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LA Auto Show – 2008 Dodge Viper ACR – More Venom Anyone?

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In 1995 a friend of mine picked me up in one of the crudest stock production cars of our time. First of all, there were no exterior door handles or a roof and I had to be careful not to burn my shins when getting into the vehicle as the side pipes (exhaust pipes running down the sides of the vehicle) were hovering around 230 degrees. The vehicle reminded me a lot of the AC Cobra, only bigger. It was a first generation Dodge Viper with what, at the time, seemed to be a ridiculous amount of horsepower (400) and unbelievable torque (465 lb. ft.). It was the first time off the track that I ever though I needed to wear a helmet. The brute force that pinned me into the not so comfortable seats seemed endless and yet at that moment the message that Chrysler was sending me seem ever so clear. It’s not about feeling comfortable you idiot, it’s about performance pure and simple. Anything and everything needed to increase speed is paramount and everything else is a moot point. I had to sit down in my driveway for a while after the ‘joy ride’, but with the Dodge Viper Chrysler left an indelible mark, both on my shin and on the industry.

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Dodge Magnum Killed by Chrysler – Among Other "Adjustments"

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Chrysler LLC today announced a wave of manufacturing actions to reduce capacity and headcount. They also announced that four products would be cancelled from the Chrysler lineup and that two new products and two hybrids would be introduced.
Perhaps the most significant drop is of the Dodge Magnum. This distinctively styled wagon has always been a favorite of mine, but as a “wagon” it has not resonated well with the buying public. When the Charger 4-door sedan was added to the Dodge lineup, Magnum was relegated to the list of forgotten models at the Dodge store. There is probably not a cooler looking vehicle on the road when it is well-dressed by a tuner than the Dodge Magnum.

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Three More Products Announced for Cancellation – Two Added
Chrysler also announced that it will kill the Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible, the Chrysler Pacifica and the Chrysler Crossfire. All are low volume products that have not captured the attention of the market. While killing four products, Chrysler adds the Dodge Journey Crossover SUV and Dodge Challenger muscle car to the Dodge lineup. Seems like a very fair trade.
Next on the block we’d like to see the demise of the Jeep Commander and Jeep Compass – both products Jeep does not need. While Commander has Jeep DNA, Compass does not and Jeep should keep pure to its Trail-Rated DNA. Commander should be on the block because it is UGLY. Aspen, Dakota and Durango could also be up for consideration to drop.
More Headcount Reductions
In addition to cancelling products, Chrysler will eliminate shifts at several plants to bring capacity in line with demand (market shrinkage from 17.2 million units to around 16.2 million units). This will reduce hourly headcount by another 8,500 to 10,000 workers. Salaried headcount is to be reduced by another 1,000 staffers. These reductions are in addition to a 13,000 job reduction previously announced by Chrysler.
Read Chrysler’s November 1 Press Release below the fold
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2009 Dodge Journey: A New SUV for the Road

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As Dodge works to reinforce and develop an international presence, a new SUV for the range is being introduced at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show in September. Named Journey, the first official U.S. sighting will be at the Los Angeles auto show in November, ahead of U.S. sales first quarter of 2008. Dodge is going after young families and young couples about to start a family; in life stages, Journey is set to step in once the realities of family life have been accepted, but the appeal of a minivan’s practicality hasn’t won out over that vehicle type’s staid image.

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Being built at Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico, facility, Journey will go up against the likes of the Ford Edge, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-7, Nissan Murano, and Toyota Highlander. It isn’t quite big enough to take on the Saturn Outlook or upcoming Ford Flex, but Dodge also offers a minivan and Durango SUVs for full seven- or eight-passenger lifestyles. Dodge will offer the Journey in its typical SE, SXT, and R/T trim levels, with standard five or optional five-plus-two seating. Instead of relying on elements of modern SUV styling (like the Lexus RX and Edge) or going ultra stylish like Mazda’s CX-7 and CX-9, the Journey offers a modern take on the traditional SUV look. It retains Dodge’s aggressive personality in a segment that more typically offers soft edges and styling. It will make a nice addition to a landscape crowded with me-too styling.
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Journey will complement the truck-based Durango and Nitro SUVs, and is the best-looking product to come from the Chrysler D-segment platform. The Journey is significantly larger than the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring sedans on which it is based, sporting an extra five inches in wheelbase and two inches in overall length. Dodge refers to the Journey’s three-row seating arrangement as for only “occasional use” and calls it five-plus-two instead of seven-passenger or emphasizing the third-row aspect. This should help avoid criticism for a small third row by reducing expectations of a full-size third row from the beginning. Not a terrible idea.


