Chrysler:

2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit – Coming to a PD Near You

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2015 Dodge Charger PursuitWith the demise of the Ford Crown Vic, Dodge has been winning the police patrol car fleet battle.  Sure Ford has its Interceptors and Chevrolet is pushing its Caprice from Australia, but apparently Dodge makes a financially attractive pitch for its Charger Pursuit.  We’ve been seeing more and more of them rolling around Southern California as Crown Vics are retired, uh, sent to taxi fleets.

With the update of the 2015 Dodge Charger, the Pursuit has been updated as well.  You can tell the 2015 Charger is different because the front end styling is clearly different.  Other changes to the exterior styling are more subtle and it is a surprise when Dodge execs contend that every exterior panel is new with the exception of the roof and rear doors.  Dodge continues with its distinctive LED racetrack taillamp graphic and adds LED daytime running lights to the front.2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit

The interior has been upgraded with soft-touch materials including a 1-piece instrument panel pad with aggressive graining.  Like the civilian Charger, the Pursuit instrument cluster has an added 7-inch driver information display.  In the center stack there is a 5-inch screen for Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system.  Unique to the Pursuit is a column mounted shifter, “police-duty” front seats designed to accommodate the belt gear police normally wear and a modified center console.

Police Advisory Board Input  Dodge has a 22-member Police Advisory Board and their input was valuable in determining what upgrades the 2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit has over the civilian Charger.  With “modern” interfaces, Dodge has enabled re-mapping of the steering wheel buttons to handle aftermarket police equipment.  The instrument cluster can be customized 100 ways to optimize its display for police use.  The heavy duty anti-lock vented disc brakes have been upgraded and brake cooling ducts added to the lower front fascia.  The performance tuned suspension has been upgraded with more durable bushings up front.

Factory upfit plans are offered for law enforcement to customize packages for their organizations.  Chrysler’s Mopar accessories group has developed and tested equipment that meets and exceeds the durability cycle and test requirements of the 2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit.  There is a Base Police Prep Package and a Wiring Police Prep Package.  Both are designed to handle the broad power requirements of communications gear, lighting, sirens, cameras and computers.  There is a slide-out trunk tray available and also a trunk fan to keep all the electrical and electronics gear in the trunk cool.

V6 Pentastar A Safe Alternative for Most Pursuit Work  There are two engines available:  370HP 5.7L HEMI V8 and 292HP 3.6L Pentastar V6.  The Pursuit is standard with rear wheel drive and optional with all wheel drive.  While patrol officers probably want the HEMI, the Pentastar V6 is probably sufficient for 90% of police applications.  Word on the street is that younger officers don’t know how to handle the more powerful V8 and the V6 provides plenty of power for most applications.  Safety first with the V6.  Macho cop pursuits with the HEMI.


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2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Most Satisfying Premium Mid-Size SUV

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Best in Class 2012 Premium Mid-Size SUV:  Jeep Grand Cherokee

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Owners of the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee give the Premium Mid-Size SUV top ratings in nineteen of forty-eight characteristics measured in AutoPacific’s 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research.  The Grand Cherokee has been the Most Satisfying Premium Mid-Size SUV since it was all new for the 2011 Model Year.  It has won two years in a row.  The Grand Cherokee gets top marks for Rear Seat Comfort, Exterior Color, Interior Styling, Interior Materials, Interior Storage, Braking, Fuel Economy, Ride, Quietness, Interior Lighting, Cupholders, Tire Brand/Size/Appearance, Wheel Size and Style, Infotainment Technology, Price, Recyclability, Advanced Powertrain Technology, Collision Avoidance Technology, and Range. Ratings for characteristics in the Mid-Size Premium SUV Class are a bit lower than for some other categories of vehicles (many of these are based on truck chassis), so considering that a perfect score for an attribute is 5.0 rating points, a rating of 4.2 or higher can be considered more than competitive.  Grand Cherokee owners rate the truck at 4.2 or higher twenty-four of the forty-eight characteristics including: Overall Satisfaction, Exterior Size, Seating Capacity, Driver’s Seat Comfort, Ease of Loading Cargo, Image, Vehicle’s Reputation, Brand’s Reputation, Exterior Color, Exterior Styling, Interior Styling, Interior Materials, Braking, Handling, Fun to Drive, Reliable/Dependable, Ride, Quietness, Quality Feeling Controls, Feeling Safe While Driving, Safety Features, Safety Rating, Overall Quality, and Durability.  Grand Cherokee owners rate the vehicle below 4.0 satisfaction rating points in eight categories:  Ease of Getting In and Out, Flexible Seating, Fuel Economy (even though it is the highest best in the class), Range (best in class), Environmental Friendliness (tied for best in class), Price (best in class), Recyclability (best in class), and Collision Avoidance Technology (best in class). Grand Cherokee owners give the vehicle strong overall ratings that place it at the forefront of its competition.


