Update: truck buyback and more

July 27, 2015 - by David Zatz

Earlier, FCA released a statement saying they would buy back trucks due to suspension defects. Not all vehicles in these lists are being bought back — in same cases it affects only certain runs or option groups.

  • 2009 Chrysler Aspen / Dodge Durango (made 1/3/08 to 12/18/08)
  • 2009-12 Dodge Ram 1500 (made 2/27/08 to 6/30/09)
  • 2009-11 Dodge Dakota (made 2/27/07 to 6/30/09)

This group of 278,229 trucks is covered under recall 13V-038; their axle may lock due to the use of an undersized pinion flange, resulting in the loss of steering power.

  • 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 MegaCab 4×4
  • 2008-12 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 4×4
  • 2008-12 Dodge Ram 3500 RWD chassis cab

This group of 265,057 trucks is covered under recall 13V-529, to replace tie rods that can cause loss of control. (...) →

2016 Hellcats, 2015 orders

July 27, 2015 - by David Zatz

Dodge has good news and bad news for people who ordered a 2015 Hellcat Charger or Challenger that wasn’t built. The bad news is that their order may have been cancelled. The good news is that they will get a discount on a 2016, but they should order it as soon as they can.

Ordering is not yet open for the 2016 Dodge Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcats, but when it does open, the process will be “streamlined” and, according to Dodge’s Tim Kuniskis, production will be “more than” doubled.

Remaining 2015 orders will be built out; then all unscheduled orders will be cancelled. Dealers will get a 2016 model-year allocation in August, based on past Dodge sales, adjusted based on “dealers’ average historical Dodge SRT Challenger and Charger Hellcat “days on lot” performance.”

Ordering starts in the second week of August with production starting in September. (...) →

Record recall penalty for FCA

July 27, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

FCA US has agreed to a $105 million civil penalty, the largest ever levied by the government, after the company admitted to violating  the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

The fines dwarf those issued to GM and Toyota, partly because of the number of recalls involved. The company was cited in three areas: effective and timely recall remedies, notifications to owners and dealers, and notifications to the NHTSA.

FCA will also have to buy back an estimated 500,000 vehicles and submit to federal oversight for three years. GM escaped the latter, though an estimated 125 people have now died in incidents involving defective ignition-key switches.

Owners who could lose control of their vehicle due to defective suspension components will be able to sell the vehicle back. (...) →

Vettel wins wild race; Beckman, Ranger win with Dodge

July 27, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

Sebastian Vettel cruised to an easy win in the Hungarian Grand Prix, crossing the finish line nearly 16 seconds ahead of Daniil Kvyat.

“It has been a week with a lot of ups and downs and as I said after the race I dedicate this win to Jules (Bianchi) and his family,” Vettel said in a post-race interview. “The race was difficult especially at the end with all the thoughts coming through my mind but for sure I’m very happy with the result. Our race was very strong from the beginning, we had a great start and after that we had great pace and were able to control the race.”

“We dedicate this victory to the memory of Jules Bianchi, a fantastic guy whom we all miss terribly,” said Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne, speaking of the young Ferrari Academy driver who died last week from injuries suffered in an October racing accident in Japan. (...) →

Record fines coming?

July 26, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

Detroit News reported that Fiat Chrysler will get hit with a record-making $105 million fine, and will have to repurchase some vehicles, due to sloppy treatment of recalls.

Citing an unnamed source, the News and Wall Street Journal wrote that the settlement between the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and FCA US LLC could be announced as soon as tomorrow.

The agency could have levied fines of up to $700 million over the 23 recalls it claims were not handled properly. FCA’s Scott Kunselman admitted that FCA’s behavior was “sloppy.”

As is typical in such settlements, Fiat Chrysler will likely have to pay only a portion of the fine. The remainder may be forgiven if the company fulfills its end of the deal. (...) →

Busy racing weekend

July 25, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

ARCA: With Tom Hessert and Kyle Weatherman back in the Cunningham Motorsports Fords for the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200, the top Dodge finisher was Chase Briscoe in the No. 72 Cunningham Motorsports car.

Briscoe finished 10th in the race that ran late Friday night at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. He was the only Dodge driver to finish on the lead lap.

Bo LeMastus, driving the No. 42 Crosley Brands/T&T Construction/Glad Precision Dodge,was 17th. He was six laps off the lead at the end of the event.

Hessert, who has been switching from Dodge to Ford all season, is now in second place in the point standings. LeMastus is seventh.

Canadian Tire Series: The Lucas Oil National 250 runs Saturday at Autodrome St-Eustache in Quebec. (...) →

Chrysler Is Half Its Pre-Daimler Size

July 25, 2015 - by David Zatz

FCA US, what remains of the former Chrysler Corporation, is not just less profitable than in 1998, when Chrysler was the darling of the worldwide auto industry; it also employs around half as many people.

Figures released yesterday show that employment went plummeting downwards from 2000 to 2009, for both UAW hourly and UAW salaried employees (non-union employees were not mentioned). 2009, the year Fiat took over, was the turning point, with employment gaining for both hourly (from 21,823 to 36,643 people) and salaried (from 2,580 to 3,377) people.

