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Monday Headlines

This Day in Automotive History

11/18/1906:  Alec Issigonis born, Smyrna, Ottoman Empire
11/18/1940:  Buick builds its four-millionth car
“In Kokomo, reports suggested that the Markland Mall in Kokomo was also damaged, while Firehouse 6 was hit. The roof of the Chrysler casting plant also came off, another person wrote on Twitter.”  (I’ve been to the 3 Chrysler transmission plants and the casting plant in Kokomo, IN many times.  The Markland Mall, Firehouse 6, and  Chrysler casting plant are just blocks from each other so this unofficial report rings true.  No report yet how this might affect Chrysler transmission production and of course Chrysler vehicle production.–Ed Meyer)

Kokomo, Indiana: Reported Tornado Causes Major Damage

By Epoch Times | November 17, 2013

Last Updated: November 18, 2013 12:45 pm

A tornado likely caused major damage in Kokomo, Indiana, located north of Indianapolis.

Brian Scott with 1610 AM XRB wrote on Twitter that major “damage with injuries reported in Kokomo. Looks like a major hit. Houses destroyed. Gas leaks. Area near Markland Mall and Hoffer St.”

A state of emergency was declared through Monday, meaning that schools will be closed and trash pickup will be suspended.

The Kokomo Tribue wrote that a “house was reported in the road near Goyer and Markland Avenue. Woman was reported trapped under a car near Hoffer Street. Police are checking door-to-door in Quail Run subdivision.”

On Monday, power companies worked to restore power to thousands of customers who suffered outages during the tornado outbreak. As of around 9 a.m., more than 25,000 Duke Energy customers were without power across Indiana. Other power companies said that more than 30,000 people had no power, said the Indianapolis Star.

In Kokomo, reports suggested that the Markland Mall in Kokomo was also damaged, while Firehouse 6 was hit. The roof of the Chrysler casting plant also came off, another person wrote on Twitter.

There were power outages across the city, including traffic lights being out.

The Kokomo Police Department is urging people to stay off the roads, and people should away from the south side of the city.

Howard County Emergency Management crews told the Indianapolis Star that there were injuries at the Kokomo Town Center, a local mall.

“We’ve got ambulances there getting them out,” said Larry Smith, who heads the Howard County Emergency management, according to the paper. “What kind of damage or how badly they’re hurt, I don’t know.”

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight says a storm that damaged large swaths of his city is the worst he’s seen in 48 years living there.

Goodnight said Sunday night he’s grateful no deaths have been reported. He says crews planned to continue work through the night clearing debris and restoring power to residents.

The city police department sent photos of buildings with roofs torn off, a destroyed bank branch and other updates on its Twitter account.

Governor Mike Pence said 15 counties in Indiana suffered damage.

“We are wanting to follow the lead of the local jurisdictions,” Pence told Indiana Public Media. “Once they get a handle on what their needs are providing personnel and resources to help them put their communities back together will be a real focal point for us.”

Nearby Lebanon also saw tornado damage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Good Monday morning, 

Here is the November 18 issue of Automotive News in a digital format.

This Week’s Top Stories:

  • Akerson says 4G has gee-whiz factor: GM sees fast wireless as key sales point
  • The big buildup: Boom has replaced gloom as production hits a 13-year peak
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau begins to show its cards: Agency affirms finding bias, signals flexibility on remedies
  • Suppliers say they’re eager to add capacity: Trade group survey finds sharp rise in confidence and planned spending

View the Weekly Issue

Chrysler Retiree
Scoop to Go

Company ranked among top places to work in Michigan
The Chrysler Group ranked in the top 25 of large Michigan-based companies
in the Detroit Free Press annual Top Workplaces survey. The survey
identifies and honors the best places to work in Michigan. The company also
was among 31 Michigan-based firms that were designated National Standard
employers—companies and organizations that met the standard of a national
benchmark set by Workplace Dynamics, the Free Press said. These Michigan
companies are “doing all the right things to make employees happy,”
according to the Free Press.

Wrangler, Challenger win Kelley Blue Book's 'Best Resale Value'
Kelley Blue Book has named the 2014 Jeep® Wrangler and 2014 Dodge
Challenger winners of its 2014 Best Resale Value Awards. For the fourth
consecutive year, the Jeep Wrangler has been named Best Resale Value in its
class and placed in the Top 10 list for the third year in a row. With
record-setting sales numbers month-over-month this year, the Dodge
Challenger also earned a spot on this year’s Top 10 list of vehicles with
the best resale value.

Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition: A salute to earliest Jeep® vehicles
The new Jeep® Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition arrives in showrooms in early
2014, connecting customers with the original Jeep vehicle’s rugged and
purely functional capability dating back to World War II and the first
civilian Jeep vehicle, the Willys-Overland CJ-2A. The latest Wrangler
special edition makes its debut at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show this

Artist to recreate Renaissance masterpiece inside Fiat 500L
The Fiat Brand North America has commissioned noted artist Nicola Verlato
to recreate elements of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescos on the
ceiling of a Fiat 500L at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. Verlato will
be painting the car on the auto show floor Nov. 20-25. The vehicle then
will be on display for the remainder of the show through Dec. 1. Verlato’s
work also can be seen at beginning Nov. 21.

New Chrysler 300S delivers added dose of ‘Imported from Detroit’ style
The Chrysler 300 is the flagship of “Imported from Detroit” style, and for
2014, the Chrysler 300S has been updated with even more “blacked out”
design elements. It also sports a new Ambassador Blue sport interior to
complement its world-class ride and handling, exclusive Beats by Dr. Dre
audio system and state-of-the-art technology features to offer customers a
combination of quality, distinct style and craftsmanship that could only be
born in the Motor City.

Mark Phelan: Maserati move signals merger of equals at Chrysler

November 17, 2013
Detroit Auto Show Previews Newest Car Models From

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and Chrysler, right, has moved Saad Chehab, center, of Detroit from Chrysler to global marketing chief of Maserati. / Bloomberg

By Mark Phelan

Detroit Free Press Auto Critic

Saad Chehab

Saad Chehab
Chrysler Brand Introduces 2013 Chrysler 300C John

Saad Chehab and designer John Varvatos introduce the 2013 Chrysler 300C Sept. 11, 2012, in New York City. / WireImage
With the Maserati moves, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and Chrysler, has already provided Chrysler employees more opportunities than Daimler did.

With the Maserati moves, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and Chrysler, has already provided Chrysler employees more opportunities than Daimler did. / Maserati

Is it possible that Chrysler is finally getting its “merger of equals,” nearly exactly 15 years after the disastrous deal that created DaimlerChrysler?

There’s reason for optimism, courtesy of Sergio Marchionne, Maserati and Saad Chehab, a Detroiter who’s about to step onto the auto industry’s global stage.

Chehab, a University of Detroit Mercy educated architect who was born in Lebanon and came to Detroit with his family as a teenager, last week was moved from running the Chrysler and Lancia brands to global marketing chief of Maserati. That’s a key new position at the Italian luxury brand that Fiat expects to produce major sales and profit growth over the next few years.

Executives from Chrysler didn’t get opportunities like that under Daimler, but Marchionne’s developing a promising track record.

“He’s trying to create a true partnership, a truly integrated corporation,” said professor Robert Wiseman, chairman of the department of management at Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business. “Marchionne is trying to instill a culture that recognizes and rewards achievement.”

DaimlerChrysler claimed to be a merger of equals, but it quickly became evident that Chrysler’s brands and employees were second-class citizens, of whom much was expected but little appreciation or opportunity would be given.

“It was clear Daimler saw itself as the senior partner,” Wiseman said.

Marchionne, the perennially rumpled CEO of Fiat and Chrysler, has already provided Chrysler employees more opportunities than Daimler did during its lifetime from Nov. 12, 1998, to Aug. 3, 2007.

A former Chrysler executive runs Fiat’s worldwide purchasing operation. Dozens of Chrysler folks now have engineering, manufacturing and marketing jobs at Fiat in Europe and Asia.

Chrysler executive Peter Grady just became Maserati’s new U.S. CEO, a vital job as Maserati adds new models and seeks to grow from about 6,000 worldwide sales last year to 50,000 in 2015.

“It’s always been clear that Chrysler and Fiat are on an equal footing,” said Michelle Krebs a senior analyst with who recently visited Maserati headquarters in Modena, Italy. “If you work for either company, you have a lot of professional options and opportunities for growth.”

It’s hard not to like Chehab’s career arc, or what it says about Marchionne’s plan to make Fiat-Chrysler an international meritocracy. Chehab started with Ford, overseeing its new showroom design. Marchionne met Chehab in Detroit, recruited him and has steadily thrown more responsibilities at him ever since.

Marchionne expects a lot from his executives. Some have left the company because they understandably don’t want to keep the same hours as the driven CEO. But when Marchionne finds someone who shares his appetite for seven-day workweeks and multiple job titles and responsibilities, the sky’s the limit.

“People want to feel that when they make contributions, they’ll be recognized and rewarded,” said Wiseman, who taught Chrysler executives in MBA classes at a MSU program in Troy. “I’ve seen a lot of Chrysler executives. They’re all very motivated.”

All of us who were optimistic when DaimlerChrysler formed know a lot can go wrong when automakers merge, though. Fiat-Chrysler faces unique challenges.

Fiat’s European home market is a mess. Its brand image is shaky. Chrysler has yet to develop a hit vehicle using Fiat drivetrains and vehicle architectures. Introducing the new models is taking longer than expected.

Marchionne’s result-driven management style may not survive his inevitable retirement. Today’s egalitarian atmosphere could change when Fiat gets full ownership of Chrysler.

Despite those potential pitfalls, it was clear last week that the new organization being born in Auburn Hills and Turin has the chance to be a different, better automaker than what went before.

Contact Mark Phelan: or 313-222-6731. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan.

(Marchionne sure seems to be severing ties to Italy at every opportunity.  He does like that Italian financial aid when he can get it though.–Ed Meyer)

Fiat declines to take part in reorganized Italian auto show

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Automotive News Europe
November 16, 2013 10:02 CET

TURIN — Fiat said it will not take part in Italy’s only annual car show next year, dealing a further blow to the event that was cancelled this year due to a lack of exhibitors in a moribund local market.

Organizers are moving the venue of the country’s auto show to Milan from Bologna next year in the hope of sparking fresh interest. The event, called the Milano Auto Show, will run from Dec. 11-21, 2014.

Fiat said the Geneva, Frankfurt and Paris shows are sufficient for automakers to showcase their products to the public and media.

“We do not believe conditions exist to create a new show. Market problems in the last years have led to the closure of important shows in big European cities,” Fiat said on Friday.

Fiat has a market share of about 30 percent in Italy. Italian car sales will almost halve to below 1.3 million units this year from a 2.5 million peak in 2007, so automakers have little incentive to spend the money to show new products to a public that’s not buying.

The Milan show will be organized by Promotor, the same group that ran the Bologna event. “We will start to contact potential exhibitors today,” Promotor Chairman Alfredo Cazzola said on Friday. “Right now we aren’t able to say how many we will have.”

After Fiat released its statement, Cazzola was quoted by Italian daily La Repubblica as saying that “Fiat’s business is to build cars, not to organize shows.” He told the paper he is convinced that Fiat will reconsider its position after it is shown the project for the Milano show.

Car companies spend at least 1 million euros per brand on a stand at a major international car show such as the ones held in Detroit, Paris, Geneva and Frankfurt. Audi was reported to have spent 40 million euros to deck out its stand and other locations at the Frankfurt show in September.

The Frankfurt show had 1,000 exhibitors this year, whereas Bologna last year had 133.

Reuters contributed to this report

You can reach Luca Ciferri at
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Heard in the Autosphere: Fiat brings back a taste of the old 500; Kia designer honored

November 17, 2013
Peter Schreyer

Peter Schreyer
Detroit Free Press Staff
The 2014 Fiat 500 1957 Edition, homage to the then new model that Fiat says was its rebirth in Europe, goes on sale next spring.

The 2014 Fiat 500 1957 Edition, homage to the then new model that Fiat says was its rebirth in Europe, goes on sale next spring. / Fiat
2012 Kia Optima

2012 Kia Optima / Kia

Fiat brings back a taste of the old 500

In the beginning, there was the 1957 “Nuova Cinquecento,” or as we call it in English, New 500.

Fifty-seven years later, Fiat is bringing back a taste of the old in the new. Today, it is showing off a new 2014 Fiat 500 “1957 Edition.”

To accomplish the retro look, Fiat has dressed up a 500 with a plained roof and back-in-the-day 16-inch wheels. It comes in green or blue with the 1.4-liter MultiAir engine.

“The 1957 Edition celebrates the Cinquecento, the icon of our brand, and its unique cachet of Italian style, efficiency and engaging road manners,” said Jason Stoicevich, head of Fiat brand for North America.

Fiat eventually made 3.8 million of the originals through 1975. The new one comes next spring.

Kia designer honored by Eyes On Design

Peter Schreyer, the designer who transformed Kia from a bargain-basement brand into one at the forefront of global automotive styling, is the 2014 recipient of the Eyes On Design Lifetime Achievement award.

The German born Schreyer created the “tiger nose” look and elegant lines that have become Kia’s signature. Schreyer’s success led to his becoming president of Kia Motors and president of the Hyundai Group. He oversees design strategy for both the Kia and Hyundai brands and studios in Korea, Frankfurt, Los Angeles and Tokyo.

Schreyer will be honored during the annual Eyes On Design celebration of automotive design next June in Detroit. Previous recipients include Bob Lutz, who helped revitalize GM design; Nissan’s Shiro Nakamura; Chrysler’s Tom Gale; Ford’s Jack Telnack; GM’s Wayne Cherry; BMW’s Chris Bangle; Fiat and VW’s Walter de’Silva; and independent design greats Sergio Pininfarina, Giorgio Giugiaro. Previous recipients choose the new honoree each year.

Eyes On Design is organized the by the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, the research education arm of the Henry Ford Hospital’s Department of Ophthalmology.

Eyes on Design also sponsors awards for the best concept and production vehicle introduced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit each January. Leading designers from around the world tour the show and select the winners.


Maserati Quattroporte sales boosted by young female executives in China

Women account for 40% of Quattroporte orders in China. In Europe and the U.S. they account for less than 5%.
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Automotive News Europe
November 18, 2013 06:15 CET

Young Chinese businesswomen are the driving force behind Maserati’s fast-growing order book.

“Forty percent of our clients in China are very successful young businesswoman who love European craftsmanship and want to be chauffeured in their new Quattroportes,” Maserati CEO Harald Wester told Automotive News Europe. By comparison, female buyers account for less than 5 percent of Maserati’s sales in Europe and the United States.

The Fiat-controlled luxury car subsidiary has received more than 22,700 orders globally through the first nine months. That’s a huge increase for a brand that had global sales of 6,288 cars in 2012. Boosting Maserati’s global unit sales is crucial to Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne’s plan to make Fiat’s automotive division profitable again in Europe by 2016. Fiat lost 700 million euros ($928 million) last year in Europe.

Most expensive model

Maserati’s hottest model this year is the new Quattroporte flagship, for which the automaker has almost 10,000 orders. The Quattroporte’s top market is China, where the brand already has 4,000 contracts for its most expensive vehicle. A fully equipped, V-8-powered Quattroporte starts at 150,000 euros in Europe but costs the equivalent of 325,000 euros in China because of the country’s import duty and luxury tax. The base variant of the car with a V-6 starts at 111,000 euros in Europe but costs the equivalent of 205,000s in China.

In China, Maserati buyers are also much younger than in the carmaker’s other key markets. The average age in China is about 37 years old compared with 55 for Europe and the United States, Wester said.

With a volume of 2,640, the U.S. market was Maserati’s largest in 2012, accounting for more than 40 percent of the brand’s total sales, but China, No. 2 in 2012 with 950 units, is expected to narrow that lead in 2013. This year Maserati plans to deliver 6,500 cars to the United States and 5,000 cars to China. The United States is expected to maintain its No. 1 status for Maserati because of strong demand in the market for the Ghibli mid-sized sedan, for which order books in China did not open until September.

Download the PDF for Maserati sales in the first 9 months.

Maserati is on track to easily beat its sales record of 9,000 cars set in 2008. The automaker plans to build about 20,000 units this year but because of the lead time needed to get the vehicles from Italy to the United States and China, Wester predicts total registrations of about 16,000. The CEO also reiterated that the company aims to sell 50,000 cars annually by 2015. “Our investment [in new models] is starting to pay off,” Wester said, referring to the 1.5 billion euros that Fiat plans to spend on the brand from 2011 to 2014. Wester is counting on the forthcoming Maserati Levante SUV to account for 20,000 to 25,000 sales annually after it 2015 launch.

The production version of the Levante will use the same underpinnings as the Quattroporte and Ghibli and will be built at Fiat’s Mirafiori plant in Turin, Wester said. Maserati first showed its SUV as a concept at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show. The initial plan was to underpin the SUV with the same platform used on the Jeep Grand Cherokee and to produce both vehicles in Detroit. Marchionne decided earlier this year to move Levante production to Mirafiori as part of his plan to use spare capacity at Fiat’s underutilized Italian factories.

Reuters contributed to this report

You can reach Luca Ciferri at

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Strong product is vital to balancing pricing, share

“I think a good leader has to be innately bright, intellectually curious,” GM CEO Dan Akerson says. “They have to be a change agent — never satisfied with the status quo.”
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November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

General Motors has notched some pretty big wins lately.

The Cadillac CTS sedan won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award this month, just after the Chevrolet Impala was named Consumer Reports‘ best sedan. GM in June became the first Detroit automaker to finish atop J.D. Power’s survey of initial quality. And the company so far has sidestepped major pitfalls from a busy vehicle launch schedule, including the critical rollout of its redesigned 2014 full-sized pickups.

CEO Dan Akerson, 65, believes this product momentum will boost GM’s U.S. market share, which is now just over 18 percent. But he insists GM is more interested in strengthening its brands through firm pricing and stout resale values. And he believes GM has a major edge on consumer technology to sway young buyers.

Akerson met with Automotive News Publisher and Editor Jason Stein, Staff Reporter Mike Colias and AN TV Editor Tom Worobec on Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Detroit.


Q. What’s your U.S. sales outlook for next year?

A: It looks like it’ll come in at about 15.5 [million light vehicle units for 2013]. I think it’s pretty much steady as she goes. As long as the economy doesn’t take a severe turn and stays within a normal balance, it’ll be more product-defined than it will be macroeconomically defined.


On the launch of the new pickups, how do you balance price and profitability vs. market share in that segment?

There’s a lot of art in pricing mechanisms, and some science. When we articulated late last year that we were going to build inventory because we were changing plants out, I think there was a fair degree of skeptical perceptions. It came off pretty much as we called it.

In September, when we sold down a lot of [’13 models], we did so very consciously because when we introduced the [redesigned 2014 pickups], we wanted to make sure we had pricing power. And we’ve still been able to hold [share]. I think it’s kind of a backhanded compliment that our competition is so price-competitive.


Some of your competitors have had issues with launches because of supplier bottlenecks. Are you concerned at all about that?

Yes, it does concern me. But it’s so endemic you have to take it as a given right now, and you just have to manage it. Given how strong the recovery has been in autos, and that some of our suppliers aren’t where we’d like them to be, it’s just a fact of life right now.

There are lessons to be learned in this, too. We’ve got some of our retirees and some of our Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers worrying about not only production but quality of production. Should we have had them there earlier? Yes. Have there been impacts? Yes. Not seriously detrimental, but certainly not always favorable either.


The redesigned Chevy Colorado will be unveiled this week at the L.A. Auto Show. How important is it to your overall pickup strategy?

This is a segment that the American competitors have abandoned. We want to get back into it, because why give even our foreign competition a safe harbor? I’m really excited about it. To not have an American entrant in this segment, I think that’s worth our attention.  (Actually this compact Chevy pickup was engineered and made in GM Thailand first.  GM is simply restyling it slightly for the US market and some final assembly at their Wentzville, MO Assembly Plant.


Is the Cadillac brand strong enough yet to command Mercedes and BMW pricing?

If you look at Audi back 20 years, its [pricing] has gone [gradually higher] and BMW and Mercedes have stayed [flat]. I think Cadillac can learn something from that. We aspire to have the same pricing power they do, but we recognize we don’t.

We’re going to have to compete on every aspect of luxury, quality, reliability, durability and price. And for a while, we may have to be more [price] competitive. We’re building a brand now. I don’t really care about this quarter or this year in terms of where Cadillac is. I’m worried about where they’ll be in 2020. We have to close this gap in the next seven to 10 years.


Cadillac has about 900 dealerships, nearly three times that of BMW or Mercedes. Is that an advantage, or does it make it harder to reposition the brand?

I grew up in a town of about 35,000 in southern Minnesota. There ain’t no Audi dealership or Mercedes or BMW there. It’s 90 miles to Minneapolis, so if you want a BMW bad enough, you can get one.

But I will tell you, in that little town, Cadillac rules. In those instances, it’s an advantage. If you’re talking about a metro area like Detroit or New York or L.A., they’ve got an advantage, because their dealers are going to be healthier. They put more money into it.


On Buick, when you make product decisions, is it for China, and then you figure out what makes sense for the United States?

It’s more collaborative than I think most people five years ago would have ever thought. Actually, Opel in Europe and Buick in China are more closely aligned than Buick is here. No decision is made in a vacuum from the other two.

We’re trying to coordinate Buick and Opel more, but what you see is more of a shared vision between our design teams in China and Europe than you do here. We’ve got to make sure that we don’t try to force fit something into the second-largest market in the world [the United States], and you just have a flop. There will be some derivation between the three markets.


Why has the Peugeot alliance been scaled back?

Simple explanation: It didn’t pencil. If it isn’t going to advantage us, we’re not doing anything for camaraderie or good will. We have benefited a lot. We have learned a lot about what they’re doing, how they do it. There are going to be, I’m confident, three [jointly developed GM-PSA] platforms before it’s all done. We did not want to make a bigger bet into Europe than we have.  (One, Akerson should have decided this cutback 3 months before he signed any agreement with PSA, not 3 months after he signed a larger agreement with PSA.  Two, he is making a bigger bet with PSA, not Europe as he states here.–Ed Meyer)


Are the projected purchasing synergies of $2 billion annually within a few years still going to happen?

Yeah. The joint venture purchasing is actually black-and-white, hands-down working. It’s a question of whether or not we get these three platforms cooperatively structured. There will be more on that soon.


You’re launching a lot of consumer-tech innovations: 4G in the car; the first to offer car-based Siri voice recognition; the Shop-Click-Drive online-shopping feature. Is GM trying to transform itself into a tech leader?

We want to be known as a company for innovation and ingenuity. It’s ground into [Chevrolet’s] Find New Roads [marketing theme]. We’re going to do that in a number of different ways.

We know there will be some differential depending on the demographic. But in some instances they will be millennials, Gen X and Gen Y. These are tech-smart, savvy [consumers].

I’ve got an 8-year-old grandson who can get on an iPad and work it better than any of us. These kids are going to expect cars to do certain things. I don’t want Tesla to define what innovation is. General Motors is. Cadillac is going to. Chevrolet is.


You’ve said that it’s up to the board to choose your successor. If you were to give board members advice, what qualities and background are important for a future GM CEO?

I think a good leader has to be innately bright, intellectually curious. They have to be a change agent — never satisfied with the status quo. This industry was a status quo industry. All they did was look at the other guy. And then when you get change agents who come in, it can be disruptive.

You have to establish accountability and an orientation to risk. Have the humility and audacity to say, “I made a mistake,” and back up and go down the other way.

You’ve got to go out and show people that you’re real. A good leader defines reality, creates a vision and has to communicate it. You can’t do that from the 39th floor of the [Renaissance Center]. I think we do have people here that I think fit that bill.

You can reach Mike Colias at
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Subaru brand boss plans for growth in U.S. sales, service

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS: What adjustments do you envision for the U.S. dealer network?
YOSHINAGA: Right now we have 621 dealers. And about 25 percent of those dealers have turned over in five years. So the quality of the dealer body is improving. We will keep the same overall number of outlets, but we want to strengthen the dealers’ performance.
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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

TOKYO — Subaru brand boss Yasuyuki Yoshinaga is determined to ensure his company can cope with its sales explosion.

The all-wheel-drive specialist is on pace to notch its fifth straight year of record U.S. sales in 2013. Yoshinaga, president of Fuji Heavy Industries, which makes Subarus, expects the record results to continue at least through 2014.

Now the tough part: Dealing with the demand.

To keep the cars coming, Yoshinaga, 59, will ramp up capacity at the company’s only North American assembly plant, in Lafayette, Ind., run by Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. He also wants to improve dealers’ service departments so the new buyers Subaru has siphoned from rivals will become loyal owners.

