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Pressed for Better Mileage, Chrysler Turning to Diesels


Chrysler LLC will put a smaller diesel engine into the new Dodge Ram that will debut this fall. Deborah Morrissett, Chrysler vice president for regulatory affairs, said the automaker expects to have a pair of diesel engines to offer in the new 2009 Dodge Ram. The diesel would include the traditional heavy-duty diesel from Cummins that Dodge dealers have sold with great success over the years and a smaller, lighter-weight diesel from Daimler AG that is now available only in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Chrysler believes diesels will prove to be a good choice for a lot of American consumers, added Morrissett, speaking after an appearance at a meeting of Automotive Press Association in Detroit. She also acknowledged Chrysler is under heavy pressure to improve its fuel economy numbers right now. The federal standards imposed by Congress are very tough, she said.

Meanwhile, Cerberus Capital Management is still struggling to both trim costs and to find a way to provide Chrysler with enough money to finance new vehicles. Only last week, Chrysler ordered a mandatory two-week summer shutdown that will require all employees to use vacation days at the same time. Chrysler officials declined to say how much the move would save Chrysler, but Ford and GM had mandatory mid-summer shutdowns for several years. Chrysler also sold off its interest in a Brazilian engine plant to Fiat last week and the week before had announced the shut down of its Pacifica Design Studio in Carlsbad, Calif. Pacifica will shut by the end of the summer.

Chrysler's plans for "re-aligning" its product portfolio, however, are still something of a work in progress. Chrysler will remain in the truck and minivan business, the two segments in which it matches up neatly with potential European partners such as Nissan or Volkswagen. However, after that things get a little fuzzy for Chrysler executives, looking for ways to right-size the company and its product line to fit its current market share in the U.S., which is now hovering just below 13 percent.

A lot of analysts had predicted recently that the Dodge Viper would be dropped. But Chrysler chief executive Robert Nardelli confounded those outside observers by showing up at the Conner Avenue plant in Detroit, offering fulsome praise for the Viper and its legacy.

Nardelli visited the Conner plant to present NASCAR driver Kurt Busch the keys to the 25,000th Viper to roll off the plant's assembly line. "Reaching this milestone is quite an achievement considering the Dodge Viper SRT10 is a hand-built performance vehicle," said Nardelli. "This unique manufacturing facility has allowed us to produce a true American legend," he added. At first glance, Nardelli's appearance might seem meaningless but in the age of digital media, it is also the kind of snippet that can wind up taking on a life of its own on the Internet should Cerberus ever decide the Viper needs to die to save a few dollars. By Joseph Szczesny
 
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Comments (10)
  1. While diesel fuel may be cheaper than gasoline in some places, here in the Mid Atlantic it is $0.75 to $ 0.94 higher per gallon than gasoline. This extra cost more than offsets the MPG gain and renders a diesel engined car less than cost efficient.
     
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  2. Makes perfect sense. Long overdue. All large Trucks and SUVs should have diesels as their STANDARD, BASE engine. Diesels are IDEALLY suited for such vehicles.

    In Europe, $5 and now $8 gas has even put Diesels in every other vehicle, including the tiniest of cars, which do not need the massive torque and towing ability that the Diesel provides. But they do need the excellent fuel efficiency.

    That is why, despite the $8 gas prices there now, hybrids were and still are looked down there, Mercedes and BMW Engineers know they are expensive frauds for the most part.

    Most hybrid makers lose a ton of $ per hybrid they make, even the newest Tahoe Hybrid (to almost $10,000 per hybrid Tahoe built). But they do it, as Bob Lutz admitted, for PR. $100 million is nothing compared to their annual ad budgets.
     
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  3. Diesel now is far more expensive than gas all over the US, but will not remain so for ever, and the HUGE (25-50%) benefits of the Diesel in MPG will FAR outweigh the price difference.

    Some Vehicles, such as the Huge Ford Excursion SUV, were getting 9-10 MPG actual MPG with the gas engine, and almost DOUBLE that (19+ MPG) with the Diesel in long term MOTORWEEK Tests.

    Given the excursions 44 gallon tank, that also translates in a 750+ Mile RANGE with the diesel, vs a mere 400 with gas.
     
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  4. I am assuming that the Daimler diesel offered in the 2009 models are a "stop-gap" measure, since they will be replaced by the new Cummins V6 and V8 engines in the 2010s.
     
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  5. A buddy of mine works for Caterpillar as an engineer in the diesel engine and emissions division. Without providing numbers and specifics, he swears by diesel as the best alternative to gasoline powered engines in automobiles. He claims that diesels are becoming much cleaner, quieter, more efficient, and more powerful engines as diesel technology advances. He has not bought into the hybrid technologies, plug-in technologies, or hydrogen technologies. Much much more expensive to produce and how much are we gaining as far as fuel economy. Emissions might be a plus for electric or hydrogen alternatives, if you don't factor in the energy used and emitted to produce these technologies. One example he questions is..... where do all the used up batteries from hybrids go once the batteries die. And if hybrid becomes the mainstream alternative to gasoline powered autos, what will our landfills look like and how will they be able to handle all the used up batteries??
    Also... diesel fuel used to be cheaper than gasoline. I'm sure there is a cycle in play. Diesel will come down once again. The more people that use diesel, the cheaper it will become. Maybe?
     
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  6. "Also… diesel fuel used to be cheaper than gasoline. I’m sure there is a cycle in play. Diesel will come down once again. The more people that use diesel, the cheaper it will become. Maybe? "

    Mark--

    You obviously failed Economics 101.
    When demand for a product of which there is a finite supply goes up, prices don't come down - they go up.
     
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  7. "Mark Says:
    March 18th, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    A buddy of mine works for Caterpillar as an engineer in the diesel engine and emissions division. Without providing numbers and specifics, he swears by diesel as the best alternative to gasoline powered engines in automobiles"

    He's right.

    Also, recently Mercedes introduced the DiesOtto, a revolutionary combination of both Gas and diesel engine concepts, with excellent MPGs and HP from tiny displacements.
     
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  8. In 2005 I had a V6 gas Mercedes that averged 22 MPG. In 2006 I traded for a diesel of the same size that averages 35MPG. Well over 50% increase! Still the best deal.
     
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  9. Can't wait! My son is dumping his "cracked Camshaft" 08 Tundra and need a reliable truck.
     
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  10. The need for power in ehavy vehicles will drive the diesel into most trucks used for work and serious play, however, given the EPA clean air requirements, the fuel economy, price per gallon for diesel fuel and cost of the engine may be a tough sell for many consumers. We still need a reliable alternative to fossil fuels and our dependence on foreign goverment oil that renders our economic situation a political football in a global society. MYCARLADY.com
     
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