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AutoPacific Announces 2008 Ideal Vehicle Awards

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Tustin, California, June 30, 2008 – An “ideal” is defined as an excellent or perfect example. In the annual Ideal Vehicle Awards (IVA), announced today by automotive research and consulting firm AutoPacific, owners rate their new 2008 model year cars and trucks by how close they come to their ideal, as measured by 15 key vehicle attributes. The cars or trucks that owners would change the least are the most ideal.


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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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2007 Nissan Xterra – Plastic Makes it Possible

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Everything You Need?
The Nissan Xterra slogan “Everything you need and nothing you don’t” has always made me wonder… What exactly do I need? I’d like to think that I could probably survive without many frills, but it almost begs the question… “What about some of the things I really want?” Is the Xterra a knock down, drag out, take no prisoners SUV that needs no further trimmings, which might detract from its purpose driven nature, or is it a bare bones box on wheels relying on it’s motto as an excuse to cut costs? AutoPacific and Vehicle Voice staff wanted to know the answer. We may have all agreed that the Xterra fulfilled all of our SUV requirments but with so many options out there would we want one?


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2008 Jeep Liberty: New York Auto Show

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And the Show Goes On…
At easily the wettest press conference yet attended by VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents, Jeep revealed their new Liberty outside the Javits Convention Center, home of the New York auto show. Not willing to cancel a press conference over something as small as a constant downpour (quite rightly thinking letting rain scare them off isn’t in good Jeep form), Chrysler’s PR staff simply made sure Frank Klegon, Chrysler Group Executive Vice President, Product Development, had an umbrella to keep the worst of the rain off during his presentation. And the vehicle showing off the new Sky Slider canvas roof still drove up with its roof open, though an umbrella could be spotted sticking out in an attempt to keep the interior a little dry.

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Rain aside, the Liberty burst out of the ground as planned. The Liberty doesn’t go on sale until late this year, about twelve months after its new-for-2007MY Dodge Nitro sibling. The Jeep Liberty gets a new look inside and out, more technology and convenience features, and takes up more space outside to provide more space inside. Liberty gains two more inches in wheelbase and overall length and is wider, to improve cargo space and make passengers more comfortable. (While this Liberty is larger than the outgoing car, the Nitro is appreciably larger than the new Liberty.)
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Liberty Returns to Square
The new Liberty also goes back to a squared-off look along the lines of old Cherokees, though it isn’t as stiff looking as the new Patriot. This is an interesting choice, given the introduction of the Compass and the company’s current traditional/modern SUV point/counterpoint showroom. Consider: Compass and Patriot, Liberty and four-door Wrangler Unlimited, Grand Cherokee and Commander. Given these almost logical pairings of modern complementing traditional Jeep styles, why did the Liberty go square again?
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Quibbles aside, the new Liberty looks good, and more important looks all Jeep. Of the four introductions over the past year, Jeep’s only misstep in the looks department is the Compass. Wrangler maintained and improved its image and capability; Patriot provides a true entry Jeep, in looks and capability; and the Liberty looks all the better for losing its softer form.
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2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee: New York Auto Show

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New Look, More Features, and New Engine Improve Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee, introduced in its current form for the 2005 model year, gets a new look and updated features for 2008. The new face was formally introduced at the New York Auto Show and goes on sale in fall 2007. Here are the basics.

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If you didn’t like the Grand Cherokee’s look before this change, you aren’t likely to notice or care much about the new nose. If you did like the Grand Cherokee already, you may appreciate the subtly revised look. If you’re looking for some new family-friendly features, you’re likely to appreciate the new SIRIUS Backseat TV and MyGig options. Choosing to do little more on the outside than tweak an already good-looking SUV, Jeep focused on adding features and upgrading the 4.7L V8. While these changes aren’t likely to light a big fire under the Grand Cherokee’s sales line, they can make the vehicle more satisfying for those choosing the new features.


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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 Detroit Auto Show: Is Jeep's Trailhawk Ready to Fly?

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Jeep Looks to the Sky for Inspiration.
Among the Chrysler Group concept and production cars shown at the 2007 North American International Auto Show was the Jeep TrailHawk. As unsuccessful as the Chrysler Nassau concept was as a design study, the Trailhawk successfully takes Jeep design a step further. This is best seen in the front view, where the cropped headlights and backward-angled traditional seven-slot Jeep grille give the concept its hawkish face.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers were on hand to see the reveal of the Trailhawk.

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Wrangler Ability, Grand Cherokee Comfort
Trailhawk inherits all the off-road capability of the Wrangler platform, based as it is on the four-door Wrangler. The Trailhawk suggests that the platform is big enough to support a larger Grand Cherokee replacement, though there is no certain indication Jeep is headed this way. Platform aside, with any luck the next Grand Cherokee will take some of the TrailHawk’s styling cues.


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Stuck to the Dealer's Floor – Inventory Numbers Tell the Story

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Which cars and trucks are planted to the dealer’s floor? In other words, which vehicles take the longest to sell? Who cars? Why does it matter, anyway?
Well, while it may not seem that important to you, it’s critically important to the industry s a whole… from the manufacturese, component suppliers, dealers and quite a few financial institutions. First, if you know the time it takes to sell a vehicle, you know how much it is dragging on the dealer’s floorplanning costs. Floorplanning is the term for the amount it costs the dealer to finance the a vehicle in inventory waiting to be sold. If a vehicle has been hanging around for weeks, he’ll be more likely to deal aggressively to get rid of it. Also, vehicles that have high days supply may be less popular. From that perspective, they may be the ones you want to stay away from.