Yoshinaga spoke through an interpreter with Asia Editor Hans Greimel on Monday, Nov. 11.


Q: Subaru is on course for its fifth straight year of record U.S. sales. How long can you keep up that pace?

A: I feel that next year we can have even better results than this year. As for the year after next, it’s difficult to predict. It’s not that there are particular concerns; it’s just difficult to predict. But I can forecast that next year will be better than this year because we will be able to increase supply.


What risks do you face in the United States?

If I have to name a risk, I think capacity is the only risk. At the same time, we need to keep our focus on quality, keep supplying good quality vehicles to the customer.


You plan to expand U.S. capacity at Subaru of Indiana to 300,000 units in 2016, from 170,000 now. Is that enough?

Everything is on schedule from our mid-term plan announced in 2011. Next summer we are going to increase capacity at our main factory in Japan by 20,000 units a year. At the same time we are going to increase our capacity at SIA by 30,000 units. So there will be a total increase of 50,000.

Also in 2016 we are going to expand the SIA capacity to 300,000 units a year. Therefore, we will have production capacity around 900,000 units in 2016. And when we add in overtime, it will be close to 1 million units a year.


(Editor’s note: Three days after this interview, the Louisville Journal & Courier reported that Subaru of Indiana Automotive will stop building Toyota Camry sedans at its Indiana assembly plant by 2017. The newspaper’s Web site cited Tom Easterday, SIA’s executive vice president, as saying that the factory would not renew a five-year contract to build the cars.

Masashi Uemura, a Fuji Heavy spokesman, said nothing had been decided and the company had nothing official to announce. A Toyota spokesman declined to comment.)


So you don’t need capacity beyond 300,000? Dean Evans, your chief marketing officer in America, says you can hit U.S. sales of 500,000 in 2015.

Last year’s sales were around 336,000. This year’s original plan was 365,000. But we are now going to achieve around 420,000 units. If similar growth continues year after year, we may need more capacity. For 500,000 units of U.S. sales, I still think 300,000 units of local capacity is good enough.

I’m very happy with six consecutive years of sales growth. If we continue like this for another two or three years, it’s beyond my imagination. In that case, we need to rethink things. But if we have total global capacity for 1 million vehicles and the U.S. sales volume is 500,000, I think that’s fine.


Is Subaru too reliant on the United States?

I really appreciate the U.S. customers’ reception of our products. There are some difficulties in the China market, but we hope we can expand sales more there.


When do you expect to build your first factory in China?

There is no update on our China production project. There is no progress on that. So we are now focusing on building a new sales organization in China, and we just started a new sales structure in October. We want to expand sales of complete-built units exported to China. We haven’t given up [on beginning local production there]. But we are still waiting.


How high can U.S. sales go by 2020?

Our sales are doing very well right now. So if volume approaches 600,000 units, I wouldn’t be averse to that. The most important thing for me is achieving total global volume of 1 million by then. I don’t plan to expand it to 1.5 million or so. Total industry volume is around 100 million vehicles a year, so Subaru’s share is about 1 percent. We shouldn’t pursue expanding volume to 1.5 million or 2 million.

That is not the Subaru way. That is like a mass-market brand. To do that, we would have to introduce such products as a mass-produced compact car for emerging markets. Subaru will never pursue that path. Never.


Subaru is straddling the line between niche player and a volume brand. Are you rejecting the volume-player route?

The basic answer is yes. But at the same time, I don’t think we are a niche player anymore in the U.S. market. But globally, we are still a niche player, in a good way.

How do you see the brand positioned in the United States?

I think a Subaru is seen as a practical tool.


Will you expand the lineup or keep it compact?

I’ve received very strong requests from U.S. dealers for a multipassenger, seven-seat vehicle. It’s not an easy development plan for us. But we are studying how to make it happen. And we are planning to introduce it to the U.S. market.


That will fill the void left by the Tribeca SUV?

Tribeca production ends next year. But the seven-passenger vehicle project is completely different. You won’t see the new vehicle coming out immediately when Tribeca production ends. We are still thinking about the best timing.

We have a very specific annual product development plan. Therefore, please don’t expect the introduction of a completely new vehicle either next year or the year after next.


How will you improve U.S. dealer performance?

We are going to replace weaker dealerships with stronger ones.

And there is one more important thing, the most important: We are enjoying growing sales, so that means we are getting new customers from our competitors. So it is of the utmost importance that the service structure keeps them within the Subaru brand.

Our expansion was so rapid; this is one of our challenges. The service expansion can’t keep up with the sales themselves.

Future growth relies on how much we can improve service. Therefore, we would like to improve service quality in the United States. And those challenges require a joint effort by the dealer, Subaru of America and Fuji Heavy Industries. I’m always thinking about this. I’m always thinking about how we can satisfy our new customers with Subaru service, not just the product but the entire experience.


What is Subaru doing to support that upgrade?

On Nov. 1, Subaru of America officially announced a service improvement implementation program. The program is designed to assist dealers with making investments necessary in the fixed operations area in the dealership. Subaru of America will contribute some portion of the total investment by the dealer. Dealers investing earlier may get more support from Subaru.

The investments would cover service shops, such as service bays, lifts and the like.


What technologies will you be branding as Subaru features?

The next challenge for us will be meeting the zero-emissions vehicle requirement by 2018. We are still considering what technologies we will develop and deploy to meet that.

You can reach Hans Greimel at — Follow Hans on Twitter
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Automobile of the Year: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Research the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette

From the January 2014 issue of Automobile Magazine Joe Lorio – by  | Photographs by: A. J. Mueller
Yes, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette is the Automobile of the Year. No, this was not a foregone conclusion. The Corvette may have a special place in the American automotive pantheon, but not every new Corvette has been a big deal. The C6, for example, was a conservative effort, a safe play that didn’t reach. The new C7, though, is something else. This is a thorough redesign, and it starts with a new frame. Switching from steel to aluminum (previously only Z06 and ZR1 models used an aluminum frame), the C7’s frame structure is nearly 100 pounds lighter than the C6’s and considerably stiffer. The front and rear cradles — both aluminum — are also lighter and stiffer. The lift-off top remains, but it’s carbon fiber (as is the hood). The V-8’s 6.2-liter displacement is the same as before, but this is an all-new engine, backed by a new seven-speed manual transmission. There’s newfound sophistication in the chassis and an interior that makes no excuses to anyone.

The car’s performance is simply awesome. In today’s era of horsepower inflation, the big V-8’s 455 hp, or 460 hp with the performance exhaust, may not be numbers made for bar boasts — we’ll have to wait for the Z06 for that — but you get the impression that reaching some marketing-driven power figure was not the point. The point was to smoke tires, roar out of turns, and storm down the straights — oh, and do all that without quaffing unleaded. As it turns out, this new 6.2-liter proves to be highly effective at all those things. With 460 lb-ft of torque (again, add 5 with the performance exhaust), the ability to fry the Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber is always there, just a push of the traction control button away. When you’re more interested in go than in show, the Corvette gets down and boogies. We clocked an 11.9-second quarter mile at 118 mph; 60 mph ticks by in less than four seconds. Launch control is available should you want to clock yourself, and there’s a function that will record your time so you can amaze your friends. Full-throttle blasts are accompanied by a race-car-worthy soundtrack trumpeting from the quad exhaust pipes, but under mellower circumstances the engine emits a muted yet purposeful rumble. Even in a Corvette, you’re not always stomping on the gas, and this powertrain is just as rewarding in less aggressive driving. The new, seven-speed manual features creamy clutch action and a slick shifter. Without turbochargers to manage, the V-8’s throttle response is precisely predictable, and the long-travel accelerator pedal lets you easily mete out the exact amount of power. Despite the normally aspirated engine’s large displacement and potent output, a tall top gear and the ability to run on four cylinders (in Eco mode) help this muscular beast post EPA numbers that you won’t be ashamed to mention in polite company: 17/29 mpg city/highway for the manual, 16/28 mpg for the automatic.

The Stingray is a great car for going fast, but it’s also great for going slow. It’s great for going fast not because it goes faster, but because it’s now easier to drive it faster. The excellent steering comes by way of a system that Chevrolet says is five times stiffer and a wheel that’s smaller than before; the result is newfound precision that makes this big machine much more wieldy. The chassis incorporates the expected suite of computer-managed traction and handling aids, but what’s remarkable is how customizable they are and how deftly they perform their bacon-saving functions while still leaving so much of the car control in the hands (and feet) of the driver. There are five main modes, topping out in Track, into which you can delve further until you get to the level where stability and traction control are completely off. The optional and highly worthwhile Z51 package supplements all that with an electronically locking rear differential that constantly apportions torque from side to side, which allowed even the less skilled among us to power out of corners at GingerMan Raceway with confidence. This Corvette is not going to break away suddenly or snap around on you. There’s grace and fluidity here. Accessibility is a theme running through the C7. Despite the sophisticated technology, this is not a cold, technocratic machine. It is a democratic sports car — and what could be more American than that? From the moment you press the hidden pad releasing the familiar electronic door latch and slip inside, the C7 presents a friendlier countenance. The driver’s relationship with his surroundings has changed. You’re no longer buried in the car, lost in a sea of undulating fiberglass, surrounded by cheap-looking plastics. Forget all that. Your interaction with the C7 is as straightforward as a handshake. The ergonomics feel right; the switchgear is clear and functional; you can see out of the cabin; and the seats hold you comfortably in place. Yes, the Corvette really does have decent seats — and we haven’t even tried the optional competition buckets. It also has an interior worthy of a $50,000-plus sports car. The materials look and feel good, and the interfaces manage to be modern yet not gimmicky, a concept that more and more carmakers are finding elusive these days.

The interior design may actually be more successful than that of the exterior, which is the new car’s most subjective aspect and its most controversial. The styling is very busy, and the essential Z51 package adds even more in the form of spoilers and brake-cooling ducts. Against that, the new design does move the Corvette’s look forward at last, after three generations of stasis. And based on the reactions of our younger staffers and of the cell-phone-wielding paparazzi, the design also seems to resonate with a new generation. If the Stingray really can capture their imagination, then the Corvette might once again be seen on the coasts, not just in the middle of the country. It is interesting that, in our days of driving and discussions, it emerged that the Corvette’s major rival for this award was the Cadillac CTS. Of all the new cars introduced this year — from brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, and many others — the top two contenders for Automobile of the Year were both from General Motors. General Motors, the bumbling giant, tied up in knots of bureaucracy and legacy costs, recipient of a much-vilified loan from Uncle Sam. Although many will never admit it, today’s GM is putting out some excellent products. We can’t help but marvel at the fact that they were developed under the darkest possible skies. Given the circumstances, we might not have expected a great new Corvette, but that’s exactly what we got. The Corvette has long been a tremendous performance value wrapped in an all-American package. Now, however, with newfound sophistication and user-friendliness, the C7 should melt the barriers that have kept away so many driving enthusiasts. This is not just a car for the Corvette faithful but instead spreads the gospel to a new, wider audience. The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is a world-class car with no apologies to make, an expression of greatness from a town and a car company that have been dismissed as losers. It is also the Automobile of the Year. Tadge Juechter, chief engineer of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, is Automobile Magazine’s 2014 Man of the Year. Click here to read the full story.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Base Price: $51,995
Engine: 16-valve OHV V-8
Displacement: 16-valve OHV V-8
Horsepower: 455-460 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 460-465 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel
Steering: Electrically assisted
Front Suspension: Control arms, transverse leaf spring
Rear Suspension: Control arms, transverse leaf spring
Brakes: Vented discs
Tires: Michelin Pilot Super Sport ZP
Tire sizes F, R: 245/40R-18 (93Y), 285/35R-19 (99Y)
L x W x H: 177.0 x 73.9 x 48.6 in
Wheelbase: 106.7 in
Track F/R: 62.8/61.6 in
Weight: 3436 lb
Weight dist.: 49/51%
0-60 mph: 3.7 sec
Top speed: 185 mph (est.)
EPA mileage: 17/29 mpg, 16/28 mpg (manual, automatic)

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Research the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette

From the January 2014 issue of Automobile Magazine – by Jason Harper | Photographs by: Joe Vaughn
Tadge Juechter didn’t blink as the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray blitzed through a series of tight kinks on a California back road. One wild-eyed journalist after another was putting the coupe through its paces for the launch of the seventh-generation car, and Juechter was stuck in the right seat. No worries for the fifty-six-year-old engineer, for he had total trust in his machine. And make no mistake, the C7 is Juechter’s machine. Only the fifth chief engineer in the Corvette’s sixty-one-year history, he’s likely to go down in the books as the one who got it right. For that he is Automobile Magazine’s 2014 Man of the Year. Corvette critics can be harsh, and those complaints are rarely unfounded. Some will contend that Chevy’s engineers should not be applauded for simply fixing all the stuff that was wrong in previous versions. But Juechter’s team did far more than finally bolt in decent seats: the C7 is a top-to-bottom reimagining of what the Corvette could and should be. The car is full of thoughtful engineering, from the seven-speed manual with rev matching that is engaged by using paddles to sensors that know when the tires are properly heated. The Stingray is also a clear manifestation of what happens when a postbankruptcy General Motors gets out of its own way and allows an effective leader to oversee a dedicated team. “People probably think that everybody at GM rallies around the Corvette, but it’s not like that,” Juechter says. “The corporation is structured around mainstreamvehicles, and the Corvette is idiosyncratic, which makes some people uncomfortable. Getting the right support is a constant negotiation.” Juechter should know — he’s been with the company since 1977 and has worked almost exclusively with Corvettes for the last twenty years, starting under then-chief Dave Hill. “It helps having worked on the C5 and C6,” he jokes, “because you know where a lot of the land mines are.” Born in Laredo, Texas, as part of an Air Force family who frequently moved, he earned degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering and an MBA at Stanford. Working for GM for two summers in college convinced him of one thing: he didn’t want to work at GM. Today, he considers the term “GM lifer” a badge of honor. Juechter certainly knew the importance of the C7’s interior. “We put the interior designers on the track so they could understand what it’s like to live in a 1-g environment, to have skin pushing on hard objects,” he says. Distracting infotainment systems like Cadillac’s Cue were also ixnayed. Juechter is the most eloquent engineer we’ve ever met (and as an active runner, in the best shape, too), and he can be passionate about the Corvette in the way of a protective father. When former Automobile technical editor Don Sherman posited in our June 2010 issue that the C7 would have a “probable turbocharged V-6,” Juechter took to a Corvette owners’ gathering, angrily waving a copy of the magazine and saying, “Don’t believe any of what you read — most of it will be wrong.” The 2014 Stingray’s accolades aside, his team’s work is hardly over, as they’re in the throes of creating more powerful iterations of the Corvette. However, we’ll refrain from conjecture about the next Z06 — or the Z07. We don’t want to get yelled at again. Tadge Juechter’s masterpiece, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, is Automobile Magazine’s 2014 Automobile of the Year.

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Packard packed with problems, but some hold out hope

November 17, 2013
A single column stands amid the rubble of a collapse at Building #92 at the Packard Plant in October 2010. Perched on top is a TV, which was placed there by artist Scott Hocking in an installation he called Garden of the Gods.
Brian Kaufman/Detroit Free Press

By John Gallagher

Detroit Free Press Business Writer

Potential Packard Plant buyer thinks long-term
Potential Packard Plant buyer thinks long-term: Peru-based developer and potential Packard Plant buyer Fernando Palazuelo
The Packard Plant's south water tower stands above the crumbling complex in November 2010, only a few months before it, too, was brought down by scrappers.

The Packard Plant’s south water tower stands above the crumbling complex in November 2010, only a few months before it, too, was brought down by scrappers. / Brian Kaufman/Detroit Free Press

Obstacles to redevelopment of the Packard

■Environmental issues
■Cost of demolition
■Structural damage from scrapping
■Far from other development in the city

Fernando Palazuelo

Age: 58
Origin: Spain
Residence: Lima, Peru
Occupation: Real estate developer, founder of Arte Express
Accomplishments: Has rehabbed more than 100 buildings since mid-1980s.
Family: Married with five children, a sixth due next month. The two oldest work for his firm; the middle two attend Harvard University; the youngest is 2 years old.

Detroit has witnessed a few miracles of redevelopment in recent years. The Westin Book Cadillac, the DoubleTree Fort Shelby and the Broderick Tower all found new life after decades of abandonment.

It’s possible that the derelict Packard Plant, often seen on national TV as a symbol of Detroit’s decay, could join that list. After a second bidder failed to come up with the money Friday in a Wayne County treasurer’s auction, developer Fernando Palazuelo of Peru can have the sprawling 40-acre site if he comes up with $405,000 on Monday, as promised. He wants to restore portions of the plant — which once made Packard automobiles — into a development that has commercial, residential and light-industrial possibilities.

■ Related: Peru developer vows to pay for Packard Plant on Monday

The envisioned project would span years, if not decades, and promises an investment of $300 million-$400 million.

Some of Detroit’s jewels of redevelopment had advantages that the Packard Plant does not, raising questions about whether any bidder for the property, serious or not, could realistically pull off a major project at the site.

■ Special report: The Packard Plant: Why it has to go

Among the skeptics, count George Jackson, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and the city’s chief development officer. In an interview last week, Jackson ticked off the many obstacles to a Packard project.

“You don’t know what the environmental is, and you’ve got a demolition issue, too,” he said. “The costs are going to be pretty much through the roof. And then you’ve got a neighborhood around it that’s not exactly the garden spot of the city.”

But other experts hold out hope.

Elisabeth Knibbe, a Detroit-based preservation architect, said there is “absolutely something doable there,” but, she added, “what you have to do is choose what stays and what goes.”

Packard vs. the others

Clearly, successful projects like the Book-Cadillac, the Broderick and other revitalized landmarks have advantages that the Packard does not.

Those projects are all in the heart of downtown, amid a reviving market. The developers who took them on all had track records. All the projects met a market demand, for hotel rooms or residential apartments, that was at least strong enough to win financial backing.

In contrast, the Packard auction fiasco raises the question: Is the old automotive plant more like the Book-Cadillac, primed with promise and ready for its renovation, or more like the abandoned Michigan Central Station, rotting away 25 years after closing, with little hope of anything happening there?

Evidence suggests that the Packard is more like the latter.

The obstacles

Designed by architect Albert Kahn as the most modern factory of its day when built in the early 1900s, the Packard complex stopped producing cars in the mid-1950s. It has slowly crumbled ever since. The multiple buildings on the sprawling site have been vandalized and scrapped to the point where many roofs, walls and floors have caved in. Fires break out almost daily. Aerial bombardment could hardly reduce it to more of a ruin.

Besides the structural damaged caused by metal thieves and the inevitable environmental cleanup required, the site off Grand Boulevard near Mt. Elliott remains isolated, far from any of the hot spots of Detroit development.

The Detroit Future City plan, released this year, envisions that at least part of the Packard complex would be replaced by a green belt, either farming or reforestation, or some other ecological landscape.

Dan Kinkead, one of the authors of the plan and director of the Detroit Future City implementation office, said the northern edge of the Packard complex near I-94 might find new industrial use, but he holds out little hope for anything south of Grand Boulevard.

“The southern extent runs down into those areas where we are calling for a land-use change there. Those would ultimately become more of a green function,” Kinkead said.

Finally, the Packard complex’s original design as a multistory factory is obsolete by current industrial standards. Factories today are normally built on one story for easier production flow.

A new owner might want to acquire the Packard site just for the roughly 40 acres of land, but that raises a lot of questions, too. Demolition costs would run high, and there’s the environmental cleanup that would be required.

Clearing the entire site just to gain control of the land also raises the question of price competitiveness. One of Detroit’s great advantages right now is that it has some of the cheapest rates for commercial real estate space in the country. But if a developer needed to recover tens of millions of dollars in cleanup and demolition costs, the cost advantage might disappear.

Reasons for hope?

Despite these obstacles, Knibbe said, the Packard site might be salvageable provided some hard decisions are made. Some parts are probably reuseable, while other sections are probably too far gone to save. A new owner would have to find out the true condition of the site, including its structural integrity and environmental condition.

“The buildings are very robust,” Knibbe said. “Some are collapsing, but others you could probably repair and still use. You have to look at each piece of it.”

Knibbe remains an optimist about the site — or at least an optimistic realist.

“There (is) tremendous opportunity there for doing something that’s really unique,” she said, such as “a live-work, manufacturing-housing-shopping type community using someof what’s left.”

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 Follow him on Twitter @jgallagherfreep.


Honda, Toyota, Audi are tops on resale value

9:08 AM, November 18, 2013
2010 Honda Element

The Honda company logo shines off the grille of a 2010 Element at a Honda dealership in Littleton, Colo. on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009. / Associated Press
By Chris Woodyard


Honda is the top brand for retaining the most resale value, but Toyota and Audi do well, too, a company that tracks car depreciation says.

But Toyota has the most models overall for cars with best resale in their segments, from the Prius C, a hybrid, for alternative fuel vehicles; to the Land Cruiser for fullsize premium utility vehicles, according ALG, formerly known as Automotive Lease Guide.

Audi did well, too.

“Toyota, Audi and Honda captured the most segment honors due to the consistent high value of all their products,” said Larry Dominique, President of ALG. “Honda was named top Mainstream Brand due to their prudent use of (sales) incentives – $1,000 lower than the mainstream average – and low rental fleet penetration.”

ALG is handing out its top vehicle honors this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Vehicles that were tops in their segment included:

• Hyundai Accent (Subcompact Car)

• Mazda Mazda3 (Compact Car)

• Chevrolet Corvette (Premium Sports Car)

• Chevrolet Camaro (Mainstream Sports Car)

• Toyota Avalon (Fullsize Car)

• Porsche Panamera (Premium Executive)

• Kia Soul (Subcompact Utility Vehicle)

ALG also established five new segments for the 2014:

• Midsize Utility 2-Row (Winner: Hyundai Santa Fe Sport)

• Midsize Utility 3-Row (Winner: Toyota Highlander)

• Off-Road Utility (Winner: Toyota FJ Cruiser)

• Premium Midsize Utility 2-Row (Winner: Land Rover Range Rover Sport)

• Premium Midsize Utility 3-Row (Winner: Audi Q7)


New models, world debuts at L.A. Auto Show point to recovering industry

10:45 AM, November 18, 2013
The BMW 4 Series Convertible

The BMW 4 Series Convertible / L.A. Auto Show

By Alisa Priddle

Detroit Free Press Business Writer

LOS ANGELES — Luxury and technology take center stage this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show that opens to the media Tuesday.

Automakers will unveil at least 56 new models including 22 world debuts at the 2013 show, up from 49 previews last year in another indicator of the recovering auto industry.

The L.A. show is occurring at the same time as the Tokyo auto show. Many of the Japanese automakers are showing new models in both places.

Among Detroit automakers, Ford will show a concept of the next-generation Edge midsize crossover utility vehicle. General Motors will take the wraps off a new Chevrolet Colorado compact pickup truck. Chrysler is not unveiling anything new in Los Angeles, but Fiat’s luxury brand Maserati has a press conference scheduled.

Several luxury models will debut here.

Porsche introduces the Mecan, a compact crossover that expands the lineup to fivevehicles.

Lincoln brings the MKC, its first ever compact crossover.

Jaguar has the global premiere of the F-Type coupe, an all-aluminum performance car.

Mercedes has a number of unveils, including the double world premiere of the S 65 AMG with a V12 and the SLS AMG GT Final Edition super sports car, which are debuting at both the L.A. and Tokyo auto shows simultaneously.

Infiniti is showing its Q30 concept for the first time in North America.

As usual, there will be a lot of new electric vehicles in L.A. but this year’s show also will feature several fuel cell vehicles. Toyota has the FCV (fuel cell vehicle) concept as well as its Driver Awareness Research Vehicle, a concept designed to tackle the issue of distracted driving.

The FCV is close to the fuel cell vehicle plans to launch around 2015 using hydrogen to generate electricity with a range of about 300 miles. The concept can hold four passengers and be refueled in minutes.

Honda will show a concept of the second generation of its FCEV, an evolution of the FCX Clarity it has offered on a limited scale since 2008. Hyundai will show a fuel cell electric crossover that could debut next year. Hyundai has a fuel cell Tuscon available in Europe.

In more conventional electric vehicles, Volkswagen has the e-Golf, its first pure electric in the U.S. when it hits showrooms in select states by the end of 2014.

The car has a range of up to 90 miles with lithium-ion batteries developed by VW and made in Germany. The car can be charged up to 80% in 30 minutes. To erase range anxiety, VW will offer a roadside assistance plan that takes a depleted car to a charging station and covers cab fare. VW will also show its CrossBlue coupe concept.

BMW has the i8 and i3 electric vehicles on display.

Other spotlighed vehicles include the Nissan Juke Nismo RS, a front-wheel drive model that uses a six-speed manual transmission.

