The Truth About Cars » Chrysler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:02:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Chrysler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/chrysler/ NHTSA Ready To Force Nationwide Takata Airbag Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/nhtsa-ready-force-nationwide-takata-airbag-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/nhtsa-ready-force-nationwide-takata-airbag-recall/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962073 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is ready to force Takata and three of its clients into a nationwide recall over the catastrophic failure of the supplier’s airbags. The Detroit News reports the agency will bring Ford, FCA US and BMW to court if necessary, compelling the automakers to recall 5 million affected vehicles in […]

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is ready to force Takata and three of its clients into a nationwide recall over the catastrophic failure of the supplier’s airbags.

The Detroit News reports the agency will bring Ford, FCA US and BMW to court if necessary, compelling the automakers to recall 5 million affected vehicles in addition to those already recalled.

The first act in bringing the named parties to trial will be a formal demand letter issued to all concerned. Upon refusal, the NHTSA will file a suit against each party in U.S. District Court, a process that could last for months, if not years.

The die was cast when Takata rebuffed the agency’s request earlier this month to expand its recall efforts beyond high-humidity locations in warm climates around the United States, including Florida and Hawaii.

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Chrysler Group Now FCA US LLC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962041 Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Chrysler Group is dead; long live FCA US LLC. The subsidiary made the name change official today, following the naming convention established by its parent company. Fiat, too, has cast its old corporate identity to the wind of change, now going by the name FCA Italy SpA. Other entities under the FCA […]

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FCA US LLC HQ WTFBBQ

Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Chrysler Group is dead; long live FCA US LLC.

The subsidiary made the name change official today, following the naming convention established by its parent company. Fiat, too, has cast its old corporate identity to the wind of change, now going by the name FCA Italy SpA. Other entities under the FCA Group umbrella will follow in due time.

The changes won’t filter down into individual brands or marketing, so the B&B will still be able to buy a Fiat 500 or Chrysler Town & Country without seeing an FCA badge.

The move marks the first time in the U.S. subsidiary’s history without the Chrysler name, first given by its founder, Walter P. Chrysler, in 1925.

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Review: 2014 Chrysler 300 V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/review-2014-chrysler-300-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/review-2014-chrysler-300-v6/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=957793 Hey! You! Over there in the corner! I see you looking at that leather-interior Accord or Camry or Altima or Fusion or whatever. How’d you like to buy a lot more car for just a little more money? The four-cylinder Honda Accord EX-L is $28,420. It’s a hell of a car and it has a […]

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Hey! You! Over there in the corner! I see you looking at that leather-interior Accord or Camry or Altima or Fusion or whatever. How’d you like to buy a lot more car for just a little more money?

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The four-cylinder Honda Accord EX-L is $28,420. It’s a hell of a car and it has a remarkably complete set of virtues. A Camry XLE with a moonrood is $30,060. That, too, is a solid automobile. I could go on, but you see the point, right? A four-cylinder family car with most of the options will run you between twenty-eight and thirty-two grand, depending on what badge you want on the nose and what you need in the way of particular equipment. You can also plump for a six-cylinder or turbocharged four-cylinder engine in nearly all the segment contenders, but most people don’t bother to do so. The modern big-stroke four-bangers (hee hee) offer enough power for daily use and they make up a majority of purchases that is both considerable and continuing to grow.

For $33,645, you can have the Chrysler 300 pictured above, complete with panoramic two-row sunroof. That’s before the deals and the discounting and the rebates for this and that. We all know that you’ll get a better price at a Chrysler dealer than you will at a Honda shop, although the days when our very own Steve Lynch reigned sort-of-supreme over Honda dealer allocation and ADP stickers were SuperGlued to the window of every Accord hatchback are long gone. I paid under invoice for my Accord V6 and I think you probably should as well. But Honda will never do the kind of rebates and incentives that are just part of business as usual under the Pentastar.

I had the good fortune to rent this nearly-new, extremely low-mileage 300 for a recent trip to Oklahoma. Back and forth I went from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, driving a mix of 75mph toll roads and unimproved dirt tracks. I’m very well acqainted with the five-speed old-school Pentastar Charger, but this was my first chance to sample the eight-speed automatic and the V6 together, not to mention the wide range of interior and exterior upgrades that differentiate the Charger and 300 in this soon-to-be-replaced generation. (Derek’s driving the new one even as we speak.)

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As much as I loved the Pentastar Charger, I have to admit that I have always found the tiny uConnect screen and the acres of vaguely/variously dark plastic to be a real letdown. For that reason alone, I’d take a 300 with my own money over the Dodge. Every surface you see and touch is improved, from the decent leather in the seats to the cheerful luminescent gauges. While the shifter takes some getting used to — am I in Park? If so, why? How do I get out? Why can’t I get back in? — it’s a much more upscale-feeling affair than the old five-speed gate, which felt and looked like something that didn’t quite make the cut for the pre-facelift Avenger.

There’s also a real improvement in acceleration and responsiveness with the extra three cogs between engine and rear wheels. This now feels like a quick car and I have no doubt that it will dust all the four-cylinder family sedans out there. How it would fare against a Camry V6 is a different matter; this is, after all, a larger and heavier automobile than any of the FWD competition. Still, it’s no trouble to run up to eighty or so out of a toll booth in a hurry, something you’ll do fairly often in the Southwest.

Once at speed, two things about the 300 immediately stand out vis-a-vis both the Charger and the competition:

* The lack of road noise, which is wonderful.
* The stereo system, which is very good for the class.

There’s a “Beats” audio upgrade available for this car but surely only the most boom-bastic of pimp-juices will require it. Really, this has to be the best standard-equipment offering in the class. For all the hype about the ELS system in the Acura TLX, most of that hype being well-deserved, this is just as good, and it has the advantage of operating in a quiet, more soothing automobile. The rest of the uConnect system is just as good as it’s always been, by the way.

Dynamically, the 300 is absolutely perfect for American freeways. Although it’s probably the spiritual successor of the M-body Gran Fury and Diplomat, it rolls down the road with a stateliness more reminiscent of the last truly full-sized New Yorkers. Yet there’s still a suggestion of the Daimler contributions beneath; when I had to dodge a blown retread on fairly short notice, the change of direction was prompt and easily handled without flashing the ESC or plowing the nose. Control efforts are light, reassuring, and well-matched.

While this 300 continues to share many components with the egg-crate-grille 2005 model, there’s simply nothing to indicate that to the driver except the annoyingly small windows. It’s faster, quieter, better-behaved, more comfortable, better-built, and far better in all the little details. Now, as then, it continues to have no direct competition. Everybody else is offering a front-wheel-drive platform or a much smaller footprint for the same money. In fact, they usually offer both. Probably the competitor offering the nearest match in terms of general virtues is Lexus with the ES350, but I find that the Camry/Avalon origins of that vehicle are too indifferently disguised in the current model.

In a perfect world, everybody who was going to buy a cheap Bimmer or Audi would try this Chrysler out. They’d see that it offers the same rock-solid feel, comparable interior materials, and acceptable performance, all in a platform that more closely resembles the next size up of the sausage by dint of being a distant cousin to an old E-Class. No, the 300 isn’t perfect. It has cliff-face interior panels and about as much window area as a 688-class submarine. It weighs more than it should and offers less rear-seat room than you expect. The “five-meter car” justification for having the short trunk on the Chrysler compared to the Dodge should have been jettisoned when the 300’s pretensions to Euro-market relevance hit the recycle bin seven years ago. Surely the next platform for this car will offer the same quiet ride and bump resistance through the miracle of a modern unibody, not a Lena Dunham level of interior panel padding.