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Jeep Grand Cherokee Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award for Mid-Size SUVs

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The all new Grand Cherokee is the top ranked Mid-Size SUV in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research.  As the class winner, its owners identify few things they would want changed, but there are a few.  About 30% would like better visibility and more infotainment technology.  About 25% want the Grand Cherokee to be easier to get into and out of.  About 25% want it to have more power and more cargo room as well.  Grand Cherokee owners most like its ride, seat comfort, exterior size and the styling of the new vehicle.  Grand Cherokee handily outpoints the second place Nissan Xterra.


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Chrysler Town & Country Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award for Minivans

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The Town & Country achieves the highest ranking among Minivans based on owner ratings in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research.  This is quite an achievement because its two major competitors – Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are newer.  The T&C benefits from a thorough upgrade to its interior for 2011 and the changes worked to put the Chrysler Minivan on top.  Over 25% of Town & Country owners want more infotainment technology.  Over 20% want more daring styling, better ingress/egress, more safety features and more power.  Town & Country handily won over the second place all-new Honda Odyssey. 


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2012 FIAT 500 Sport: No Premium Here for Italian Style

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Of all the vehicles I have tried out over the past two months since joining the VehicleVoice staff, the 2012 FIAT 500 Sport was by far the biggest attention grabber. Even my neighbor, whom I have never heard a word from in over two years, came up to me to inquire about my latest ride. His final words to me: “You’re gonna have a hard time picking up girls with this car.”

Its diminutive size may give the 500 a somewhat feminine gait, but the car no doubt draws looks wherever it goes.  Regardless of the image the FIAT 500 may have portrayed, I was a bit amused by all the stares I got from zipping around town in this car.

Inspired by the original FIAT 500 minicar of 1957, the new 500 pays stylistic homage to that car but takes its soul into the 21st century.  It is certainly one of  the smallest cars for sale in the U.S., which could end up being a challenge for the car…or a unique differentiator.


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Ford Benefits from GM/Chrysler Bankruptcies

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The Detroit Big Three soon will consist of the New General Motors, New Chrysler and Old Ford, or better… the New Old Ford. Ford has benefited from a major restructuring begun with the arrival of Alan Mulally in 2006. Like most other automakers today, their sales are way down and they are hemorrhaging cash at an alarming rate. But they seem to have a plan. They have a viable short term product plan, have aggressively rightsized their organization and have not taken federal bailout money and have not undergone bankruptcy, It’s a wonder that all sounds like good news.
A VehicleVoice Internet survey of over 900 respondents in the field from June 3 through June 8 asked several questions concerning Ford’s position in the market while General Motors and Chrysler are in bankruptcy…


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Bankruptcy Makes Americans Skeptical of GM and Chrysler

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A just-completed national survey shows American consumers are skeptical of the U.S. government’s involvement in the auto industry, with 81 percent of respondents agreeing that the faster the government gets out of the auto business, the better.
Following General Motors’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy announcement last week, automotive research and analysis firm AutoPacific conducted an online survey regarding government involvement in the auto industry. Highlights from this survey of more than 900 U.S. consumers include:
• Eighty-one percent of the respondents AGREE that the faster the government gets out of the auto business, the better.