Subaru is marking the 25th anniversary of the Legacy with a concept of the midsize sedan.

Contact Alisa Priddle: 313-222-5394 or Follow her on Twitter @AlisaPriddle


New Mini is bigger but more fuel efficient

The new Mini will be offered with an optional head-up display, camera-based active cruise control and collision and pedestrian warning systems.
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Automotive News Europe
November 18, 2013 14:26 CET

OXFORD, England — Mini today unveiled the latest generation of its iconic minicar. The new Mini is slightly larger than the current model but also lighter and more economical on fuel.

The Mini Cooper three-door hatchback unveiled at the brand’s production plant here is the first model underpinned by parent BMW Group’s new UKL front-wheel-drive architecture, which will be shared with entry-level BMW-brand models.

Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW’s board member in charge of Mini, said the Mini plays a key role in BMW’s brand strategy with its distinctive design that has a global appeal, especially to young people. The brand’s importance will increase as customers increasingly downsize to smaller cars, he said. “We have big plans for Mini,” Schwarzenbauer added during the unveiling.

Mini says the new version has an “even more precise and sporty handling” than the current model. The car will go on sale in global markets including Europe and the United States in the spring. In Germany, the cheapest Mini Cooper will start at 19,700 euros.

The design of the new Mini, the third generation since BMW acquired the UK brand, is little changed from previous models. Mini described it as an evolutionary refinement.

“The new Mini carries forward its predecessor’s aspiration to remaining the leading original of the premium small-car segment,” Mini said in a statement.

The Mini Cooper will be offered with a choice of two new gasoline engines and a diesel. Increased engine efficiency, optimized weight and enhanced aerodynamic properties helped cut fuel consumption by up to 27 percent compared with current models, Mini said.

New technology includes optional LED headlights and a SIM card permanently installed in the car, both segment firsts, according to Mini.

Mini said the car’s weight has been reduced by a more extensive use of high-strength steels.

A new electronic power steering system will “promote agility, driving safety and comfort” while the braking system is lighter and has better friction than the equipment on the current model, Mini said.

Mini said the new model’s larger size will give occupants more room and boost luggage space.

The new Mini’s length has increased by 98mm to 3821mm. It is 7mm taller at 1414mm and 44mm wider at 1727mm than the current model. The wheelbase is 28mm longer at 2495mm. Trunk volume grows by 51 liters to 211 liters.

“Cornering agility and ride comfort benefit from these new dimensions,” Mini said.

The Mini will offer a wider selection of driver assistance systems including a head-up display, and a camera-based cruise control and distance control function with automatic braking if a collision is imminent.

The Mini Cooper will be offered from launch in Europe with three newly developed twin-turbocharged engines: a 136-hp, 1.5-liter, three-cylinder gasoline unit; a 192-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline powerplant; and a 116-hp 1.5-liter, three-cylinder diesel. Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions will be available on all engine variants.

BMW production chief Harald Krueger said at today’s press unveiling that the new Mini will continue the brand’s “great success story.”

Global sales of the Mini, which has seven variants, rose nearly 1 percent to an all-time high for the brand of 249,702 units in the first 10 months of this year.

You can reach Paul McVeigh at
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2013 SRT ViperDescription:
Crashed while racing at the Atlanta Dragway on November 8, 2013Location:
Atlanta, GA

Audi R8Description:
Someone set fire to this Audi R8 while it was parked here overnight.Location:
Prague, Czech Republic

Dodge Viper SRT-10Description:
Car lost grip, hit the fence and rolled over. Two people riding in the Viper were injured.Location:
Warsaw, Poland

Ferrari CaliforniaDescription:
28 year old professional soccer player was under the influence of alcohol when he crashed his Ferrari.Location:

Ferrari 360 SpiderDescription:
Ferrari lost control in the rain, crashed into a bridge and caught fire.Location:
Washington D.C.

Ferrari F430Description:
A Malaysian women managed to smash into the back of another car and witnesses state she was very much under the influence of alcohol.Credit: Zero2TurboLocation:

Audi R8Description:
Got t-boned very hard.Location:
Paaren, Germany

Tesla Model SDescription:
Spotted at a Tesla service center. No idea how the wreck happened.Location:
Fremont, CA

Ferrari TestarrosaDescription:
Spotted in a parking lot.Location:

Dodge Viper GTSDescription:
Spotted on the highway being towed.Location:
Quebec, Canada

Porsche Panamera TurboDescription:
A professional soccer player was trying to find the stadium when his GPS directed him onto a flooded road.Location:

BMW X6Description:
Lost control on the highway, went over the grass and crashed into this concrete barrier.Location:
Manaus, Brazil

Porsche Cayenne SDescription:
4 vehicle accident involving a Porsche Cayenne. The Cayenne swerved to avoid an oncoming head-on crash, and caused a multi-car pileup.Location:
Manaus, Brazil

Daimler set to take 12% stake in Beijing Auto

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, left, and BAIC Chairman Xu Heyi have both previously agreed to strengthen ties between the two companies.
November 18, 2013 10:34 CET

BEIJING (Bloomberg) — Daimler will sign a final agreement to buy a 12 percent stake in Beijing Automotive Group Co.’s passenger-car unit tomorrow, securing a stake in its Chinese joint-venture partner ahead of a planned initial public offering.

The German automaker will sign the deal at the Beijing local government, Beijing Auto Chairman Xu Heyi said today in the Chinese capital. Hendrik Sackmann, a Daimler spokesman, said both companies were “progressing well” and that the automaker will communicate more when the contracts are signed.

Daimler previously said that as part of the transaction, the automaker will receive two seats on the BAIC board and added that it could allow the Chinese company to build cars off vehicle architectures used to make Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

BAIC also will increase ownership in a production joint venture to 51 percent from the current 50 percent.

The automakers’ joint venture began production at the first Mercedes passenger-car engine plant outside of Germany in Beijing today.

Beijing Auto may “soon” invest in Daimler, depending on the market situation and how many funds it has at its disposal, Xu said, without being more specific. The agreement paves the way for BAIC to pursue an IPO.

BAIC has hired investment banks including Goldman Sachs Group and UBS for the share sale, probably in Hong Kong, Xu said. Mercedes’s growth in China, the world’s largest automotive market, had been hampered by a distribution structure that split deliveries of locally made and imported vehicles.

The carmaker combined the sales units last December. In August, Daimler said it will invest 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) to double local production to more than 200,000 vehicles.

Automotive News Europe contributed to this report
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BMW i3 pioneers use of carbon fiber in mass-produced cars

BMW’s electric i3 is the first mass-produced car made largely from carbon fiber.
November 16, 2013 06:15 CET

BERLIN (Bloomberg) — BMW’s bid to transform the way it makes cars starts with hundreds of thousands of fine white strands snaking upwards in a production hall in rural Washington in the United States.

Looped through an almost mile-long course, what looks like the world’s thinnest rice noodles will be stretched, toasted and eventually scorched black to create carbon fiber — a material thinner than human hair and yet tougher than steel.

BMW will use the sleek, black filaments for the passenger frame of the i3 electric car, which went on sale at dealers in Germany Nov. 16 and around the world in the coming months. It’s the first effort to mass produce a car made largely from carbon fiber and represents the biggest shift in automobile production since at least the 1980s when the first all-aluminum car frames were made.

The strategy started taking shape six years ago, as Norbert Reithofer, then the newly appointed CEO, examined trends affecting the industry and concluded that increased environmental awareness would likely prompt tougher emissions regulations that could make the future of autobahn cruisers like the 5-series sedan unsustainable.

Business threats

“Looking forward to 2020, we saw threats to our business model,” Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner, who was head of strategic planning at the time, said in an interview in Munich. “We had to find a way to bring models like the 6 series, 7 series and X5 into the future.”

For BMW to continue to sell cars that live up to the company’s “ultimate driving machine” claim, the manufacturer needed to offset those emissions with a viable electric vehicle for growing cities, where more and more potential customers would live. That was the start of the i3. At the time, electric cars had the reputation of being sluggish because of the heavy battery needed to hold a charge capable of moving the car at least 100 kilometers (62 miles) — the range considered necessary for daily use. That meant the car needed to be lighter to reduce the size and cost of the power pack and improve handling. The lightest and strongest material available is carbon fiber.

High cost

The downside is that it’s prohibitively expensive. Consultancy Frost & Sullivan estimates that carbon fiber costs about $20 (15 euros) per kilogram. That compares to about $1 (0.74 euros) for steel. BMW’s goal is to get the expense of a carbon-fiber frame down to the level of aluminum by 2020.

While these thin, black filaments have been used for Formula 1 racers, elite sports cars like the Bugatti Veyron and Boeing Co.’s 787 jet, the material is untested in large-volume production because of the expense and because of the time and complexity involved. So BMW aimed to do what no one else had done: mass produce carbon fiber. At the time, BMW’s initial plans amounted to about 10 percent of the global market for the material, leaving few alternatives to manufacturing its own supplies — an unusual step in the modern-day auto industry, which has increasingly outsourced components to cut costs.

“BMW’s approach recalls the days of the industrial revolution, when manufacturers started with raw iron ore or located factories near power sources,” said Aravind Chander, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan in Chennai. “It’s an aggressive approach and still unproven.”

Securing partner

To produce the fiber, BMW formed a joint venture with SGL Carbon SE in 2009. Due to the strategic importance of the project, BMW even made the rare move to secure influence at the Wiesbaden, Germany-based manufacturer by buying a 16 percent stake, countering Volkswagen Group’s purchase of a 10 percent holding. Susanne Klatten, a member of the Quandt family which controls BMW, also bought 27 percent of SGL, putting the company effectively out of reach of rivals.

Manufacturing with carbon fiber is far more complex than taking sheets of steel and pounding out body panels. It starts with stripping atoms from acrylic thread. The chains of carbon crystals are then stitched into mats, layered together and injected with plastic resin. BMW’s process involves at least three production sites and the fibers travel more than 5,000 miles before a finished car ultimately rolls off the line at a factory in the eastern German city of Leipzig.

”Think differently”

While most carmakers are experimenting with carbon fiber, none are rushing to follow BMW. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand doesn’t see carbon fiber as critical. Instead, it’s engineering autos that can be powered by conventional engines as well as electric motors and plans by 2017 to roll out fuel cell cars, which have a longer range than battery-only vehicles.

“We think differently” about the benefits of building cars with carbon fiber, Daimler Chief Financial Officer Bodo Uebber said in an interview. “Let’s see who has the better answer.”

Audi, BMW’s closest rival in luxury-car sales, looks to mix and match materials, including aluminum, lightweight steel as well as carbon fiber, rather than rely on one single solution, spokesman Josef Schlossmacher said.

The strategy to develop a carbon fiber-based electric car wasn’t without its critics at BMW. Eichiner and CEO Reithofer had to defend their choices to skeptical company managers around the world to get the rank and file on board. “Some initially didn’t see the need for electric vehicles and wanted us instead to build a super sports car,” said Eichiner. “It wasn’t as if the strategy was universally seen as a home run.”

Codename: Chinook

BMW and SGL pushed ahead with setting up a $100 million carbon-fiber factory, breaking ground on a site in Moses Lake, Washington, in July 2010. The town on central Washington’s arid high plateau was selected after a global site search under the codename Chinook. Moses Lake, a three-hour drive from Seattle and an hour and a half from Spokane, is usually not much of a destination. What ultimately tipped the scales for the town of about 20,000 was the nearby Columbia River. BMW wanted the car to use renewable energy from the start, and the local utility charges about 3 cents per kilowatt hour for hydro-power to run the plant’s ovens and furnaces, less than one fifth the cost in Germany.

“BMW’s decision to go all out and do carbon-bodied electric cars is brave,” said Max Warburton, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein. “It’s a reminder that they’re more clued up, more focused and more long term than the competition.”

Lighter than Leaf

The first fibers were made there in the summer of 2011 as a test run for eventual mass-market production. The i3 uses carbon fiber to protect the passengers and an aluminum under-body to hold the battery and absorb the force of an accident. Because carbon parts are reinforced plastic, they have some flexibility. But in the event of an accident, the plastic could rupture, which means the piece would need to be cut out and a new part bonded to it. In other words, it can’t be bent back into shape.

Thanks to the material, the i3 weighs 20 percent less than Nissan Motor Co.’s Leaf, the world’s best-selling electric car. That helps the vehicle accelerate to 100 kilometers per hour in 7.2 seconds, more than 4 seconds faster than the Leaf.

Detailed planning was certainly involved in the carbon-fiber transformation. It starts with an unimpressive acrylic thread, similar to that used for cheap sweaters. The fibers, which are custom made in Japan, are stretched along spools and then toasted at temperatures of more than 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit) for about an hour and a half, turning from gold to bronze to brown to black.

Oxygen free

The non-carbon atoms are then scorched out of the fibers in furnaces at as much as 1,400 degrees Celsius. The environment inside the furnaces is oxygen free to keep the material from bursting into flame. What results is a molecular chain link of carbon crystals. The glistening black strands — each about one-seventh as wide as a human hair — are separated into bundles of 50,000 fibers, which is more than standard in the industry. In the final processing area, the threads shoot across the room winding onto dozens of spools at once. The factory is nearly autonomous. Less than a dozen people monitor the machines and occasionally open new boxes of acrylic thread to splice onto the next lot. The fiber production will go on, even if the i3 falls flat. Carbon components will start finding their way into BMW’s mainstream lineup starting with the next 7 series.

Steel limits

“The investment in carbon fiber isn’t about a single vehicle, but about future-proofing our entire portfolio and therefore our business,” said Eichiner. “There’s no way around making cars lighter, and steel is reaching its limit.” In BMW’s Leipzig factory, steel is no longer the measure of toughness. A sign there reads “nerves of carbon fiber.”

The company’s not afraid of going it alone. “When you take a new path, there’s always risks involved,” said Eichiner. “But if we succeed here, then it’s a huge chance, and the competition will need time to catch up. There are not many opportunities in this industry to gain an edge like that.”
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VW to show bold CrossBlue Coupe concept

The CrossBlue Coupe has a 415-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain.
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Automotive News Europe
November 15, 2013 19:45 CET

Volkswagen is in the midst of planning an SUV surge in the U.S. market. At the Los Angeles Auto Show this week it will give a glimpse of one potential offering: the CrossBlue Coupe, a stylishly raked SUV concept shown at the Shanghai show this year.

The CrossBlue Coupe shows all the signs of a fanciful concept; it has a 415-horsepower plug-in hybrid powertrain, with an electric-only range of 13 miles (about 20km) and an estimated 70 mpg (about 3.4 liters per 100km) on the EPA cycle with help from the battery.

But the concept shows VW is thinking of ways to battle brands such as Ford, Mazda and Nissan that have imbued their two-row crossovers with sleeker, more carlike styling.

At a time of “disproportionate growth in the SUV segment,” the concept “shows the potential of our Volkswagen design DNA and will undoubtedly have an influence on future SUV models,” VW brand design chief Klaus Bischoff said in a statement.

No decision has been made on production for the U.S. market.

The five-seat CrossBlue Coupe is a sibling of the seven-seat CrossBlue concept shown at the Detroit auto show in January. They share Volkswagen’s new modular toolkit, which means they could be built on the same assembly line with relative ease.

The leading contenders include the plant in Chattanooga that builds the Passat and multiple Volkswagen Group plant sites in Mexico.

With the VW brand starved for new products in the U.S. market, top executives from headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, have said they will make a decision on a mid-sized SUV and production site by year’s end. The first of the new SUVs could start rolling off the assembly line around 2016.

You can reach Gabe Nelson at
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Akerson: 4G has gee-whiz factor

GM sees fast wireless as key sales point

Akerson: “It’s stunning what we are able to do when it rolls out.”
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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

DETROIT — General Motors CEO Dan Akerson was blown away by a recent test drive in a GM prototype. It wasn’t the torque or the ride or the handling. It was the high-speed wireless Internet coursing through the car’s cabin.

Akerson says the 4G wireless service GM will pipe into most models starting next year will offer the sort of seamless connectivity many consumers have come to expect everywhere — except in the car, where their experience often is hampered by sluggish smartphone connections and clunky touch screen interfaces.

The former telecom executive predicts GM’s deployment of 4G LTE, which is up to 10 times faster than the 3G cellular data connections available on many smartphones today, will put Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac on more shopping lists.

“It’s stunning what we are able to do when it rolls out,” Akerson told Automotive News last week. “There’s a raft of things you could do that are faster, more content-rich.”

For example, he says, GM will offer live video streaming to rear-seat screens. The vehicle will be a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, so grown-ups can have a zippy connection on their smartphones while kids swipe away at their tablets in the back seat. Navigation maps, traffic reports and programs such as Google Earth could be streamed live to the infotainment head unit.

Cool features aside, the biggest benefits will be greater reliability and faster speeds from an embedded Internet link rather than just a smartphone connection, says Thilo Koslowski, an automotive technology analyst with research firm Gartner Inc.

“People have broadband access at home, at work, on their phones. Only their cars are lagging behind,” Koslowski says. “This would lead to a much better customer experience. It’s really what consumers are expecting.”

GM will partner with AT&T to offer 4G LTE through its OnStar service on most 2015 models starting in mid-2014. Owners would be able to subscribe to the service through OnStar or add their car as an additional device on their AT&T data plan.

Koslowski says most automakers are working on embedded broadband, but he agrees with Akerson’s assessment that GM probably has a one- or two-year head start on nonluxury rivals. Audi is expected to launch 4G LTE service in the United States next year.

Akerson says connectivity has become a top-five purchase consideration for buyers in their teens through early 40s. He believes the 4G experience will be a key differentiator, especially as those young people who “are living with mom and dad because they can’t get a job” eventually become new-car shoppers.

“When they do come back — and they will — they’re going to want cars that are connected,” he said.

Akerson, who was president of MCI in the early 1990s and ran other telecom companies, has emphasized consumer technology as an image builder for GM’s brands. He recruited tech executives to spearhead the effort, including Mary Chan, who arrived in May 2012 to head GM’s infotainment and OnStar division after running mobility solutions at Dell Inc.

Chevrolet recently became the first automotive brand to integrate Apple’s Siri voice recognition system, in the Spark minicar and Sonic subcompact. Cadillac’s CUE infotainment touch screen was the first among major brand offerings to deploy smartphone-like swipe and pinch commands.

Akerson seems to delight in melding his telecom experience with GM’s connected-car push. He likens GM’s effort to when MCI was racing against other telecom companies in the early ’90s to thread fiber-optic cable across the nation.

“With 4G,” he said, “there’s stuff that’s going to happen here that the guy with the biggest pipe and the fastest jump is going to take advantage of.”

Still, the 4G connection alone won’t make for a great experience. Analysts say GM has the same challenges facing all other automakers: to develop intuitive interfaces and consumer apps that safely give users features they want. Some critics have panned the Cadillac CUE system for its sluggish response and lack of knobs, for example.

For inspiration about the power of easy-to-use consumer gadgets, Akerson looks to his 8-year-old grandson, who, like many other kids, has mastered his parents’ iPad.

“These kids are going to expect cars to do certain things,” Akerson said. “I don’t want Tesla to define what innovation is.”

You can reach Mike Colias at
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Boom has replaced gloom as production hits a 13-year peak

Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

These are boom times in North America, but it’s also crunch time — as in capacity crunch.

Production last month hit a level not reached since 2000, and there’s no end in sight.

Carmakers are squeezing more units out of existing plants, and supplier bosses admit they have to quit stalling and start making long-delayed capital investments.

Not only is production rising to meet local demand, but some carmakers are ramping up North American plants as global export centers. It’s full speed ahead for the industry — a complicated mix of opportunities and challenges.
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Honda sees N.A. as export base

Ito’s goal: Up to 30% of output for other markets

Ito: Global hubs with export ratios of 20 to 30 percent
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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

TOKYO — Honda Motor Co. President Takanobu Ito, aiming to diversify operations away from Japan, wants North America and other regional hubs to export 20 to 30 percent of their output to other markets.

The export goal comes as Ito is predicting record U.S. sales in 2013 and again in 2014.

Honda plants in the United States, Canada and Mexico currently export about 5 percent of their output. The bulk of the export surge is expected from plants in Ohio and Alabama, where Honda makes large vehicles better suited to export markets, Ito said.

“There is not a precise figure, but ideally if the regional production capacity is 100 percent, then 70 percent to 80 percent should be sold in the local market and the rest should be supplied to other regions,” Ito told Automotive News.

“I consider that the ideal on which I’m making a proposal.”

For North America, it means ramping up shipments of large cars such as the Accord sedan and Pilot crossover to overseas markets such as the Middle East, Ito said.

The target for boosting exports from places such as the United States is part of a new realignment of Honda’s production base.

The goal is to build a bigger localized footprint that is less reliant on high-cost Japan and able to react more quickly to fluctuations in exchange rates and worldwide demand.

The plan also will be adopted at Honda’s regional production bases in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Europe. But the United States, being the company’s most developed factory network outside of Japan, is expected to spearhead the drive.

Ito did not specify the timing but said the plan would take awhile to implement.

“My biggest challenge is trying to grow Honda globally in a well-balanced manner,” he said.

“We are asking all the regions to manage their own operations. But so far we have not been able to deliver cars in a timely manner that truly meet the differing needs of customers in the various regions.”

Last year Honda produced 1,691,088 vehicles in North America, implying an export target of around 340,000 units.

Honda exported 77,309 units from the United States and Canada in 2012. Honda does not disclose separate figures for exports from Mexico, but exports from the United States, Canada and Mexico account for only around 5 percent of total output, a spokesman said.

Through September, overseas exports from the United States and Canada already have exceeded last year’s 12-month total, at 83,916, out of total North American production of 1.3 million.

“I believe the United States can contribute more to other regions,” Ito said. “But this is not an easy-to-achieve operation.”

Last December, Honda said that cumulative exports from the region hit 1 million vehicles since the first Ohio-made Accords were sent to Taiwan in 1987. Today Honda’s North American plants ship to nearly 50 countries.

Honda said at the time that by the end of next year it expects to be exporting more cars from North American than it imports.

That trend is a natural extension of Honda’s pioneering role as the first Japanese automaker to open a plant in the United States, IHS Global Insight wrote in report about Honda’s export growth. “It is also somewhat easier for Honda to become a net exporter as, unlike its other Japanese rivals, the majority of its luxury brand vehicles are made in North America,” IHS analyst Aaron Bragman wrote. “Toyota and Nissan make Lexus and Infiniti vehicles primarily in Japan, while Honda makes most Acuras alongside their Honda platform counterparts.”

Still, Ito said that exports would not take priority over supplying the local market and that Honda is still on track for North America sales of 2 million in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016.

“The number we care about most is sales,” Ito said. “I want to bring North American sales volume first to 2 million units.”

The company sold 1.7 million units in the last fiscal year and expects to sell close to 1.8 million in the fiscal year that ends March 31.

In the United States alone, Honda expects record sales this calendar year, exceeding the high of 1.6 million in 2007.

Ito said he expects another U.S. record in 2014.

You can reach Hans Greimel at — Follow Hans on Twitter
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Suppliers say they’re eager to add capacity

Trade group survey finds sharp rise in confidence and planned spending

Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

Automotive suppliers have been content to let their plants run around the clock rather than build new factories or assembly lines to meet high demand. Until now.

According to a September survey by the Original Equipment Suppliers Association, 84 percent of suppliers doing business in North America said they are “somewhat” or “very confident” that their companies will make capital investments in 2014 and 2015.

An additional 11 percent said they were “slightly confident” they would add capacity, and only 5 percent said they did not plan any capital expenditures.

Survey respondents were more willing to invest than they were in July, when 66 percent were planning for “significant” or “somewhat increased” capital investments.

The upbeat survey comes at a time when North American light-vehicle production is on course to hit about 16.1 million units this year, up from 15.5 million units in 2012, according to LMC Automotive, a consulting firm based in suburban Detroit.

In 2014, North American vehicle production is expected to rise 3 percent to 16.6 million units, says LMC.

As demand rises, automakers are planning to expand capacity in years to come. According to a Morgan Stanley study, carmakers in North America will add 864,000 units of capacity in 2014, plus 400,000 units in 2015.

So it comes as no surprise that the OESA survey, which drew 85 responses from OESA’s 450 members, showed suppliers at their most optimistic since January 2012.

Sixty-four percent said they had grown either “somewhat” or “significantly more optimistic” about their prospects for the next 12 months. In July, only 44 percent of respondents were more optimistic.

The survey also suggests that suppliers are struggling to keep up with demand. One respondent said his company was “busting at the seams,” while another said “our growth plans continue to be aggressive.”

Asked to identify their most pressing needs, 29 respondents said they were focusing on personnel issues, such as hiring more engineers, retaining employees and attracting skilled trades.

