Archive for the ‘gm’ Tag

Crossovers replacing sedans: Back to the past

Sergio Marchionne’s comment that the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 would be allowed to “run their course” and then be replaced by cars from a “potential partner” caused a range of emotional reactions.

This is not the first time for such thoughts. In the late 1980s, GM, Ford, and Chrysler all lost money on each compact car. Chrysler changed that with the Neon and Cirrus/Stratus, which made hefty profits even while GM and Ford kept losing money. This time, though, insiders claim the company does not have the facilities nor the experienced engineers to make it happen; and even Ford now wants a partner for its sedans.

The earliest mass-produced cars included sedans, but many were the equivalent, in size and shape, of today’s crossovers — the area where Sergio Marchionne wants FCA to focus, at least in North America. Long, low, and sleek appeared as “the look to have” a few years after World War II, for 20-30 years; then the hatchback came into style.

Chrysler sparked a resurgence in the large sedan market in the early 1990s, then helped to rejuvenate midsize and small cars. The moribund large sedan market revived, and sedans in general gained a new lease on life.

Still, the popularity of the low sedan is recent and may be at an end. Ordinary sedans have been getting taller, with the 300 just two inches from the Nissan Juke and six from the Compass and 500L. The 1946 Plymouth was taller than any of them — and the Jeep Cherokee: 68 inches.

So why do many of us, including me, prefer sedans? Is it because they are lower to the ground and handle better? I don’t think so, given how most people drive, and the competent handling of most new crossovers (not to mention the popularity of BMW and Porsche’s crossovers).

Even gas mileage is not really penalized much now, with their larger frontal area countered by aerodynamic design, valve timing, and wide-range transmissions. They also have more space for the large batteries and other gear needed for light and full hybrid systems.

I have had numerous sedans in my life, no SUVs, and just two minivans; my only crossover was a PT Cruiser GT. Still, I can see the attraction of the crossover, especially now that everyone has minivans, SUVs, pickups, and crossovers, which makes visibility rather hard from a low-slung car.

I think the sedan will become more and more specialized over time. Two-door cars (including sedans) used to be extremely common, but they rapidly declined from the 1970s on, and now FCA US only makes the Dodge Challenger, Dodge Viper, Jeep Wrangler, Rams, and Fiat 500 in that form; and even in pickups and Wranglers, the two-door form is less and less popular.

I don’t think this presages the death of Chrysler or Dodge. The 200 and Dart (and Fiat 500) need high incentives to sell. Is replacing them worth delaying rear wheel drive cars for Dodge or large cars and crossovers for Chrysler and Dodge? Mr. Marchionne has a finite number of engineers at hand, and only so many factories. Paying off $5 billion in debt will earn the company more cash than building a new plant.

(I am very, very disappointed that Mr. Marchionne’s pledge that Chrysler would “lead” the engineering of future compact and midsize and large cars has been completely ignored and reneged upon.)

Limited resources, limited time, and a class of car that appears to be disappearing, selling only with large incentives … I can’t say I’d have been able to do anything different.

Or… it’s another trial balloon or an attempt to mis-lead competitors. We are talking about Sergio Marchionne, after all; and his announcements tend not to be set in stone.

Update: When buyers choose sedans, they almost invariably choose imports. Of the top ten 2015 best sellers in the US, there were no American sedans — Camry, Corolla, Accord, Civic and Altima accompanied two imported crossovers (CR-V and RAV4) and the three American pickups. The best selling cars (Camry and Corolla) combined barely outsold Ford’s pickups. In Europe, Fiat’s Panda has grown to challenge its best-seller, the 500; while the 500X, in its first year, nearly matched the declining Punto (both were beaten by the 500L). Fiat’s sales in Europe, 500 aside, are heavily biased in favor of crossovers, vans, and utilities. The same is not true for everyone — over half of Ford’s sales are the Fiesta and Focus.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2016/02/crossovers-replacing-sedans-back-to-the-past-31159

Full size Ram SUV under study

Ram is thinking about building a large SUV to take away some Chevy Suburban sales, according to Fiat Chrysler (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne. He was speaking during a conference call, and noted that a large SUV was made possible both by an upcoming redesign, which could lower engineering costs of making the variant, and by having a higher-capacity plant to build them in.