When all is said and done, however, the 300’s biggest enemy is the HEMI-engined 300. The omnipresence in the media of that automobile, particularly in dearly-departed SRT-8 form, made the Pentastar look like a weak sister or a bargain-basement choice instead of the perfectly decent automobile it truly is. Yeah, the V-8 is well worth the additional money, but that doesn’t mean that the six is a bad deal. If you’re planning on buying a $45,000 mid-luxury car, there are more modern, more dynamically capable, and more feature-laden choices available than the loaded 300C. At thirty-three grand, however, wouldn’t you really rather have a… Chrysler?

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Chrysler Group Introduces PUG Plan For Pentastar V6 Family http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-introduces-pug-plan-pentastar-v6-family/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-introduces-pug-plan-pentastar-v6-family/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=957330 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group has big plans for its venerable Pentastar engine family, all in the name of improved fuel efficiency and power. Automotive News reports the Pentastar Upgrade — or PUG — will include turbocharging of current naturally aspirated mills, direct injection and other technologies, with the first updated 3.6-liter V6 to turn […]

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group has big plans for its venerable Pentastar engine family, all in the name of improved fuel efficiency and power.

Automotive News reports the Pentastar Upgrade — or PUG — will include turbocharging of current naturally aspirated mills, direct injection and other technologies, with the first updated 3.6-liter V6 to turn up in 2015 under the bonnet of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The next engine under PUG will be a 3.2-liter V6, which will replace the current 3.6-liter unit powering the Chrysler Town & Country when the next-gen model enters showrooms in 2016. The new engine will be paired with the nine-speed automatic found in some trims of the Jeep Cherokee, and is expected to deliver a 25 percent improvement to fuel economy over the current arrangement’s 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway EPA rating.

Should all go as planned, the aforementioned 3.6-liter could also help the Ram 1500 take the gasoline-efficiency crown back from the Ford F-150 EcoBoost, which it lost to said truck in November.

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TTAC Readers Call it: Town & Country Troubles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ttac-readers-call-town-country-troubles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ttac-readers-call-town-country-troubles/#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 20:28:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=955890 Way back on August 13, 2013, just two comments into the discussion in which I trumpeted to the world the selection of the Chrysler Town and Country S as the chariot of choice for the mid-size Kreutzer family, user “Infinitime” wrote: The only hesitation I have about buying a Caravan when the time comes, is […]

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Way back on August 13, 2013, just two comments into the discussion in which I trumpeted to the world the selection of the Chrysler Town and Country S as the chariot of choice for the mid-size Kreutzer family, user “Infinitime” wrote: The only hesitation I have about buying a Caravan when the time comes, is their propensity to use the most fragile components for the automatic transmission. Hopefully, the design of the new six-speed has finally addressed this concern. Well, here we are just a year and three months later and I am forced to acknowledge the wisdom of the best and the brightest and ponder, once again, why it is that transmissions always seem to grenade on rainy, crappy days.

Over the past few months I have been off pursuing a master’s degree and have been unable to contribute to our favorite website. Recent events, however, have demanded that I break my self-imposed hiatus to bring you news that, as several astute readers predicted, the transmission in my Town & Country did, in fact, give up the ghost with less than 12K easy miles on the clock. While checking on the repairs a couple of days later, I was shown the transmission oil pan and snapped a photo of what appears to be a dead sea-urchin. How that creature found its way into my transmission is a mystery at this point, but the effects of its arrival were catastrophic.

Transmission urchin

It started a few weeks ago. I noticed that the van hesitated when I was backing up a small slope. It went, but it acted almost like I had forgotten to release the emergency brake. After that we went on our merry way without any difficulties. Then, a day or two before the transmission decided to leave us stranded, I backed out of the garage, made a full stop, and shifted into drive. The transmission gave a mighty metallic thump and went into gear. I probably should have had it looked at then, but since there seemed to be no follow-on effects, we continued to drive the vehicle for another week.

The day the transmission died involved a trip to our local mall. We left home and made the 30 minute drive without trouble, but after a brief stop at Target we were greeted by a high pitched whine, similar to what your power steering pump might do when the fluid gets low, when I restarted the engine. We ran a couple of blocks up the street to have lunch and when we came back out the whine began again as we made our way out to the street. As we turned onto the main road the van struggled forward and then all momentum dropped off while the RPMs went up. After a couple of minutes of fiddling with the gear selector and revving the engine, I was able to get enough momentum to get us off the street and into a parking spot from which I called Chrysler roadside assistance.

If there is a good side to this story, it’s that Chrysler roadside assistance got us a tow truck in short order. Because there are five of us, including three in booster seats, we weren’t able to get a large taxi right away but, after making a few calls, I was able to summon a friend who could come and take the family home while I waited for the tow truck. After dropping me at home the driver, who told me he makes a lot of money hauling around late model Dodge and Chrysler minivans, took it to the dealer and left it on their lot.

T&C Back

Ten days later, after a full transmission rebuild, the van came home. Since its return, we’ve used it for errands around town and taken a couple of trips out onto faster roads in the country just to make sure things are normal. To my local Chrysler shop’s credit, the van seems like it runs better than ever and shifts so smoothly you can’t even feel the gear changes. Chrysler, of course, picked up the entire bill under their 5 year/100,000 mile warranty program but I am hoping that this is the last of it.

It’s no secret to regular readers that I am a Mopar guy. Over the past 25 years I have owned several used Dodge and Chrysler products and this van is the second Chrysler product I have purchased new. I can tell you from personal experience that the quality of Chrysler products has definitely climbed over the past two decades but this latest experience, especially when I consider the fact that TTAC’s readers expressed this exact concern at the time of my purchase, takes away some of my warm and fuzzies. I wrote when I purchased it that I intend to have this vehicle a long, long time and that it will likely follow me around the world and home again. Reliability is important to me and despite the fact that Chrysler’s quality is improving, it seems to me that they still have some work to do.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Leavenworth, Kansas with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Shimizu: Takata Hasn’t Found The Cause Of Airbag Failures http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/shimizu-takata-hasnt-found-cause-airbag-failures/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/shimizu-takata-hasnt-found-cause-airbag-failures/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 15:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=955722 Takata has yet to find the root cause of the defect affecting its airbags; Autoliv will supply replacements to Honda; and Toyota, Mazda and Chrysler are expanding their recalls. Reuters reports Takata hasn’t found the cause behind the catastrophic failures in its airbags, per testimony given by safety executive Hiroshi Shimizu before Congress Wednesday. That […]

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Shimizu, Takata's Senior Vice President for global quality assurance, testifies before a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing in Washington

Takata has yet to find the root cause of the defect affecting its airbags; Autoliv will supply replacements to Honda; and Toyota, Mazda and Chrysler are expanding their recalls.

Reuters reports Takata hasn’t found the cause behind the catastrophic failures in its airbags, per testimony given by safety executive Hiroshi Shimizu before Congress Wednesday. That said, Shimizu said his company was of “the strong opinion that (there) is a factor contributing to this defect: which is high humidity, temperature and the life of the product.” He also claimed the ammonium nitrate used in the airbags was safe and stable, though he admitted replacements weren’t coming fast enough.

Meanwhile, competitor Autoliv announced it would supply replacements to Honda for vehicles in the United States. The automaker had mentioned before Congress it was in talks with the supplier and another, Daicel, regarding expanded production to replace modules in a nationwide recall. Autoliv will add capacity in its existing plants, with deliveries to come after six months.

Among the other affected automakers, Chrysler, Toyota and Mazda have stepped up their individual recall efforts. AutoGuide says the subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has called back 149,150 Dodge Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 models from the 2003 model year, covering Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan and the Virgin Islands. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated the move wasn’t enough, and is looking at what action to take next.