Fourteen suppliers said capacity constraints were their most serious challenge, and 11 identified product launches as their top concern.

Neil De Koker, CEO emeritus of OESA, said in September that North American automakers couldn’t add any more workers to existing assembly plants and now must build new ones. “Now it’s bricks and mortar,” De Koker said.

At the time he was referring to North American automakers. Now it’s true for suppliers, too.

You can reach David Sedgwick at
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The auto industry’s ups and downs

Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

Maybe because it’s so global and huge, the auto business has an awful lot of changes day in and day out.

Today’s heroes are tomorrow’s bums. Today’s hot cars are tomorrow’s dogs.

It is fascinating to see the staying power, or lack of it, for people and their products.

Rarely do people retire happily after a long career. Rarely do we see CEOs who have been around for decades. It’s a tough and volatile business.

I was pleased to note that Ken Czubay, head of U.S. sales at Ford, retired without a lot of fanfare after turning 65.

And I am constantly pleased to note that Luca di Montezemolo, head of Ferrari, has been around longer than most of his cars. Of all the current CEOs, he seems to have the most staying power.

My friend Eberhard von Kuenheim, who I hope is enjoying his retirement, had a really long run as a CEO. He turned BMW into a force to be reckoned with, starting with little to nothing.

Today, for a CEO or anybody near the top to survive and prosper is difficult.

Cars are the same way. Five years ago, Volkswagen of America was struggling. Then it got hot as a firecracker. And somehow recently it seems to have lost its momentum. I am not sure the cars are that much different.

A hot car today can suddenly get a bunch of new competitors and turn into a wallflower. That’s probably why marketing is still an art, not a science.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of top executives fall by the wayside simply because they couldn’t maintain a hot streak forever.

I have always thought that Wall Street was a bit cruel to demand more and more growth and earnings continually.

Solid performance year after year doesn’t seem to be enough. It has never been completely clear whether it’s the executives who constantly seek more market share and revenue or the investors who demand more. But I do know that being on top of the mountain gives everyone a clear target to aim at.

First the rumors start. Then the conversation changes from whether an executive is leaving to who will replace him or her. Long before any confirmation of the top guy’s demise, they are already walking on his grave.

If you’re good, the rewards are endless.

But it’s a very tough world at the top. Not many survive for a happy ending.

You can reach Keith Crain at
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For some, the jury’s still out on the auto rescue

Gabe Nelson is a reporter forAutomotive News and is based in Washington, D.C.
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Automotive News
November 17, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

WASHINGTON — Was saving General Motors and Chrysler worth the taxpayer dollars spent? That’s the question pundits and politicians tend to focus on as they begin filling out their final scorecards on the auto industry bailout.

For most economists, the answer is a clear “yes.” After all, the federal intervention and the industry’s rebound are credited with saving more than 300,000 auto jobs, at a likely net cost to taxpayers of about $13.5 billion, according to U.S. Treasury auditors’ latest report.

But there’s another question that ought to figure in the scoring: What happened to those who lacked the clout to be saved — people such as Dan Melchiorre?

Melchiorre lives in southern Pennsylvania and had owned one of the more than 2,000 new-car dealerships that were closed in the tumult of the 2009 bankruptcies, when the White House decided GM and Chrysler simply had far more stores than their dwindling market share justified.

Melchiorre went through arbitration and got some money from Chrysler for his loss, but he is still fighting the U.S. government over its role in the dealership cuts. Earlier this month, he and his wife came to Washington for a hearing in the case at a courthouse blocks from the White House.

Melchiorre and 147 other former owners of rejected stores have sued the government, seeking compensation for their loss. “I want to hear the government explain why they felt this was the right course of action,” said Melchiorre, who still has a Dodge-only store in Lancaster, Pa. “And I don’t believe they can.”

The merits of their arguments against the government haven’t yet been heard in court; a lower court said the case could proceed, but the government is seeking to have it tossed.

The wisdom of culling dealerships was debated back then in 2009; it is still being debated now. But the stories of people such as Melchiorre underscore that the bailout was a political act, with clear winners and losers.

The losers were not just dealers and their employees. Many small suppliers went under as orders dried up, and line workers from assembly plants were put out of work as their plants closed.

The store Melchiorre lost was Warner Chrysler-Jeep in Hummels-town, Pa., down the road from Hershey, “Chocolate Town, USA.” Afterward, Melchiorre tried to run it as a used-car store, cutting his full-time staff of 35 to 13. But the lack of trade-ins made it hard to find desirable used cars to sell, even at auction.

Last week, Melchiorre told his employees that the store will soon become a repair shop and tire center only. More layoffs are coming.

“These were good-paying jobs, with health care benefits, and other benefits, too,” Melchiorre says. “They’re gone.”

If the dealers prevail in the suit against the government, they would stand to receive money. Melchiorre said he is more interested in being heard.

At the hearing this month, his side was argued by Roger Marzulla, an attorney well known in environmental circles. Marzulla’s specialty is “takings,” a doctrine that involves how people get repaid when their property is seized or made less valuable by government action. It often comes up when the government blocks development of a property to protect an endangered species — which is essentially what the Detroit automakers were in 2008.

But the attorneys made their arguments using a different meta-phor.

In the symbolic retelling in the courtroom, GM and Chrysler were sinking ships, sending out an SOS to the government. No one else was going to help.

The government showed up with lifeboats but decided those lifeboats couldn’t fit all the dealers on board, so it ordered the captains to pick which dealers would stay with the ships and drown.

The legal question in the case is a philosophical one as well. Is the government liable for harming the dealers who went down with the ship?

Or is it excused by the fact that had it not shown up, the ships would have sunk and drowned the dealers all the same?

Those what-ifs aren’t just theoretical for the Chrysler dealers in the court case, who gathered over drinks in Washington this month and traded ideas about what might have happened had the government stayed out.

To this day, Melchiorre believes that had the government let Chrysler go into bankruptcy on its own, a buyer would have come forward to rescue the Jeep brand.

“If that had happened,” Melchiorre said, “I might still be a Jeep dealer in Hummelstown.”

Indeed, as clear a success as the bailout may seem to the White House, and as sunny as the picture may look for rejuvenated GM and Chrysler, there are still matters left unsettled. Many people still feel they were wronged.

With the Chrysler dealers’ case and others still working their way through the courts, it could be years before the final accounting of the bailout is done.

You can reach Gabe Nelson at
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Subaru dealers will get 7-seater

Fuji president says it might take a while

The new Subaru could be based on the Japanese-market Exiga, shown.
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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

TOKYO — Subaru dealers have been clamoring for an updated seven-seat vehicle to replace the slow-selling Tribeca — and they will get one, says Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, president of Subaru-brand parent Fuji Heavy Industries.

But he won’t say when.

“I’ve received very strong requests from U.S. dealers for a multipassenger seven-seat vehicle,” Yoshinaga said in an interview. “And we are planning to introduce it to the U.S. market.”

He said engineers are at work on the vehicle, but he declined to give a schedule for introducing it. He said it won’t be ready for a seamless introduction when Subaru stops making the aging Tribeca SUV early next year.

Subaru isn’t planning any new vehicles for the United States next year or the year after, though there will be updates and redesigns of current nameplates, Yoshinaga said.

“The seven-passenger vehicle project is completely different,” he said of the new vehicle.

“You won’t see the new vehicle coming out immediately when Tribeca production ends.”

The new vehicle would fill a hole in the lineup for a big people mover. The seven-seat Tribeca went on sale in 2005 and has been a slow seller criticized for a cramped rear-seat room.

Subaru sold only 1,348 Tribecas through October, making it the brand’s worst seller by far.

The new seven-seat vehicle could be based on the Subaru Exiga, a Japanese-market van-wagon crossbreed that also seats seven. It has wagonlike proportions with swing-out doors, but also gets a tall, top-heavy greenhouse and a slightly elevated third row.

Yoshinaga said that the new vehicle’s output isn’t accounted for in company’s plan to expand U.S. production capacity to 300,000 units a year by the end of 2016.

The Tribeca is made in Lafayette, Ind. Subaru plans to increase capacity at the factory to 300,000 units, from 170,000 today.

The Impreza small car will be added to the localized output of the Legacy and Outback.

You can reach Hans Greimel at — Follow Hans on Twitter
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Reynolds puts scare in Illinois store

‘Weird letter’ pushes dealer’s switch to rival DMS vendor

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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

For a dealership to change dealer management system vendors, it typically takes at least a year of preparation, staff training and testing.

A store’s DMS is its central nervous system, operating software for everything from payroll and accounting to vehicle inventory, consumer credit and service.

So imagine the panic of Rachel Bachrodt when she received a letter from Reynolds and Reynolds on Oct. 30. It gave notice to Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet and a sister Buick-GMC store in Rockford, Ill., that the dealerships had 60 days to renew with a long-term contract or be canceled.

The longtime Reynolds customers had been month-to-month with Reynolds for the previous five years.

“We’ve been with Reynolds for more than 30 years and never paid them a day late,” said Bachrodt, 44, the operating manager of the stores. “Sixty days is ridiculous.”

Reynolds, which typically negotiates three- or five-year contracts with dealerships, had 15 or so customers operating month-to-month from older contracts that were “anomalies” in the Reynolds book of business, the company said.

Reynolds spokesman Tom Schwartz said last week it appeared Bachrodt was one of the holdovers given notice of Reynolds’ desire to switch to a standard longer-term contract.

Schwartz said many of the notices have been resolved without issue and some of the customers were unaware that they were not on standard contracts.

For Bachrodt, the notice was anything but routine. Dealerships can’t operate without a DMS. And 60 days to find an alternative vendor seemed an impossible task.

Bachrodt said she is paying Reynolds $17,500 a month for the two stores and never got an indication that the month-to-month arrangement would be terminated. After the letter, which was delivered by a Reynolds representative, she said she sought a long-term quote from Reynolds but failed to receive one.

Schwartz said Reynolds is aware of the situation and is responding.

Bachrodt isn’t waiting, though. She said Reynolds’ main DMS rival, ADP Dealer Services, has agreed to perform a hurry-up switchover by the Jan. 1 deadline.

That will keep her 140 employees working at the two stores, even with some training and inconvenience during the crucial year-end sales close. And ADP is bringing her monthly DMS cost down $5,000 a month.

The Bachrodt family sells about 60 new vehicles a month at the Chevrolet store and 35 a month at the Buick-GMC store.

The group also owns stores in Florida along with Volkswagen and BMW dealerships in Rockford. These stores remain with Reynolds.

Said Bachrodt: “Truthfully, we never would have made the change except for that weird letter.”

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Suppliers’ improvements to noise cancellation may help voice recognition systems work better

The Cadillac ELR has a feature that muffles noise from the vehicle’s range extender.

Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

Noise cancellation technology, once the province of luxury vehicles, is spreading to mass-market models as automakers introduce energy-efficient — and sometimes noisy — powertrains.

Automakers are offering low-revving engines and transmissions, cylinder deactivation and hybrids equipped with range extenders — small gasoline engines used to recharge the vehicles’ battery packs.

These sometimes noisy features can complicate the task of a vehicle’s voice recognition system, which must filter out the din while accepting motorists’ spoken commands. Excessive noise also can undermine the feeling of luxury that automakers are trying to create for mass-market vehicles.

Automakers are reluctant to increase vehicle weight by adding thicker window glass or sound insulation, so they’re turning to noise cancellation technology instead.

The 2014 Cadillac ELR, for example, features a Bose sound system with noise cancellation that muffles the sound of the vehicle’s range extender when it switches on.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid also boast noise cancellation, and now automakers are adopting it for high-volume vehicles such as the Honda Accord, Buick LaCrosse and Buick Encore.

Noise cancellation “is the hot topic for everyone,” said Armin Prommersberger, Harman International Industries Inc.’s vice president of automotive audio in Europe. “This is what the whole industry is looking at.” Harman also sells noise cancellation.

How the Buick Encore system works
Bose Active Noise Cancellation

Better microphones

Noise cancellation systems mainly target annoying low-frequency sounds emitted by the engine. A digital signal processor analyzes engine data plus cabin noise detected by microphones.

Then the audio speakers emit sound waves of the same frequency, but whose crests and troughs are the inverse of the crests and troughs of the offending engine sounds, canceling them out.

To save money, automakers would prefer to use the same microphones to detect motorist voice commands and monitor unwanted cabin noise.

That’s difficult. Microphones designed to monitor cabin noise must be able to detect noise from any direction, but microphones that detect voice commands work better if they are directional and can be aimed at the motorist.

So Harman, of Stamford, Conn., designed a two-in-one microphone with separate membranes to detect cabin noise and the motorist’s voice.

Prommersberger said the company also has developed software that can predict cabin noise more precisely with the aid of accelerometers that monitor the suspension system’s vibrations.

Accelerometers are still pricey, and Harman’s system would require at least six to work well. But the cost of the devices is coming down as suppliers produce them in volume. They are used in smartphones to figure out which way is up, so the display can be adjusted accordingly.

Likewise, digital signal processors are getting cheaper and more powerful. A first-generation noise cancellation system typically required two or three digital signal processors at $30 per unit. Now, a single unit that costs $10 to $15 is powerful enough to handle the job, according to Prommersberger.

As the hardware improves, infotainment suppliers are upgrading their software, too. Last month, QNX Software Systems of Ottawa, Ontario, introduced QNX Acoustics for Active Noise Control, a software product that can be used with a vehicle’s existing audio speakers, microphones and digital signal processor.

QNX claims its system reduces noise by 11 decibels. For comparison, freeway traffic generates about 70 decibels for outside listeners.

“We specifically target engine sounds,” said Tina Jeffrey, QNX’s automotive product marketing manager. The QNX software “provides a huge cost saving because automakers don’t have to [add] hardware.”

The system works best in vehicles with at least two microphones, two speakers and a subwoofer, Jeffrey said.

Meanwhile, Nuance Communications Inc., the dominant supplier of voice recognition software in the United States, is upgrading its software to improve its reliability.

Over the years, the Burlington, Mass., company has recorded cabin noise in thousands of vehicles to identify noises from wind, windshield wipers, turn signals and other unwanted sounds.

The software can ignore those unwanted sounds as it listens for voice commands, says Arnd Weil, vice president of automotive electronics.

Mimicking human ears

Now, the company is improving the ability of its voice software to distinguish between the motorist and other passengers. “That is the most difficult thing” for speech recognition software, Weil said. “How should the system differentiate between the two?”

The answer, Weil says, is to set up two microphones that can determine the speaker’s location, much like two human ears. The system also is trained to focus on the louder voice, in case a passenger is issuing voice commands.

The German luxury automakers, which can tolerate the added expense of multiple microphones, have taken the lead on this technology, Weil says.

Nuance, QNX and Harman are vague about the rollout schedules of their customers.

But it seems clear that automakers want this technology as soon as possible. According to J.D. Power and Associates’ Initial Quality Study, voice recognition systems draw a huge volume of complaints, even though motorists like the idea of voice recognition.

Noise suppression is one key way to make these systems work better.

You can reach David Sedgwick at
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At last, JLR will design, build own engines

2 new four-cylinders will be small, light and powerful

A rendering shows the $750 million engine plant in Wolverhampton, England.
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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

The first engine scheduled for production in the new $750 million Jaguar Land Rover engine plant in Wolverhampton, England, next year is a four-cylinder diesel.

About 18 months later, a turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine rolls down the line.

For Jaguar Land Rover, the two new engines will mark the first time since the 1990s that each brand will manufacture an engine of its own design. The new plant is another milestone in each brand’s long struggle to take charge of its destiny.

“When we manufacture our own engines ourselves, it gives us an additional degree of freedom,” said Wolfgang Ziebart, 63, a 23-year BMW manufacturing and product development veteran, who took over as Jaguar Land Rover’s group engineering director in August.

The company is saying little about the character and design of the new engines. But here’s what has leaked out from published reports and the company: The engines will be light, powerful and, for a luxury manufacturer, surprisingly small, about 2.0 liters.

They will be loaded with the latest engine advances, such as turbocharging, direct fuel injection and variable valve timing — and almost certainly other innovations.

Jaguar has a rich history of designing powerful engines with trend-setting combustion chambers and other features that helped establish the brand’s performance image.

Land Rover’s classic diesel engines, while not overly powerful, are known to be very durable.

Although Jaguar Land Rover has not confirmed any vehicles yet for the new engines, they almost certainly will be used in the new small Jaguar sedan announced at the Frankfurt auto show in September and in smaller Land Rover models, such as the LR2 and Range Rover Evoque.

The company hired powertrain manufacturing experts, Ziebart said, to help set up the new engine plant, which is being done now.

“The machinery is moving in, the first machines for the block and heads are being installed. We will manufacture the first prototype engines by spring next year and first [production] engines come at end of next year.”

Ziebart: More freedom

3 cylinders?

Ziebart said the company is considering other engines for the plant, including a three-cylinder gasoline engine in the 1.5-liter range.

Ziebart said the reason to build a three-cylinder — which would cost more than a four-cylinder — is to reduce fuel consumption. A three-cylinder diesel is also possible, he said.

“If we could come up with similar performance as the four-cylinder, I think this could be an alternative, too,” Ziebart said.

He said Jaguar Land Rover did not lose the capability to design engines as corporate parents changed over the years.

After passing through various corporate owners in the 1980s and 1990s, both brands were stripped of their engine plants.

Jaguar hasn’t manufactured an engine of its own design in one of its own plants since previous owner Ford Motor Co. closed the old Radford plant in Coventry, England, in 1997.

Land Rover’s last in-house engine was the Td5 diesel of 1998. For decades, Land Rover’s main engine was a hand-me-down General Motors-designed aluminum V-8, and there was a series of engines bought from suppliers, such as Ford, BMW, Powertrain Ltd., and Perkins Engines Co.

Sales of both brands, now owned by India’s Tata Motors, are on a tear.

Jaguar Land Rover’s combined sales in the United States were up 19 percent through October on the strength of such new vehicles as the Range Rover Evoque compact SUV and the Jaguar F-Type sports car.

Last year, Jaguar Land Rover set an all-time global sales record of 357,000 units, a figure the company will easily top in 2013.

Jaguar Land Rover delivered a record 102,000 vehicles globally in the third quarter alone. The company’s sales might be higher had an engine shortage in 2010 not slowed growth.

The Range Rover Evoque is likely to get the new engines.

Rare opportunity

Horsepower, torque and fuel economy ratings on the new four-cylinder engines are not yet finalized, but Ziebart said engineers are making the most of a rare opportunity to design a new family of engines.

“You can be sure if we make our own engines, they will excel in technology,” he said.

“We will probably set a new benchmark in terms of engine efficiency, weight and power per liter, and so on.”

Like its competitors, Jaguar and Land Rover are under pressure to increase fuel economy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Ziebart said.

The plan to do so involves moving to smaller, high-performing engines, transmissions with more than six speeds and lightweight bodies — the same strategy adopted by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and other luxury brands.

“The good thing is that Jaguar and Land Rover are positioned at the high end of the market, so we can afford those technologies,” Ziebart said. “Others who have to work in cost-constrained markets don’t have that freedom.”

Flexible manufacturing

Ziebart said that after production begins at Wolverhampton, Jaguar Land Rover will still buy some of its engines from suppliers. Its contract with Ford, for example, expires in 2020. Ford makes Jaguar Land Rover’s V-8 and V-6 gasoline and diesel engines.

The new engine plant’s volume is expected to reach 300,000 units a year eventually.

Ziebart confirmed that the plant will have two lines, one for gasoline and one for diesel, but that both engines will share the same architecture.

Blocks with common bore spacing, crankshafts and oil pans, for example, simplify manufacturing and reduce purchasing costs. The plant will be flexible and can change the production mix based on consumer demand.

At least one supplier, BorgWarner Inc., is building a plant nearby to manufacture turbochargers for Wolverhampton.

Jaguar Land Rover, Ziebart said, has no plans to build its own transmissions and will continue to buy them from suppliers.

You can reach Richard Truett at
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Staples for a century, fan belts are slipping

Electricity drives more components in quest for greater fuel efficiency

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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

DETROIT — The old-fashioned fan belt is losing its grip.

The familiar toothed rubber belt, a staple of car engines for nearly a century, is driving fewer mechanical components as electricity takes over more functions under the hood.

The belt, originally dubbed the fan belt because it connected the crankshaft to the engine’s cooling fan, is now typically called the accessory drive belt.

Not only has the number of accessory drive belts decreased from as many as four on some 1970s and ’80s engines to just one today, but so has the length.

The Chevrolet Volt is down to one small belt that drives only the water pump.

Engineers have been replacing belt-driven accessories, such as the power steering and water pumps, with more energy efficient, electrically driven components.

Belt-driven systems typically draw power constantly. Electric systems use energy only when it is needed.

Other parts that are candidates for removal from accessory belts are the air conditioner and alternator, and in diesel engines, a vacuum pump.

Pros and cons
Eliminating accessory drive belts has pluses and minuses.Advantages

    • Lower noise, vibration and harshness levels
    • Higher fuel economy
    • Simpler manufacturing
    • Less maintenance for consumers


    • Higher costs of electric-powered systems
    • More computing power needed to run accessories
    • More complex electrical system
    • Higher repair costs for electrical components


Three 2014 gasoline-electric hybrids — the Toyota Prius, Ford C-Max and Ford Fusion Hybrid — have no belts and no components bolted to the front of the engine.

More beltless engines are coming as automakers shift belt-driven accessories to electricity. The main reason for the disappearing belts: higher fuel economy. Automakers are rushing to meet 54.5 mpg fuel economy standards by the 2025 model year.

“We are being asked to do whatever we can to improve fuel economy,” said Scott Willis, Ford Motor Co.’s North American technical specialist for front engine accessory drives.

Because today’s serpentine fan belt runs under high tension on a series of rollers and pulleys on the front of the engine, it generates friction, which lowers fuel economy.

A typical Mercedes-Benz V-8 engine, for example, has one long serpentine belt that turns the water pump, alternator, air conditioner and power steering pump. It snakes around 10 pulleys, rollers and tensioners.

“Everywhere the belt touches something and bends and stretches, you have [friction] losses. More pulleys and more tension mean more losses,” Willis said.

Help from hybrids

Engine designers can remove the alternator from the belt when the starter and alternator are merged into one unit — called an integrated starter generator — and moved to the back of the engine.

Some hybrids, such as Honda’s Civic Hybrid, Insight and CR-Z, use an integrated starter generator, which is sandwiched between the engine and transmission.

Systems made for hybrids, such as the integrated starter generator, could be used in regular autos to spread development costs over higher volumes.

Japanese supplier Denso Corp. has in production an electric air conditioning compressor that is used on Ford and Toyota hybrids. General Motors, Ford and other automakers are migrating to electric power steering, which takes the belt-driven hydraulic pump off the engine.

Automakers are using electrically driven water pumps not just to save energy but to warm the engine quicker, which reduces emissions.

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Mormon site is marketing giant for Utah car dealers
‘A crazy amount of traffic’ from church-owned

Kris MacDonald, Internet sales director of Murdock Automotive Group’s two largest Hyundai dealerships, says business from accounts for half of the stores’ used-vehicle sales.

David Barkholz Twitter Facebook RSS feed
Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET
For Kris MacDonald and for most auto dealerships in Utah, the most productive source of sales prospects is a local Internet shopping site owned by the Mormon Church.

Business from accounts for half of all used-vehicle sales made at Murdock Automotive Group’s two largest Hyundai stores near Salt Lake City, said MacDonald, the stores’ Internet sales director. The site also accounts for 20 percent of new-vehicle sales.

“We get a crazy amount of traffic from them,” MacDonald said of

The influence of this one local media source is virtually unparalleled in other major markets, said Oliver Young, marketing director of Young Automotive Group and son of dealer principal Spencer Young.

“It’s a phenomenon. Everybody in the market knows KSL,” Young said. is an online media site with a giant classified section, including cars, that resembles a Utah version of Craigslist. It grew out of another property owned by the Mormon Church, the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, KSL-TV.

People within 500 miles of Salt Lake City use to shop for everything from tools to farm equipment, Young said.

Each month the site attracts about 5.3 million unique visitors and 285 million page views, said Eric Bright, vice president of e-commerce at the for-profit unit of the church that manages The Mormon Church is known officially as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

About three years ago, auto dealers began in earnest to list used-car inventory on the site. And a year ago began allowing dealers to list new-car inventory, Bright said.

It has been a bonanza for dealers such as Young and Murdock.

MacDonald said the large Mormon population around Salt Lake City is fiercely loyal to and view it as a trusted source for doing business. Bright estimated that about 75 percent of Utah’s 2.2 million people are Mormon.

Young, who is Mormon, said he believes that people flock to the site because they get results, and the site does a good job of policing scammers.