At the moment, General Motors dominates the large SUV market, and competitors such as Ford and Toyota have a small slice of the leftovers. It is unlikely that Ram would manage 50,000 sales per year, much less 100,000, but that could be enough if engineering costs were kept down and it was made on the Ram 1500’s assembly line.

This would be the first Ram SUV; to date, all SUVs have been branded as Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler.

Mr. Marchionne also said that they would be exploring “some other segments” for the Ram.

Large SUVs are currently very profitable for GM, but part of that may be due to GM’s dominance; if volume went down, profitability would likely follow. However, with over 400,000 large-SUV sales expected for 2015, along with stable gasoline prices, chances are that the market for large SUVs will grow and GM’s volumes will not shrink. One wildcard is Ford’s upcoming aluminum-bodied Expedition.

Read more at: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2015/10/full-size-ram-suv-under-study-30450

The dual-minivan plan, revisited

Rumors from Windsor suggested first that the current “RT” minivan body would continue for some years alongside the new “RU,” and then that it would be dropped as soon as the new designs came out — in Chrysler form only.

Where is Reid [Bigland]? If it was up to Reid, we’d be manufacturing up until 2250. There are technical reasons why that car cannot be sold for a much longer period of time than the current time. There are regulations that are coming into effect in 2017 that are going to restrict or are going to require a substantial amount of investment into the old architecture to make the problem go away. Or they’re just not assailable.

That, plus the combination of some of the inherent inefficiency of the architecture and the powertrain, will make the car just not square, to square the numbers. We’ll try to keep it alive as long as we can.

As for the next generation minivans:

Oh it’s done, yes. We’re tuning up now . . . there are bodies that are meandering around Auburn Hills out of the pilot plant. The parts are visible….You’ll see it at the show on January ’16.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2015/01/the-dual-minivan-plan-revisited

Ram top growth brand in changing van market

The upheaval in the commercial van market continued in 2014 as the Ram ProMaster hit its stride, Ford introduced the Transit and GM added a small van, courtesy of Nissan.

In November, Eurovans (ProMaster, Transit, Sprinter) outsold traditional American vans from Ford, GM and Nissan by 187 units. The gap will only grow going forward as the ProMaster gains ground and the Ford E-Series van, long the major player in the full-size van market, is relegated to chassis-cabs and similar applications. This leaves GM as the only one still making a traditional van and the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna are nearly two decades old and don’t offer the space or fuel economy of the newer vans.

Thanks to an unusually strong month for the Ram Cargo Van, Ram brand beat Chevrolet brand van sales in November and was just 219 behind the combined total of Chevy and GMC.

Ram brand took a 19.1% share of the commercial van market in November, up 12 percentage points from its 7.1% share in November 2013. Year-to-date share for the Ram brand rose 4.5 percentage points, to 8.2% of the market.

Both Ford and Chevrolet have lost market share this year.

While they account for only about two percent of total U.S. light vehicle sales, growth in the segment has been strong this year. Sales of full-size vans are up 16.2% as of the end of November; sales of compact vans, including the Ram Cargo Van, have grown 25.3%. Both figures are well above the 5.5% year-to-date growth of the light vehicle market.

The growth in sales of compact vans bodes well for the rollout of the Ram ProMaster City that’s currently underway. While it’s more expensive than the Nissan NV, Chevy City Express and base Transit Connect, the ProMaster City beats all of them when it comes to capacity, power and configurations.

As Read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2014/12/ram-top-growth-brand-in-changing-van-market

Renewed Ram comparisons

With both Chevrolet Colorado and Ford F-150 boasting of their fuel economy— the latter without actually releasing it yet — Ram has done the footwork to provide comparisons of their mileage versus every competitor.

