By Lou Ann Hammond
If this is summer in Detroit, it must mean incentives. Chrysler Group CEO Tom LaSorda and Joe Eberhardt, Executive Vice President, Global Sales, Marketing, & Service, said Thursday at the Chrysler Proving Grounds that DaimlerChrysler (DCX) is once again looking at employee pricing as an incentive program to be launched around the first of July. DCX is trying to find a way to sell out their ’06 models before they bring out their ’07s in October.
According to Eberhardt, “We haven’t reached a final decision. We’ve enlisted feedback from dealers. We can’t do this without the dealer support, so we will talk to them and make the decision.” According to LaSorda, through all the incentives provided last year, DaimlerChrysler still made $1.9 Billion in net income.
Eberhardt acknowledged that the trucks and SUVs segment overall is fading, that the weekend warrior SUV segment is slowing, while the functional worker truck is still strong.Chrysler unveiled a refreshed Chrysler Pacifica and a completely redesigned Chrysler Sebring. DaimlerChrysler just unveiled the 2007 Chrysler Sebring which includes a 2.7-liter 6-cylinder flex-fuel vehicle. DCX has 1.5 million flex-fuel vehicles on the road and plans to bring out 200,000 more this year in 6cylinder and 8 cylinder versions.
LaSorda stated in a speech at the Renewables Fuel Association, right after President Bush’s speech, “In fact, a sensor that pioneered flex-fuel capability in cars was a Chrysler innovation. It was made available to customers in the methanol flex-fuel Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim models back in early 1992.
We were doing the right thing, but the timing was bad. Gas was cheap. The infrastructure wasn’t there, and neither was the car-buying public. There simply was no critical mass.
Since 1998, the Chrysler Group has provided to customers more than 1.5 million vehicles that run on E85 (a mix of 85 percent renewable ethanol and 15 percent gasoline), including: Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country minivans, Dodge Stratus, Chrysler Sebring cars, Dodge Durango SUVs, and Dodge Ram pickup trucks. That number represents about 10 percent of all vehicles we’ve sold since 1998 a greater percentage than any other auto company.
And today we’re announcing that in the 2007 model year we’ll put our popular Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Commander on our list of flex fuel vehicles for both fleet and retail sales. Theyll be the first
ethanol flex-fuel vehicles to be sold under the Jeep name. Our first-ever flex-fuel Dodge Dakota mid-size pickup will also join them.We plan to sell more than 250,000 ethanol flex-fuel vehicles in 2007. And we plan to nearly double that number to about one-half million in 2008, including both fleet and retail sales. That’s roughly 25 percent of our total production that we’re committed to making capable of running on ethanol blended fuels.
As reported, GM and Ford have signed up to bring another 1.3 million ethanol flex-fuel vehicles to the market in the same period along with the almost 4 million they have today combined. That makes for a total of over 8 million flex-fuel vehicles coming to this market by 2008.”
DCX has taken the Jeep Liberty diesel off the road. Once again, the diesel engine can’t meet the federal EPA standards of tier II, Bin5. Chrysler Group executive vice president, Frank Klegon provided an up-close and under the hood look at the 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel. The Grand Cherokee diesel is already available in Europe where diesel vehicles make up 50 percent of the market.
Klegon would like the standards for fuel emissions from diesel engines to be uniform between the United States and Europe. According to Klegon, “Right now Europe has Euro4 and the United States has tier II Bin10 which are different standards. In 2007 we will have Bin 8, then Bin 5 in 2009 which will reduce the NOX by 80 percent.”
Klegon sees hybrids and diesels buyers as two different markets, “the near term hybrid still costs more money. Diesel has a torque advantage and gets 25 percent more miles than a gasoline engine.”
In the same speech that LaSorda talked about ethanol, he talked about diesel;
“We’re also working to increase the “bio content” in diesel fuel. In our 2007 model year Dodge Ram Heavy-Duty diesel pickup, we stepped up and endorsed the use of B20 a 20 percent biodiesel mix for use by our military, government and commercial fleet customers.
We believe that allowing our fleet customers to use fuel made to the current military specification is helping to accelerate the development and adoption of B20 for general use.
And we’re working with industry partners to establish a national standard that would enable all diesel vehicle owners to use B20 fuel, no matter whose nameplate is on the vehicle. In support of this effort, we have teamed up with the Detroit-based nonprofit NextEnergy, the nation’s largest chain of biodiesel refiners, and industry-leading suppliers and local universities to conduct much needed research and field testing.We’ve also teamed up with the EPA, the State of Michigan and researchers from Michigan State University to put a former Superfund site back to productive use developing better biodiesel.
We’re doing this under the EPA’s “Return to Use Initiative.” We’ll explore different crops and cultivation systems in the search for more productive ways to produce this biofuel. And just to complete the package the crops may help us remediate the brownfield site. We expect our partners from Michigan State to put the seeds in the ground any day now. Better biofuel from an old Superfund site … how’s that for a neat idea?
“Clearly, biofuels offer enormous potential to our economy, country and environment.”
The 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a 3.0-liter common rail turbo diesel (CRD) engine will arrive at Jeep dealerships in the first quarter of 2007. The new 3.0-liter CRD engine, built by Mercedes-Benz, produces 215 hp (160 kW) @ 3800 rpm and 376 lb.-ft. torque (510 Nm) @ 1600-2800 rpm and gets an estimated fuel economy of 19 miles city and 23 miles highway. The 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD offers class-leading torque, outstanding towing capacity (7,400 lbs.), and class-leading driving range of approximately 425 miles. And, clean diesel technology improves fuel economy by up to 30 percent and has up to 20 percent fewer carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The 3.0-liter CRD engine will be available on the Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, Limited and Overland models. The Jeep will be available on in 45 states.
Klegon is concerned that the public still sees diesel as they remember it from yesterday, smelly and plumes of smoke. He notes that diesels in the United States will get a real kick when the diesel fuel becomes as clean as the diesel fuel in Europe. That will happen October 15, according to the EPA.
In the meantime, Chrysler is using the military’s requirement by the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC) that requires biodiesel blend components to reintroduce diesel into America. The military has developed specifications to avoid fuel quality problems and still meet it’s EPA alternative fuel requirement. The B20 Dodge Ram pickup is equipped with a Cummins diesel engine for military, government and commercial fleet customers only The military must agree with Chrysler because they are buying the Dodge Ram trucks that can take up to 20 percent bio-diesel.