Bright said the site attracts about 700,000 unique car shoppers each month who look at an eye-popping 40 million pages of inventory.

Sowing and reaping

Whatever the consumer motivation, MacDonald said he gets the best return of any media by listing inventory and advertising on the site. He said he started listing used inventory more than three years ago.

But MacDonald said he knew so many eyeballs were on the site that he couldn’t resist adding new Hyundai vehicle listings among the used ones. At the time, new Hyundais were selling at prices that made them competitive with other brands’ used listings, so the strategy worked, he said.

When launched new-vehicle classifieds a year ago, Murdock Automotive Group jumped in with both feet, MacDonald said.

At Murdock’s Hyundai store in Logan, Utah, accounted for 60 percent of the 1,144 used vehicles sold through September, MacDonald said. That’s 686 vehicles. accounted for 170 new-car sales during the period, or 15 percent of the 1,139 new cars sold at the store. In contrast, the Logan store’s own Web site brought about 450 new and used car buyers in the nine months.

MacDonald said similar numbers were posted at the group’s Hyundai store in Lindon, Utah.

Results have been so impressive, he said, that the stores this month dropped their listing subscriptions with, a national online shopping site.

He said customers from as far away as Boise, Idaho, and Casper, Wyo., come into the store after seeing store listings on

Worth the price bump

Young said is far and away the top source of prospects at the nine-store Young Automotive Group.

For instance, at Young Chevrolet in Layton, Utah, is responsible for about 80 leads a month, compared with 20 for, another national online site, he said. For the group’s Kia store, it’s100 leads a month from compared with fewer than 10 for, he said.

Young said he overlooks some of the site’s shortcomings, such as limited analytics to track shopping habits on the site, because produces results.

The subscription price increased from about $850 monthly per store to between $3,000 and $4,000 a month when new-car inventory was added. The total includes the listing of inventory as well as some advertising connected with that inventory, he said.

MacDonald said he pays about $3,200 a month per store for compared with about $5,000 to list new- and used-car inventory on Bright at also notes that the company recently improved analytics.

Young, for one, said he is willing to pay. “If you’re not on it, you’re not getting in front of customers.”

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(What about the flagship for Cadillac that Akerson just canceled?  If GM had dropped Buick and GMC then they could afford those flagship cars the Chevy and Cadillac brands need to compete.–Ed Meyer)

Akerson: Buick could probably use a flagship

The 1963 Riviera — is a new flagship in Buick’s future?
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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

General Motors executives have been dropping some provocative hints lately about possible plans for a future Buick flagship.

When asked last week whether Buick could use a flagship, GM CEO Dan Akerson said: “Probably.”

Earlier this month, Mark Reuss, GM’s North America president, said that he would like to punctuate the Buick lineup with a flagship that is “a much more beautiful Panamera,” referring to Porsche’s four-door grand touring sedan, Forbes magazine reported.

Reuss stoked the rumor mill in May when he told Automotive News that “something special for Buick, I think, is really needed for the next phase of where that brand is going,” citing the possibility of a Riviera-like flagship.

But Buick dealers and enthusiasts should temper expectations. Akerson said GM is wary of a top-end Buick encroaching on the Cadillac brand, which has its own rear-wheel-drive flagship sedan in the works.

“We haven’t made a firm yes-or-no decision, so I want to keep the door open that we might have a [Buick] flagship,” Akerson said. “It all depends what we do with Cadillac over time.”

(If Akerson’s past actions are any indication he will talk it to death and then either do nothing and/or repeat GM’s same old mistakes.–Ed Meyer)

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GM and Toyota to battle for smaller pickup truck segment

The Chevy Colorado, left, which GM plans to reveal in Los Angeles this week, extends an effort to offer a wider variety of pickups to U.S. shoppers. GMC’s version of the truck, right, will be called the Canyon.
Tim Higgins
November 18, 2013 – 1:24 pm ET

(Bloomberg) — For Rick Alpern, who runs the Keyes Chevrolet auto dealership in Los Angeles, few tasks are tougher than selling big trucks to eco-conscious Californians looking for just enough pickup to fit a bike, beer keg or surfboard.

Consider his recent effort to persuade the owner of a mid-size Toyota Tacoma to switch to a full-sized Chevy Silverado.

“We talked about going into a Silverado,” Alpern recalled last week. “He goes, ‘The problem is that Silverado is just too big for me for what I do.'”

General Motors Co. is out to change that. While the Detroit Three dominate big pickups, Toyota Motor Corp. has become the top mid-size truck seller in the U.S. with its Tacoma. GM, which stopped building a mid-size pickup for the U.S. last year, is returning to the segment with a redesigned version of the Chevrolet Colorado, betting it can appeal to Toyota buyers.

“The styling on the Colorado is unique enough that it’s going to raise some eyebrows and create some attention — and all of the attention that we can create bringing prospective buyers back to the Chevy showrooms is vital,” Alpern said.

The Colorado, which GM plans to reveal at the Los Angeles Auto Show Nov. 20, extends an effort to offer a wider variety of pickups to U.S. shoppers than any other company. Along with the Colorado, GM will also offer a GMC version called the Canyon.

Ford Motor Co., whose F-Series has been the best-selling truck for 36 years, only sells full-size and heavy-duty versions, as does Chrysler Group LLC’s Ram brand. Toyota doesn’t offer a heavy-duty pickup while offering full-size and compact trucks.

GM’s strategy

“We have a three-truck strategy,” Maria Rohrer, marketing director of Chevy trucks, said in September during a presentation in Austin, Texas. “We believe that we ought to have a myriad of mid-size, full-size and heavy-duty. We’re the only ones that have all three.”

GM didn’t totally abandon its mid-size truck effort after stopping production for the U.S. A redesigned Colorado, which was revealed at the Bangkok Motor Show in 2011, is sold in 16 global markets, including Brazil, Thailand and Argentina.

While the new U.S. Colorado is built on the same platform as the one sold globally, it “has been pretty much re-engineered for North America because the customer needs are very, very different than they are in Thailand or Brazil,” Tom Wilkinson, a GM spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

California buyers

To take hold in the U.S., wooing Californians is key. The state is the largest market for mid-sized trucks, with 16 percent of registrations this year through September, according to The next biggest markets were Texas, with 9.7 percent and Florida, with 6.7 percent.

Alpern, the Los Angeles car dealer, said he was given an early peek at the new Colorado by GM last year. He said its styling isn’t as “radical” as the international version, though it’s aggressive enough to appeal to California buyers, especially those who will use it for lifestyle purposes such as biking and surfing.

“Lifestyle truck owners are more apt to change to something that has newer features, more styling,” Alpern said.

Ford got out of the mid-size segment in 2011, saying customers prefer larger pickups. GM, embracing one of the few areas where it won’t fight head-to-head with Ford, is taking a risk.

‘More value’

The market for these smaller pickups, which weigh less and are more fuel efficient than large pickups, makes up only 1.6 percent of the total vehicle market, down from 3.2 percent in 2008. It may increase only to 2 percent in 2015, according to IHS Automotive’s Polk.

“The customer can get a heck of a lot more value in terms of towing capacity, bed size, engine size” by getting a larger pickup, said Tom Libby, a Polk analyst. “The competition in that segment is hurting the one underneath it.”

The Colorado is part of the 18 new or refreshed vehicles being brought out this year and 14 next year by GM as its works to transform its lineup from among the oldest into the newest.

CEO Dan Akerson is counting on the new models to help boost North America operating profit as he seeks to stem losses in Europe and expand business in China.

‘Beautiful Truck’

The mid-size trucks are also part of GM’s strategy to meet federal CO2 restrictions, Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, told reporters in September in Dallas. GM sees the Colorado competing against the Toyota Tacoma in markets such as California where mid-size trucks sell better, according to Edmunds data.

While GM sees the Colorado competing against the Tacoma in markets such as California, the GMC Canyon will target GM’s full-sized competitors, Reuss said.

“It’s a beautiful truck that gives you almost everything that a full-size competitor might give you but at a lower price,” he said.

Consumers paid an average price of $27,903 for a mid-size truck in September compared with an average $40,860 for full- size and heavy-duty pickups, according to Edmunds data.

Detroit unveiling

The Canyon will be unveiled in January around the Detroit auto show, said a person familiar with the plans who asked not to be identified because the plans haven’t been released publicly. The trucks for North America will be assembled at GM’s factory near St. Louis.

The U.S. market for mid-size trucks has declined because of improvements among big pickups.

“You’ve got these full-sized trucks that have just become tremendously capable vehicles and considerably more efficient than they used to be,” Jeremy Acevedo, an analyst with Edmunds, said. “It’s just kind of taken away from the market share of compacts.”

Tacoma led the mid-size segment last year with 141,365 deliveries, a 28 percent gain from 2011, according to researcher Autodata Corp. Combined U.S. sales of the Colorado and Canyon peaked in 2005 with 163,668 deliveries, Autodata said. That compares with combined U.S. sales of GM’s full-size pickups of 575,497 last year.

‘Diminished Segment’

Mid-size trucks comprise “a segment that used to be a very big portion of the overall truck market,” Dan Ammann, GM’s chief financial officer, told reporters in August. “It’s diminished over the years, partly because in our view, there hasn’t been the kind of offering in the segment that customers were really looking for.” The Colorado is “really going to be aimed at the sport truck segment.”

Few Silverado buyers shop for smaller pickups, Edmunds’s Acevedo said. About 11 percent of Tacoma shoppers, for example, looked at a Silverado 1500, according to Edmunds data.

“It seems like the potential for incremental sales,” he said.

Since exiting bankruptcy in 2009, GM has rushed to develop new products in areas that it had let slide, such as compact pickups, as it dealt with the collapse of its business.

“During ’08, ’09, ’10, they had to pick and choose what programs made the most sense financially knowing they couldn’t do everything they wanted,” Polk’s Libby said. “This segment probably didn’t make the list.”

For Alpern, the new Colorado is “going to be a welcome addition.”
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Nissan at 80 is a transformed company

November 18, 2013 – 3:56 pm ET
Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News. Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief forAutomotive News.

TOKYO — On the cusp of this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan Motor Co. is celebrating its 80th anniversary in business.

And putting aside car talk for just a second, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn deserves recognition for achieving something that still eludes auto industry leaders around the globe: Ghosn has transformed Japan’s oldest automaker into one of the most geographically diverse management teams in the business.

Just look at his leadership group today.

An Englishman, Andy Palmer, heads up Nissan’s global product development. Another Englishman, Trevor Mann, is in charge of the company’s global performance. Joe Peter, an American, a Detroiter and Wayne State University alum, is Nissan’s global CFO.

Global human resources is run by the American Greg Kelly. Jose Munoz of Spain runs North America. Jose Valls of Argentina runs Latin America.

A Swede — former GM purchasing boss Bo Andersson — is at the helm of Nissan’s Russian operations.

Johan de Nysschen, a South African, runs the luxury Infiniti brand worldwide from his office in Hong Kong. The Cuban-American Alfonso Albaisa is in charge of Infiniti global design. Frenchman Vincent Cobee heads the Datsun brand as it prepares to enter markets from Africa to India. And of course, CEO Ghosn himself is a Brazilian.

Has any other automaker — let alone a Japanese automaker — opened the cultural gates this far on corporate leadership?

Make no mistake, Nissan is a proudly Japanese corporation. Thirteen of the automaker’s top 21 executives are Japanese. But that’s the point — 13 are. Not 21.

Auto companies talk about their global ambitions. And many have made a practice of promoting local executives into top slots at local subsidiaries.

But change has been slow. North American industry managers, suppliers, consultants and others will share their old frustrations of trying to persuade foreign automakers to listen to new ideas, to try new approaches, consider new supply sources, or even to promote individuals of different nationalities into their top ranks where strategic decisions are made.

Monday night, in the big public lobby of Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama, Ghosn addressed a crowd of Nissan executives, suppliers, politicians and media. Speaking in Japanese, Ghosn told the crowd that on the 80th anniversary, he wanted to look forward — not backward.

Nissan operates in 160 countries, he noted. “We look forward to making the car affordable to more people,” he said.

The mission, in other words: How can Nissan sell cars to people around the world who have never owned a car in the past? To drivers who have never bought a Nissan before? Or to people whose greatest product need is a vehicle that has never been offered to them before?

You obviously don’t do it by doing the same things you’ve tried in the past.

You do it by gathering together people from different world perspectives with new ideas, and then you listen.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at
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Storms damage Subaru’s Indiana plant, interrupt production

Damage to the Lafayette, Ind., plant is bad news for Subaru, which was already facing capacity constraints in the United States.

Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 2:32 pm ET

The severe storms that rolled through the Midwest over the weekend caused damage to the Subaru plant in Lafayette, Ind. — the only Subaru assembly plant in the United States — and interrupted production there for at least a day.

The plant manufactures the Subaru Outback, Legacy and Tribeca. It also produces the Toyota Camry, the top-selling car in the United States. It plans to add Impreza production in the future.

“We believe that it was a tornado that did damage to our plant due to the amount of uprooted trees and other damage,” Tom Easterday, vice president of Subaru of Indiana Inc., said in a voice message left with Automotive News today.

“The plant itself suffered damage to the roof, glass, some blown debris and sustained water damage. Operations have been cancelled for today, but we hope to have things up and running tomorrow or the next day.”

Damage to the plant is bad news for Subaru, which was already facing capacity constraints in the United States. The company is in talks to end production of the Camry at the plant so it can focus on keeping up with booming sales of Subarus.

Subaru needs more capacity as it aims for annual U.S. sales of 500,000 units by 2016. That would be up from an estimated 420,000 units expected to be sold this year.

The Indiana plant has capacity for about 170,000 Subaru vehicles a year, and the company hopes to expand production to about 300,000 units by the end of 2016, Subaru said. It is expected that discontinuing production of the Camry would free up 100,000 units of addional capacity.

Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, president of Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries, recently told Automotive News that he thinks “capacity is the only risk” Subaru faces in the United States.

Through October, U.S. sales of Subarus rose 28 percent to 347,890 units, in a market that was up 8 percent. That put the brand ahead of Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler. Subaru is on pace for its fifth consecutive year setting a U.S. sales record.

You can reach Sean Gagnier at
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Opel and labor leaders reach outline severance deal for Bochum

November 18, 2013 – 2:13 pm ET

FRANKFURT (Reuters) — General Motors’ Opel division said today it agreed with labor leaders on the outline of a severance deal for workers at the troubled Bochum plant, which is due to stop making cars at the end of 2014.

Opel said it will keep 700 jobs in Bochum, located in a depressed coal-mining region, by expanding its logistics warehouse. Furthermore, at least 200 out of more than 3,000 staff in Bochum will be offered an opportunity to transfer to other Opel factories.

The plant closure is part of a company strategy to achieve profitability in 2016 after more than a decade of losses for GM in Europe.

In March, employees at the 50-year-old factory voted against a restructuring deal that would have maintained production in Bochum up until 2016 and retained 1,200 staff.
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Dealers need not fear GM’s effort to sell cars online

David Barkholzcovers information technology and labor forAutomotive News
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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 12:01 am ET

The more General Motors promotes the national rollout of online car-buying at dealershipsthe more nervous many dealers get.

It must prick the streak of paranoia possessed by successful entrepreneurs. Or perhaps some dealers can’t get past mistrust generated by the factory in recent years, from perceived slights in allocation to real bloodlettings, such as massive store eliminations during the recession.

Regardless, it bears repeating that GM’s new Shop-Click-Drive service is not an insidious effort by the automaker to sell directly to customers and cut dealers out of the equation.

Here’s what it is: Shop-Click-Drive is a button on dealer Web sites that allows a visitor to complete a car purchase online. Customers can fill out credit applications, review incentives and F&I information and get estimates on trade-ins.

Each of GM’s 4,300 dealerships will decide voluntarily whether to offer the service on its Web site.

But because dealers voice their concerns about the program every time we write about it, I sought out Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations, to explain the company’s motivation.

“Shop-Click-Drive gives GM dealers new technology to help them connect with the growing number of customers who want to buy or lease a car online,” he wrote in an e-mail.

He went on: “We developed this new tool with input and participation from dealers, at no cost to them. Customers interact directly with individual dealers, not GM. These leads belong to the dealer, are never shared, and dealers always complete the sale.”

I would add that the alternative is for customers to use third-party sites to get auto information and prices. Is that better than the dealer having first crack at the customer?

The bottom line: Consumers use Shop-Click-Drive to shop within the dealer Web site. Those consumers are not shopped to multiple dealers, which can happen when they leave contact information on some third-party sites.

The vast majority of customers noodle around until they have to provide contact information, then they drop off. Only 1,000 cars have been sold through the program during a pilot and fewer than 10 customers transacted the entire deal online without a showroom visit. As so-called digital natives seek an increasingly online buying experience, Shop-Click-Drive is a GM promise to dealers, not a threat.

You may e-mail David Barkholz at

You can reach David Barkholz at — Follow David on Twitter and 

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Mini retools Cooper with more room, high-tech gear

The redesigned Mini Cooper is longer, wider, slightly taller and roomier. Luggage capacity has been increased by 3 cubic feet to 8.7 cubic feet.
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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 10:00 am ET — UPDATED: 11/18/13 11:56 am ET – adds sales history

Mini — feeling some heat from new rivals, notably the Fiat 500 and Chevy Spark — is upping its game with the third-generation Cooper hardtop and loading the venerable car with premium high-tech safety, performance and infotainment features.

BMW AG’s Mini unit hopes to position the revamped 2014 Cooper further away from its volume competitors.

The petite front-wheel-drive car still maintains its bulldog snout and stance, but it grows 4.5 inches in length on a new BMW Group front-wheel-drive platform.

Styling is a touch edgier with new headlights and a new grille, but Mini didn’t make any radical changes to the iconic car.

For the first time since it fell under BMW ownership, the Mini also will be equipped with engines from its parent — three-and four-cylinder twin-turbos.

Dipping into BMW’s technology bin, Mini will have an optional heads-up display, camera-based active cruise control, collision and pedestrian warning systems, a rearview camera, LED highlights as well as parking and high-beam assistance features.

In its third generation, the petite front-wheel-drive Mini Cooper still maintains its adorable bulldog snout and stance

The features are a game changer in the segment where it competes with the more basic Fiat 500, Chevrolet Spark and Scion iQ and bigger compacts such as the Audi A3.

The redesigned Cooper will debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week and go on sale in the U.S. market in March.

Base pricing and prices for the optional upscale features haven’t been announced.

Despite the runout of the current Cooper, Mini’s U.S. sales rose 2 percent in the first 10 months to 55,335 units.

Mini Cooper volume has climbed 1 percent this year to 37,500 in a minicar segment that has expanded 13 percent to more than 100,000 units.

This year’s segment growth has been fueled by the Spark, which has accounted for 30,677 sales through October after making its debut in 2012.

The Spark ranks No. 3 among U.S. minicars, behind the Fiat 500, introduced in 2011, and the Cooper, introduced in 2002.

Mini is expected to set another U.S. sales record this year. In 2012, sales of the Cooper and Countryman were 66,123, up 15 percent.

Other Mini variants and models are expected to be rolled out over the next few years — with as many as 10, up from the current seven.

The new Mini is 151.1 inches long. It is 68 inches wide, or 1.7 inches more than the current model.

With a height of 55.7 inches, it is 0.3 inches taller. The wheelbase has been extended 1.1 inches to 98.2 inches with a 1.7 inch wider front track and a 1.3 inch wider rear track. Both tracks are 59.1 inches.

The redesigned car is roomier, and luggage capacity has been increased by 3 cubic feet to 8.7 cubic feet.

Engines with more power

The new 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine has 134 hp — 13 hp more than Mini’s current Peugeot-sourced four-cylinder engine — and has 162 pounds-feet of torque.

With the standard six-speed manual transmission, the Cooper will accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 7.4 seconds — not rocket speed.

The sportier Cooper S model gets BMW’s 2-liter, four-cylinder, 189 hp engine with 207 pounds-feet of torque. The S is faster, sprinting from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. It has a top speed of 146 mph with the manual transmission.

An optional six-speed automatic transmission is mated to a start/stop feature. A six-speed sport automatic is also available. The transmission, mated with the navigation system, controls gear shifts based on navigation data and road conditions by anticipating a junction or corner.

Using a rotary switch at the base of the gear lever, the car can be switched to a sport or green mode of driving.

The Mini’s suspension has been reconfigured and the dampening system is lighter, Mini said. The electromechanical power steering has also been upgraded with torque steer compensation. The car has a standard speed-related steering assistance system.

Other features include antilock brakes, cornering brake control, dynamic stability control and an electronic differential lock control.

Upping the options

New driver-assistance programs include the head-up display that provides speed, navigation directions and visual graphics that warn of a collision as well as radio channels and audio track titles.

The car’s camera-based cruise control and distance control automatically maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. It also has a collision and pedestrian warning system that begins to apply the brakes if the driver doesn’t.

The new high beam assistant turns the lights on and off depending on the brightness of lights on oncoming vehicles.

The Mini Connected infotainment and communications systems will be able to use third-party apps for Android smartphones as well as the iPhone.

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at

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Toyota safety effort tackles teens’ first year behind wheel

Michael McCarthy
Advertising Age
November 18, 2013 – 3:13 pm ET

The leading cause of death for teenagers is not murder, suicide or drugs. It’s death by car accidents, often caused by distracted teen drivers taking their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel to yap on their cellphones or send text messages.

Toyota Motor Corp. said today it is launching “TeenDrive365,” the automaker’s biggest campaign to date addressing teen driving safety. Toyota will run new video spots on and focusing on the deadliest potential year for teen drivers: their first behind the wheel. There will be print, radio, display and online advertising, plus sponsored content on Twitter and Facebook. Everything is tied together at Web site

Ad agency 360i created the campaign, not Toyota main agency Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles. The company did not disclose spending on the effort.

The goal: Encourage parents to talk to their teens about the “dangers from distracted driving,” said Marjorie Schussel, corporate marketing director for Toyota. And to set a safe driving example for kids throughout their lives.

“The campaign is based on the insight that the first year of driving is one of the most dangerous years of a teen’s life,” Schussel said. The issue is “personally relevant,” she said, because her 16-year old son just got his driver’s permit. “I don’t know a parent who isn’t concerned about the safety of our kids on the road today.”

A national study conducted by Toyota with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found parents “are the No. 1 influence” on how their teens will drive in the future, Schussel said.

“We like to say driver education begins the moment a child’s car seat is turned facing forward. We as parents need to be models for our children.”

More teens die in car crashes than from homicides and suicides combined, according to the National Safety Council. A teen driver’s crash risk is three times that of a more-experienced driver. People using hand-held devices are four times as likely to crash as those using hands-free devices.

Hard numbers are difficult to come by because many people involved in accidents often won’t admit they were talking on a cell phone or texting. But NSC estimates there have been over 900,000 car accidents so far in 2013 involving drivers who were texting or using cell phones.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said traffic fatalities rose in 2012 for the first time in six years. The NHTSA said 33,561 people died in U.S. motor vehicle crashes last year, up 3.3% from 2011. Another 2.36 million were injured vs. 2.2 million the year before. The good news? The number of people killed in crashes involving distracted drivers fell slightly to 3,328 from 3,360 in 2011.

Dubbed “5 to Drive,” the NHTSA launched its own teen driving safety campaign in October that urges parents to share a five-item checklist with their kids. The five rules of driving safety are: No cellphone use or texting while driving; no extra passengers; no speeding; no alcohol; and no driving or riding without a seat beat.



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Lexus expects global sales record of more than 520,000 units this year

The Lexus RC rides on the same platform as the GS sedan. It is the same width as the GS but shorter than the IS.Photo credit: Hans Greimel
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Automotive News
November 18, 2013 – 10:18 am ET — UPDATED: 11/18/13 11:05 am ET

TOKYO — Lexus will reach a global sales record this year, a top executive said while unveiling the close-to-production prototype of the luxury brand’s RC sporty coupe.

Mark Templin, executive vice president of Lexus International, today said worldwide sales would “finish on the north side of 520,000,” edging Lexus’ all-time high of 518,300 units in 2007.

And Lexus’ volume should rapidly expand in the next couple of years as U.S. demand recovers and the brand adds product, he said. The RC and a compact crossover are upcoming entries.

“We’ve already come to surpass our 2007 number, even though the U.S. market hasn’t grown back yet,” Templin said. “The biggest growth in sheer volume over the next few years is going to come from the U.S., just because the market is still growing back.”

U.S. sales should expand to around 270,000 units this year. That compares with Lexus’ peak of 329,177 in 2007.

“There’s no reason for us to think they won’t surpass that as the market grows back to the kind of levels we had in 2007,” he said. “And it should grow beyond that.”