Over in Japan, Bloomberg reports Toyota is recalling 190,000 affected vehicles in its local market and in China. The recall comes on the news of a catastrophic detonation at a junkyard of a Takata airbag inside a 2003 WiLL Cypha; the detonation was part of the procedures outlined by Japan’s Automobile Recycling Law, which also requires dismantlers to report any problem to the automaker to determine if a recall is necessary.

Finally, The Detroit News says Mazda is recalling 40,000 more vehicles — including the 2003-2007 Mazda6, 2004-2008 RX-8, 2006-2007 Mazdaspeed6, 2004-2005 MPV and 2004 B-Series — in Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas and Alabama. The automaker previously recalled 44,000 units in the U.S. and 2,600 in Puerto Rico.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Chrysler 200S AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-chrysler-200s-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-chrysler-200s-awd/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 12:14:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936994 I just spent a week with the all-new, all-wheel-drive 2015 Chrysler 200 S. It was one of Chrysler Canada’s press cars, priced at $38,815. Equipped as it was with big wheels and a dual pane sunroof and blind spot monitoring and navigation, it would have been priced at $35,560 in the United States. Yes, $35,560. […]

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2015 Chrysler 200 S AWD rear angleI just spent a week with the all-new, all-wheel-drive 2015 Chrysler 200 S. It was one of Chrysler Canada’s press cars, priced at $38,815. Equipped as it was with big wheels and a dual pane sunroof and blind spot monitoring and navigation, it would have been priced at $35,560 in the United States.

Yes, $35,560. And that’s not the top of the range. I know this because there are three conspicuous, dare I say ostentatious, blanked-out switches placed on the steering wheel, an owner’s most frequent touch point.

The steering wheel is what you grasp for the duration of your 35-minute commute each morning after you’re done grasping a toothbrush, a spouse, a child, a bagel, and a set of keys. It’s an intimate connection, even private.

You don’t allow anybody else to hold your toothbrush, your bagel, your spouse, or your child first thing in the morning. Similarly, you don’t hand your keys off to a random acquaintance and say, “Yeah, take’er out for a rip.”

You know the stitching of the heated steering wheel’s leather. You know how to find the big cruise control buttons without looking. You and the steering wheel share secrets, like the location of volume controls on the back of the middle spoke. The Bluetooth hang-up button, well, it doth fall readily to thy hand.

Yet all the while, the steering wheel in this rather costly Chrysler 200 tells you, nay, it screams at you: “I could have been better! You could have made me better! Am I not worth it? Did you need to order an unfulfilled version of myself?” And all the while, you’re left to stare at three pieces of glaring evidence every single day. After dropping $35,560 on a Chrysler 200, you’re still $3000 shy of possessing a fully equipped Chrysler 200.

2015 Chrysler 200 S steering wheel buttonsOh, who are we kidding? You didn’t spend $35,560 on a new Chrysler 200. 2015 models have only recently arrived at dealers, yet my local Chrysler store has 200s prominently parked out front with “Save $4000” stickers plastered across the doors and updated stickers on the windshield declaring $5295 discounts. Even with an eye-catching design and a vastly improved interior, a new midsize car trades on the reputation of its predecessor, which in this case was too strongly connected to a product line Chrysler would probably prefer to forget. Thus, Chrysler dealers already know consumers aren’t going to pay top dollar for this car, even if it is now a worthy contender.

Pricing aside, the blanked-out switches can only be an affront because of their high-profile positioning. Many more costly cars feature such buttons, as well, only with less distinguished placement. The only other reason the would-be adaptive cruise control blanked-out switches merit a mention is because of the way they symbolize the 200’s indecisive interior.

At $35,560, the 200 S better be slick inside, and for the most part it is. But the cupholder slider which covers a massive bin between the front seats jiggles about in its tracks. The blue “wood” applique strewn across the dashboard is ghastly. The upgraded Alpine audio system can’t cope with moderate increases in volume and caused many an interior part to quiver long before maximum output was called upon. It is not at all about that bass.

In a mostly hushed cabin, the amount of wind noise when the panoramic roof’s sunshade is open is shocking. The passenger’s seat is not powered. Shift paddles which grow out of volume and tune buttons on the back of the steering wheel are a bit dorky.  Rear seat space is not midsize-like, and the bench would still be deemed uncomfortable even if there was real Camryesque capacity. Visibility for the driver is severely impinged upon by a thick, steeply raked A-pillar and the coupe-like roofline all around. Likewise, the trunk’s 16 cubic feet of capacity is crowded by long goosenecks.

2015 Chrysler 200 S AWD front angleErgonomically, however, the quad-knob layout liberally spread out beside the driver for volume, scrolling, climate, and gear selection is ideal. UConnect is brilliantly straightforward, faster than most equivalent systems, and its touch screen never felt too far away. As much as I want to remain true to convention and call for a traditional gear lever, this third meeting with a rotary dial shifter made for three occasions in which it felt perfectly natural.

There are niggling little nitpicky issues inside the Chrysler 200, but poor visibility and a somewhat tight rear seat are the only characteristics capable of overriding the elegant simplicity encountered by the driver via the oft-used infotainment unit.

In this S-is-for-Sport variant of the new 200, ride quality remains comfortable despite low-profile 19-inch rubber. The 200 S is firm on 235/40R19s, but it’s not busy or crashy. The composed ride doesn’t really pay dividends in terms of outright handling ability, as the all-wheel-drive 200 is simply too heavy for athletics. Chrysler’s all-wheel-drive system has a the ability to disconnect the rear axle, but because it can’t discard and recoup the rear axle on a whim, it adds 322 pounds to a V6-engined 200 S.

2015 Chrysler 200 rotary dial shifterAt 3795 pounds before options – and before adding you, you bagel-eating glutton, you – the 200 S AWD weighs about 100 pounds more than the last all-wheel-drive midsize sedan I drove, Subaru’s Legacy 3.6R. (The weight gap between the 200 S AWD and Ford’s lighter Fusion Titanium AWD is greater.)

As a result of all that girth, 295 horsepower doesn’t feel quite like 295 horsepower. The 200 is undoubtedly a quick car, but it takes some prodding. Toss the 200 into a corner with its weighty but slow steering and it remains nicely level, but it’s not terribly willing to quickly change direction again. Powering out of the corner with haste will require a firm press of the throttle, though, and you might see a kickdown of two or three gears when a single kickdown would have been effective. (At least the intense growl of the engine is musical.)

Indeed, the nine-speed automatic operates much more like it ought to when you demand quicker progress from the car. Meandering about, this 200 was of a mind to shift economically but couldn’t make those shifts happen with alacrity, hanging on to revs before finally falling into second, then third, then fourth. There’s some hunting around in the higher register, though you’ll rarely, if ever, see ninth. But that hunting is more evident in the digital read-out than in sound or sensation. The nine-speed is certainly not what I’d call a good transmission, but those less sensitive to the differences between a great modern eight-speed like ZF’s (or the Ram pickup’s) and this nine-speed likely won’t be bothered.

2015 Chrysler 200 S interiorIn our house, the nine-speed’s suboptimal shift quality couldn’t make up for the 3.6L’s appeal. The poor visibility detracts from what could be an otherwise pleasant interior. At 21 miles per gallon in our mix of city and highway driving, the 200 wasn’t exactly thrifty, either.

Still, going back a number of months, few cars in the affordable realm have appealed to my neighbours and friends as much as this 200. They were enticed by an attractive car which, with a boatload of features and space superior to that of their current compact, can be had at an alluring price they saw on the back of the newspaper they were perusing while waiting to get their flu shot.

