In early November, Chrysler executives presented the framework for the company's plans over the next five years. Fiat's ownership will definitely make its mark in several vehicle categories, though our favorite 4x4s may be spared much Fiat-ization. Here are the highlights:
•The Jeep product timeline shows the Wrangler undergoing some freshening for 2010 and a "major modification" for 2011 to coincide with Jeep's 70th anniversary. That modification may well be the addition of a diesel engine with stop/start technology.
•The revised '11 Grand Cherokee is scheduled to debut in May. In the Jeep timeline, neither the Grand nor the Wrangler showed any crossover with Fiat products between now and the '14 model year.
•That's not the case with the smaller Jeeps. Patriot and Compass will be made until the '12 model year, when they will be replaced by a single, Fiat-sourced small SUV. The '13 Liberty will also be Fiat-based, and there are plans for a fourth SUV, smaller than Patriot/Compass, for that model year as well.
•Envi, Chrysler's engineering division for the development of electric vehicles, has been disbanded, ending plans for an electric Jeep.
•The Ram brand will further differentiate itself from the Dodge car brand to focus on truck and commercial customers. Ram trucks will still be sold at Dodge dealerships.
•All three Ram fullsize pickup platforms-1500, heavy-duty, and chassis-cab-are due for a redesign in the '12 model year.
•The Dakota midsize pickup will be discontinued in 2011. A unibody midsize truck is "under consideration" to replace the Dakota.
•The Ram brand will grow to include Fiat-based small and large commercial vans in 2012 and may eventually include heavy-duty-as in 18-wheeler-trucks as well.
•Fiat engineering will have a significant effect on powertrain development in the next five years. That influence, though, will be felt mostly on the car side with the introduction of fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines. Hemis are still in the product mix; in fact, it looks like the 6.1L Hemi may grow to 6.4L after the '10 model year.
•All V-6 engines, from 2.7L to 4.0L, will be replaced by the new Pentastar V-6 engine family. The first Pentastar engine, in the '11 Grand Cherokee, makes 280 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque from 3.6L.
•According to Chrysler CEO Robert Kidder, Chrysler's top priority "is to invest to create a compelling brand and product offering." Said Kidder, "There is no 'business as usual' at Chrysler. There is incredible commitment to and energy for change."
'New' Defender 90s These photos show the kind of workmanship West Coast British Racing (WCBR) in Northern California puts into its Defender 90 Project. WCBR will restore and modify the popular Defender 90s to "give them a new lease on life" with new WCBR/Rover 4.6L V-8s, Old Man Emu suspension pieces, and a stem-to-stern stripping and repainting.
You can bring your 90 to WCBR for the work, or the company can find one to restore for you. The company says the refurbish will take about six months and cost about the same as a new LR3. For more info, visit www.offroadexperience.com/wcb.
This Just In •Toyota's truck lineup could be changing. Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda is reviewing his company's business plan for the U.S.-including its full-frame truck products-in the wake of a year that saw the automaker swing from its largest profits to its deepest losses. Through September 2009, Toyota's sales were off 28 percent, worse than the auto market overall. According to Automotive News, Toyota's trucks are potential targets because of the shrinking market for large vehicles and Toyota's desire to produce more hybrids.
•The Associated Press has reviewed sales data from the recent Cash for Clunkers program and found that many of the trade-ins involved owners swapping an old pickup for a newer pickup, not some gas-sipping hybrid. Though the government reported big gains in fuel economy as a result of the program-the clunker fleet's average mpg was 15.8 versus 24.9 for the new vehicles sold-the AP turned up some $562,500 in rebates handed out for sales of vehicles that got the same, or worse, mileage than the clunker being traded in.