The RC — derived from the LF-CC concept shown at the 2012 Paris auto show — is equipped with a traditional 3.5-liter gasoline powertrain or a hybrid system that uses a 2.5-liter engine. It is expected to go on sale in the second half of next year.Photo credit: HANS GREIMEL

Lexus sales climbed 12 percent to 213,479 vehicles through October, in an overall market up 8 percent.

The brand’s U.S. volume trailed that of German rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and market share held steady at 1.6 percent.

New nameplates such as the RC and the compact crossover will deliver incremental volume for Toyota Motor Corp.’s premium marque. Lexus gave reporters a sneak peek of the RC ahead of its official debut Wednesday at the Tokyo Motor Show.

The crossover, previewed by the LF-NX concept, also was on display.

The RC rides on the same platform as the GS sedan. It is the same width as the GS but shorter than the IS, Templin said.

The car is derived from the LF-CC concept shown at the 2012 Paris auto show. It gets a traditional 3.5-liter gasoline powertrain or a hybrid system that uses a 2.5-liter engine. The RC is expected to go on sale in the second half of next year.

You can reach Hans Greimel at — Follow Hans on Twitter

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       Chrysler-Chryco Auto Lamps

Does Ram need lower axle ratios?

Posted on November 18th, 2013 • by David Zatz

Across various Internet forums, truck buyers have been commenting that the new Ram 1500 Hemi, with the eight-speed automatic, is only available at many dealers with the 3.21:1 ratio. Many buyers are used to ordering the 3.92 ratio.

There is more to the story, which explains why the 3.21 is a popular choice — and why a 3.92 might not be desirable for most buyers.


The six-speed Chrysler automatic, which can trace its roots right down to the legendary TorqueFlite three-speeds, still has a higher ratio. The reason for the change is because the new eight-speed has a very low first gear — with a 4.71:1 ratio (lower gears have higher numbers). The wide range of the eight speed lets it have a 0.70:1 top gear (gearing has been changed for the Ram eight-speeds).

Meanwhile, the six-speed 65RFE has a 3.00:1 first gear ratio (and the same top gear of 0.67). The heavier duty versions, the 66RFE and 68RFE, have lower first gears (3.23:1), and even taller top gears (6.25:1).

If one puts together that low first gear, one finds that the overall ratio, including both transmission and axle, ends up at 12.30:1 with the six-speed automatic and a 4.10 axle. With the 3.92:1 axle, the six-speed automatic can only muster a multiplication of 11.76. By contrast, the eight-speed is much lower even with the 3.21 ratio — at 15.12.


The wide range deliversbetter fuel economy and lower noise, without sacrificing a very low first gear — and allows Rams to have relatively high axle ratios, for better highway economy.

So, to answer the title question — no, it probably does not, especially now that the 3.92 is available.

While the eight speed’s primary benefit for truck owners will be ease of moving from a stop with a heavy load, it also reportedly cuts a third of a second from 0-60 times, compared with the same engine connected to the six-speed automatic.

The V6 is available with the 3.21 and 3.55 ratios; the diesel, with the 3.55 and 3.92;  the Hemi six-speed with all three; and the Hemi eight-speed with the 3.21 and 3.92. (We received feedback that the 3.55 is available with the Hemi eight speed, but it does not appear in materials we’ve seen. This would not be inconsistent with past discrepancies between what is available and what is shown as being available.)

Axle ratios are different for the heavy duty pickups and the chassis cabs; these models all come with six-speed transmissions of varying capacity, including manual transmissions (diesel only).

Thanks, RamMan.


Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler shown

Posted on November 18th, 2013 • by David Zatz

Jeeps date back to World War II, the result of an Army proposal for a rugged, lightweight, compact reconvehicle. The original American Bantam design was modified with the help of other companies and became, after the war, the basis for the civilian-oriented Willys-Overland CJ-2A.

Beginning early next year, the new 2014 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition will arrive in showrooms after a debut at the 2013 Los Angeles International Auto Show.

Based on the Wrangler Sport, the Willys Wheeler Edition has upgraded hardware, including a Dana 44 rear axle with Trac-Lok® limited-slip rear differential and 3.73 gears, BF Goodrich KM Mud Terrain LT255/75R17tires, rock rails, and a Jeep Trail Rated Kit that includes a D-Ring, tow strap, and gloves.


Design cues include gloss black grille, wheels, and front and rear bumper appliques, a satin black “4 Wheel Drive” tailgate decal, and “Willys” hood decals. The Sunrider soft top and deep-tint sunscreen rear windows are standard, with optional premium Sunrider soft top and black-splatter Freedom Top.

Willys Wheeler Editions include the Connectivity Group with SiriusXM satellite radio, and Sport S-based models have the Power Convenience Group and Premium Tire Pressure Monitoring System as standard. Half-doors are optional.

Available in any Jeep Wrangler color, the Willys Wheeler Edition has a list price (MSRP) of $25,795 for two-door models and $29,595 for Unlimited (four-door) models.



Two Mopars get resale-value awards

Posted on November 18th, 2013 • by David Zatz

The 2014 Jeep Wrangler and 2014 Dodge Challenger have won Kelley Blue Book’s 2014 Best Resale Value Awards.  In Wrangler’s case, this was the fourth consecutive year of winning its class and the third year of being on the overall top ten list; the iconic SUV rose its residual value by four percentage points in one year.

With record setting sales numbers month-over-month this year, Dodge Challenger also earned a spot on this year’s Top 10 list of vehicles with the best resale value. This is the first year for Challenger.

The Best Resale Value Awards, based on projections from staff analysts, are given to vehicles expected to maintain the greatest proportion of their original list price after five years of ownership.


SEMA 2013: Mopars at the big aftermarket parts show

by Norm Layton

The SEMA Show is the premiere auto show of the year. Never mind Detroit, LA, Chicago or Frankfurt, SEMA is the show that sets the tone. It’s where trends begin, it’s where auto company designers hang out incognito, it’s the show the trend setters follow, to be sure that their ideas and concepts, actually get traction.

sun runner

Concept cars may be born for other venues, but they all come to SEMA for validation and that validation is in the form of the multi-billion dollar aftermarket. Mass market compacts may bring the operating revenue to automakers, but SEMA is where their halos are polished, inspired and conceived. Designs first seen at SEMA can be the inspiration for future cars, or die on the vine of impracticality. It’s where 5,000 watt amps seem commonplace and navigation systems are as common as power windows.


For decades, Mopar Performance has worked with suppliers and vendors to bring Chrysler fans the best of the aftermarket. Aftermarket specialties that soon find their way into the mainstream list of options, then to the list of standard equipment.

When the Fiat 500 was nothing more than a future and unknown product, the SEMA Mopar Alley already had 500s with Mopar Performance Parts.


Mopar Alley first saw the Chrysler 300 SRT8, the Ram RunnerWrangler Nukizer, and a plethora of special projects, like the Charger police package, among others.

This year the Mopar presence was noticeably smaller, including the demise of the popular Mopar Alley. It’s quite possible that Mopar was the last brand to be effected by the rebuilding of Chrysler and the re-assignments of scarce engineering resources and funding. If so, we hope the downsizing and lack of Mopar Performance part numbers is a temporary condition and isn’t an indication of the future direction of Chrysler. There was a vast difference between the dynamic GM and Ford displays and the slower pace of the Mopar booth.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trail Carver concept car


The KL Cherokee’s Mopar-customized offering included the full compliment of interior accessories, already shown to dealers, as well as a graphic and tire package. While the tire clearance indicates it’s not yet ready for public sale, it might show up at Moab next Spring, ready for the trail. The rear cargo floor was longer than I anticipated from photos, but the slope of the rear deck makes useable cargo space dependent upon your type of use. For daily drivers, it’s acceptable, for Jeepers, on the trail, or a weekend picnic, the rear seat will need to be folded down, which could pose problems for families of three or four. Even though this edition is not yet for sale it does show the potential of the model.

The most exciting Mopar Concept shown at SEMA, unfortunately, wasn’t to be found in the Mopar exhibit, it was the AEV Ram prominently displayed at the American Expedition Vehicles booth. AEV automatically generates excitement because of their attention to detail, OEM type quality, and engineering prowess.

aev ram

The same suspension engineering skill found on the AEV Wranglers is now evident on the AEV Ram, designed by legendary suspension engineer Jim Fens. This truck has the potential to be the best trail performance truck in the industry. From the Katzin leather seats to the suspension design and the new bumpers, this truck hints at becoming a factory offering similar to the AEV COD MW3 Wrangler that became a Special Edition offering through Jeep dealers.

With AEV parts now being installed upon the Jeep assembly line as OEM parts, this next step is a natural. This truck is massive, with 40” tires and only a 2” lift, using the AEV high line fender treatment to accommodate the large tires. Upfitted with larger brakes and a nice blend of the best of Chrysler and AEV interior treatments, this truck is going to be a popular seller.

scat pack

Back at Mopar, there were several signs touting the new Scat-Pack 3 Stage performance kits, however there were no part numbers and in the past, that has meant, no parts yet in the system; and, sadly, even parts with assigned numbers at SEMA have failed to reach market, so it’s not yet known how soon, or if ever, these parts will make it to market.

Since Chrysler does not talk about future products, that will remain a mystery for a while longer.

scat pack badge

The main Mopar display was as interesting as ever, but the focus and the mood seemed to be changing, in spite of the Chrysler Communications folks being as engaged and upbeat as ever.

From the optimism and excitement of the immediate post bankruptcy period, to a more subdued presentation, perhaps acknowledging that there is still a ways to go. From the euphoria of survival to the recognition that there is still a lot of hard work to do.

Hopefully this was a year to regroup and is a pause before a big new product push, as I suspect the focus on engineering this year was to get several new models into the production pipeline.

SEMA 2013: Beyond Mopar Alley

by Ray Alexander


I drove my SRT8 Charger this year and arrived with a smile and no tickets. Still, the California Highway Patrol has me worried.  They have taken to hiding off the road and not turning on their radar.  As one officer on the LX Forum says, “All is fair in radar versus radar detectors.”  Mine has saved me so many times, I can afford the tickets but my insurance is outrageous.  Darn Dodge.

The expected attendance was 130,000 and I think everyone made it.  Day one is usually very light on foot traffic, not this year.

This was the first year that I used the media center.  It was neat; it had WiFi and at least 60 PCs.  The PCs were loaded with photos taken before the show opened.

Just after I got my credentials I saw this: an old Ford with two classicHemi engines and four blowers.  One for each bank of cylinders.  Got boost?

I thought press credentials were good before the show but, when I tried to enter South Hall the guard stopped me, and then informed me that I could not enter until tomorrow.  He went on, “I am not going to argue with you, and you are not getting in.”

I am an old man and don’t usually break the rules but there was no need to treat me in that manner.  I went outside and walked along the west wall until I saw Mopar crates and ducked into an open freight door. A blue thing in the corner got my attention.

blue Viper

It was the new blue Viper for the 2014.  Via social media, we common folks were given an opportunity to name the blue.  I entered “blew by you” or “Blue Bayou.”  As I was I walking toward an approved exit, I noticed that not one square inch of the aisles were carpeted.  The rolls of carpet were there.

There was a truck outside that baffled me.  It was rusty, in fact it had rust holes.  There was no poster advising the significance.  It was not really very old.  The owner must watch “Pawn Stars” and was well aware of the detrimental effect of disturbing the patina.

When we see an old car today, it truly is an old car.  Sadly, that will not be true in the future.  Old automobile bodies are starting to be remanufactured.  The end results are still unknown but, I don’t have a good feeling.

I had not seen a Henry J in many years.  It had unforgettable lines.  Kaiser’s car lines were in their dying throes when this car was introduced (they saved themselves by buying Willys/Jeep and selling their car designs and tooling to a South American firm).  Oddly, a Hemi was installed in this car.  Do you suppose the front end would have gotten lighter at speed.

Two weeks ago, I was in Phoenix to cover Airpark’s Jeep Jamboree 8 (writeup coming next Monday).  I rode the trail part of the event with Jason De Monto. He failed to mention that he was no longer employed by the dealership.  As I was intently moving toward an old military motorcycle, Jason interrupted my journey.  He then informed me he has a business named Trail Concepts, it adds features to a Jeep per the customer’s wants/needs.

From my “Best in the Desert” experience that strip of LEDs at the top of the windshield will put out an unbelievable amount of light.

Someone on a forum asked what are some must see items at SEMA.  That was a tough question, if I knew what was going to be there, I might not go.  I answered, “The PPG booth; it is a different theme every year.” This year it was a carnival (within a circus).

I use Vredestein tires on my Dodge.  I just put new 315s on the rear.  In past years Vredestein has had a small booth near a wall, this year they have a large booth in a high traffic area.  I stopped to complain about their poor marketing.  I live in San Diego and the only way that I can get the tire is to order from New Orleans.  I told them I used the Sessanta.  They replied, “We have a better tire now, it is the Ultrac Vorti.”

I can’t wait to put these on the front, providing I can find them.

Moving on, I have developed my own tenet for making your road/track car faster and safer:

Invest in the driver

I have taken two courses at Bob Bondurant’s driving school in Phoenix.  The learning is accomplished by putting the student in driving situations beyond what they are likely to encounter on the street and certainly coaching for getting around a track configuration more quickly.

Bob taught at other locations before moving to his dedicated facility.  He designed this track for teaching.  It can be set up in many different configurations.

I signed up for a one-off two-day course and it will be in a C7.  The C7 can do heel toe rev matching.

empty space at SEMA

Early the next morning I encountered Eric Petersen, the tire expert for the Silver State Challenge.  He told me Steve Mott, the chief of Technical Inspection for Silver State was outside with Jimi Day.  Steve was one of the Silver State Drivers picked for the Optima Battery Ultimate Street Car Challenge.  I am always relieved when Eric has inspected all four of my tires and has moved to the next car.  The same feeling as when you passed a higher math test.

I spent some time chasing Jimi Day, I am trying to get my Dodge into the Optima Battery Ultimate Street Car Challenge.  It will not happen this year.  My Dodge has safety equipment that limits it to 110 mph.  Maybe that is the easiest way to get in, take the Dodge and run it in Silver State again.

Optima Battery challenge winner

I went to the Optima booth when one group of drivers was being given their credentials and a very nice tool set.  One of the drivers was a lady — Lynda Jacobs, who will drive a 1966 Chevelle convertible with a 436 hp LS3 engine.

Optima announced the winners of positions in the Optima Battery Ultimate Street Car Challenge, chosen from the SEMA show cars.  I am trying to get my Dodge in this event but, it is not going to happen this year.

I spoke to Mark Trostle, chief SRT designer, and suggested that more of the special testing for SRTs needs to be leaked out.  He thought about it and agreed but said he was not the person to leak it.  I also spoke with Beth Parreta about NASCAR, and she said nothing was happening; it is too late to announce a team switch for next year, so 2014 will see no Dodges running NASCAR.

shaker hood car

The Mopar CEO took the stage for the press conference and talked at length about how a buyer could personalize their purchase from the factory, thanks to new in-factory customization shops; buyers can even have some purchases appear right on the Monroney form, which means the Mopar options can be financed along with the car.  Chrysler now has as many wheel choices as all the wheel vendors at SEMA combined.  They have managed to omit some of the really ugly ones.

SEMA mopar

The CEO of Dodge addressed two important programs, the Scat Pack and the shaker hood.  The Scat Pack will offer three stages of build up.  Stage 1 (for Hemi cars) will be a CAI and exhaust options.  Some will have side outlet in front of the rear wheel.  Stage 2 will be a cam.  Stage 3 will be heads and exhaust headers.  All California-legal, I assume. Dart options mainly address cornering and brakes, though there is also a revised engine computer that requires premium gas.

After the program was over, I was talking to Alex, the driver of Shop Hemi, and someone started one of the Challengers.  We were both amazed at the sound; it had the Mopar remote-controlled side-exit exhaust dump, which lets drivers control when their cars “let loose.”

SEMA car

On Wednesday, the foot traffic was heavy, movement was slow, and getting a clear picture was tough. If you are going to miss part of SEMA, make it the last part.

In thinking about Chrysler’s press release there need to be a stage 4, a Kenny Bell blower. There was no mention or hint of the rumored 6.2 L engine with a blower.

In the past, Mopar Alley has taken some turns for the better and worse. This year, the turn was for the worst. Toyo Tire has that area. Ralph Gilles said, “When SEMA was in decline they virtually gave the area away. Now SEMA has gotten bigger every year, and they want too much money for the space.”

The time had come to pack up and head for home.  Put SEMA on your bucket list.
Original is at SEMA 2013: Mopars at the big aftermarket parts show
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2014 Fiat 500 Abarth car review

byRay Alexander in  (4.5)

At this year’s Silver State Classic Challenge, we had the worst crop of Mopars ever; I was required to count a Fiat Abarth to get three (with a Viper and SRT8 Charger). I chatted with the Abarth driver, who had run the car at Willow Springs the day before. He liked it.

When the cars took the track the Fiat was behind a C5 Corvette; the Fiat was nagging the Corvette’s rear bumper. When the Corvette hit a straightaway, it accelerated away, but two turns later guess who was back. This whetted my appetite to drive one.

500L side view

At the recent Airpark Jeep Jamboree in Scottsdale, I mentioned my desire to drive an Abarth 500 to general manager Coye Pointer. He introduced me to David Ragonese, the Fiat manager; I was allowed to take the car alone, and David said, “Stay gone as long as you want.”

abarth logo

The Fiat ads made for the US market have used a healthy dose of sex. To deny the correlation of the automobile and sex is somewhat akin to being an ostrich. I am the birth sign of Scorpio and I especially like the pesky Scorpion stealing the girls top in the ad for Abarth (the girl didn’t appear to mind it either).

When I first got into the car I had trouble with hitting the accelerator while my foot was on the brake; the positions were good for heel/toe downshifting but not for initiating movement. My mind and body adjusted to the pedal placement before I was out of the parking lot. It took a little longer to adjust to the extreme ease of actuating these functions. One could even call them touchy, but once again when you knew what the reaction would be you no longer sent your face into the windshield.

I was smiling before I got onto the main boulevard. The car has a guttural growl that starts low in the intestines. My thoughts were, “Oh yeah, there is a big dog around here somewhere.”

boost gauge

I have never driven to enhance gas mileage and I am too old to start now. I assume in an effort to increase gas mileage, the car kept flashing a light telling me to up-shift. I didn’t want to up-shift, I wanted to continue feeling this car grab the pavement.

I noticed a light on the dash that advised “average speed for this trip 11 mph.” I can’t take this car back showing that, so I stayed out until I got that number to 12. (The truth was, I couldn’t find my way back across the airport.)

I have heard Ralph Gilles say, “Torque removes the perception of weight.” Therefore removing weight must be perceived as torque. The little car seems to have ample torque even at a low rpm. The handling was very crisp; the car went exactly where I intended it to go.

This car is nothing like the base model. It is a blast to drive. Ya gotta love the Scorpion.

Fiat 500 Abarth main page
Original is at 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth car review
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Plymouth cars, 1960-1965

by Jim Benjaminson; part of the Illustrated Plymouth & DeSoto Buyer’s Guide

Three years earlier, it had seemed so simple to say “Suddenly, it’s 1960!” Suddenly, it was1960.

The ’57s had been both a styling and engineering coup of no small proportions. ’58 and ’59 had been lackluster years in comparison. The question was, could Plymouth stage another coup that it so badly needed? Or would it find itself “out-finned” by its own excesses? In the long run, it was a little bit of both.

1960 Plymouth Savoy

Cadillac had shown everyone what fins were all about with its ’59 models, even though Chrysler Corporation now called them “stabilizers,” supposedly serving a useful purpose at keeping the carstraight at high speeds—a claim that was highly suspicious.

Underneath, the 1960 Plymouth was a totally new car—powered by, in the case of the sixes, a completely new engine. The only problem was, it just didn’t look like a new car. To many, it was too much—too late. Virgil Exner had been praised for his designs of the 1955 through 1958 Plymouths. ’59’s restyle had not been not very well received, but for 1960, Exner’s renderings were beginning to turn sour—with worse yet to come.

Chrysler Corporation unveiled unibody construction across the board (save Imperial). Chrysler had done unibody construction back in the 1930s, with its Airflows; the body was framed like a bridge truss, made up of box section rails that extended upward from the sills, outlining windows alongside the roof before descending to a foundation near the rear wheel openings. 5,400 welds held the frameless vehicle together.

1960 unibody ad

Plymouth claimed 100% greater body rigidity and 40% greater beam strength, with the girders which provided that strength touted as being 75% heavier than those used in conventional construction—stronger, still lighter in weight. There was still a subframe bearing the engine and Torsion-Aire suspension that bolted to the otherwise unitized body.

unit-body construction

Before the body panels were welded together, the seams were shot with a special welding sealer designed to expand under the heat of drying ovens where the body was placed after painting. A drawback of any unitized construction was that no sound-insulating material could isolate the body from frame and road noise; to counter this, Plymouth developed extra-large rear spring bushings, a new exhaust system hanger, and a driveshaft redesigned to reduce high speed hum. Special sound-deadening fiber matting and liquid-applied coatings were the final steps.

plexiglass stress lab model

rustproof bathSix chemical sprays and seven chemical dips plus four coats of paint ensured rust would not be a problem in the frameless vehicle. Thecars were advertised as “Solid.” Barely any piece of literature failed to mention the word “Solid”—with the cars invariably photographed against backgrounds of steel girders, bridges, or other examples of engineered strength. Rust was a word Plymouth didn’t want to hear—especially in light of the fact the fabulous ’57s, which had garnered so much good publicity, were now ill-thought of buckets of rust.

Revolutionary construction was coupled with evolutionary styling, perhaps to avoid shocking customers. Sticking with the tried-and-true finned silhouette, the ’60 Plymouth relied on other gimmicks, such as hooded headlamps whose brow wrapped around the corner of the fender and swept back behind the front-wheel cutout. The same general wheel cutout shape was carried over the rear wheel, but in a more subdued manner.

1960 plymouth fury

Fury continued the eyebrow stainless trim around the front wheel, along the bottom of the car to the rear wheel, where the trailing edge was fitted with a stainless panel—á la the 1959 Ford Galaxie 500. Belvederes and Savoys had to settle for broad expanses of otherwise plain sheet metal. And then there were the fins, towering higher (or so it seemed) than ever before and looking for all the world like last minute add-ons. Many people wondered aloud what the car would look like without them—they would have to wait one year to find out.

The razor-thin roofline that gave GM stylists such fits in ’57 continued, only now with a heavy C pillar that cut forward, emulating the wheel cutouts. Optional on the two-door hardtop was a Ski-Hi rear window that rose to give rear-seat passengers a virtual sun roof—for baking! Costing only $23, it should have been mandatory to include the $43 tinted glass option.

1960 plymouths

The 1960 Plymouth returned to a three model lineup, the Sport Fury disappearing from the catalog. At the bottom of the list was the Savoy in two- or four-door sedan. In the middle was the Belvedere in two door, four door, or two-door hardtop. The top of the line Fury came in a four-door sedan, four-door hardtop, two-door hardtop, and convertible. Station wagons carried their own names, corresponding in trim levels to the passenger car as the Deluxe, Custom, and Sport Suburban.

1960 Belvedere

fints or stabilizers?A fourth line of cars, known as Fleet Specials, were offered specifically for taxi and high-use commercial applications. Police packages (the first had come in 1957) included the Patroller Six, Patroller Special V8, and for highway patrol use, the Pursuit Special V8. In years to come, Chrysler would dominate the police car market, supplying fully 80% of the nation’s police vehicles. During the halcyon muscle car days, no finer compliment was paid police cars than calling them “four-door Road Runners.”

Passenger cars all rode on a 118-inch wheelbase (still a half inch shorter than the ’49-52 Plymouth!). The wagons were built on a 122-inch chassis shared with the other corporate wagons.

1961 aluminum slant six engineAt long last, a new up-to-date, overhead-valve six replaced the tired 27-year-old flathead. Displacing 170 or 225 cubic inches, the engine sat at a 30-degree angle to the right (to fit under the low-slung Valiant hood), and soon affectionately became known as the Slant Six.

The layout allowed a long intake manifold with individual tubes running back to each cylinder—an unusual and unique sight in 1960; this provided a small “ram air” effect, boosting power at some engine speeds.

Only the larger 225 was used in Dodge and Plymouth full-size cars and Dodge commercial vehicles.

Other engine choices included the Fury V800, the base two-barrel with 318 cubic inches, Fury V800 with Super Pak (four barrel, 260 horsepower), and the Golden Commando 395, the 361-cubic-inch B block pumping out 305 horses. For the performance enthusiast something new had been added—the SonoRamic Golden Commando—a 383-cubic-inch, 330-horsepower, dual-quad carbureted, cross-ram manifold monster.