With a front-wheel-drive V6 S adding just $1950 to the price of a four-cylinder S, it’s easy to see why they could be seduced.

All-wheel-drive, on the other hand, is only available with the V6 and adds $2250 to the cost of a 200 S V6 or 200 C V6. The subsequent weight increase isn’t worth it when good winter tires will accomplish more.

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Consumer Reports: Infotainment System Woes Mark 2014 Reliability Survey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/consumer-reports-infotainment-system-woes-mark-2014-reliability-survey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/consumer-reports-infotainment-system-woes-mark-2014-reliability-survey/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 10:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936826 Consumer Reports released its Annual Reliability Survey for this year, focusing some of the attention on the woes experienced by a handful of infotainment systems. According to the publication, the absolute worse of the pack in 2014 was Infiniti’s InTouch system in the new Q50, with over one in five owners wanting to take a […]

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Infiniti InTouch - Infiniti Q50

Consumer Reports released its Annual Reliability Survey for this year, focusing some of the attention on the woes experienced by a handful of infotainment systems.

According to the publication, the absolute worse of the pack in 2014 was Infiniti’s InTouch system in the new Q50, with over one in five owners wanting to take a crowbar to the whole thing. The brand itself took a beating, dropping 14 points to 20th out of 28 as a result of the Q50’s issues, as well as the overall reliability issues in the QX60. Other infotainment systems ironing out the bugs included Ford’s MyTouch, Honda’s HondaLink and Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s UConnect.

Concerning overall reliability, Lexus once again took the top of the podium, while Toyota and Mazda respectively brought home silver and bronze, and Honda finished in fourth. Buick, meanwhile, was the only brand among the Detroit Three to place in the top 10, jumping from 16th to sixth on the strength of its entire portfolio.

As for why the other Detroit brands failed to reach the top 10, Consumer Reports says domestic small and compact cars, along with full-size trucks, are holding everyone back. Tesla also didn’t make the list, but that was due to criteria than low quality: the publication only rates brands with a minimum of two models, a situation that will be remedied when the Model X rolls out next year.

Finally, Audi took fifth behind the Japanese makes, while Porsche took ninth ahead of Kia. BMW and Volvo remained within the top 20. Only Mercedes-Benz took a hit among the Europeans this year, falling 11 spots to 24th thanks to the new CLA and S classes.

The Consumer Reports 2014 reliability survey obtained its information from 1.1 million vehicles, the largest survey of its kind in the publication’s history.

consumer-reports-reliability-list-1

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Next-Gen Chrysler Town & Country PHEV Debuting A Year Early http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/next-gen-chrysler-town-country-phev-debuting-year-early/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/next-gen-chrysler-town-country-phev-debuting-year-early/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 10:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927345 Minivan shoppers will have a new option to consider in 2015, as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne revealed plans to introduce a PHEV variant of the Chrysler Town & Country late into the coming year. Automotive News reports the PHEV will be based on the next-generation Town & Country, originally scheduled for arrival in […]

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2014 Chrysler Town & Country

Minivan shoppers will have a new option to consider in 2015, as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne revealed plans to introduce a PHEV variant of the Chrysler Town & Country late into the coming year.

Automotive News reports the PHEV will be based on the next-generation Town & Country, originally scheduled for arrival in 2016 as stated by Marchionne during FCA’s investor day back in May. Other PHEVs are also in the works, including a full-size crossover for Chrysler. That said, Marchionne warns that electrification can’t fix everything:

I think you need to be very, very careful if you think that electrification, given its inherent limitations on range, especially in markets like the U.S., will effectively displace combustion. It will never provide the travel distance that you require, especially based on what we know today about the storage capabilities of batteries.

I keep on running into this fundamental economic obstacle of overcoming the cost equation of electrification. You can’t. You can’t unless there is a wholesale change and a fundamental shift in the pricing structure of cars.

The new PHEV, powered by a gasoline/battery pack combo, might outgun the Toyota Prius in the fuel economy game, according to Chrysler brand chief Al Gardner. The ur-hybrid in PHEV form for 2015 nets 95 mpg in electric-only mode, and 50 mpg combined in hybrid mode.

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Chrysler Recalls 349K MY 2008 Units Over Ignition Issues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chrysler-recalls-349k-2008-units-ignition-issues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chrysler-recalls-349k-2008-units-ignition-issues/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 10:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=920002 Owners of a handful of MY 2008 DaimlerChrysler products now have one thing in common with those who own certain General Motors models: An ignition-related recall. Chrysler Group says 349,442 MY 2008 vehicles have ignitions where the switch remains stuck between the “ON” and “START” positions, or slips into “ACCESSORY” or “OFF”; the latter scenario […]

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2008 Chrysler 300 LX With A Hint Of Pimp

Owners of a handful of MY 2008 DaimlerChrysler products now have one thing in common with those who own certain General Motors models: An ignition-related recall.

Chrysler Group says 349,442 MY 2008 vehicles have ignitions where the switch remains stuck between the “ON” and “START” positions, or slips into “ACCESSORY” or “OFF”; the latter scenario cuts power to the engine, steering and air bags.

The affected were assembled before May 12, 2008, and consist of the following:

  • Dodge: Charger, Magnum
  • Chrysler: 300
  • Jeep: Commander, Grand Cherokee

The recall covers 292,224 units in the United States, 18,976 in Canada, 4,947 in Mexico and 33,295 around the globe. Chrysler recommends removing everything from the ignition key, as well as confirming the switch is in the “ON” position after starting their vehicles, until affected owners are able to bring in their vehicle for free servicing.

A similar recall issued earlier this year affected 890,000 vehicles made between January 2007 and June 2010, where the switches also could slip from “ON” to “ACCESSORY.”

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Study: Nine Brands Suffer Loyalty Issues Among Their Customers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/study-nine-brands-suffer-loyalty-issues-among-customers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/study-nine-brands-suffer-loyalty-issues-among-customers/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=896834 Honda, Ford and Toyota all have one thing in common as far as Kelley Blue Book knows: All three inspire brand loyalty among over half of its customer base. Alas, nine other brands wish they could be just as inspirational. In its study of KBB data from 33 brands regarding customer loyalty, 24/7 Wall St. […]

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2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Honda, Ford and Toyota all have one thing in common as far as Kelley Blue Book knows: All three inspire brand loyalty among over half of its customer base. Alas, nine other brands wish they could be just as inspirational.

In its study of KBB data from 33 brands regarding customer loyalty, 24/7 Wall St. says the following nine brands are likely to see their customers jump ship to another brand come trade-in or lease time:

  • Mitsubishi: 21.77 percent average
  • Chrysler: 22.72 percent average
  • Dodge: 22.88 percent average
  • Jaguar: 25.45 percent average
  • Scion: 25.79 percent average
  • Lincoln: 27.49 percent average
  • Infiniti: 28.25 percent average
  • Volvo: 29.41 percent average
  • Buick: 29.45 percent average

The study notes the brands with the highest loyalty averages also move the most units off the lot, while low-loyalty brands have sales to match; six of the nine listed sold less than 100,000 units during H1 2014.

As for what inspires loyalty in the first place, KBB senior manager of marketing intelligence Arthur Henry says price and reliability play the most important roles in whether a customer will stick with a brand. However, luxury makes like Jaguar, Infiniti and Buick suffer not from perceptions of poor reliability, but fierce competition from within the U.S. luxury market.

That said, Arthur notes customers can switch loyalties no matter how a brand is perceived, citing economic conditions and changing consumer preferences as factors in switching.

