With two new and important full-size pickup trucks this fall, at a time of extreme economic uncertainty, what do we see happening to the market in general? And how does the F-150 stack up against the Ram? Since our correspondent Jim Hossack attended both Ford and Ram driving previews, we asked him for some comments. Here we go!
2009 Ford F-150 XLT
What’s happening in the Full-Size Light Duty Pickup market?
Contrary to mass media reports, the full-size light duty pickup market is not dead. In fact, after a few tough months, it is coming back – in terms of share of industry if not actual number of units sold.
The auto industry is down by around 4 million units compared with 2007CY. Full-size pickup share of industry fell from 15.2 percent in August 2007 to as low as 8.6 percent on May 2008, but has rebounded to 15.8 percent in September 2008. In part that may be a reaction to fuel prices, which increased and then decreased, in part it a recent compensation for deferred purchases earlier this summer, and in part due to ridiculously low transaction prices as Dodge and Ford clear out showrooms of the old trucks. It is also worthwhile to remember that holding onto 15.8 percent of a much smaller market still means a dramatic decrease in overall F-150 sales. If and when the economy recovers, half-ton pickup sales volume will recover, depending on how drastic the next fuel price spike is.
2009 Dodge Ram Sport
Are we nearing the end of Chrysler? Or the beginning of a new blended family? Or just another day at the rumor mill?
Late on Friday, the first stories began appearing about GM and Chrysler in possible merger talks. And at least in Detroit, dominated the weekend news cycle. GM’s stock went up this morning, but given that the Dow was up 5.6% and GM went up only about 3%, the stock bump might have happened without merger talk. GM closed on Friday at $4.89, a number some say is actually less than the company would be worth in capital assets alone.
All of this merger talk, whether these deals are realistic or not, does nothing good for public perception. The economy is weak, last week’s events on the stock market don’t reassure anyone, and talking about GM and Chrysler perhaps needing to merge to survive only further erodes confidence in American business. While GM and Chrysler LLC, as well as any other maker in trouble right now, needs to consider even unthinkable options and test our common assumptions as they get out of this trouble, this merger does not inspire hope.
Chrysler today announced plans to jumping into the electric car market with both feet by offering up three high-voltage prototypes to reporters and a promise to put about 100 electric vehicles on the road in 2009. We’ve been waiting to get a sense of what the company’s ENVI group is up to, and now we know.
One of the three concept vehicles, the all-electric Dodge EV, is sure to generate some buzz (Is it a Tesla for the common people?) for its fierce looks and eco-friendly, refuel-it-from-the-wall-socket appeal.
With that in mind, it could be easy to miss the hybrid-on-steroids potential of the Jeep and Chrysler EVs — a Jeep Wrangler and a Chrysler Town & Country fitted with battery and range-extending engine setup (similar in concept to GM’s Volt) that Chrysler claims will allow them run for 40 miles without touching a drop of gas.
Read the full report from Chrysler after the jump.
Full Range: V6 SE, 372HP HEMI R/T, and 425HP HEMI SRT8
Seems only yesterday, really all the way back in May, that we brought you our first-drive impressions of the 2008 Challenger SRT8, the one with the 425HP HEMI and automatic transmission. That day, and my many, many laps on the track, is set to always stand out as a favorite.
And now we’ve had the chance to drive most of the full 2009 Dodge Challenger lineup, which began rolling into dealers in August. Among the highlights: six-speed manual transmission! What muscle car can proudly raise its head without one, no matter how few are actually ordered?
The 2008MY for Challenger was a short, limited run of 6500 or so SRT8 products. The 2009MY offers something for everyone looking for a cool, powerful-looking large coupe, whether looking for the entry V6 or the crushing SRT8.
Challenger is impressive in its own right. It is accessible, in image and cost. It is powerful and commanding, if not subtle or graceful. The range starts with the V6-powered SE for $21,995, moves to the well-balanced $29,995 R/T, and supplies total go-fast gearheads of all ages with the affordable $39,995 SRT8.
Green technology at the Woodward Dream Cruise? Hmmm. You could fit a whole Prius under this baby’s hood, I guess.
On one hand, it’s the best idea in human history: Dad drives the minivan, and while little Pashley is engrossed in her Dora DVDs, mom can e-mail her sister about how ill-advised this trip is, Junior can watch a panda get hit in the junk on YouTube, and Sister can do whatever it is those damn kids do in their Facespaces or Mybooks or what have you.
On the other hand, it’s the Internet in the car. Well, there’s a brilliant plan with absolutely no flaws, don’t you think?
”DSL? Where we’re going, we don’t need DSL.”
