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Four of Seven Midsize Utes Fare Poorly in Crash Tests

Only Nissan Murano takes IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating.

by on May.12, 2015

The Nissan Murano slams into a barrier as part of the IIHS small overlap crash test.

Only three of the seven midsize SUVs scored well in a series of front-end crash tests designed to simulate real-world accidents.

And only one of the 2015 models, the Nissan Murano, earned the coveted Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, though the Ford Flex and Jeep Wrangler also passed the small overlap crash test designed to simulate what happens when a vehicle’s corner clips another car or a utility pole.

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The test has posed some serious challenges for manufacturers and has led to a number of vehicle redesigns since it was first used in 2012. In the small overlap test, 25% of a vehicle’s front end strikes a barrier at 40 mph.


Recall Parade Marches On with GM, Chrysler

Makers announce actions on more than 425K vehicles.

by on Sep.22, 2014

The Cadillac XTS is part of a larger recall including Chevrolet Impalas for a parking brake problem.

General Motors and Chrysler recalled more than 425,000 vehicles for brake and fuel pump issues. The latest round pushes the number of recalled vehicles in the U.S. well past the 40-million mark.

GM called back 221,558 Chevy Impalas and Cadillac XTS cars from the 2013-2015 model years for a defect in the parking brake that could cause a fire. The vast majority – 205,309 – were recalled in the U.S. with the remainder in Canada and other countries.

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The brake’s indicator light sometimes fails to illuminate while the brake is not fully retracted. (more…)

Dodge Not Going Away, Insists Brand Boss

No “master plan to consolidate brands,” insists Kuniskis.

by on Sep.16, 2013

Dodge has a "very solid future," says brand chief Tim Kuniskis, as it launches new Durango.

Despite some uncertainty over its future product program, the Dodge brand isn’t going away, insists the man in charge of coming up with its long-term strategy.

Having dropped such brands as Eagle and Plymouth over the years, there’s been growing speculation in recent months that Dodge would also be sent off to the automotive rust heap, especially after documents leaked out suggesting some of the brand’s key products might not be around for more than a few years.

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But that only suggests that Dodge, like the rest of the Chrysler Group, is trying to get a better handle on its overall line-up and end product duplication – badge engineering, in industry-speak – insists Tim Kuniskis, the President and CEO of the Dodge brand.

Getting rid of Dodge, “is not a part of a master plan to consolidate brands,” the executive said during a media preview of the new 2014 Dodge Durango in suburban Los Angeles.


New Look for 2014 Dodge Durango

Grand Cherokee’s forgotten brother gets some key revisions.

by on Mar.28, 2013

The Dodge Durango update is more substantial than it might first appepar.

This could be a critical week for the Dodge Durango, the three-row sport-ute making its debut at the New York International Auto Show this week.

Though based on the same platform as the wildly popular Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Durango has been the forgotten ute among parent Chrysler’s extensive line-up of SUVs and CUVs, so the 2014 redesign could determine whether the Dodge Durango has much of a future.

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Like the newly updated Grand Cherokee, the Dodge offering gets a number of important updates for 2014, and though it’s not as extensive as the major transformation it went through in 2014, Dodge brand President Reid Bigland insists it is nonetheless, “fundamentally an all-new vehicle.”


Nissan to Show Pathfinder Concept at Detroit Auto Show

Nissan says it has "re-imagined" its body-on-frame SUV.

by on Dec.20, 2011

Nissan is teasing the unveiling of its Pathfinder SUV, which it will show at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Nissan is teasing a Pathfinder Concept that will break cover at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.

Like a lot of automakers, Nissan is apparently redeveloping it’s traditional body-on-frame sport utility vehicle, into a new crossoverish SUV, built on car underpinnings. In fact, Nissan says the Pathfinder has been “re-imagined.”

Interestingly, Nissan has actually skipped the Detroit show for the last 3 years, so it plans to make the most of its return to Detroit.

Reports say Nissan is planning to use its Altima car platform as the basis for the Pathfinder. It is planning to build it, as well as a new Infiniti version, at its plant in Smyrna, Tenn.


2011 Dodge Durango: Automaker Shows It Is Ready for Comeback

All-new crossover proves to be perfect tow vehicle trip to remote lighthouse.

by on Aug.04, 2011

Dodge's new Durango sits in front of the 1904 Crisp Point Lighthouse in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

In some ways, the Chrysler Group and its Dodge brand and Northern Michigan’s Crisp Point Lighthouse have a lot in common.

That both are with us is one part luck, mixed with a freighter full of determination.

Both have survived – against all odds.