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Chrysler Group Asks For Hitch Production Boost Amid NHTSA Inquiry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chrysler-group-asks-for-hitch-production-boost-amid-nhtsa-inquiry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chrysler-group-asks-for-hitch-production-boost-amid-nhtsa-inquiry/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870010 A day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked what was taking so long for a supplier to make enough hitches to cover 2.5 million recalled vehicles, Chrysler Group ordered its supplier to boost production. Automotive News reports the inquiry, sent July 2, noted that it would take five years for Chrysler to repair […]

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2002-2004_Jeep_Liberty_Sport

A day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked what was taking so long for a supplier to make enough hitches to cover 2.5 million recalled vehicles, Chrysler Group ordered its supplier to boost production.

Automotive News reports the inquiry, sent July 2, noted that it would take five years for Chrysler to repair all 2.5 million 1993 – 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002 – 2007 Libertys with trailer hitches meant to minimize the potential for fuel tank ruptures and fires in low-speed rear-end accidents. In turn, Chrysler told supplier Northern Stamping Inc. to raise its daily production rate from 2,205 to 3,511 hitches.

The affected vehicles will be able to be equipped with the hitches beginning August 1, with the last ones to receive theirs by March of 2015.

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Fiat Sets Date Of Shareholder Meeting For August 1 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fiat-sets-date-of-shareholder-meeting-for-august-1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fiat-sets-date-of-shareholder-meeting-for-august-1/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858633 Own any shares in Fiat S.p.A.? The automaker just announced it will hold its next general assembly of all shareholders August 1, where the topic of discussion will be the approval of the merger of Fiat with Chrysler Group to become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. Reuters reports shareholders will also be asked to approve the […]

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A new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sign is pictured after being unveiled at Chrysler Group World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan

Own any shares in Fiat S.p.A.? The automaker just announced it will hold its next general assembly of all shareholders August 1, where the topic of discussion will be the approval of the merger of Fiat with Chrysler Group to become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Reuters reports shareholders will also be asked to approve the merger of Fiat with its wholly owned subsidiary Netherlands Fiat Investments N.V. prior to the FCA vote. The meeting would allow CEO Sergio Marchionne to list FCA on the New York Stock Exchange by October at the earliest.

Those who approve FCA’s existence will receive one FCA common share for every Fiat share they hold, while those against will have the right of withdrawal for the next 15 days, with the redemption price set to €7.727 ($10.51 USD) per Fiat share.

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Select 2015 Chrysler 200, Jeep Cherokee Models To Receive Stop-Start http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/select-2015-chrysler-200-jeep-cherokee-models-to-receive-stop-start/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/select-2015-chrysler-200-jeep-cherokee-models-to-receive-stop-start/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=852065 A select group of 2015 Chrysler 200s and Jeep Cherokees will enter showrooms with stop-start technology on-board later this year. Automotive News reports Chrysler Group will install the tech in Cherokees equipped with its 3.2-liter V6 in Q3 2014, while 200s with the 2.4-liter I4 will receive it in Q4 2014. Cherokees with the 2.4 […]

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2015-chrysler-2001

A select group of 2015 Chrysler 200s and Jeep Cherokees will enter showrooms with stop-start technology on-board later this year.

Automotive News reports Chrysler Group will install the tech in Cherokees equipped with its 3.2-liter V6 in Q3 2014, while 200s with the 2.4-liter I4 will receive it in Q4 2014. Cherokees with the 2.4 and 200s with the 3.6 V6 will not have stop-start aboard.

With stop-start, the Cherokee will net 19 mpg in the city at its most fuel-efficient configuration. The 200 fares slightly better at 23 mpg for its most efficient model.

Both the sedan and crossover share the same platform and a number of components, including Chrysler’s new nine-speed automatic transmission.

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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846905 J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles. Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. […]

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2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles.

Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Porsche were ranked best overall mass-market and premium brand, respectively, where the former reported 94 issues per 100 vehicles reported in the first 90 days, 74/100 for the latter. Porsche also dominated the IQS, having the best score of all brands surveyed.

On the other end of the scale, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ranked poorly in the study, with Fiat holding dead last at 206 problems per 100 vehicles reported in the survey period. Jeep came second-to-last with 146/100, while Dodge was just below the industry average at 124/100. Only Ram and Chrysler fared the best, matching or just exceeding the average of 116/100.

Part of the results may be due to automakers pushing the envelope on technology and new features to make consumers’ lives easier. J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive David Sargent says “almost all automakers are struggling” to introduce these pieces “without introducing additional quality problems.” In turn, some consumers are noting the technologies involved are “hard to understand, difficult to use, or [do] not always work as designed.”

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NHTSA Investigates Chrysler Group Air Bag, Ignition Issues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nhtsa-investigates-chrysler-group-air-bag-ignition-issues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nhtsa-investigates-chrysler-group-air-bag-ignition-issues/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846881 General Motors no longer has the monopoly on ignition and air bag problems, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group over those very issues. Detroit Free Press reports the agency has opened two investigations into 1.2 million vehicles as follows: 2005 – 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee; 2006 […]

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2010-dodge-grand-caravan

General Motors no longer has the monopoly on ignition and air bag problems, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group over those very issues.

Detroit Free Press reports the agency has opened two investigations into 1.2 million vehicles as follows:

  • 2005 – 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee; 2006 – 2007 Jeep Commander: Faulty air bags; 700,000 under preliminary investigation
  • 2008 – 2010 Dodge Journey; 2010 Chrysler Town & Country; 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan: Ignition switches shifting out of “on” position; 525,000 under recall query

The NHTSA received 23 complaints over air bags problems, though none involved non-deployment, and 32 complaints about the ignition switch. Both parties are working to find any links to the problems, though no more information has been made available thus far.

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ London Headquarters To Focus On Corporate Finance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/fiat-chrysler-automobiles-london-headquarters-to-focus-on-corporate-finance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/fiat-chrysler-automobiles-london-headquarters-to-focus-on-corporate-finance/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 11:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=827618 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ new headquarters in London, England will be as small as many Silicon Valley startups, with a staff of 50 mostly focused on finance. Automotive News Europe reports FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and Fiat Group chairman John Elkann will have a home in London, with FCA COO Richard Palmer possibly having a place […]

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Fiat 500 in London

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ new headquarters in London, England will be as small as many Silicon Valley startups, with a staff of 50 mostly focused on finance.

Automotive News Europe reports FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and Fiat Group chairman John Elkann will have a home in London, with FCA COO Richard Palmer possibly having a place there as well. Though no new hiring is planned, the automaker hopes to pull more finance employees from its Asia Pacific and Latin American regions to its headquarters, where most of the work will involve treasury operations.

The move to London also means tax savings for FCA; whereas Fiat paid 31.4 percent in corporate taxes to Italy while Chrysler paid 35 percent to the United States, the Italo-American company will pay only 20 percent for its part of filling the Queen’s coffers. This strategy has come under fire from both sides of the Atlantic, with feelings of betrayal on the part of Italians due to history, and on Americans due to tax dollars used to rescue Chrysler in 2009.

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Chrysler Capital Waxes, Ally Wanes On Q1 2014 Auto Financing Originations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/chrysler-capital-waxes-ally-wanes-on-q1-2014-auto-financing-originations/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/chrysler-capital-waxes-ally-wanes-on-q1-2014-auto-financing-originations/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 12:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=820842 Doing business with Chrysler proved to be a boom for Santander Consumer USA’s Chrysler Capital during Q1 2014, while former lending partner Ally Financial experienced a painful bust on its Pentastar originations. Automotive News says Ally’s volume was at zero for incentivized new-vehicle loans with Chrysler, down from $231 million a year earlier. Standard-rate loans […]

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Chrysler Capital Booth

Doing business with Chrysler proved to be a boom for Santander Consumer USA’s Chrysler Capital during Q1 2014, while former lending partner Ally Financial experienced a painful bust on its Pentastar originations.