Of note, the Ram 1500 V6 is no longer the most efficient full-sized gasoline-powered pickup, though it is tied for best with the Chevrolet Silverado. The Ram 1500 diesel does retain the title of most efficient full or midsized pickup, arguably, with Tacoma coming in at the same rounded combined mileage (1 mpg better city, 3 mpg worse highway). Tacoma is smaller, and comes with a four cylinder engine coupled to a manual transmission.

The new Ford F-150’s gas mileage has yet to be revealed; the company has already said that it will be the highest-mileage F-150 ever,  but has not said it will be the best in the full size segment.

Ram wrote that their 1500 achieved strong mileage through its low drag (0.36 cD compared with mode of around 0.40, resulting in a gain of around 0.4 mpg on the highway); eight-speed automatic and parasitic loss prevention systems (around 2 mpg gain); and diesel engine (around 6 mpg gain). A Ram press release claimed that a 500 pound weight reduction results in around a 2% increase in fuel economy, or around 0.5 mpg.

Ford continues to enjoy a reputation for fuel economy, though F-150 is near the bottom of the class, ironically only beating a pair of Japanese trucks. The top two trucks in fuel economy come from two companies whose reputation among the general public is, also ironically, for inefficient powertrains: Chrysler/Ram and GM/Chevrolet.

Ram fuel economy

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2014/11/renewed-ram-comparisons

Dodge defines itself

After one hundred years, the Dodge brand has issued a definitive vision of its future, and it’s about as far from its origins as it can be.

A recent press release stated, “With the purification of the brand and consolidation with SRT, Dodge is getting back to its performance roots with every single model it offers.”

When Dodge gained its “performance roots” is a matter of opinion; the early Dodges were slow, even by the standards of the day, but sturdy and relatively safe. The first “fast” Dodges came with the Hemi engines, but they were kept below Chrysler levels. In reality, Dodge’s “performance roots” probably began with the 1956 Dodge D-500 package.

The press release continued, “Dodge is the ‘mainstream performance’  brand … SRT is positioned as the “ultimate performance” halo…”

This slots Dodge right in the position John DeLorean put Pontiac into — a position Pontiac had never been in before. Under Mr. DeLorean, the “old folks’” brand became GM’s performance brand, and sales skyrocketed. Pontiac was finally shut down after years of cars whose main differentiator was extra body cladding, followed by a relatively brief “clean look” period.

When Fiat first took over, leaders said they intended for Dodge to be a modern sports-car brand, emphasizing handling; this approach, used by the Dart, did not work, but the 707-horsepower Hellcat Hemi has garnered a great deal of attention and interest from potential buyers. As a result, it appears that Dodge will be aiming at traditional American views of sporty cars.

The strategy could backfire in years when gas prices zoom upwards, but not if Dodge is counterbalanced with Chrysler on the economy side, and resists the temptation to buy sales with economy cars. Over ten to twenty years, if the company sticks to the strategy, Dodge may find itself with a clear reputation among buyers, and a larger hard core of return customers.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2014/09/dodge-defines-itself

Ram diesel trucks “most durable;” 25 years of Cummins

Given the reputation of Cummins as a maker of bullet-proof diesel engines, it is hard to be surprised by Ram’s announcement today that their Cummins-powered trucks are Canada’s most durable diesel pickups.

The first Cummins-powered light-duty pickups (confusing called “heavy duty” or “super duty” by GM, Chrysler, and Ford) appeared in 1989, immediately boosting Dodge pickup sales. The current version of the Cummins B-series engine is far more powerful than in those early days, and has increased in displacement from 5.9 to 6.7 liters; they now produce up to 385 horsepower and 850 lb-ft of torque, more than any competitor.

Ram chassis cabs with the Cummins diesel reach 37,500 lb of gross combined weight ratings; the Ram Heavy Duty has a class-leading 30,000 lb of towing capacity. The engine is the only one shared by heavy equipment and light-duty pickup trucks; it uses an iron head (rather than aluminum), with 30%-40% fewer moving components than competitors.