Popping the hood of a SonoRamic Golden Commando-powered car was an experience few would forget. Long aluminum castings rising up and over the valve covers pumped fuel from two Carter four-barrel carbs to the engine—the carb on the right side feeding the left bank of cylinders, the carb on the left feeding the right bank. Each ram manifold measured 30 inches from carburetor venturi to intake valve. At 2800 rpm the manifold would reach its maximum effect as the speed-of-sound waves gave a mild supercharging effect. The engine was awesome to look at and words can’t describe its actual performance. It was an expensive engine to produce and a challenge to keep in tune—and it would only last two years. (A modified shorter ram would be available to drag racers for years to come.)

Transmission choices continued as in previous years, although a heavy-duty manual transmission was coupled to higher-horsepower engines. Both the two-speed PowerFlite and three-speed TorqueFlite were continued as well.

When the first two Volkswagen Beetles were imported into the U.S. in 1949, most people laughed. By the late 1950s the Big Three had begun to take the small-car market seriously, rushing into production for the 1960 model year. Chevrolet spewed forth the radical, rear-engined, air-cooled opposed-six Corvair while Ford chose the moderate path of the Falcon. Chrysler Corporation’s answer was the “Corporate” Valiant—an Exner designed car—in the European look—of unusual proportions, featuring an odd assortment of curves and angles.

1960 Plymouth ValiantValiants began coming off Dodge’s Hamtramck assembly line in September of 1959. Ads boasted Valiant was “Nobody’s Kid Brother,” which it truly wasn’t. No single division of the corporation would lay claim to the new car, causing a franchising problem of no small proportions. By January 1, 1960, less than half of Plymouth’s 4,100 dealers were franchised to sell the car. It wouldn’t be until 1961 that Valiant would become a Plymouth exclusive (in Canada it would remain a Chrysler Valiant, sold by both Plymouth and Dodge).

Valiant, along with Dodge’s restyled Dart, were both internal competition, stealing sales away from the big Plymouths. Technically Valiant’s production of 194,292 cars should not have been counted with Plymouth’s total of 447,724—a combined total still only good enough for fourth place. Had Plymouth been left to stand alone, it would have been in ninth place, while Chevrolet and Ford both recorded sales of nearly one and a half million cars each. The Valiant will be covered later in its own chapter.

Plymouth for 1961

For those who had wondered what the ’60 Plymouth would look like without fins, ’61 was the answer to their question. They didn’t like the answer.

The automotive press hailed the car, calling it a much needed improvement and sleek. Consumers saw it otherwise, voting with their pocketbooks—for a new Ford or Chevrolet. To make matters worse, the ’61 Plymouth has consistently been voted to the top of every list of the “ugliest automobile ever built”—even members of the Plymouth Owners Club voted it number one of the “Worst Five Plymouths,” making comments such as “Exner gone berserk” and “remember laughing at this one in the showroom.” How bad was it? Sales slid to a dismal 350,285—putting Plymouth in seventh place for the year.

1961 Plymouth wagonThe first of the Chrysler brands to forsake flying tail fins, the car was designed around the concept of smoothly integrated curves sweeping from front to back. A single band of chrome originating inboard of the headlamps swept up and over the fender, along the length of the car, wrapping around the deck lid and continuing forward to the opposite side of the car. Exner loved heavily eye-browed lights, but this treatment gave them an odd look. The grille sloped inward as it fell to bumper height—the bumper smooth except for a series of raised ridges matching grille width.

1961 Plymouth cars

At the rear, tail lamps tacked to the body side in their own little rocket pods looked for all the world like last minute add-ons. The pod was chromed on the Fury, body color on everything else. The car may have looked worlds apart from the ’60 but it was nothing more than a clever restyling—roof and door lines were unchanged although new fenders and quarter panels hid this fact.

body roll

Model lineup continued as per the previous year—Savoys in two- or four-door sedan, Belvederes in two door, four door, or two-door hardtop, Furys in four door, four-door hardtop, two-door hardtop, and convertible coupe. Wagon offerings again followed the familiar Deluxe, Custom, and Sport Suburban names.

Swivel front seats, which had been a novel item in the 1959 and 1960 Plymouths, had disappeared, replaced by the Command Seat which provided the driver with a higher backrest.

1961 FuryEngine choices ran the gamut from the 145-horsepower, 225-cubic-inch Slant Six to the base Fury V-800 230-horsepower 318 or the four-barrel Super Fury V-800 318 pumping out 260 horses. Both Golden Commandos, the 361-cubic-inch, 305-horsepower 395 and 383-cubic-inch, 330-horse, ram-induction SonoRamic Commando also returned. Transmission choices were unchanged although a new “Heavy Duty Synchro-Silent” manual transmission was mandatory with the big Commando V8s. Adoption of an alternator, in place of generator, was the only major mechanical change for the year (the alternator had made its first appearance the year before on Valiants).

1961 Plymouth cars vs 2012 Lexus cars

Plymouth’s dismal sales record was laid solely at the feet of one man—Virgil Exner. He had been praised to the heavens for his work just a few years earlier—now he was stripped of his vice presidency and booted out the door in the fall of ’61. Adding insult to injury was his replacement, Elwood Engle, brought over from Ford’s conservative styling staff.

Sales had continued to tumble with just 356,257 units built—a figure that was barely more than Plymouth’s 1935 production total. Plymouth’s sale slide tumbled to seventh place—with worse yet to come.

Plymouth for 1962

Exner’s “Forward Look” cars had set automotive styling on its ear and brought competitors scrambling to catch up. True, his finned cars had stuck around too long, and his finless ’61 had become a laughingstock. Customers had already gotten a taste of his latest innovation, the “Forward Flair” long hood, short deck, flush C pillar with no belt line, close-coupled passenger compartment, speedboat windshield Valiant. But when those designs were applied to a full-size car, what would happen?

1962 Plymouth FuryA series of events beyond Exner’s control would soon answer that question. Chrysler President William Newberg had barely taken office when he was caught in a hand-in-the cookie-jar scenario and forced to step down in favor of Lynn Townsend. But it was a cocktail party rumor that would spell doom for Exner at Chrysler. “The Rumor” was Chevrolet was going to downsize its cars. Clearly Chrysler couldn’t be caught with its pants down and not downsize, too—the rumor was only partially true. Both Chevrolet and Ford were planning downsized models—in this case the intermediate size Fairlane and Chevy II, not their full-size cars.

Exner’s proposed full-size car designs had the asymmetrical look from his XNR show car. Townsend took one look at these designs and ordered that everything be more conventional. Had Townsend not, the new Plymouth would have been more radical than they turned out to be, with an asymmetrical windsplit in front of the driver, only one taillight on the left, and two on the right. (These cars were on the drawing boards three years before they saw production; Exner was long gone when the ’62 made its debut.)

1962A models

Plenty of midnight oil was burned by Chrysler stylists, attempting to rework designs for a 116-inch-wheelbase car, at minimal expense. Much was lost in the translation, many people perceiving the car to be nothing more than an overgrown Valiant. Nearly devoid of chrome trim and with an odd “big light-little light” split dual headlamp arrangement, the cars were so unusual looking as to be controversial.

1962a s series Chrysler cars

When the car hits the street, the press hailed them as “unique” and “sophisticated.” Bill Burge, a long-time South Dakota dealer, came home from the dealer preview and told his wife, “We’re going to have to sit this year out—I can’t sell that car.” In a 100-car-per-year dealership, Burge sold just 11 cars!

Buyers voted with their pocketbooks. Ford sales increased 16%, but most of the gain went to Chevrolet, who sales rose 35%. Solidly rejected on a full-size car in 1962, the long hood, short deck—when applied to Ford’s sporty Mustang just two years later—would soon become common throughout the industry.

1962 DeSoto

Savoys, Belvederes, and Furys came in the usual lineup, with either six-cylinder or V8 power (Fury four-door hardtop and convertible and Sport Furys mandated the V8). Station wagons joined their series by trim level, dropping unique names. The Sport Fury, both coupe and convertible, returned to the lineup in January featuring a special interior with bucket seats and console, partially blacked-out grille and two extra tail lamps.

1962 sport fury

Engines for ’62 included the 225 slant six (some were built with an aluminum block), two- and four-barrel 318s, and a four-barrel 361; gone was the long-ram 383, replaced mid-year by a short ram 413-cubic-inch monster (in 365, 380, and 410 horsepower) that would establish Plymouth as a force for years to come on the drag racing circuits.

plymouth sport fury

Unseen—and unappreciated—was elimination of the sub-frame used since 1960, a move that reduced car weight by 200 pounds and provided as the same interior room as before, though exterior dimensions had been shorted by 7½ inches. A new aluminum-case TorqueFlite also aided interior space, while reducing overall weight by 60 pounds (total weight reduction came to over 400 pounds). Gone forever was the old two-speed PowerFlite. A new reduction gear starting motor gave all Chrysler products a distinct sound, if not better starting, and dash wiring now used printed circuit boards.

plymouth interior

Sales of full-size cars came to just 182,520 units—only slightly better than the war shortened year of 1942. Worse yet, year-end sales slid another notch to eighth, a position Plymouth last held in 1930.

Plymouth for 1963

With sales at an all-time low and 1963 just around the corner, there was little time to design—nor any money to build—an all-new car. The only solution would be to redesign as much sheet metal using the basic ’62 body as could be done. A new front-end design had already been done to be mated to the ’63 body (which made it to production pretty much intact). Additional money was appropriated to change the entire exterior appearance. Everything that could be done to make the car look longer was done. Three of the four series featured full-length front-to-rear body side moldings—in bright metal on the Belvedere, paint filled on Fury, and with an engine-turned insert on the Sport Fury.

1963 Plymouth Fury Super SportLength was increased by three inches although wheelbase remained at 116 inches. The belt line kick-up was eliminated, to aid the look of length. Front-end design featured vertical park and turn lights at the widest edge of the fender, slightly canted inward from the top. Inside of this sat dual headlamps against a full-width grille. At the rear shield-shaped taillights with gun-sight trim sat on either side as far apart as possible.

All models had a horizontal stainless molding across the deck lid, Fury and Sport Furys featuring an additional ribbed horizontal stainless-steel panel between the tail lamps. Widely spaced letters on both hood and deck lid aided the horizontal illusion—the cars were still nearly 4½ inches narrower than 1961. Sedans and hardtops shared a vertical backlight with wide C pillar. The cowl, one of the most expensive items on any car, had to be retained. Exner’s speedboat windshield was the only obvious clue to the ’63’s origins.

1963 sport fury

1963 Plymouth specificationsEngine choices remained pretty much the same as ’62, the Slant Six, 318, 361, and 383 unchanged—until one reached into Plymouth’s racing parts bins. New for the year was a 426-cubic wedge engine available in 370, 375, 415, or 425-horsepower configurations. The 370 featured a single four-barrel carburetor and 11:1 compression, the 375 13.5:1. Both the 415 and 425-horse versions used two four-barrels on a short-ram manifold, the difference in horsepower coming through 11 or 13.5 compression ratios.

While most racers preferred TorqueFlite, a four-speed, Hurst-shifted manual transmission built by Borg-Warner entered the option list.

Buyers again had the choice of the bottom line Savoy, in two door, four door, or six- and nine-passenger wagon, the Belvedere adding a two-door hardtop to the same list. The Fury added a convertible and as in years past Sport Furys could be had in hardtop or convertible form.

Sales rose to 263,342 full-size cars (with an additional 225,156 Valiants), enough to pull Plymouth up to fifth place from its dismal 1962 showing.

Plymouth for 1964

1964 would see the final incarnation of the three-year body cycle, with another remake of the ill-fated ’62. Chrysler stylists under Elwood Engle had done a terrific job of hiding the ’62 in the ’63; with a little more lead time, the ’64 would move even further down the evolutionary track. Sheet metal remained identical to the ’63 from the doors on back, except for a widening at the rear to accommodate a 2.1-inch wider rear axle.

1964 Plymouth lineupWhile the ’63 had been stuck with Exner’s speedboat cowl, this, too, had gone by the wayside. Missing, too, were the canted park lamps on the end of the front fenders, replaced now by a peak that stuck out just enough to be targets for those who parked by braille.

A convex grille with a distinct peak about a third of the way from the top neatly matched the center line of the fender peaks. Nestled in the grille were quad headlamps; running down the side was a crease that began at the front fenders and ran the entire length of the body—the forward edge of the crease giving just a hint to another of Exner’s favorite styling tricks—the hair pin. Wider taillights, accented by a rear grille stainless panel on the Fury, gave the car an entirely different look than ’63.

Hardtop and pillared sedans still carried the heavy, Thunderbird-inspired C pillar roof—two-door hardtops, however, were another story. A distinctive, triangular C pillar, with convertible-top crease in the roof panel, along with a curved backlight, gave the car a more streamlined appearance—and made it slipperier on NASCAR speedways.

1964 plymouth belvedere

It was here that Plymouth’s newest engine was right at home—in fact, it was the only place it was at home, for Plymouth had resurrected a Chrysler engine it had never used—the hemispherical combustion chamber, 426-cubic-inch Hemi.

Paul Ackerman with the 426 Hemi 273 mopar v8

Available only to well-connected race drivers, the Hemi pumped out 415 horsepower with an 11.1 compression ratio—425 horses at 12.5, both engines running twin four-barrel carburetors. Official Plymouth engineering sheets show the Hemi available in either Belvedere, Fury, or Sport Fury bodies, but it is doubtful if anything other than a Belvedere ever carried the engine. At the running of the 1964 Daytona 500, the new Hemi led a three-car sweep of first, second, and third place, with “King” Richard Petty at the wheel of the winning car.

1964 plymouth hood ornaments

Three other 426-cubic-inch engines did see street use—all wedge engines of 365 horsepower (fed by a single four-barrel carb), or the Stage III Max Wedge 415 (11.1 compression) or 425 horsepower (12.5 compression) with dual fours on a short-ram manifold and mind-blowing set of snake-pit exhaust headers. The majority of Plymouth buyers choose the 145-horsepower Slant Six or 230-horse 318 V8. For those whose needs fit somewhere in between, the 265-horse 361 and 330-horse 383 were also cataloged. As the model year came to a close, Chrysler Corporation bade farewell to its typewriter transmission controls. Harking back to 1956, the push buttons had been a love-it-or-hate-it affair. The most plausible explanation for discontinued the push buttons came from those following the Washington safety czars who were demanding controls be standardized between makes. Although no official edict came down regarding the pushbuttons, they would be missing from the ’65 models.

1964 Plymouth Fury lineupBody style and model names were unchanged from the previous two years. Both Savoy station wagons, six- and nine-passenger, could be had with either six or eight cylinders, but the Belvedere and Fury wagons, along with the Fury four-door hardtop and convertible—as well as the two Sport Furys—mandated the V8.

Full-size car sales came to 297,293 units, enough to move Plymouth up one notch to fourth for the model run.

plymouth controls

Plymouth for 1965

If the ’62 Plymouth had been considered radical, Elwood Engle’s clean-sheet-of-paper design for 1965 could only be labeled “conservative.” Engle, who had penned the neoclassic 1961 Lincoln Continental, preferred straight lines, and that is just what he ordered for the new Plymouths.

1965 Plymouth Fury

Gone were all visages of the ’62 disaster, as Plymouth returned to the big time in vehicle size. The front featured a fine-mesh grille flanked by vertical headlights—a styling gimmick introduced some years earlier by Pontiac. The rear featured a triple light per side that also came from GM design—Chrysler styling had been a leader in ’57; its second attempt at styling leadership in ’62 had been a disaster, and for ’65 it would be content to be a follower. Regardless of where the styling cues came from, the new Plymouth was a most attractive automobile.

1965 Plymouth Sport Fury cars

The wheelbase was stretched by three inches, bringing the car up to full-size standards against the competition. Slab sides were broken by two full-length body creases evenly spaced between the belt line and rocker panel, adding even more visual length to the car. Front fenders canted forward into the wind while the rear of the car featured a reverse angle crease from side to side.

1965 Plymouth FuryEach model was now dubbed “Fury,” as the name became even more diluted. At the bottom of the rung was the rather Spartan Fury I which took the place of the Savoy—except in Canada where the Savoy name would live on. Replacing the Belvedere—at least in name only—was the Fury II. What had previously been the Fury line now became the Fury III. Sport Fury would still mean the top-of-the-line, performance-oriented hardtop or convertible, available only with V8 power, fitted with bucket seats, console, and special trim.

1965 Fury car dashboard

Designated the C body, it would share its underpinnings with both Dodge and Chrysler, although they would each have separate, longer wheelbases. As had been done in years past, all station wagons, whether Plymouth, Dodge, or Chrysler, shared the same body on a 121-inch wheelbase.

1965 plymouth belvedereThe old B body, dating back to 1962, had not, however, fallen by the wayside. In answer to Chevrolet and Ford’s compact, intermediate and full-size (Corvair/Falcon, Chevelle/Fairlane, Impala/Galaxie) cars, Plymouth’s B body received a new front end and became the intermediate-series Belvedere. Like the big car, all models were called Belvedere—as in Belvedere I and Belvedere II. Instead of a Belvedere III at the top of the line, a new name—Satellite—entered the picture. Styling of the Belvedere series was a scaled-down version of the big car, with fine-mesh grille and canted fenders but here the similarity ended, as the Belvedere would use single headlamps, rather than duals like the big car.

belvedere convertible

Engine availability was little changed, with the exception of the 273 V8 in the Belvedere line. Introduced the year before in the Valiant, the 273 was not available in the big Fury and both cars differed in their next option choice—Belvedere using the B block 361—big Furys the B block 383. Fury III wagons and the Sport Furys mandated V8 power, but the Belvedere II’s convertible could be had with a six—the first six-banger convertible since 1954. The 426-cubic wedge could be had in either Belvedere or Fury line.

1965 satellite

Chosen this year to provide the pace car for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, a first for Plymouth, advertising made a lot of noise that “You can buy one just like it,” or at least buy the same power and drivetrain. Powered by a 383 V8, ads hinted it was a 426 wedge, reading “it has power to spare in its optional four-barrel Commando 426-cubic-inch V8 engine.” Painted white with blue interior (it’s claimed the actual pace car had a burnt orange interior), records were not kept as to how many of the 6,272 Sport Fury convertibles were built as Pace Car replicas, if indeed any were.

Sales of 489,485 intermediate and full-size cars showed Plymouth’s conservative styling was what buyers wanted. Still, even with Valiant’s total production, Plymouth still couldn’t knock Pontiac out of third place.

This book is being reprinted with the permission and cooperation of Jim Benjaminson. The copyright to the text and to Jim’s photos is held by Jim Benjaminson. Also see his book Plymouth 1946-1959.
Original is at Plymouth cars, 1960-1965
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Dundee Engine Plant, Michigan: the former GEMA factory

Making four-cylinder “World Engines” since its birth, the Dundee Engine Plant was created under Daimler as part of a joint venture with Mitsubishi and Hyundai. Chrysler sought out educated workers, with the idea that this would encourage continuous improvement.

GEMA building in Dundee

The plant has, indeed, won Harbour Report awards for productivity (2008 and 2009) and quickly achieved Bronze status in Fiat’s World Class Manufacturing system (2012) when it was introduced to the United States.

The plant was built on a fairly large scale, with two sections, in the belief that Hyundai and Mitsubishi would buy engines from it for their American operations; but both companies preferred to build their own engines. In 2009, Chrysler bought its partners’ shares and renamed the plant from GEMA to Dundee.

gema plant 2005

In 2011, the plant started producing 1.4 liter Fiat engines, both normal and turbocharged, for use in Mexican-made Fiat 500s and various Chrysler vehicles. Sales were disappointing, though, and the Fiat engines are expected to be returned to Italy, while the 2.0 and 2.4 liter Chrysler engines are expected to be more popular.

After the plant launch, GEMA President Coventry wrote:

Flexible machining centers in a hospital-clean manufacturing environment are the basis to the GEMA business model. Compared to the traditional transfer line process, this model incorporates part recognition and automatic changeover features to allow different products to flow down the line seamlessly; even allowing for a batch size of one. An even greater benefit that machining centers give us over transfer lines is uninterrupted flow, even if there is machine downtime. In the end, we’re creating a final product with higher precision, better performance and durability that greatly exceeds each partner company’s [Mitsubishi, Chrysler, and Hyundai] previous standards.

The site was announced on February 12, 2003, and includes 275 acres of land, 100 of which are landscaped “as authentic Michigan prairie,” with 1.16 million square feet of floor space. 550 employees were originally hired, and in February 2012, there were “388 employees, 367 hourly, 215 salaried, on two shifts,” according to Chrysler (you do the math because they didn’t).


The plant was to cost $700 million and ended up at $803 million when it was completed in 2004 (including both a North Plant, which started operation in 2005, and a South Plant, which started up in 2006.) Each plant is capable of producing 420,000 engines per year.

In 2009, Chryler invested $179 million to start making the Fiat 1.4, and in 2010, it put another $150 million in to expand and prepare for new engines; in late 2010, it started making the Fiat 1.4. The plant was officially renamed Dundee Engine Plant in January 2012.

Later in 2012, United Auto Workers members voted down a local contract, but later approved it under the threat of losing employment. The key issue was not wages but work rules and breaks, as Chrysler had imposed schedules that are unpopular with workers due to long hours at single shifts. The plant is now on the same contract as the corporation as a whole, as well, after operating under a separate contract.

During 2012, Dundee was awarded WCM Bronze status in recognition of matching various quality methods and indicators.

The Dundee plant, where Chrysler made a point of hiring highly educated workers, produces all of the company’s four-cylinder engines — the 2.0 and 2.4 liter “World Engines” (in both Tiger Shark and standard form), and the Fiat 1.4 liter engines used in the Fiat 500 and Dodge Dart. Until recently, the plant operated under a separate contract.

During 2013, Chrysler built a flex line at Trenton Engine, capable of building V6 or four-cylinder engines; that is to be the source of the TigerShark 2.4 for some time, while Dundee finishes building out the original 2.4 engines and the 2.0 series. Once Patriot and Compass end production, Dundee is expected to convert to Tiger Shark, and the flex line at Trenton should be devoted to V6 production, allowing a reduction in overtime at Trenton and its mirror plant in Mexico.

For the future, it appears that the 1.4 liter Fiat engines will be moved back from Dundee to Italy, due to slow sales, and Dundee will again be the sole source of four cylinders.
Original is at Dundee Engine Plant, Michigan: the former GEMA factory
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Chrysler Corporation R Bodies: 1979-1981 Downsized Full-Sized Cars
Newport, New Yorker, St. Regis, Gran Fury

Copyright © 2008 Curtis Redgap

Dodge St. RegisThe “R” bodied cars from Chrysler were the wrong cars, created during a cash crisis, and may not have been needed at all.

The 1973 fuel crisis had devastated American manufacturers, whose compact cars were sold near break-even to attract new buyers. Suddenly, big chrome-clad cars became the bane, instead of the backbone; sales plummeted for profitable big sedans.

Chrysler had fielded huge new gas guzzlers for 1974, not long after their last “full size” redesign; they came out amid rising fuel prices and gas lines, as the public derided large cars as “boats” and “land yachts.” Chrysler sales tanked.

Chrysler President Lynn Townsend, the architect of Chrysler’s resurgence in the 1960s, had no real answers. After refusing to cut prices, he cut production, and then raised prices; then he launched Bob McCurry’s rebate program and the destructive “sales bank” scheme. When all else failed, he ducked out, entering retirement at the age of 56, nine years early.

1980 plymouth gran fury

His hand-picked successor, John Riccardo, took over as the board chair, and Eugene Cafiero rose to president. The vice presidents changed to people who were younger than 50, and reorganized into a controlling group as the “Operations Committee.” Few had operational experience.

1976 plymouth fury cars

In 1977, General Motors surprised the market with their response to the gas crises: smaller full-sized vehicles. The 1977 Impala rode on a 116 inch wheelbase, with the largest engine being a 350 ci V-8 (down from the prior 454). It had lost 5.5 inches in wheelbase, four inches in width, and 700 pounds of weight, so that the old stove-bolt six cylinder could be standard. The interior sealed the deal, with a larger space (partly from better packaging, and partly because the engine bay could be downsized knowing there would be no big-block engines inside).

chevy impala

Motor Trend anointed Chevrolet with its “Car Of The Year” award, a somewhat dubious distinction. Chevrolet managed to achieve an overall EPA rating of 18.4 miles per gallon. It didn’t come cheaply, however, with an across the board price increase of $400 per unit. The prices did not deter buyers, who flocked to Chevrolet dealerships, buying over 2.5 million cars.