The 2015 figure is from June; other figures are from the end of the year.

Profit sharing is higher now than at any time since Daimler replaced the old Chrysler management. Employees got $4,300 to $8,100 from 1993 to 1999; then either nothing or small amounts every year through 2010, the highest (by far) being $1,500 in 2004.  (...) →

Is Nissan GTR Beating Hellcat Charger a Big Deal?

hellcat gtr 2
July 24, 2015 - by Patrick Rall

A video shows a Nissan GTR beating a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in a pair of quarter mile drag races. Many of the outlets which have covered this video have proclaimed this video as a huge shot to the ego of the Hellcat Charger, poking fun at the 707hp sedan losing to the 545hp supercar.

Regardless of the output of the engine, the fact that a supercar beat a large family sedan isn’t anywhere near as big of a deal as the critics would like to have us believe.

Many of the Hellcat haters posted the video below on their blog and pointed out that the Hellcat Charger has 707 horsepower while the Nissan GTR has just 545 horsepower. From there, they make a huge deal of the GTR beating the Charger in the quarter mile, as if there are no other factors involved in a drag race other than power and that, in losing to the Nissan, the big Dodge sedan has been mortally embarrassed. (...) →

UConnect Fix is Now a Recall

July 24, 2015 - by David Zatz

Several days after a story in Wired showed that two highly skilled security researchers were able to control a Jeep Cherokee from ten miles away, FCA US is conducting a recall to upgrade 1.4 million vehicles with vulnerable systems.

The researchers stated in the article that most current systems from different automakers are hackable. In the past they broke into a Ford and a Toyota.

FCA has already issued new firmware which allows owners to prevent issues in the near term, and has worked with Sprint to increase network security.  The firmware upgrade alone (see instructions on installing it) blocks the hack, according to FCA.

So far, the only known instance of a vehicle takeover was done by the “white hat” security researchers, solely to demonstrate the vulnerability of automotive systems in general.  (...) →

Is This The Fiat 124 Abarth?

July 24, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

Abarth will create an “extreme” version of the Fiat 124 Spider that’s coming to the U.S. next year, according to Fiat brand chief Alfredo Altavilla. Speaking with British magazine Auto Express, Mr. Altavilla said there will be two 124 Spiders, asking, “You want performance?”

Instead of simply tweaking existing Fiat models, Mr. Altavilla sees cars created in the spirit of Abarth 695 Biposto (“two-seater” in Italian), a 187-horsepower, 2200-pound street-legal racer that could go from 0-62 mph in under six seconds. Based on the Fiat 500, it was called the Biposto because the rear seats were removed to reduce weight.

“What I wanted to do with Biposto was mark a very clear cut with the past. Abarth is all about performance and so I’ve told my team to stop working on colors and trims. (...) →

Could Mitsubishi’s Exit Be an Entry for FCA?

July 24, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

According to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review, Mitsubishi will close its U.S. assembly plant in Illinois and try to find a buyer as well as work for its employees there.

The plant once produced a variety of vehicles for Mitsubishi and Chrysler, but now only makes the Outlander Sport.

Don Swearingen, the executive vice president of Mitsubishi Motors North America, told Ward’s Auto last month that a decision will come this year. Mitsubishi has already ended manufacturing in Europe and Australia and is said to be focusing on  Asia.

The company’s home factory is in Nagoya, Japan, and it has three plants in Thailand, a former Ford plant in the Philippines, and a new plant in Indonesia under construction.  (...) →

Viper Near End of Life?

July 23, 2015 - by David Zatz

According to Auto Forecast Solutions, Viper production will end in August 2017, said John McElroy in today’s AutoLine report. The problem, according to Mr. McElroy, is slow sales, despite the “one of one” program and a $15,000 price cut, coupled with not wanting to spend the cash to develop a next-generation Viper.

The Viper does not seem to still be getting enough press and enthusiast attention needed to justify further investment, either, despite a new ACR version. There had been rumors of upgrades for 2016-17, but these may not have panned out.

Analysts have been wrong before — too often to mention — and it’s possible that something else is in the works. Even if Conner Avenue is abandoned, there are numerous other facilities that could be set up for limited production of the Viper — and the whole thing could be outsourced to a specialty automaker, as well. (...) →

Canadians Need Not Fear New UConnect Hack

July 23, 2015 - by David Zatz

Canadians are immune to the recent hack of Fiat Chrysler vehicles publicized in a recent Wired article, according to a company spokesman.

The reason is simple: they do not have the UConnect Access service which is to blame for the vulnerability. The service, provided by Sprint, sent some information, including vehicle ID numbers, in “cleartext” — without encryption. This hole has been fixed in a security update (see our instructions for installing it).

Canadians, and those in other areas that are not affected by the flaw yet, should still take proactive action, if nothing else then because the service may be launched elsewhere in the future. (...) →

Challenger Drag Packs Ready for Ordering

July 23, 2015 - by David Zatz

The 2016 Dodge / Mopar Challenger Drag Pak is now available for ordering. The cost for the race-only car is $99,426 for the 426 and $109,354 for the supercharged 354 V8.