Automotive News says Ally’s volume was at zero for incentivized new-vehicle loans with Chrysler, down from $231 million a year earlier. Standard-rate loans fell 32 percent to $708 million, and leases dove 67 percent to $257 million in relation to Q1 2013, as well.

Meanwhile, Santander’s Chrysler Capital raked in $3.5 billion loans and $1.2 billion in leases as part of an overall $6.9 billion in consumer lending for the outgoing quarter, having made only $2.8 billion in total originations in the previous year.

Santander launched the new lending division after Ally’s agreement with Chrysler Group ended last year after a four-year run, a relationship the latter may take a while to get over; Ally filed a lawsuit last September against Santander Consumer USA, citing copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets in the launch of Chrysler Capital. Santander proclaimed in its SEC filing that it will fight the suit.

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Marchionne: Hybrids Will Help Chrysler Group Meet 2025 54.5 MPG Mandate http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionne-hybrids-will-help-chrysler-group-meet-2025-54-5-mpg-mandate/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionne-hybrids-will-help-chrysler-group-meet-2025-54-5-mpg-mandate/#comments Wed, 14 May 2014 11:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=820346 With the 2025 industry-wide fuel economy target of 54.5 mpg a decade away, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne believes “the house will make it” as far as all under the Chrysler Group umbrella are concerned, with a little help from hybridization of a number of models. Automotive News reports Marchionne believes hybrids will “become […]

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2015-chrysler-2001

With the 2025 industry-wide fuel economy target of 54.5 mpg a decade away, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne believes “the house will make it” as far as all under the Chrysler Group umbrella are concerned, with a little help from hybridization of a number of models.

Automotive News reports Marchionne believes hybrids will “become a very large component” of the fleet going forward, stating that without them, meeting the mandate would be “impossible” for FCA’s Pentastar offerings.

Part of that plan may come through Chrysler Group’s new nine-speed automatic transmission, which will be used throughout the division’s line of FWD vehicles, starting with the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and 2015 Chrysler 200; the latter, released to dealers earlier this month, provides up to 36 mpg on the highway with the transmission delivering power to the front wheels.

Licensed from ZF Friedrichshafen and manufactured in FCA’s Kokomo, Ind. plant, the nine-speed transmission will see additional production at the formerly idle Tipton County, Ind. transmission factory. The $162 million refurbished plant will employ 850 by 2015, and will produce 800,000 transmissions annually at full capacity.

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Marchionne’s Grand Vision For FCA Faces Hard Financial Road To Success http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionnes-grand-vision-for-fca-faces-hard-financial-road-to-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionnes-grand-vision-for-fca-faces-hard-financial-road-to-success/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 12:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817858 Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision. Automotive News Europe reports a large part of […]

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Sergio Marchionne - FCA

Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision.

Automotive News Europe reports a large part of the problem for the plan, according to Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton, is debt:

Much as we admire the ambition and think elements are achievable… it is hard to find conviction on the financing of the plan. Fiat is weighed down with huge debt, burdened by financing costs and is only thinly profitable. It’s (sic) cost of capital is huge.

Warburton adds FCA’s grand plan and its potential capital expenditure and R&D appear to be unaffordable and not prudent for investors, stating the company would need “a capital raise” for any part of the plan to pan out.

Aside from its debt, FCA also faces sales challenges from markets that are peaking or slowing down, with the European market being the biggest drag upon the automaker. However, independent analyst Marianne Keller said that with the recovery now taking place in Europe, paired with North American profits and a strong Jeep brand, Marchionne could “pull it off”; Marchionne himself announced during the five-year plan’s unveiling that he was considering a mandatory convertible bond to bring the needed financing for the plan.

Finally, FCA’s Q1 2014 results — a net loss of 319 million euros compared to a net profit of 31 million euros the year before — serve as a sign for both the company and its investors that FCA has more hard road ahead, a view best summed up by Macquarie Group analyst Jens Schattner:

If it was so easy just to launch new products to be successful in this industry, why wouldn’t everybody do exactly the same.

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Shudder To Think: New Transmissions, Bad Friends and the DaimlerChrysler Merger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/shudder-to-think-new-transmissions-bad-friends-and-the-daimlerchrysler-merger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/shudder-to-think-new-transmissions-bad-friends-and-the-daimlerchrysler-merger/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 20:38:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817698 I never would’ve known about the WA850/NAG1 transmission if it weren’t for that dead-beat roommate I had in Miami. It was desperate times for Chrysler and myself —we both just needed a friend. 16 years ago today, the Chrysler Group found an abusively negligent partner in Daimler AG. The “merger of equals” proved to be […]

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Dodge Challenger chromed T-shifter automatic transmission knob

I never would’ve known about the WA850/NAG1 transmission if it weren’t for that dead-beat roommate I had in Miami. It was desperate times for Chrysler and myself —we both just needed a friend.

16 years ago today, the Chrysler Group found an abusively negligent partner in Daimler AG. The “merger of equals” proved to be anything but, as the German camp rapidly oscillated between ignoring the American’s input and engaging in full-blown Teutonic pedantry. Rumor has it they even insulted the American’s taste in typeface by forcing them to get new business cards.

My friendship wasn’t nearly as toxic. I had been living in Miami for a few months, but had failed to adapt to the social scene. He was also a transplant from the North Atlantic so he understood my pain. He had friends that I admired, so I stuck by him. Despite his professed love for the BMX bike and only the BMX bike, he was in possession of a hand-me-down 2003 Mercedes-Benz E500. This example was a former Enron fleet-car his mother had purchased at auction in late 2006, just months before Daimler offloaded their American bedfellow. He didn’t keep up with the maintenance; it was in poor shape but I loved it. It was everything my Miata wasn’t: heavy, powerful and smooth.

It was equipped with the WA850 transmission, or as it is more commonly known, the 5G-Tronic. A five-speed automatic of Mercedes design, one of Daimler’s first acts after the merger was to force this part on Chrysler. It was clearly a superior gearbox than Chrysler’s ubiquitous 545RFE, but it was the principle of the matter. Chrysler was saddled with what they perceived to be needless logistical complications. The official Chrysler designation for the part was “New Automatic Gearbox Version 1” or NAG1. Very funny Chrysler.

In theory it was an excellent transmission, but there were serious qualms about its reliability on American roads. It wasn’t about road quality; rather it was its needy maintenance schedule and complex service that was out of line with American ownership habits. Anything less than perfectly precise handling by a tech and the thing would shudder and shake for the rest of its days.

Like Chrysler, My friend had forced something on me as well: the pointless pursuit of fun at a time in my life when I should have been saving money, exercising, and improving my craft. An apt comparison because like the WA580, a life of partying works on paper, but without the discipline to perform proper maintenance you are end up shuddering and leaking fluid in public.

The Daimler-Chrysler merger was a clear failure, and so was my friendship. Both partnerships could’ve been successful, but they required more compromise and hard work than either party was prepared for. That’s not to say the respective mergers were complete failures. Chrysler walked away with an excellent transmission that’s still in use today, and I learned how to have fun and not take myself so seriously. What we both learned was that in business like life, you can only rely on yourself for meaningful improvement.