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The New Chrysler II: Lots of Noise, Questions, and Endless Speculation

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The furor surrounding Cerberus’ decision to make Bob Nardelli, formerly of Home Depot and GE, the CEO and chairman of the New Chrysler II, putting Tom LaSorda in the Number 2 position instead of Number 1, is the juiciest gossip train to hit the circuit since Mulally’s appointment at Ford. There has been much more noise than news this week, and here’s our contribution to the fray.

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Employees at Announcement Wanted to be in Air Conditioning or Home by the Pool
Watching both the press conference announcing Bob Nardelli’s appointment as CEO and chairman of the newly formed Chrysler LLC as well as the employee pep rally afterward, and both groups seem wary instead of enthusiastic or supportive. The backlash in the press finds little support for Nardelli. The employees, while impressed with acrobatics and fireworks, generally looked as though they’d have preferred to be in their offices that hot, muggy afternoon. Most left as soon as they sensed the formal program was over. Nardelli says he’s here to bring laser-focus and energy to the turnaround plan already laid out and in progress. His presence in front of employees didn’t bring energy, and returning to finish the last few days of a family vacation the next day didn’t display laser focus.
Nardelli’s been characterized as a drill sergeant with little people skills, and he’s entering a vibrant company full of strong personalities. Being private gives Chrysler LLC the ability to make decisions based on long-term health instead of short-term profit-and-loss statements. But Cerberus expects a quick turnaround and their investors do expect a return. Nardelli may be playing to a different audience, but the pressure will be no less intense.
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It's Finally Here: Satellite TV for the Car

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Having Trouble Getting Your Couch Potato in the Car? Chrysler and SIRIUS Offer a Solution
As you may have noticed from our Detroit auto show coverage, Chrysler’s latest minivans, the Town and Country and Dodge Caravan (click for story and podcast), arrive this fall with several new features for making life on the road more pleasant and easier for the whole family. Today, Chrysler announced the latest development for family-friendly road trips: SIRIUS Backseat TV. Chrysler’s George Murphy and Frank Klegon announced the new feature in New York, with a helping hand from SpongeBob SquarePants and some local kids. At first, SIRIUS Backseat TV will offer three channels, well chosen for families and include Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, and the Cartoon Network. (One more channel is needed: ESPN, for Dads to watch while waiting for the beloved family to just get done shopping already! Or even better, for tailgating before the big game.)

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SIRIUS Backseat TV uses an in-vehicle satellite video receiver and two roof-mounted antennas, and will complement the upcoming minivans dual-DVD rear-entertainment package nicely. It’s already set up so that second and third rows can watch different media, and the addition of TV to the mix only increases options.
SIRIUS Backseat TV will be a $470 option and requires opting for the rear-seat entertainment package and SIRIUS satellite radio. That $470 includes the first year’s subscription, but requires a subscription to SIRIUS satellite radio. Based on pricing for the single-DVD rear-entertainment systems for the 2008 Dodge Avenger and 2007MY minivans, it looks as though buyers might be able to get the SIRIUS Backseat TV and dual-DVD system for well under $2000. After the first year, SIRIUS Backseat TV costs $7 a month (after the first year) on top of the SIRIUS radio’s $12.95 month fee.
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Who Else Gets SIRIUS TV?
Initially, this system will only be available on Chrysler Group products, but the minivans won’t be the only ones having the fun. The 2008MY Chrysler 300, Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee, and Dodge Charger and Magnum will also offer the feature. What hasn’t been indicated yet, though, is when SIRIUS will add TV stations, nor when TiVo or other DVR will be added to the whole shebang.


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2007 Dodge Sprinter – All New Work Truck in a European Van Body

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No, this is not your mother’s minivan. It is a full size, ‘more is better’, professional utility vehicle with European flair, and it’s not about to deliver Girl Scout cookies. It all began in the mid-1990’s when some Germans left their Mercedes-Benz Gelaendewagen inside the garage at their Austrian Chateau next to their R.V., after nine months they had ‘Sprinters’. These illegitimate lovechildren were gathered up by Freightliner and Dodge (Both currently Daimler Chrysler companies) branded ‘Sprinter’ and sold mainly for commercial use. Sprinter’s ended up replacing the Mercedes-Benz T1 in Europe (which dated back to 1977) and eventually the Dodge Ram Van in the North American market, which is really where our story begins.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondent Keagan Patrick reviews the new Sprinter.