After much hype and buildup, the Challenger SRT8 arrives in dealers this month. The wait for a broader lineup isn’t long, however, as a fleshed-out range arrives this fall (click for our coverage of the full-line reveal at New York, or the SRT8 reveal in Chicago). We were lucky enough not to have to wait until fall to get behind the wheel, though, as Dodge invited us to take a spin in Pasadena, California, on our way to Willow Springs Raceway. Not a chance we’d say no!
Driving away from the hotel, easing out of Pasadena local traffic, it was a few miles before the opportunity to explore the depths of the throttle arrived. When it did, the payoff was instant acceleration and an exhaust and engine symphony. The 425HP Challenger SRT8 tune is visceral, powerful, and begs that right foot ask for more. When you get, say, up into the Angeles Crest highway and away from stop signs and bicyclists, Challenger proves an entertaining companion. In town, the car is comfortable and it only takes a well-placed blip to bring out that wonderful burble. Mustang’s V8s sound terrific; Challenger SRT8 sounds even better. Issues of fuel economy and pollution aside, the Challenger SRT8 and smoky burnouts are an obvious pair. Though none executed by this author, an SRT engineer left serious rubber on request just outside of pit lane. It was truly a sight to behold, watching the car just get swallowed up in tire smoke.
That SRT8 is estimated for 13/18 mpg on the EPA cycle, improved with MDS and other tweaks over the known Charger SRT8, isn’t important here. If you’re considering an SRT8, you’ve already accepted living life below 50 mpg. And if you haven’t, there are plenty of options out there. The limited-run 2008MY starts at just under $38,000, with only three sub-$1000 options.
Chrysler LLC has not been shy about going after a partner. Chrysler needs access to the expertise in small cars that they don’t have, as well as to benefit from the kinds of economies of scale necessary to make any sort of profit on vehicles expected to sell at the bottom end of the scale. After signing with Chinese maker Chery for help in the international arena, announcements have come on new relationships with Nissan. The OEM agreements with Nissan announced this week are examples of two companies finding a win-win relationship.
Nissan and Chrysler Serve as OEM Supplier and Client
Often deals like this are announced with one partner clearly benefiting more than the other, no matter how many times the phrase “win-win” is used during the presentation. But in this case, the relationship will benefit both partners. Each company is contributing in areas where they have expertise and market success, areas where solo development costs are prohibitive. Each company is also using production capacity that might otherwise be difficult to fill.
VehicleVoice covered the reveal at last Month’s Chicago Auto Show of the 2008 challenger SRT-8. With 435 hp culled out of its 6.1 liter Hemi V-8, it’s sure to be true to the muscle car image of its sheetmetal. Today, New York is host to the kinder, gentler, 2009 Challenger model line, if that’s possible. In reality, the real focus here is on the volume of these models, the Challenger R/T with a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and the Challenger SE with the Challenger SE with a 3.6-liter V-6.
Limited Edition SRT8 Arrives First
Ford launched the latest Mustang to a resounding critical and sales success, and its retro theme got GM and Chrysler thinking fast about a new-century take on the pony car wars. At the 2006 Detroit auto show, the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro concepts tested the waters for a full pony-car revival. Both companies were inspired by both pride and the success of the latest Mustang, and both the Challenger and Camaro will arrive on market. Eventually. Really. Both companies hope that the initial enthusiasm for these projects survives the gestation period. In Chicago, Dodge launched the Challenger, jumping the generation gap between by enlisting the help of the father-son Orange County Choppers team. And while the HEMI Orange paint scheme was front and center, the SRT8 Challenger looks mean and sinister in black, a look that matches the 425HP engine’s burble better.
‘s Challenger arrives this spring as a late 2008MY product, while the Camaro doesn’t arrive for another year or so. The catch is that the first Challengers are in limited edition $37,995 SRT8 form, introduced at the 2008 Chicago auto show
, assisted by the father-son team at Orange County Choppers and Jim Press. The first units are specially numbers and available in Hemi Orange, black, or silver. By fall, for the typical 2009MY start, a more substantial range including V6 and 5.7L HEMI options will be available. Contributing to the hype and (hopefully) fueling demand, the first Challenger SRT8 was auctioned at the 2008 Barrett-Jackson auction. The winning $400,000 bid, of which all proceeds go to a charity called notMYkid
, was posted by Craig Jackson, Chairman/CEO of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company.
For an image car, launching with the hottest version first can contribute to the hype. Following that strategy, the news from Chicago is the first production reveal of the Challenger SRT8. As promised, the Challenger looks pretty much like the historic pony car, updated for a modern context. The SRT8 sports the same 425HP 6.1L HEMI that helps make Charger, Magnum, and Chrysler 300 SRT8s so much fun to drive. Because of the SRT team, the power is backed up by refinements to the brakes, chassis, and looks, compared with the standard Challenger, as well as some specific interior and exterior cues.