 

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Detroit Three Lead The Charge In Chinese SUV Boom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/detroit-three-lead-the-charge-in-chinese-suv-boom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/detroit-three-lead-the-charge-in-chinese-suv-boom/#comments Tue, 29 Apr 2014 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=812234 Long after the first SUV gold rush in the United States, the Detroit Three are gearing up for a second gold rush, this time in China. Automotive News reports SUVs and crossovers have snagged 19 percent of the local market in 2013 as the once-dominant luxury sedan market fell from 47 percent in 2000 to […]

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2014 Lincoln MKX Concept

Long after the first SUV gold rush in the United States, the Detroit Three are gearing up for a second gold rush, this time in China.

Automotive News reports SUVs and crossovers have snagged 19 percent of the local market in 2013 as the once-dominant luxury sedan market fell from 47 percent in 2000 to 15 percent. General Motors forecasts as many as 7 million SUVs will leave the showroom by 2020, with president Dan Ammann noting that 60 percent of first-time buyers in China bought an SUV last year. Further, Ford credits crossovers for a sales surge of 49 percent in 2013, pushing Toyota out of the No. 5 slot in a local market that views SUVs and crossovers as being, in the words of Chevrolet dealer He Sei, “sportier, more fashionable and more youthful” than other vehicles.

To capitalize upon the upcoming boom, GM brought the Chevrolet Trax to last week’s Beijing Motor Show with plans to add 10 SUVs during the next five years, while Ford introduced concept versions of the body-on-frame Everest and Lincoln MKX crossover, both of which will soon see production. Finally, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will resume Jeep production in China through a joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Company, with three models due in 2015.

Meanwhile, Lexus, Audi, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Citroen are following the Detroit Three’s lead into the Chinese SUV/crossover market, bringing a number of concepts and production-ready vehicles to Beijing. That said, they will have a hard battle against the three U.S. automakers, as SUVs and crossovers have been their bread and butter since the first rush in the early 1990s through the late 2000s.

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Rental Car Review: A Tale of Two Econoboxes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-car-review-a-tale-of-two-econoboxes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/rental-car-review-a-tale-of-two-econoboxes/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 17:54:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=811738 Last month, I took two business trips where I had to rent a car: one to Boston and one to Los Angeles. I rolled the Hertz dice and ended up with a Chrysler 200 in Boston and a Nissan Versa SV at LAX. Each was a 24-hour rental, but the prices were remarkably different. The […]

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Last month, I took two business trips where I had to rent a car: one to Boston and one to Los Angeles. I rolled the Hertz dice and ended up with a Chrysler 200 in Boston and a Nissan Versa SV at LAX. Each was a 24-hour rental, but the prices were remarkably different. The Chrysler: $61.59 for one day. The Nissan? $116.31 for one day. If the street price to buy one of these cars was anything in relation to the difference in rental price, everybody would be buying the Chrysler. Boston Strong!

chrysler200-front

Both cars were as un-optioned as they’re made. Bluetooth? Nope. The Nissan curiously had a third-party Bluetooth system hacked into the car, but it didn’t work. The Nissan also had a bunch of things glued to the windshield, which I presume include a GPS tracking feature as well as an annoying multicolored LED that faces out and blinks random colors as you’re driving down the street. Most likely, this Versa served in an earlier life as part of some ZipCar-esque car sharing service.

Mysterious blinky light on a Nissan Sentra SV rental
Mysterious blinky light on the Nissan Versa SV rental
Inside view of the mysterious blinky on a rental Nissan Sentra SV. Also visible is an aftermarket Bluetooth microphone (non-functional).
Inside view of the mysterious blinky on a rental Nissan Versa SV. Also visible is the aftermarket Bluetooth microphone (non-functional)

Anyway, before we get into the driving impressions, a Chrysler 200 base model seems to cost $21,540 ($495 more if you want Bluetooth). The Versa SV is $15,240 ($760 more if you want Bluetooth, navigation, and other electronic gadgets). The Chrysler has a 2.4 liter engine versus the Versa’s 1.5 liter. The Chrysler has a 4-speed auto, versus the Nissan’s CVT; pricier Chrysler 200’s have a 6-speed auto, but not this one. Overall performance was probably about the same, but neither car inspires you to push it. I will give credit to the Chrysler for being a noticeable step up with interior quality (e.g., having a leather-wrapped steering wheel). Road noise was reasonably muffled, and the car felt generally solid over bumps and other road indignities. The Nissan was just a cheap, unapologetic econobox.

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chrysler200-center-stack

Before I go on, I must digress. I drove through Cambridge and Boston, on my way out to the ‘burbs and back again to Logan Airport. I even drove right past Fenway Park, a side effect of an epic digression to pick up a pack of America’s only domestically brewed Trappist beer. (Highly recommended!) Not once, not a single time, did somebody honk at me. Nobody cut me off. When I signaled, people let me in. Boston, what’s wrong with you? Where are your passive aggressive moronic idiot nutjob drivers? Have you gone soft on me? (Do Boston drivers feel sorry for you if you’re driving a Chrysler 200?!)

Anyway, back to the cars. The Chrysler is rated for 20 city / 31 highway mpg. I figured out the reset button once I got on the highway, so I managed to get 32 mpg (indicated) on the remarkably traffic-free Saturday morning drive. Once I got caught up in Boston traffic, using Google’s truly impressive routing skills to follow one obscure side street into the next whilst cutting from Quincy to Braintree (kids: don’t try this at home), my indicated mileage dropped, bringing me in at 22 mpg combined. Still, not a bad performance. The Nissan, though, was stunning in the mileage department. LA traffic being what it is, there’s no such thing as freeway driving. It’s all about “combined” driving, and my final tally was 33.8 mpg (indicated), splitting the difference between the 31 city / 40 highway rating. (Overall, I’d say that I put both cars through similar drives, so the mileage difference here is representative of what happens with bigger engines in heavier cars: roughly 1000 pounds different.)

But CVTs! They bore us! There is much mileage to be gained when you can run the engine at arbitrarily chosen speeds. Want to go fast? High RPM. Want to save gas? Low RPM. This is great if you care about efficiency, but it’s a nightmare if you’re used to using engine noise as a proxy for looking at the speedometer. If you put your foot down just a little bit, the car might well be accelerating, but the engine noise is holding constant. You just never know, so your best bet is to set the cruise control and forget trying to enjoy your drive. The Nissan, trying to squeeze all the juice out of its tiny engine, does precisely this. The engine’s noise, and the tachometer’s readout, are nothing other than a direct measure of where your foot happens to be on the gas. Consequently, the Versa is as boring as a lecture about how CVT transmissions can optimize engine power output and improve mileage, but at least it’s honest. What about the Chrysler? Despite having a bit of traditional engine rev and gear changing, it’s every bit as dull. You can option up for a big V6 but then you’re competing in a whole other segment.

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Recommendations: if you’re trying to get a cheap car, get the cheaper Nissan Versa with the 6-speed manual. You can at least pretend you’re not driving a cheap econobox, and you won’t care that you’re getting 10% worse gas mileage. On the other hand, the base-model Chrysler 200, for the extra few bucks, and with discounts maybe not that many extra, gives you something resembling a luxury car experience. Sure, the drivetrain is nothing more than a high-achieving econobox, but the rest of the car is a step up. The quiet ride, all by itself, would make the Chrysler 200 a much better car if you spent a lot of time doing your daily soul sucking commute. When the 2nd-generation Fiat-enhanced version comes out next year, with a base price of $21,700, I expect it to be a very competitive car. Not only will it have more gear ratios (9 speeds!) and better mileage (36 mpg freeway!), but it will also be decidedly not ugly. It might even have some excitement. Maybe.