To test Dodge’s new Durango sport utility, we pulled our loaded 2,500-camper on a 980-mile trip, packed with the usual supplies needed for a seven-day stay in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to serve as volunteer keepers at the lonely lighthouse on the coast of Lake Superior. Oh, and four people and a dog were part of the equation, so human and canine comfort were paramount.

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This all-wheel-drive Durango proved to be the perfect perch to make the trip. Three rows – all adult comfortable – meant everyone had plenty of space. Easy-flip seats made getting in and out a snap, even for the young adult consigned to the back row. Chrysler’s new corporate 3.6-liter V-6 provided plenty of power to shoulder the heavy load, even if unloaded acceleration seems rather middle-of-the-pack.


Initial Quality of New 2011 Models “Declined Considerably,” Cautions New Study

Annual J.D. Power report finds quality of older models “better than ever.”

by on Jun.23, 2011

The 2011 Dodge Durango was one of the rare all-new models to improve its quality score.

New car shoppers will find some good news and bad in the latest Initial Quality Study: the quality of all-new 2011 models “declined considerably”, but the quality of carryover products was better than ever, according to from Power and Associates.

Japanese automakers, led by Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand, dominated this year’s Initial Quality Study, or IQS, which measures problems with new vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership.  Honda jumped to second in the annual survey, but the biggest improvement was posted by perennial quality laggard Land Rover.

Significantly, after nearly matching the quality of the top Japanese brands just a year ago, Detroit’s Big Three makers slipped markedly in the 2011 IQS, but Detroit slipped in the latest study – in part due to problems with new technologies, such as the Ford Sync system.

A variety of issues led to the unexpectedly poor performance of all-new 2011 models – the first time since 2006 that newly-launched products haven’t improved in quality compared to the vehicles they replaced.  The most notable were engine/transmission problems, according to Power Vice President David Sargent.  But there were also significant issues with the latest audio/entertainment and navigation systems.

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“Clearly, consumers are interested in having new technology in their vehicles, but automakers must ensure that the technology is ready for prime time,” said Sargent, Power’s head of global vehicle research. “Successful companies will be those that can take this incredibly complex technology and make it reliable, seamless and easy for owners to operate while they are driving. There is an understandable desire to bring these technologies to market quickly, but automakers must be careful to walk before they run.”


First Drive: 2011 Dodge Durango

Return of the “man van.”

by on Jan.03, 2011

A first look at the 2011 Dodge Durango.

Conventional wisdom would have it that Chrysler is in a holding pattern this year, awaiting some of the big new product launches promised as part of its new affiliation with Italy’s Fiat.  But, yet again, conventional wisdom would be wrong.

True, some of the most important launches are yet to come, but the troubled U.S. maker is turning out a significant assortment of all-new and updated models for 2011, including eight under the Chrysler and Dodge brand names.  That includes an all-new version of the Dodge Durango, which the maker is billing as “the return of the man van.”

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There was reason to be skeptical, of course, as we headed to California for a first ride in the 2011 Dodge Durango.  Chrysler has a history of wrapping the same basic product under a variety of different wrappers, and one could only wonder whether the ’11 Dodge SUV would be little more than a warmed-over version of the new, 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee remake.

To our surprise – and satisfaction – what we discovered when we got a first close-up look at the 2011 Dodge Durango was a crossover/ute with a decidedly distinct appearance, both inside and out, and on-road manners that are notably different from those of the Grand Cherokee.


Leaf, Volt, Sonata Top List As N. American Car Of The Year Finalists

Durango, Explorer, Grand Cherokee square off for Truck of the Year honors.

by on Dec.16, 2010

Volt has already taken numerous awards this year.

In a first-ever move, members of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury have chosen three alternatively-powered vehicles as the finalists in the much-watched annual industry face-off.

The Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle will square off against the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid, and the Hyundai Sonata for Car of the Year honors. 

NACTOY’s 49 U.S. and Canadian jurors meanwhile named the dodge Durango, Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee as the three finalists for North American Truck of the Year.

While the Korean-made Sonata is offered with a choice of conventional, turbo or hybrid-electric powertrains, Hyundai gained credibility by delivering the first gasoline-electric vehicle to use a lithium-ion battery, rather than the older, nickel-metal hydride technology used in products like the Toyota Prius.

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Sonata marks the second time Hyundai has landed among the NACTOY finalists, a significant achievement considering the way the brand was perceived only a few years ago.  In 2009, the maker’s first luxury offering, the Hyundai Genesis Sedan captured the Car of the Year trophy.

“This shows that wasn’t just a fluke,” said Hyundai spokesman Dan Bedore, following the announcement of the NACTOY finalists at a meeting of the Detroit Automotive Press Association.  “To be recognized by this diverse group of journalists is a big move for Hyundai.”


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.