By on December 27, 2011

Once upon a time, the Dodge brand was brimming with pride. In the mid-to-late 1990s, Dodge had it all: affordable compacts, big front-drive cruisers, the hottest trucks on the market, and of course, the Viper. And when the times were good, all of those part melded into one brash, exciting, quintessentially American brand. From Neons and Intrepids, from Rams to Vipers, Dodge could do it all, as long as “it all” included a healthy dash of in-your-face attitude. But over the years, as Dodge’s shining moment faded into memory, the brand has managed to become both less viscerally appealing and less well-rounded. And when Fiat’s leadership stripped Dodge of the Ram “brand,” shucked its designs of their truckish cues, and repositioned Dodge as a more “youthful” and “refined” sporting brand, it seemed as if Dodge as we knew it was dying. Since hearing of Fiat’s plans to bring Alfa stateside, and with Dodge appearing to have lost out in brand alignment product battles, we’ve been wondering for some time now if Dodge isn’t headed out to pasture. Now there’s even more evidence that Dodge is being hollowed out en route to replacement with Alfa, as Automotive News [sub] reports

Absent from the redesigned SRT Viper will be the name Dodge… Viper has been linked to Dodge since the Dodge Viper RT/10 concept debuted in 1989. The first Dodge Viper SRT-10 went on sale in 1992, and over the years 28,056 Vipers were produced, according to Chrysler.

Not any more. Essentially, SRT becomes a brand with its own vehicle, in this case the SRT Viper.

That’s right, Dodge won’t have a Viper or a Ram (or, more prosaically, an Avenger or Caravan). Some might argue that, absent these components, the Dodge name doesn’t mean much of anything anymore. Certainly it doesn’t seem that Dodge can have a particularly bright future without any links to its last moment of glory.
(Read More…)

By on June 16, 2011

Mazda has confirmed [to Reuters via Automotive News [sub]] what has been rumored for a while (especially in the Mexican media): open a new plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, near VW and GM’s Silao facilities. Production starts this fall and the line starts rolling in 2013, according to “people familiar with the matter.” In the meantime, Mazda6 production at the Flat Rock, MI joint venture plant continues until mid-2012, at which point Mazda will make a decision that it’s still “studying,” but it won’t be building the Mazda6. Interestingly, Mazda’s new Mexican plant is only being built for “at least” 50k units of

compact cars, initially for sale in Mexico and South America, and eventually export to North America.

Could the next-generation of Mazda midsizers be hecho en Mexico as well? It’s possible, but we won’t know until Mazda announces more details about the new factory. Meanwhile, nobody’s expecting Mazda to hang around Flat Rock… least of all Ford.

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By on May 25, 2011

See that? Looks a bit like a first-generation Scion xB, doesn’t it? It’s actually a new Kia, codenamed “Tam,” built on its new A-segment Picanto Morning platform, but featuring first-gen xB-style tall-body MPV packaging. The Picanto’s wheelbase is actually slightly smaller than the xB’s, and there’s another key difference here as well: see that rear door? Look where the handle is placed. That’s right, it’s a slider! But that’s not all…

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By on May 25, 2011

When I visited GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant back in October, I was greeted with a few surprises. One was a small fire that flared briefly on my sweater after a cinder from the Volt’s body-welding station struck me. The other was the sight of GM’s latest, most high-tech green car being assembled on a line that was filled with GM’s oldest-school dinosaur cars, the Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne. The scene was no doubt intended to inspire appreciation for the changing face of GM, but the scarcity of Volts amid the oceans of giant front-drive barges (production was just beginning) made it clear that it would be a while before Volt production would occupy much of the sprawling facility. With the DTS and Lucerne headed for retirement, the new 2013 Malibu will be taking up residence at Detroit-Hamtramck later this year, even as Volt production capacity is increased to hit next year’s 60k unit goal. And now GM is announcing that the next generation of Chevy Impala will be built at Detroit-Hamtramck as well, leaving folks in Oshawa saying “eh?” (or words to that effect).

