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Daily Edition: Feb. 6, 2006


Chicago Show Debuts Include Ralliart

2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart

2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart

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The Chicago Auto Show begins next week for the media and the public. And among the introductions you'll see here next week on TheCarConnection are a handful of trucks, including the critical new Toyota Tundra and the updated Chevrolet Avalanche we showed you last week. Coming too to Chicago are the new Lexus ES330, the Hyundai Entourage minivan and Accent three-door hatch, a pair of Dodge trucks we'll tell you more about early next week, and this Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart, details of which we'll bring you in next week's coverage of the show. The media days begin Feb. 8 - stay tuned for all the Chicago introductions here at TCC.

2006 Chicago Auto Show Preview (2/5/2006)
Tundra, Avalanche, Entourage, Nitro - and more trucks?

Dodge Nitro Blows into Chicago

2007 Dodge Nitro

2007 Dodge Nitro

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This week's Chicago auto show will host the production-version launch of the 2007 Dodge Nitro sport-ute. Based on the Jeep Liberty platform, the Nitro gets full-size options for its mid-size ute body, including a choice of V-6 engines, 20-inch wheels and sport suspension. Available in three models-base, SLT and R/T-the Nitro comes standard with a 3.7-liter V-6 with 210 hp. The performance R/T edition gets a new 4.0-liter V-6 with 255 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. And standard on the R/T, optional on the SLT, is a suspension-and-wheels package with 20-inch rims and more tightly tuned ride motions. The standard gearbox on base vehicles is a six-speed manual, while a four-speed automatic is an option; the SLT gets the four-speed standard, while the R/T gets a standard five-speed automatic. Four-wheel drive is offered on all models. A new Load 'N Go floor slides 18 inches to and fro for easier loading of the cargo area and it's capable of holding up to 400 pounds (or three Eva Longorias and some change, if you must). ABS, ESP, and side curtain airbags are standard, while a navigation system, CD changer, DVD entertainment system and Sirius are options.

IIHS: SUV Changes Have Dropped Deaths

Changes in the ride heights of sport-utility vehicles have cut the number of deaths in car-SUV crashes, a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) said on Friday. The study, cited by the New York Times, says the number of deaths in cars involved in side-impact crashes with SUVs fell by almost 50 percent after automakers began to reduce ride heights and install blocker beams on the front ends of sport-utes that better match up with the bumper systems on passenger cars. The changes are the result of an agreement in 2003 between automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to mitigate the effects of car-SUV crashes. The reduction in deaths with frontal crashes between cars and SUVs was less - 18 to 21 percent fewer deaths would be reported, the IIHS estimates. The study cited data from 2001 to 2004, covering 2000-2003 models, some built prior to and some reflecting the design changes.

Supplier Shutdown Threatens Jeep Wrangler

1999 Ford Libre

1999 Ford Libre

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The unexpected collapse of Haden Prism LLC threatens to set back the roll-out of the 2007 Jeep Wrangler. Haden was one of three suppliers partnering with the Chrysler Group to jointly build and operate the automaker's new plant in Toledo, Ohio. Haden was in charge of the paint shop, while Hyundai Mobis will handle chassis operations, and Kuka will run the body shop. With pilot production set to begin on February 23rd, all seemed fine until Haden's 60 employees reported for work last Friday. They were ordered out of the paint shop, which was then padlocked by sheriff's deputies. While at least two dozen U.S. auto suppliers have been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Haden declared under Chapter Seven, which immediately shut down all of its operations. Chrysler spokesman Jason Vines insisted "the impact is basically zero," since the automaker reserved the right to take over the paint shop in the event of just such an emergency. But it may still take a week or more for Chrysler's lawyers to untangle the legal issues. Eventually, the automaker hopes to find another supplier to step in for Haden, and is reportedly already talking to Durr Industries. The German firm lost out to Haden during the original bidding.

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