Designed for the Sportsman class, both cars are race-ready, and are differentiated by graphics scheme as well as engine.

They can cover the first 60 feet in just over a second, and do the quarter mile consistently in the eight-second range, and end up at 150 mph.

The supercharged engine (blue stripes) uses a cast iron block with an aluminum cylinder head, a forged steel crankshaft, and a special calibration. The 426 (black stripes) uses an aluminum block and head and forged steel crankshaft.

The 2016 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak race car lets Mopar racers  compete more effectively with owners of the Chevrolet COPO Camaro and the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet.   (...) →

See the Mopars in Forza Motorsport 6

fm6 gs hellcat 720
July 23, 2015 - by Patrick Rall

The racing simulator Forza Motorsport 6 will debut for Xbox One on September 15. It will include a long list of Mopars, led by the mighty Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat – making the debut of the Hellcat in the video game world.

The entire car list has not been announced, but the company has been issuing releases each week with large batches of vehicles that will be included in the Forza 6; among the few hundred cars, trucks and SUVs already announced, there are 49 FCA vehicles, with the Hellcat Challenger honored as one of the special “Team Forza” cars (as shown below in blue).

The list of FCA vehicles already shown includes 20 Ferraris, 6 Alfa Romeos, 6 Maseratis, one Fiat, and 16 Mopars from past and present. (...) →

Ferrari Split Moves Forward

July 23, 2015 - by David Zatz

Bloomberg News reported that the spinoff of Ferrari from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has moved forward. FCA has applied for an initial public offering of Ferrari stock on the New York Stock Exchange, where FCA is traded.

Ferrari’s worth is currently estimated at around $11 billion. The split is not due until calendar-year 2016, and is aimed at helping FCA cut $5 billion from its debt. The company aims to spend around $53 billion over the course of several years to expand its key upscale brands around the world — Jeep, Maserati, and now Alfa Romeo.

If Ferrari does find buyers at the initial $10 billion price, FCA would only earn $1 billion from it, though another $1 billion or so in cash is expected to be repatriated from Ferrari’s balance sheet as well. (...) →

FCA Asia-Pacific Leader Switch

July 23, 2015 - by David Zatz

John Kett, General Manager of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, has left FCA and is temporarily being replaced by Mike Manley, APAC Region Chief Operating Officer and CEO Jeep.

Mr Manley was reported as saying, “China is an important area of growth for our brand and our business and has grown into the number one Jeep market outside of the United States. We appreciate the contributions made by John in that regard and we will continue to deepen our relationship with our joint venture partner, GAC, to support that strategy.” (...) →

Journey-Freemont Engine Cover Recall

July 23, 2015 - by David Zatz

Four-cylinder Dodge Journeys and Fiat Freemonts are being recalled because their engine covers may become dislodged, touch the exhaust, and catch fire. So far there have been three incidents in Chile with cars driven “extensively on unpaved or uneven surfaces.” There has been one minor injury.

The recall does not affect the V6 or diesel versions of the cars, and will involve a free engine-cover retainer swap starting next month. Customers will be notified at that time.

Around 144,416 cars in the US, 46,231 in Mexico, 43,679 in Canada, and 115,405 outside the NAFTA region (349,731) are affected, 10% of which are still unsold.

In the US, customers can call the customer center at 1-800-853-1403. FCA has asked customers who hear noise in the engine compartment, a burning odor, or a warning light in the instrument cluster to contact their dealers. (...) →

Is Chrysler 300 One Of The Most Comfortable Cars Under $30K?

July 22, 2015 - by Bill Cawthon

The 2015 Chrysler 300 has been named one of KBB.com’s ten most comfortable cars under $30,000. The editors wrote, “Chrysler’s big and bold full-size sedan recalls the glamour and ease of yesteryear in a car that offers all of today’s modern amenities,”

The base price of a 2015 Chrysler 300 Limited is $32,690, including destination charges, but incentives bring it below the $30,000 threshold. A comparably equipped Chevrolet Impala 2LT is $31,110, and it doesn’t have the 300’s outstanding V6/8-speed combination.

In thousands of test miles, many with four adults and luggage, Allpar testing has found that, regardless of trim level,  the Chrysler 300 a is standout among non-luxury cars, easily surpassing comparable Ford and GM cars in total passenger comfort over long distances. (...) →

Ram Makes First ’16

July 22, 2015 - by David Zatz

The first 2016 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty with the 900-pound-foot (torque) Cummins diesel engine has rolled off the line: a Laramie Longhorn Mega Cab.

All 2016 Ram 3500 “duallies” (having four rear wheels, two on each side) with a Cummins diesel and Aisin automatic transmission can tow 30,000 pounds or more, using SAE J2807 criteria.

The 2016 Ram 3500 regular-cab rear-drive model holds the pickup towing capability title at 31,210 pounds. Ram 3500 Heavy Dutys also are payload-hauling champs at 7,390 pounds. (...) →

FauxPar: Return of the Barracuda

1987-1996 Dodge Dakota pickup trucks

Pinner: Chrysler-based ambulances

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