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Ten Worst Cars for 2006 – Truth About Cars

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OK, on this one VehicleVoice is just the messenger. The Truth About Cars website has taken it on itself to identify the ten worst cars and trucks sold in the USA in 2006. Not really sure what their credentials are, but here is their press release… When we feel like commenting, see our notes following the press release writeup.
The Truth About Cars Website Names Its Ten Worst Automobiles for 2006
November 8, 2006 – PROVIDENCE, R.I.: The Truth About Cars website (TTAC) has revealed the ten winners of its first annual “Ten Worst Automobiles Today” awards. According to the site’s readers, the very worst vehicles sold in America today are… GM’s minivans.
For voting purposes, TTAC lumped all four of GM’s virtually identical people movers together: the Chevrolet Uplander, Saturn Relay, Buick Terraza and Pontiac SV6.
In his description of the “winner,” reviewer William C. Montgomery slated GM’s minivans for their “antique engineering, woeful looks, cancerous effect on not one but four GM brands and their abject inability to hold a candle to their foreign-owned competition.” In terms of dreadful driving dynamics, contemptible aesthetics and torturous ergonomics, no other vehicles sold in America can compete with these ridiculously-named ‘Crossover Sport Vans.'”
The automotive website’s readers voted the new Jeep Compass America’s second worst vehicle: a lackluster vehicle that betrays its storied brand’s heritage. According to TTAC’s description, it’s an “ugly, gangly, underpowered, mud-aversive half-breed” that “staggers into the light, turning all who see it– or heaven forbid buy it– into grotesque, bobble-headed morons.” The Compass “stomps all over Jeep’s reputation as America’s purveyor of authentic off-road vehicles.”
The rest of TTAC’s Ten Worst are the Jeep Compass (2), Buick Rendezvous (3), Chrysler Aspen (4), Hummer H2 (5), Chevrolet Monte Carlo (6), Subaru B9 Tribeca (7), Saab 9-7x (8), Lincoln Mark LT (9) and Chevrolet Aveo (10). Capsule reviews are below.
To create the list, The Truth About Cars asked its 40k daily readers to nominate the worst vehicles for sale in the United States during the 2006 calendar year. A selection committee comprised of ten TTAC writers selected 20 finalists from the readers’ nominations. Finalists were chosen for their crimes against aesthetics, engineering, ergonomics, driving dynamics and/or brand authenticity. The final ten “winners” were chosen by readers via an electronic poll.
Site publisher Robert Farago said his team created The Ten Worst awards as an antidote to the annual “love ins” provided by the mainstream automotive media. “The profusion of ‘best of’ automotive awards reflects the fact that the manufacturer-sponsored magazines and websites can’t tell it like it is,” Farago said. “TTAC is the home of take-no-prisoners automotive journalism. Our Ten Worst list says we’re not afraid to tell the truth about cars.”


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Jeep Expands Alternative Fuel Offerings

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All DCX 4.7L V6s Go Flex-Fuel for 2007
For the 2007 model year, the 4.7L V8 offered in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Commander gets flex-fuel treatment, making these SUVs able to run on gasoline or E85. The engine is also used in the Durango and Ram, though Dodge had already offered flex-fuel-capable powertrains. While GM and Ford offer several V8 engines in either the flex-ready or the gasoline-only variations, DaimlerChrysler will simply equip all 4.7L V8s with the appropriate modifications for the capability.
Jeep Adds Diesel Grand Cherokee for 2007
Perhaps making a bigger splash is the announcement that the Grand Cherokee gets a diesel for the States with the 2007 model year. The Grand Cherokee had already been available with in international markets with the diesel, though this will be the first for the U.S. version. The Commander is offered in Europe with the same diesel engine, so if the Grand Cherokee diesel sells well, a Commander diesel for the States seems only a matter of time.

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The diesel is a 3.0L DOHC 24v V6 common-rail injection turbo-diesel built by Mercedes-Benz, delivering 215HP for this market. It will be available in Laredo, Limited, and Overland trim levels. Look for a five-speed automatic transmission, as the diesel gets in Europe and other Grand Cherokees are equipped with.
Jeep expects the CRD to get 19 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. By comparison, the V6-equipped Grand Cherokee’s EPA ratings are for 17/22 mpg, the 4.7L V8 for 15/20 mpg, and the 5.7L HEMI V8 for 15/20 mpg. The diesel’s 215HP betters the V6’s 210HP but not the 4.7L’s 235HP, though its increased torque should provide for better acceleration and it is rated for more towing. Though VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents haven’t driven the diesel yet, it should give a more substantial feeling to off-the-line acceleration than either the 4.7L V8 or the V6 and satisfy the needs of most drivers, especially those needing to tow anywhere near the diesel’s 7400-pound capacity.
Will Going Diesel Save Money?
Diesel engines can offer better fuel economy than gasoline engines, and Jeep claiming a 30 percent improvement in the Grand Cherokee. But in the current environment, some regions have seen diesel prices running higher than or about the same as premium unleaded gasoline, which the standard gasoline-fed Jeep engines don’t even need. Regular 87 octane is the requirement for the V6 and 4.7L V8, though 89 octane is recommended for the 5.7 V8. Statistics from the Energy Information Administration put the national average for regular unleaded at $2.86 per gallon, and diesel at $2.88 (as of May 29, 2006).
Diesel engines generally get better fuel economy, but the cost savings may be offset by higher cost of the fuel. Diesel engines can be a solid choice, but it is not a slam dunk that going diesel will ease your pain at the pump.
First Modern Diesel Jeep Was Liberty
U.S. Jeep dealers began offering a diesel-powered Liberty for the 2005 model year and have sold 11,000 CRD Libertys through the end of May 2006. Of course, in all of 2005, Jeep sold more than 166,000 of the mid-size SUV. While the response to diesel has been solid and has satisfied DaimlerChrysler’s expectations, it remains a small percentage of the mix.
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