaps equally surprising, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler tie for second by that measure.

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“This is ultimately, how people think about vehicles and spend money,” stressed Edwards, echoing a growing sense in the industry that with most makers now delivering near-perfect out-of-the-box quality those manufacturers who can delight the customer who will eventually win out.


Can Chrysler Match Japanese Quality?

Taking “Yes” for an answer.

by on Apr.30, 2012

A pair of Dodge Dart bodies roll down the Belvidere assembly line.

It’s one of the industry’s older plants and one that has not had an especially distinguished history.  Not until now, anyway.  But going forward, Chrysler officials are determined to transform their Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant into one of the best in the business.

That can be measured in a variety of ways, of course, and Chrysler clearly hopes to turn the facility, two hours outside of Chicago, into one of the industry’s most productive.  But volume alone won’t matter, cautions Senior Vice President Doug Betts, if the new Dodge Darts starting to roll off the Belvidere line can’t match the quality of the best competitors like the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

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“We have to be substantially better” than ever before, says Betts, who built his reputation during lengthy stints for both Toyota and Nissan before joining Chrysler in 2007.  That’s especially difficult he says, as he begins a tour of the Illinois plant, for a company that has long lingered “at the bottom” of the quality charts.


Chrysler Taking Its Cues From Hyundai

U.S. makers hopes to emulate Korean carmaker’s turnaround.

by on Nov.15, 2010

Can Chrysler pull off the turnaround Hyundai has achieved? The maker hopes to begin in 2011.

For years, U.S. automakers – as well as many of their import rivals – have aimed to emulate the success of the industry’s global sales leader, Toyota.  But as Chrysler struggles to rebuild, in the wake of last year’s bankruptcy, it is targeting a very different manufacturer’s formula for success: Hyundai.

In recent years, the Korean carmaker has shown it possible to reverse a reputation for poor quality while transforming itself from a bargain basement retailer into one offering great value for the money.  It has been steadily gaining not just sales and market share, but increased consideration by those who, just a few years ago, wouldn’t have even dreamed of walking into a Hyundai showroom.

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“Frankly, our strategy is based on what Hyundai did,” Chrysler marketing manager Bruce Velisek told during a weekend preview of the new Dodge and Chrysler line-up.

With the launch of its 2011 models, the start of what Chrysler claims will be a complete revamping of its line-up under the guidance of Italian partner Fiat, the U.S. maker faces many of the same problems as Hyundai did.


First Drive: 2011 Chrysler 200

Newly renamed compact might make you forget the Sebring Ever existed.

by on Nov.15, 2010

The 2011 Chrysler 200 could make you forget the dreeadful old Sebring.

It’s been a busy year for the folks at Chrysler.  Almost exactly a year ago, new CEO Sergio Marchionne outlined an aggressive plan to turn the once-bankrupt company around.

And if anyone doubted him, the proof will soon start rolling into showrooms – starting with a new compact car called the 200 that took less than one calendar year for the Chrysler design and engineering teams to create.

After spending an afternoon in the new 200,  the much-needed replacement for the dreadful Chrysler Sebring, we came to see that the maker finally has found a credible new competitor for the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry.

The new 200 looks very much like a sedan version of the 2011 Town & Country minivan, with many of the same visual cues in the grille, headlamps, air intakes and front bumper.

Compared to the old Sebring, the 200 is much sleeker and more rounded at the nose, and carries a better aerodynamic drag coefficient thanks to steps such as lowering the front end 12 millimeters and the rear end six millimeters.

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At the rear, there’s a cross-car chrome bar between the new LED taillamps and another chrome bar down between the exhaust outlets that serve to widen the look of the car.  All Chrysler models will have a new “wing” logo in brushed metal and blue paint to replace the old traditional wing logo and signify the birth of yet another version of Chrysler.

The roof and doors of the 200 came from the Sebring, but the entire nose, decklid, rear fascia, interior and chassis have been replaced with better and more modern stuff, and the old V-6 engine has been tossed in favor of the new corporate 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which puts out 283 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque, coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission.


Chrysler Fires 13 Workers For Drinking, Pot Smoking On Job.

Workers caught on camera by local TV station.

by on Sep.28, 2010

Chrysler is firing 13 workers caught on camera drinking and smoking pot while on the job.

Chrysler Group LLC has moved to get rid of 13 employees from the Jefferson North Assembly plant, in Detroit, caught drinking alcohol and smoking pot on their lunch hour by a local television crew.

Chrysler Group said Monday in a statement it had completed its investigation of the Jefferson North employees – who were initially suspended after the TV broadcast for violating the company’s code of conduct and jeopardizing the quality of vehicles built at the plant.

“It has been determined that 13 employees engaged in behavior that violated the Company’s Standards of Conduct and these 13 employees were discharged today. Two remaining employees will receive a one month disciplinary layoff without pay,” Chrysler announced.

The United Auto Workers concurred in the company’s decision to dismiss the union members.

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“As is evidenced by the swift action taken in this matter, it should be clear that Chrysler Group will not tolerate such behavior and will continue to evaluate its protocols to ensure that something like this does not happen again,” Chrysler said in a statement.