Ram uses three versions of the engine; the first is paired with a segment-exclusive six-speed manual transmission, which has  a wear-compensating clutch. The diesel is rated at 350 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and 660 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,400 rpm with this transmission. Coupled to the 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission, it is rated at 370 horsepower at 2,800 rpm with an unsurpassed in ¾-ton trucks 800 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm. Finally, with the Aisin wide-ratio six-speed automatic transmission (AS69RC), the Cummins is rated at 385 horsepower at 2,800 rpm, with best-in-class torque of 850 lb.-ft. at 1,700 rpm.

The “most durable” claim comes from a study showing the percentage of Canadian diesel pickups sold within the last 20 years that are still on the road, by brand.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2014/02/ram-diesel-trucks-most-durable-25-years-of-cummins

Ram diesel: official mileage

The 2014 Ram 1500 pickup, powered by the VM 3-liter V6 (also used in Jeep Grand Cherokee), set a best-ever full-size-pickup 28 mpg in EPA highway testing, neatly beating all current mid-size and full-size pickups. Before the diesel, the best full-size pickup highway mileage was set by Ram 1500 V6.

The half-ton pickup also set a new combined city/highway benchmark of 23 mpg, matching the best four-cylinder midsize pickup’s record. The Ram 1500 diesel  is rated at 20 city, 28 highway, and 23 combined, where the Toyota Tacoma, with a four-cylinder engine and manual transmission, is rated at 21 city, 25 highway, 23 combined. Ram 1500 easily beat the Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline midsize pickups, as well as all Ford, Toyota, GM, and Nissan full-size trucks.

Ram chief Reid Bigland said, “To put the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel in context, it gets 6 mpg better fuel economy than the best F150 EcoBoost. Overall, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel has outstanding pick-up truck capability with compact car-like fuel economy.”

Ordering will begin on February 7, in all 50 states (and presumably in Canada).

The engine delivers peak torque unsurpassed among V-6 pickups (420 lb-ft). Ram 1500 remains the only pickup with eight-speed automatics, and the only half-ton pickup with an optional diesel.

Torque is higher than the base F-150 V8 and Silverado 1500 V8s , both rated at 15 city, 21 highway; and the Ram Hemi, rated at 14/20 with six-speed, and 15/22 with eight-speed.  (The base Nissan Titan V8 is rated 13/18, while the base Tundra V8 is 15/19).  The Ram 1500 diesel is rated to tow 9,200 lb.

The engine’s block and bedplate are made from lightweight Compacted Graphite Iron (CGI); it uses Fiat’s highly praised MultiJet 2 common-rail fuel-injection system, whose high-dispersion nozzles and servovalve can accommodate up to eight fuel-injection events per cylinder cycle. This mitigates noise and improves low-speed throttle response, while cutting fuel consumption and emissions. Other features include Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), high-pressure cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR), variable swirl intake ports, and a variable-geometry turbocharger (pioneered by Chrysler with the 2.2 Turbo IV).

One of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for 2014, the EcoDiesel V-6 was a major factor in the Ram 1500’s selection as 2014 Motor Trend Truck of the Year.  Powertrain chief Bob Lee said, “We are immensely gratified by achieving these milestones. Not only do they confirm our position as an industry leader in powertrain development and truck design, they promise tremendous benefits for our customers.”

The truck also has a thermal-management system that quickly warms transmission oil to reduce pumping losses associated with cold, low-viscosity fluid, active grille shutters, electric power steering, and aluminum for components, such as hoods, “that do not compromise capability.”

The diesel engine adds $2,850 to the cost of the 2014 Ram 1500, which starts at $24,200; the diesel includes the eight-speed automatic, but even without that, the “diesel premium” is far lower than with the hefty Cummins diesel available on Ram 2500-5500. The truck has a five-year /100,000-mile powertrain warranty and three-year / 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.  It is built in Warren, Michigan (which has assembled more than 12.5 million trucks since it started operations in 1938) except for regular cabs, which are made in Saltillo, Mexico. VM engines are made in Cento, Italy, while the eight-speed automatics are made in the United States.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2014/02/ram-diesel-official-mileage