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Dodge Demon Looks to Liven Up Geneva

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Geneva Concept Being Primed for Production
We’re not at the Geneva auto show this year, but that won’t stop us from bringing you some of the notable news, including a two-seat roadster concept from big, brawny, tough Dodge.

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Dodge has the Viper to take care of its serious sports car image and the upcoming Challenger coupe (and likely convertible) to attract the mid-size Mustang-ready buyers, but they’re considering another relatively low-volume, high-image vehicle at the bottom end. Though this program may not see the light of day, industry rumors and speculation promises that it will be strongly considered and fought for.


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2008 Dodge Avenger: Stuck in the Middle With You

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We brought you coverage of the Dodge Avenger concept reveal at Paris (click here), then the production reveal in Detroit (click here). We recently had the chance to drive the Avenger around Phoenix, and now we bring you the first VehicleVoice and AutoPacific driving impressions. Avenger relies on its looks to draw buyers in and close the deal, as it settles mid-pack among its mid-size sedan competition (Ford Fusion, Pontiac G6, Saturn Aura, new-for-2008 Chevrolet Malibu, Mazda6, Kia Optima) by nearly every other measure. Inside and out, it is better than some, but not so good as others. Avenger is head and shoulders above the 2001-06MY Stratus, but Stratus had been allowed to slip into mediocrity, and Avenger competes against modern offerings instead of the past.

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Chrysler Restructuring – Valentine's Day Massacre 2007

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DaimlerChrysler announced a massive restructuring of Chrysler Group on Valentine’s Day – February 14, 2007. Wags in the press have taken to calling this the “Valentine’s Day Massacre” of 2007.

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Chrysler Joins General Motors and Ford in Restructuring
Following years long restructuring by its crosstown rivals General Motors and Ford, Chrysler Group completes the Domestic Three in their attempts to restructure.
Still saddled with tremendous unsold inventory and a mis-match between capacity for traditional SUVs and big pickups and demand, Chrysler announced the closing of one SUV plant (Delaware) and reducing shifts on others.
The inevitable headcount reduction will total 13,000 hourly and salaried workers bringing the combined headcount reductions by the Domestic Three into the range of 100,000 workers. While operations all around the USA will be affected, selling a house in Southeastern Michigan will be a long and probably expensive task with a huge inventory of unsold homes offered at prices that can only come down.
DaimlerChrysler May Cease to Exist
You remember the “merger” back in 1998 that combined Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Corporation. Characterized as a merger that was indeed a take-over, the synergies anticipated from the match have not been realized. Sure there are the outstanding Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum and Dodge Charger cars that use the IRS from a previous generation Mercedes, but that is a rare example.
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In statements surrounding the restructuring, DaimlerChrysler head Dieter Zetsche admitted that all alternatives were on the table including spinning off Chrysler Group. Rumors immediately arose that DCX was in talks with General Motors about GM absorbing Chrysler Group. Rumors.
So, this puts all three domestic auto makers in restructuring mode just as Toyota and Honda are beginning to get their second wind. It’s going to be a tough few years around Detroit.


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VehicleVoice#62 – The 2007 Toyota Tundra and the Future of Minivans

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Most of you already know that Jim Hossack is AutoPacific’s expert on a lot of things – fuel prices, powertrains, trucks. But did you know that he’s also an expert in minivans? For the past several years, when we’re covering the big auto shows, Jim’s assignments have always been about the new truck models and minivan breakthroughs. But recently, there hasn’t been a lot of news surrounding minivans. Ford and GM have been clear that they think the segment is dying, and their exit strategy is uncomplicated. They’re just getting out. But Jim was in the Chrysler booth to check out the new 2007 Town & Country, aka Dodge Caravan, and he says, “not so fast” Ford and GM. There’s still a healthy segment here.
In this podcast, we’ve got Jim doing double duty at the Toyota booth. The Japanese manufacturer is taking it’s (first, second, third) fourth carefully planned step into the full-sized truck market with the new 2007 Tundra. And according to Jim, Toyota’s latest try is right on the money.
New Vehicle Reviews –
Dodge Caravan
Toyota Tundra

Show Runtime – 6:02


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