The path not taken: B and M bodies

1970 plymouth satelliteIronically, the Plymouth Satellite had, in 1970, dimensions quite similar to the 1977 Chevrolet; the Satellite had weighed 3,125 pounds, which was 400 pounds lighter! The Satellite’s B-body chassis was still in production, too. What’s more, in 1975, Chrysler had made a similar product launch to Chevrolet’s, with the “small” Chrysler Cordoba.

Originally designed as a top of the line Plymouth, based on the two-door Plymouth Satellite, Cordoba started as an effort to push the overworked Fury nameplate down a notch. The Operations Committee was presented with the choice of an upscale “personal luxury coupe” in a Chrysler suit, or a dressed up “sport coupe” in Plymouth pants. The profitability of the Chrysler pushed them to the Cordoba; it had been a hit, with first-year sales of over 150,000 units, a huge number of Chrysler. [Editor’s note: product planners probably made the right decision; past upscale Plymouths, such as the GTX, had not done well, and aside from size, Cordoba ended up as a credible Chrysler.]

1978 Chrysler Cordoba cars

Chrysler had other models near the Chevrolet Impala in 1977, but failed to capitalize upon the concept of “sizing.” The 1977 Plymouth Fury (née Satellite) shared quite a bit with Cordoba, weighed 3,775 pounds, and could have been targeted against the Impala (along with the similar Dodge Monaco née Coronet); it was $800 cheaper. The Cordoba (a highly trimmed two-door version of the 1977 Fury and Monaco), was also sold as the Charger SE, but with no four-door version. The cars aimed at full-size Chevrolets were still the “C body” Dodge Royal Monaco and Plymouth Gran Fury,both at over two tons of weight, with the top engine being an optional 205-horse 440.

Creating the R body


Chrysler reacted somewhat slowly to the gas crisis of 1973. In 1975, a design study program began seeking to shave off size and weight on the upper crust Chrysler marque. Finally realizing that size does matter, the corporation began efforts to “downsize” those rolling highway battleships. A quick assessment of the entire corporate marques shows where it stood in 1975:

A body B body C body D body E body F/M/J body
Wheelbase 106-111 115-118 119-124 127-129 108/110 108/112.7
Years 1962-76 1962-1979 1965-1978 1957-1975 1970-74 1976-89
Sample Valiant Coronet Polara Imperial Barracuda Volare

1979 dodge st regisChrysler was working off cash from sales, with its reserves gone. Still, the company chose not to make an upsized, more-refined B body, despite the success of Cordoba, possibly because they wanted to increase the interior space while downsizing. They were less successful in that regard than General Motors; the Chrysler Newport ended up being two inches longer than the 1978 Plymouth Fury B-body, with about three inches more length in the cabin, 1.5 cubic feet more trunk space. As with GM, they reclaimed some space from under the hood, with the 360 replacing the 440 as its largest engine.

WHY NOT USE THE “B” BODY? Product Planner Burton Bouwkamp told us:

I was in England when they planned/designed the R Body, but knowing our company’s mindset in the 1970s, I think I can piece it together.

We (Chrysler Marketing and Product Planning) defined the automobile market a lot more precisely than the customer did. Cars were “sub-compact,” “compact,” “intermediate” or “full size,” plus “specialty” cars, which were further defined by size: compact specialty (Barracuda), intermediate specialty (Charger, Cordoba), and full size specialty (Riviera, Toronado).

We knew that cars were getting lighter and smaller to respond to pressures (legislative and customer) for improved fuel economy, so to our structured thinking, an R Body was a smaller (than the C body) full size car. We could have derived the new full size entry from the B Body, but we didn’t. I wasn’t close enough to know if that alternative was even considered.

In hindsight, I would say we (the whole industry) could have done a better job of defining the market. We defined it by hardware but it was far more complex than that.

I tried, when we did the F Body Volare and Aspen. Market research data (demographics) showed that the same person (age, income, education, etc.) bought the Dodge Dart four door sedan and the Dodge Coronet four door sedan, so my proposal was that the F Body four door models should replace both the Dart and Coronet four door models. Sales (Executive VP R. K. Brown) shot that proposal down before it even got a hearing. [Chances are the plan would have saved Chrysler a great deal of money, in retrospect.]

Until Lee Iacocca came to Chrysler, our market plan was to get 15% of the market as defined by GM and Ford hardware. We didn’t do a Cordoba until we saw that the Grand Prix, Thunderbird, etc. market was too big to ignore. Chrysler didn’t approve the minivan before Lee Iacocca came, because our top management said that if there was a market for that kind of vehicle, Ford and GM would have one.

Given a severe cash shortage, the design team began looking at reworking current or already completed body types instead of trying to develop completely new designs. The new car was, after all, just half an inch longer in wheelbase than the biggest B-body, and half an inch smaller than the shortest-wheelbase C-body.

MSPEugene Cafiero, the only upper manager to have made his way up from production, chose to drop all Plymouths larger than Volare at the end of 1978, meaning the brand would not get one of the new cars. He was responsible for actually making the cars, and may have wanted to reduce complexity; and Plymouth’s larger cars were not selling well, outside of the fleets. Still, some alleged that his dithering on production planning delayed the launch by nine months. [Editor’s note: that may have been a blessing in disguise, considering the quality issues that may have shown up at launch, had they been made on time.]

Cafiero and Riccardo reportedly began to fight in board meetings. To his credit, Mr. Riccardo realized that new blood was needed at Chrysler, especially after he announced that it would take about $7.5 billion to remake the Chrysler Corporation and President Jimmy Carter told him, point blank, to “heal thyself.” Mr. Cafiero then announced, publicly, in July 1977 that he was resigning from Chrysler to lead another corporation. For reasons known only to himself, Mr. Riccardo convinced Mr. Cafiero to stay on! An uneasy truce existed after that.


Work continued. Engineering applied tried and true technology from the B-bodies; parallel torsion control bars, dating back to 1957; the 225 cubic inch slant six; and the tough 318 and 360 cubic inch V-8s. The 318 didn’t qualify for California emissions, so the LA 318 got a four barrel carb for California alone. There were, then, eight engines: four for the 49 states (“Federal”), three for California, and one 360 for Canada. (California had special engines because it was under strict Federal orders to slash its pollution and had permission to set its own rules.)

1979 chrysler new yorkerEngineers focused on slashing weight, substituting plastic for metal in the brake cylinder pistons. These swelled up after a couple of years, and caused real heartache until the cause was pinpointed. The bumpers were made from stamped aluminum, plated with chrome; they didn’t care for the chemicals used, peeling within weeks, looking like cheap paint on zinc coating. These issues were likely the result of insufficient time and testing.

Other steps were more successful, such as a new air conditioner compressor for the slant six that finally ended the nasty shaking at idle, while cutting 13 pounds of weight. This was used on all rear-drive cars starting on 1979, along with new, lighter, and stronger aluminum radiators (moving to a single-row-core design).


New injection-molded plastic dashboards allowed for full gauge clusters with lighter weight, and plastic parts were used in the steering column with no apparent drawbacks. The slant six debuted with a new, lighter two-piece electron-beam-welded intake manifold, saving 14-15 lb per car (which was universal in 1979). Lighter glass also helped cut weight at the expense of some noise.

c-171 air conditioner compressor (swashplate)The R bodies also replaced warning buzzers with electronic chimes; the seats were designed for comfort, the ride was smooth but cornering was still good, and extra sound insulation provided some of the luxury feel of the bigger Chryslers. The New Yorker and Newport also came with a choice between manual and semi-automatic temperature control air conditioning systems.

Durability changes for 1979 included a new tail lamp socket, color-coded “flag-type” connectors (a small plastic “flag” snapped into HVAC cable retainers), redesigned weatherstrip seals (on R-bodies and F-bodies), improved dual exhaust/single tailpipe construction, and higher-efficiency air conditioner condensors with “skived” cooling fins (R-bodies only).

In California, a new generation of electronic control systems debuted, but only on single-barrel slant sixes; the “Electronic Feedback Carburetor Control System” regulated the fuel-air mixture during warmup and heavy acceleration, adding to the Lean Burn system (now renamed Electronic Spark Control, but with no other changes). The system used an oxygen sensor, coolant temperature sensor, vacuum sensor, and solenoid with a computer making decisions.

Given more money and time, the “R” body cars might have fared far better. As such, it is a wonder that they came out as well as they did. Chrysler managed to pare off some 700 to 800 pounds, helping to counter the impact of smaller and emissions-controlled engines.

The R Bodies go on sale: Chrysler Newport and Dodge St. Regis

1981 chrysler newportOnly two cars on the new chassis were launched in 1979, the Chrysler and the Dodge. The Chrysler Newport was the base car; the New Yorker version added a different grille with concealed dual headlamps, chrome-plated front and rear bumpers, standard air conditioning and FM stereo, and numerous trim upgrades. The Fifth Avenue Package added a padded landau vinyl roof and rear-door opera windows with edge lighting, among other trim updates.

Many fleet operators did not understand the lack of a Plymouth “R” body. To mollify dealers who sold to police fleets, the company stripped down the Chrysler Newport and priced it as if it were a Plymouth; Newport ended up as the “state bid” vehicle for many law enforcement agencies, an odd choice for what was still an upscale brand. Perhaps that was one reason, along with complaints from Plymouth dealers, for the Gran Fury “R” body in 1980; a Newport with a different front, it affected overall sales only marginally.

GM had lopped off sheet metal as though it had used an axe; Chrysler determined to lose weight, but to keep the big car look. There was some argument over this, since some of the designers wanted the cars to look smaller, as the GM products did. One could argue that the smaller look was what was selling the GM cars. It did not pretend to look as big as its predecessors, in any dimension — except for the interior. Still initial sales were strong for the “R” body cars, until a spring season recession sent jitters through the public. Gasoline prices rose, and sales took a nose dive.

new yorker grille

The cars that did sell were problematic. Before the first “R” car was built, Chrysler quality engineering had predicted an estimate of 1,077 defects for every 100 units built. That meant that each car was expected to built with an average of 11 defects! No one took any action to rectify the situation.

Lee Iacocca had been brought in to lead Chrysler, partly because President Carter refused to help the company under its current management. After reading the reports, including a study that predicted nearly 740 defects for every 100 “K” cars, he was incensed and lit a blowtorch under the Vice President of Quality Control and Production.

Lee Iacocca was furious. He was also concerned about how the new Imperial would be launched, wanting it to be the most defect free vehicle of all. It wasn’t, but it was far better than the “R” body. Suddenly, quality became the benchmark for accomplishment. One measure of improved quality was the new 5/50 warranty, appearing in 1981, showing that Chrysler at least had confidence in its engines and transmissions.


R body details: Newport, New Yorker, St. Regis, Gran Fury

r-body productionThe Dodge version of the car was St. Regis, presumably named after a hotel, in a long-standing Chrysler Corporation tradition. Chrysler and, later, Plymouth simply re-applied older names; choosing a new name may have been a reaction to poor sales of existing large Dodges, or a deliberate experiment to see which strategy worked better. One look at the chart on the sales chart shows why the Plymouth, when it came, had a legacy name.

Body Wheelbase 1980 Chrysler Series Body Styles
F/J/M 108.7″ LeBaron: Medallion, Salon, base Two-Door
F/J/M 112.7″ LeBaron: Medallion, Salon, base Four-Door
F/J/M 112.7″ LeBaron Town Country, LeBaron Station Wagon
B 112.7″ Cordoba, Crown Cordoba Two-Door Specialty Hardtop
R 118.5″ New Yorker, Newport Four-Door “Pillared Hardtop”

The Chrysler Newport base model was the “Four Door Pillared Hardtop,” the name being an attempt to cover the loss of the actual four door hardtop (which don’t have a center post). Chrysler tried using “almost” pillar-less models with thin or unobtrusive pillars between the doors. Other manufacturers tried to get by with labeling them as “thin pillar” models.

1979 Newport 1979 Magnum 1978 Fury Sedan 1979-1980 St. Regis
Length 220.2 215.6 218 220.2
Width 77.1 77.1 77.7 77.6
Headroom F/R 38.6/37.4 37.7 / 36.6 54.3 38.2 / 37.4
Legroom F/R 42.3/38.2 42.4 / 32.4 42.6 / 34.9 42.3 / 38.3
Hip room F/R 57.6 / 57.4 55.8 / 57.0 59.2 / 59.2 57.6 / 57.4
Shoulder room F/R 61.0/61.0 59.2 / 61.0 58.9/ 59.3 61.0/61.0
Trunk (cubic feet) 21.3 16.3 19.7
Weight ~3,500 3,785 ~3,600 ~3,500

1981 plymouth gran furyThe sole transmission, the TorqueFlite three speed automatic, had already come with part-throttle kick down, and now came with an efficient locking torque converter on all but the slant six and the pursuit cars.

Options were standard luxury fare for the time: cloth, leather or crushed velour seating; powered sun roof, semi-automatic air conditioning, speed control, electric door locks, power windows, vinyl roof, with full treatment or a padded half, styled hub caps or cast steel wheels, light packages, tilt steering wheel, intermittent wipers, inside controlled rear view mirrors, bright trim packages, and a myriad of other items to equip your car as lean or as luxurious as you desired.

production by yearAll the “R” cars had a full complement of gauges on the instrument panel, with a classy-looking display. Gas, oil, alternator, and temperature clustered around a round dial 85-mph speedometer — standard across automakers at this time. The Pursuit package’s certified speedometer only read up to 120 miles an hour, down from the 1978 models that read up to 140.

The standard suspension was the twin parallel torsion bars in the front, aided by an anti-roll bar; and leaf springs in the rear. Two packages that included suspension upgrades were available, Heavy-Duty and Trailer Assist. The Heavy-Duty package, available only with the E58 coded 360 4-barrel V-8, and a 3.21 rear axle ratio, upgraded the springs and shock absorbers, with wider wheels, and larger tires (U48 code – P205/75R x 15” steel belted radials) and same-size spare, deleting the space saver (the spare was stored underneath the package shelf).

1978 chrysler lebaron suspension

The Code A56 package (Trailer Assist) mimicked the A38 Pursuit package: heavy duty torsion bars, heavy duty anti sway bars for the front and rear, heavy duty shock absorbers, and heavy duty leaf springs. Wider wheels were needed to accept the U55 coded P225/70R x 15 steel belted radial ply tires. This suspension was available on the V-8 model cars only.

Standard brakes consisted of power assisted 11.58” front discs and 10” x 2.5” rear drums. Brake pads and shoes were standard asbestos materials. On pursuit A38 packages the rear axle was 9.25” and the brake drum increased to 11” x 2.5” drums. The A38 also had non-organic materials in a sintered metallic pads and brake shoes. The hotter they got, the better they stopped. Fading didn’t occur with these brakes.

R body engines

adThe standard engine was the E26 Slant Six (225 cubic inches), not long ago unavailable on any Chrysler-branded car. In Federal trim, it had 165 ft. lbs of torque and 100 net hp. In California, the six was down to 80 net hp, and 160 ft lbs of twist, and was only available on the Aspen and Volare (Chrysler chose not to upgrade it with a two-barrel carburetor at that point.)

The first upgrade was the 318 V-8 with a two barrel and single exhaust, coded E44. Chrysler released a four-barrel version of the venerable 318, the E47 code, that was available only in California, and included a standard 2.40 rear axle ratio; even with the more restrictive emissions, it out-powered the two-barrel.

Buyers could also opt for a E57 coded 360 cubic inch V-8 that had a two barrel, and single exhaust with a 150 hp output (matching the 1976 318); it was the New Yorker’s standard fare and optional on all other models. In California, the New Yorker got the E56 four-barrel 360 instead, for 160 hp.

1980 Slant Six 318 360 Slant Six (CA) 318 (CA)
Horsepower 90 @ 3,600 120 @ 3,600 185 @ 4,000 90 @ 3,600 155 @ 4,000
Torque 160 @ 1,600 245 @ 1,600 275 @ 2,000 160 @ 1,600 240 @ 2,000
Carburetor 1-barrel 2-barrel 4-barrel 1-barrel 4-barrel

woodgrainThe top engine choice in 1979 was the 4 barrel version of the 360 cubic inch V-8. Most states got a 195 hp version with 280 ft. lbs. of torque. California got a 190 hp, and 275 ft lbs or torque. Canada got its own E58 version with no catalytic converters and a slightly higher compression ration, from 8.0 to 1, to 8.4 to 1, and dual exhausts. According to the figures from Chrysler, this only increased output to 200 hp, with no real difference in torque, which seems unlikely. The A38 Pursuit package cars all got heavy duty engine upgrades, with the E58 being the top Pursuit class engine.

The “R” body in fleet service

Fleets purchased the most of the “R” body cars, after the initial good start in 1979. Chrysler sold 132,936 “R” bodies in the first year. Sales tanked late in the Spring with a rise in gasoline prices, and an economic recession. Dodge moved 34,972 for a combined total of 167,908, which was the largest single year for the body.

With the lack of the big Plymouth body in 1979, the Chrysler Newport came through as the lower bidder, beating Dodge in a lot of fleet buys. It also beat out Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, Pontiac, Mercury and Oldsmobile for a lot of fleet work, stimulating dealers to loudly demand that Plymouth get an “R” body model of its own. They got their request in 1980.

1980 gran fury

Overall, they were decent automobiles. An independent survey for fleet vehicles found that most Police Agencies rated the 1980 “R” body patrol cars as the best Chrysler police unit overall, from 1956 to 1989. That may have been partly due to their high comfort levels, with well designed seats and interiors.

chrysler newportNot all the fleet experiences were kind to Chrysler. Maine had, since the early 1960s, found Plymouths to be the best bid through to the 1970s; but around 1976, quality issues began to arise. Problems went up sharply in 1977, and culminated in 1978, when the Maine State Police fleet Plymouths were unacceptably poor quality. They seemed to spend more time in the garage than on the road. Over their entire fleet of 1977 and 1978 models, they paid an average of over $3,160 per unit in maintenance costs — plus about that amount in labor.

Not all the cars were bad, but some were real lemons, with repeated transmission and engine failures, along with electrical issues, especially the lean burn computers. The exhausts kept falling off. The base price of a Plymouth sedan was $3,850 in 1977 and $4,230 in 1978.

Police versions of the St. Regis (coded A38) got more galvanized steel and anti-rust treatments, along with a 500-amp, thermally insulated, 85 amp-hour battery. A 100-amp alternator was optional.

Police brakes were heavier duty, with the front discs having semi-metallic brake pads, and larger rear drum brakes (11 x 2.5). A high capacity tandom power booster, with dual master cylinder, increased reliability. Firm-feel steering was standard with a special “police chuck.” Inside, the police cars had heavy-duty seat seats (with K9 trim available).

Fourteen welding reinforcements were added to the front subframe assembly, along with reinforcements to the underside of the body floor pan. High speed radial tires with fabric belts were standard in 1980, with a rear anti-sway bar.

Special order equipment included a certified speedometer, horn/siren switch (so the siren could be activated by the horn button), extra dashboard radio speaker, and antenna.

Chevrolet won the low bid price to be the Maine State Police Cruiser for 1979. With the 350 V-8 coming so soon after the440 V-8 of the MoPar, there was some readjustment for the Troopers. The handling was different, but they were safe, with good brakes, and soon won respect, as being “good enough.”

In maintenance, though, the Chevrolets were outstanding. The fleet manager was ecstatic. There were no real issues among any of the units, no transmission failures, and only one engine that let go. Maine spent far less on the Chevrolet than on the previous two years with Plymouths.

Armed with detailed records for 1977, 1978, and 1979, Fleet tried to exclude any Chrysler product from bidding, but the Maine Attorney General issued an edict that the attempt to exclude a particular car was illegal; so the Dodge St. Regis won the bid for 1980. Fleet attempted to change the means to achieve the bid. Again, the Maine Attorney General intervened, and stated that the means to exclude a particular vehicle had to be built into the original description in the bid. It cannot be changed once the bid is made. As far as the legislature was concerned, the bidding was over, and Dodge had it.

Fleet sent letters to Chrysler, seeking assurance that the 1980 Dodge was superior to the 1977 and 1978 Plymouths. Chrysler responded with gushing assurances and statements of good intent. After all, the St. Regis was a totally different car, and quality was a lot better. Keeping a wary eye on the budget, Maine took possession of 150 new St. Regis Pursuit packages with the 360 4V engines.

Maine state policeOn the whole, the 1980 Dodge was as solid as the 1979 Chevrolet. Engines, transmissions, brakes, axles, exhausts, and major components did not fail. The peripherals did, though — wipers that wouldn’t, windows that stuck, wiring harness that burned out within a couple weeks of going into service. Electrical issues, bulb failures, misaligned power steering pumps, unadjusted rear brakes, and other issues related to poor oversight all hit the maintenance budget.

The Maine Troopers liked the car, most saying they were better cruisers than the previous year Chevrolet. The power, braking, and overall handling were vastly superior. Most rated it as the best handling car they had ever driven. But the damage had been done. The bidding process was written to keep Chrysler from meeting the specifications, and continued to be for many years. The 1980 Dodge was the last Chrysler product used by the Maine State Police.

In 1979, Chevrolet had beaten Plymouth and Dodge in the Michigan State Police tests, though the Dodge St. Regis and Chrysler Newport turned in the best performance, with 322 and 321 points assigned. (The Nova and Volare did not meet Michigan State Police criteria and were not tested.) The 1979 Chevrolet Impala came in at 311 for performance, but MSP uses a weighted method which takes price, ergonomics, and economy into account, and Chevrolet beat out Dodge for most vehicles for the lowest bid.

st. regisIn 1980, the full size Plymouth with a 360 four-barrel was selected by the MSP. With a 11.5 second 0-60 time, and a top speed of almost 125 miles an hour, it reached 100 in about 35 seconds. The big Plymouth captured 5 of 7 events. The only downside was the poor gasoline mileage. In 1981, with the 360 replaced by a 318 four barrel, Plymouth repeated their “win.” It took 12.7 seconds to get to 60, ran to 100 in 43 seconds, and reached a top speed of 115 mph. Not a rocket ship, but it was the fastest patrol vehicle available in 1981. It was overall a good patrol vehicle, even if it was not a good pursuit car.

Following its usual practice, the prestigious California Highway Patrol selected Dodge for its primary E class cruiser in 1979. Granted, it was no 440, that in its final year (1978) had propelled CHP officers upwards to 130 miles an hour. The 360 managed to get to 120 mph, with coaxing, and could always get to 115.

The 1977 and 1978 Dodge Monaco used by CHP were the first units ever used by the patrol that was not at least on a 122” wheelbase. They were highly praised by officers for their brakes, ride, and outstanding drivability and handling.

CHP ordered 1,100 vehicles in 1975. Of those, 100 were the 117.5” wheelbase Dodge Coronet. They were equipped with 440 V-8s and the A38 packages. As CHP found they made excellent pursuit class vehicles, and were more economical as well. As a result, in 1976, CHP ordered 1,511 vehicles that were 117.5” wheelbase Dodge Coronets. They were 500 pounds lighter than the Monaco, which gained back some lost performance. In 1978, the Coronet became the Monaco, since the big body was gone, the name change was meant to give the impression that a big car was still available.

What should have been seen by many fleet managers were the results of the CHP buy for 1980. California CARB regulations mandated that only one engine was available for use in the CHP St. Regis, the 165 hp 318 4 barrel V-8. CHP patrolmen really panned the car. “Couldn’t catch its own shadow, let alone that of a speeding tractor-trailer.” It grew into a monumental fire fight, with the St. Regis squarely in the cross hairs.

dodge monacoDodge built exactly what California had ordered, and installed the only engine that met their regulations. The CHP had a problem, and that was the image of a “weak kneed” patrol vehicle. The St Regis, equipped with full cop gear, light bar, and two good sized cops, ran about 107 to 110 mph on the flat. That would never do, when the average CHP officer spends nearly half his shift at or past the posted legal speed limits, and each and every one on every shift, engages speeders traveling over 100 miles an hour.

The CHP Commander called this an “embarrassment.” The lack of a bigger engine, (and CARB would not relent, even for its own police forces) with the weight of the larger St. Regis meant that little could be done to change the St. Regis. Many were sold to other departments. Some were transferred to high mileage areas, and run as much as possible to get them past the minimum trade over. In 1981, the CHP switched to the 112.7” wheelbase Diplomat; with the same 318 4V engine, the Diplomat saved the Dodge name, and met the CHP image of a fast car.

Production figures for 1980 stood at 15,061 units for Chrysler. The St. Regis sold 17,068 models. In its first year, Plymouth sold 18,750 models.

In its final year, the “R” body was overshadowed by the introduction of the “K” car, and Iacocca’s attempt at re-entry into the ultra luxury market, the newly resurrected Imperial. Chrysler sold about 10,500 Newports and New Yorkers. Dodge managed to get 13,000 St. Regis units sold, and the Plymouth Gran Fury accounted for another 15,000 cars.
Original is at The Chrysler Corporation R Bodies
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