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FCA, Daimler Buy Greenhouse Credits To Meet EPA Emission Limits http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/fca-daimler-buy-greenhouse-credits-to-meet-epa-emission-limits/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/fca-daimler-buy-greenhouse-credits-to-meet-epa-emission-limits/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 11:30:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=811506 The Environmental Protection Agency said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler and Ferrari divisions, as well as Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz unit, bought greenhouse gas (GHG) credits to remain in compliance with the agency’s 2025 twin goals of 54.5 mpg and halved greenhouse gas emissions. The Detroit News reports Honda and Tesla sold 90,000 and 35,580 greenhouse credits — […]

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Ferrari_458_Speciale

The Environmental Protection Agency said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler and Ferrari divisions, as well as Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz unit, bought greenhouse gas (GHG) credits to remain in compliance with the agency’s 2025 twin goals of 54.5 mpg and halved greenhouse gas emissions.

The Detroit News reports Honda and Tesla sold 90,000 and 35,580 greenhouse credits — each one measured in 1 metric ton of emissions, or megagram — to Ferrari and Mercedes respectively for the 2010 model year, while Chrysler bought 500,000 such credits from Nissan for 2011. In addition, Mercedes purchased 250,000 credits from Nissan and 177,941 credits from Tesla for 2012; the EPA does not disclose how much the automakers paid for the compliance credits.

As for what the three divisions are doing to come into compliance with EPA and CAFE standards outside of the credit market, Ferrari — which FCA petitioned the agency to classify as an independent automaker, allowing the brand to enjoy the same conditional exemptions as Aston Martin, Lotus and McLaren due to its low production output — “is working to boost fuel efficiency while improving performance,” while Mercedes is looking into stop-start and other fuel-saving technology. Chrysler, for its part, is experimenting with flex fuels and using turbocharged four-cylinders in some of its offerings.

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Town And Country Update: Road Trip http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/town-and-coutry-update-road-trip/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/town-and-coutry-update-road-trip/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=808074 I last wrote about my 2013 Town and Country S at the end of November when it was just three months old and had only 1500 miles on the clock. At that point the big van had yet to be used for anything more than ‘round the town mommy duties and a single jaunt up […]

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I last wrote about my 2013 Town and Country S at the end of November when it was just three months old and had only 1500 miles on the clock. At that point the big van had yet to be used for anything more than ‘round the town mommy duties and a single jaunt up to Toronto in search of a Japanese supermarket, but I reported then that the van was performing flawlessly. Today, eight months later, and thanks in part to a whirlwind road trip that added slightly more than 2000 miles in just four full days of driving, the T&C’s odometer shows 6400 miles and I have greater insight into the vehicle’s true nature. Naturally, it’s time for an update.

I am a veteran road-tripper. I began as a child, riding in the back seat of one my father’s many Oldsmobiles and I can tell you from brutal experience what it is like to be locked in a car with your brothers and sisters for days on end. Fortunately, my Kodachrome-colored memories of the ‘70s have little in common with the way families travel today and the Town & Country S is a true product of a better, brighter era. Chrysler offers a great deal of technology on all their vans, sometimes standard and sometimes at an additional cost, and one of the particular advantages of the S model is that, among other things, it already comes equipped with a Blue Ray DVD player and two overhead flat screen monitors. To be honest, had the video system not been included as a part of the package that netted me a swankier interior and better looking wheels, it is not something I would have paid extra to purchase at the time, but now that I have it I can’t imagine living without it.

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DVD players in cars rival sliced bread for the title of the greatest thing ever invented. Unlike my childhood road trips where, other than fighting with my siblings, the sole form of entertainment consisted entirely of a game where you tried to make the alphabet out of the letters on other cars’ license plates, my kids were treated to a non-stop, four day long Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks animation film festival. Because I don’t mind listening to movies while I drive, I usually play the DVD audio tracks over the stereo system, but for those times I would rather listen to something else Chrysler was thoughtful enough to include two pairs of nice, wireless headphones that work with the DVD system, something that makes it possible for the kids watch movies in the back while the adults enjoy the radio up front. That to me is a real have your cake and eat it too kind of feature and all I can say is “Hooray for technology!”

While my precious, human cargo rode in comfort and silence, I was able to focus on the overall driving experience and my impressions are mostly positive. On the open road the T&C was strong and smooth and although there were no mountain passes upon which to test the vehicle’s climbing prowess between Buffalo and Kansas City, which we visited last week in preparation for our impending move, I found there was always plenty of power on tap whenever I put my foot down. Fuel mileage too was more than satisfactory thanks to the “Eco” mode and, at the end of our trip, the computer showed I averaged an impressive 28 miles per gallon despite the fact that I paid zero attention to maximizing our mileage.

This is the first time I have used the eco button and although I had read nothing about how the system works, I noticed right away that it affected how the van shifted. This was most noticeable on hills when the vehicle’s speed was being maintained by the the cruise control. Without fail, as we began to ascend any grade longer than a few hundred feet, our speed would fall off by three or four miles per hour and the engine would bog until the RPMs went so low as to force a downshift. Then, when the transmission finally kicked down into a lower gear, the engine would roar to life and send the vehicle charging furiously back up to speed before up-shifting yet again and starting the whole process over. This led to an odd sort of leap frogging effect where I would pass cars on the flat only to end up slowing down in front of them whenever we reached any kind of a hill. Then, when the other cars pulled out to pass, the van would downshift and we would end up tearing away again before they could get around us. Frankly, I found this effect annoying and I could tell by the way that other cars crawled right up my backside every time it happened that the drivers around me did too. Eventually, I solved the problem by using the gas pedal to force the engine to kick down sooner and that worked well enough but, truth be told, I would rather have set the speed and then not had to worry about it at all. It would be nice if Chrysler could adjust this with some sort of software update.

With power, economy and the kids all taken care of, the only other thing I can really report on is how the big van felt from the driver’s seat. The last time I drove west of the Mississippi I was in my 300M and the Town & Country compares more than favorably to Chrysler’s other high end offerings. The seats were comfortable and offered more than enough adjustability to ease the aches and pains that cropped up from time to time and I enjoyed spending time in them. Still essentially brand new, there were no annoying squeaks or rattles I can report and I also found that wind noise was non-existent at any virtually speed. I will say that different pavements introduced different vibrations and different tire noises into the cabin but never at a level that caused any real distraction so, overall, from a comfort standpoint, the T&C is great.

kids

Suspension wise the S model’s sport tuned suspension walks that fine line between firm and jarring in a way the sport tuned suspension on my 300M Special never could. The big van holds the road and inspires confidence without sacrificing comfort. Where the 300M had a tendency to follow tar snakes, ruts and other imperfections in the pavement, the T&C never leaves you fighting for control although, thanks to its higher profile, it is more affected by gusts.

At the end of our second day, with almost 8 full hours of driving behind us and a bare ten miles from our goal, the skies turned dangerously black and it began to rain absolute buckets. The roads turned into rivers and I quickly switched to local radio in order to hear any emergency weather bulletins. The news was not good and there, near the point of exhaustion, on strange roads and with limited visibility, I began to worry just a little for the safety of my family. But the big Chrysler simply shrugged off everything that nature could throw at it and, as the navigation unerringly guided us towards our destination, my fears quickly abated. The vehicle worked so well that there was nothing to take my attention away from the road and, I realized, there was simply nothing to worry about.

In the end, smooth, worry-free operation is what you want from a family vehicle and today, almost eight months after purchasing the Town and Country, I still find the van’s poise and confidence on the road to be utterly remarkable. It is joy to drive and this latest road trip has only strengthened my belief that I have chosen the right vehicle for my family. I simply could not want anything else at this point and, as I tend to keep my vehicles for many years, I am convinced that the T&C will carry us wherever we want, near or far, in style, comfort and safety for a long time to come.

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Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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