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AutoPacific Announces 2009 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

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AutoPacific’s 2009 Vehicle Satisfaction Award Highlights Consumer Opinion As Industry Struggles
National Survey Measures Satisfaction with New Vehicles

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TUSTIN, Calif. (May 19, 2009) — In the most challenging auto sales market in years, AutoPacific today announced its 13th Annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA). For the second straight year, Cadillac ranks highest among new car owners, taking the Highest Satisfaction Brand honors even with the turmoil surrounding General Motors and the industry as a whole.
Overall brand satisfaction ratings among Hyundai purchasers jumped 11 positions earning Hyundai 2009 Rising Star honors. This positive move was more than any other manufacturer in the survey. Hyundai scored higher in 40 of 48 rating categories in 2009 compared with 2008. Two Hyundai products took VSAs this year: the Genesis in the Aspirational Luxury Car category and the Sonata in the Premium Mid-size car class.
“These are difficult times, with news of automaker bankruptcies, companies restructuring and dealer closures a daily occurrence,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “Clearly, the dynamics surrounding the Vehicle Satisfaction Award in 2009 are far different from anything we’ve seen in many years. Winners needed to overachieve to earn their awards.”


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Exhaust Notes #32: More Detroit Merger Talk

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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.

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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.


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Nissan Chrysler Cycle Plan Conjecture

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First Shoe to Drop – Titan Becomes a Dodge Ram Derivative
Nissan and Chrysler appear to be getting closer and closer to merging major parts of their product lineups. Earlier this year Nissan announced that the Nissan Titan full-size pickup presently produced on Nissan’s own platform at Nissan’s 300,000 unit capacity plant in Canton, Mississippi would become a reskinned Dodge Ram built at Saltillo, Mexico early in the next decade. In the meantime, Chrysler has idled Saltillo in the face of dwindling Ram sales and the introduction of the all new 2009 Ram pickup. This practically guarantees that Chrysler’s half ton truck platform will continue to get volume “efficiencies” from two plants.
In the first round of the relationship Chrysler also agreed to rebadge the Nissan Versa small car to provide a much needed entry below the Dodge Caliber/Jeep Patriot/Jeep Compass.
Conjecture for Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi Plant – Loses Titan/Quest/QX56 – Adds?
As Titan moves out of Canton so does the Quest minivan and the Infiniti QX56 luxury SUV. Nissan earlier announced the Quest production was moving to Japan and out of Canton and that QX56 becomes a derivative of the next generation Nissan Patrol made in Japan. That leaves Canton with a line of production for the Altima mid-size car and the Armada full-size SUV.

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Altima Provides Base for Next Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger
Nissan and Chrysler are teaming up on mid-size cars with Chrysler to replace their Sebring and Avanger mid-size sedans with derivatives of the Altima. Altima is an outstanding product and the Sebring/Avenger have proven to be duds. This way Nissan can pump up sedan volume at Canton (they also make Altima at their huge Smyrna, Tennessee plant). And probably somewhere in the fine print Chrysler closes their Sterling Heights (Michigan) plant making Avenger/Sebring. If this happens Chrysler closes a UAW plant in the North moving production to a non-unionized plant in the South. There certainly will be screaming if this happens.
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Nissan hasn’t said anything about Armada, but it could provide the basis for Chrysler’s next generation of Aspen/Durango bringing needed volume to Canton’s truck line and allowing Chrysler to close another assembly plant in Delaware. Alternatively, Nissan’s Pathfinder Mid-Size SUV assembled at Smyrna could provide the basis for the Next Durango and Aspen and might be better for the times. In this scenario Chrysler closes a second UAW plant in the North. More screaming.

LCV is Untapped Potential

Nissan is filling Canton body-on-frame truck capacity with their upcoming LCV – light commercial vehicle. The way we understand it is that the LCV program will lead with a van in several different configurations and then will add a pickup version in heavy duty form. So, the Nissan Titan based on the Dodge Ram provides the light duty pickup and the LCV derivative gives Nissan three-quarter and one tons. Not mentioned, but could be on the table would be Chrysler getting access to Nissan’s LCVs to eliminate the Dodge Sprinter that comes from Daimler.
What About the Minivan?
Nissan has previously said they would source the next Quest from Japan, but they have consistently lost the minivan battle trying to go it on their own (or at one time with Ford’s Mercury brand). It would not be unrealistic to think Nissan could strike a deal with Chrysler to get a version of Chrysler’s minivan much like Volkswagen has with their Routan.


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