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By on May 23, 2011

Ford sold 8,834 Transit Connects in 2009, with sales of the small, Euro-style panel and passenger vans hitting 27,405 units last year. With 9,852 already sold in the first third of 2011, it seems the original German delivery van-slingers in the US market, Mercedes, are taking notice of the segment. The Dodge-branded Sprinter, a larger vehicle, saw peak sales of 21,961 back in 2006 has seen sales fall dramatically in recent years, and in 2010 Mercedes wrestled the vans back to its brand, only to sell a meager 8,599 (a nearly 1,500 unit improvement over Dodge’s last year with the product). In other words, the lesson of recent US-market Euro-style delivery vans seems to be that bigger (i.e. more direct competition with American BOF offerings) is not better.
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By on May 18, 2011

When Chrysler Group Design boss Ralph Gilles said yesterday that “nothing has changed from the Five Year Plan,” I failed to mention one of the issues that made his statement less than entirely accurate: the planned “mid-sized pickup” which was supposed to debut as a 2011 model. The planned unibody pickup was labeled as “under consideration” at the time, and since nobody has mentioned it since (and because Honda’s Ridgeline has been losing sales), most industry watchers seemed to think the idea was stillborn. Not so, reports wheels.ca. Citing insiders and suppliers briefed on the program, Wheels says the new truck will be built in Windsor, Ontario on Chrysler Group’s minivan platform as

an insurance policy that the plant will continue on three shifts at full capacity.

Which isn’t as thrilling a justification as, say, “the compact pickup market has been shamefully neglected for years, and rising gas prices and CAFE standards make well-developed, modern, fuel-efficient pickups a no-brainer,” but it will have to do. And since Chrysler is reportedly targeting only 15k-20k units per year, it’s not particularly surprising either. In honor of Chrysler’s return to front-drive, compact pickups, be sure to check out the Curbside Classic on its progenitor, the Dodge Rampage.

By on April 21, 2010

Given Ferrari’s pricing politics, it seems safe to assume that Ferrari/Maserati is a fairly profitable enterprise for its 85 percent owner, Fiat. Indeed, with over $2.5b in combined revenues last year and an 11.5 percent operating margin, the Italian sportscar brands aren’t exactly dying of economic downturn-related causes. But at today’s presentation of Fiat’s five year plan, CEO Sergio Marchionne revealed that his firm has big plans for Ferrari/Maserati, and gave unprecedented planning details as proof of the brands’ path towards even greater profitability.

(Read More…)

By on January 14, 2010

Just in time for Truck Thursday at TTAC comes this hot bit of scuttlebut from Jalopnik: Hyundai might be developing a “highly-capable off-roader.” El Jalop cornered Hyundai USA boss John Krafcik at the Detroit Auto Show and asked him what his development boffins were up to. Krafcik’s cryptic answer is the seed of today’s WAROTD:

“every time our designers get together and start looking at concepts and the future, the first thing that comes out of those meetings — what everyone gets excited about — is the prospect of a Bronco-like, highly-capable off-roader.” As a follow-up on that answer, I asked if he meant a Wrangler-fighter. He answered only by smiling and repeating himself — “highly-capable.”

More capable than a Tucson? Seriously though, it will be a dogs age before Chrysler has the cash to update its bloated JK-generation Wrangler, and Hyundai’s going in for the kill. Or not… Krafic words his answer pretty cagily. Besides, Hyundai hasn’t had an even semi-serious off-roader since it rebadged the Mitsu Pajero to create the Hyundai Galloper (above).

By on January 14, 2010

Remember what 4Runners used to be like?

We’re at a difficult phase in the global economy. Economists would have you believe that we’re out of recession and things are starting to look rosy. But just talk to someone like Peter Schiff and he’d have you believe that a second downturn is inevitable. It really is tough to say where the economy will go and it’s showing in the car market. USA Today reports that Toyota are looking at their 4Runner & FJ Cruiser models and wondering whether to build a new generation or not.

(Read More…)

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