By Luca Ciferri and Bradford Wernle, Automotive News
In a bid to improve its lineup before a fleet of new Fiat-based vehicles arrives in 2012, Chrysler Group is rushing new features and equipment into 15 reworked vehicles.
The equipment, such as a Fiat dual-clutch, six-speed transmission and a new Chrysler V6, will boost fuel economy, improve driving dynamics and spiff up drab interiors, all areas in which Chrysler has fared poorly in consumer surveys.
All the vehicles will be on sale by the first quarter of next year.
But the rush of upgrades is straining Chrysler's engineering staff, which has been working overtime for months, and it will hand a huge challenge to the automaker's marketers to tell shoppers about all the changes.
Improvements planned for the Chrysler Sebring mid-sized sedan tell the story. Sources say the car will get new front and rear styling, a new interior and a revised suspension for improved ride and handling. The Sebring will be the first vehicle with a Fiat-engineered dual-clutch transmission, which will be offered with Chrysler's new Pentastar V6 engine.
More bad news for new-car dealers
In extolling the wonders of new cars, we sometimes forget about the importance of the role the dealership can play after the sale. Getting a quick service appointment, having the work done right and on time, with as little stress and as few surprises as possible -- all are the hallmarks of a dealer worth keeping.
Every year, J.D. Power and Associates surveys owners about how happy they are with their dealership, and the results become the Customer Service Index. And in the 2010 survey, which polled 114,000 owners between October and December of last year, some bad news for dealers was sandwiched into the usual reports for owners: The big drop in new-car sales almost surely means fewer service visits to dealers, and service operations are even more the lifeblood of such operations when sales go bad. J.D. Power projects that parts-and-service revenues at dealers will fall 20 percent, bottoming out in 2013.
“It’s more fun and sexy to sell new cars, but the fixed service operations are critical to paying the bills,” said Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power.
South Korean police have some patrol cars you won't outrun
How about this: Jalopnik has some spy shots that show three patrol cars that (presumably) only the very best South Korean cops get to use. Namely, a Lamborghini Gallardo, a Porsche 911 and a freaking Ferrari F360.
I wonder if they have some sort of "teach English in a foreign country" program, but for being a cop? In any case, if you happen to be speeding in Seoul and see the flashers from one of these bad boys behind you, best pull over to the side and accept your ticket, because it wouldn't even be a contest if you tried to outrun them.
Two questions raised by this post: Why can't the producers at "Steven Seagal, Lawman" put his tubby, weird-talking ass in a Lamborghini Gallardo? Wouldn't that make the show a thousand times better?
Second question: Why is "Korean Police" written in English on the hood? Is that common in other countries, or does it suggest this is somehow fake -- for a movie, maybe?
More shots after the jump.
Advocates look to populate the federal fleet to spur demand.
Thankfully, the plea was more than a request for a handout (though substantially increasing tax credits for EV consumers, as well as for companies providing EV-related services, was certainly on the agenda). Many see the more than 1 million fleet vehicles used by the federal government as a natural jumping-off point to kick-start EV acceptance and drive down price. Fleet vehicles are ripe for first-generation EV replacements, the argument goes, since there is a built-in demand, and many do not travel far. The average Postal Service vehicle, for example, travels less than 18 miles per day (the standard range for many first-generation EVs is about 100 miles), and the fact that all are returned to a central depot makes it easier to rejuice the vehicles at a centralized charging station.
By Hans Greimel, Automotive News
Reacting to criticism that data from black-box crash recorders in its vehicles can be accessed only by the company, Toyota Motor Corp. is moving to ship hundreds of data-decoding machines to the United States and make them commercially available to help diagnose vehicle problems.
The devices, known as event data recorders, are similar to the black boxes on airliners and record information such as vehicle and engine speed in the seconds before a crash.
As Toyota scrambles to address complaints of unintended acceleration, the company has come under fire from lawmakers and lawyers for crash victims because its black-box data are encoded and can't be read by law enforcement agencies or customers. Only Toyota's proprietary reader machines can crack the code.
And Toyota has only one such device in the United States.
Or not: Despite interested parties, a last-minute buyer for Hummer looks unlikely.
Now, according to the Detroit Free Press, unnamed sources are claiming that five separate (also unnamed) parties have cited interest in the brand. Though GM has refused to comment on possible buyers for the brand, it did not deny the rumors.
Of course, it would be easy to dismiss the whole thing as a group exercise in wishful thinking, if not for the last-minute deal GM just pulled off with its sale of Saab to Spyker after the collapse of the original deal with Koenigsegg and its subsequent plans to wind down the badge.
NHTSA gets ripped during House hearings on safety issues.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, whose job, ostensibly, is to keep drivers safe and automakers in check, has been the subject of some pretty harsh criticism during the two House hearings this week that have probed Toyota's handling of the recalls due to myriad safety issues across its fleet.
Let's get right to it, shall we?
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee: "Toyota had three responses: First, blame the driver. Second, blame the floor mat. Third, blame a sticky gas pedal. And NHTSA -- without doing any meaningful independent review -- accepted Toyota's explanations ... Carmakers have entered the electronics era, but NHTSA seems stuck in a mechanical mind set."
The upcoming SUV line includes, yes, a hybrid.
And yet, seven years after Porsche debuted its Cayenne SUV, the upcoming 2011 models will include, yes, a hybrid -- the Cayenne S Hybrid. A new Turbo model is also in the works (you can see pictures of that bad boy after the jump).
The new Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid and Cayenne Turbo debuted today in Geneva (the North American debut will take place at the New York Auto Show on March 31). Pricing has yet to be announced.
A few highlights from the press release, out today:
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Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Raised in Volvos, he has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He is the senior news editor at MSN Autos and also reports for Car and Driver, Road & Track, The Boston Globe and other publications.
In the garage: 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (not his)
Doug Newcomb has covered car technology for over 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and technology.
In the garage: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, two 1984 Chevrolet Blazers, 2008 Honda CR-V
James Tate learned to drive stick at age 13 in a 1988 Land Cruiser - in La Paz, Bolivia. He's since been a mechanic, on a pit crew and has wrenched on every car he's owned since his first 1989 Honda CRX Si (and won't stop until the car is a 1973 Porsche 911 RS). His work has appeared in Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Automobile and others.
In the garage: 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera, 1988 BMW M5