DC Awaits First Global Fours

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By next fall, the Chrysler Group plans to harvest the first small engines that will power its vehicles well into the 21st century from the Global Engineering Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA), the three-way partnership between DaimlerChrysler, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi.

Eric Ridenour, executive vice president product development, Chrysler Group, said the new engines from GEMA should be ready by next September and will come from the factory with premium and significant improvements in fuel efficiency.

Bruce Coventry, GEMA president, said Chrysler stands to reduce the cost of building small engines by as much as $100 million annually once the two plants in Dundee, Michigan, reach full production in late 2006 or early 2007.

Terry Gutermuth, the Chrysler Group’s director of powertrain engineering, said that the global engine project is the largest engine program in the history of the auto industry. The program will eventually be able to build 1.8 million engines annually in five plants, including the pair in Dundee and a pair in South Korea and another in Japan.

A dozen for Chrysler

The engines built at GEMA’s new plant in Michigan, in the farm country southwest of Detroit, eventually will propel as many as a dozen different models, from light trucks and sport-utility vehicles to the new small cars that Chrysler will begin rolling out in 2006.

In addition to the improvements in fuel economy, the new engines have been tested extensively by all three partners. The broad testing ensured both the overall quality and the durability of the new engines. Hyundai is already using a limited number of one variant of the new engine in its new Sonata.

The contributions from three companies enhanced the entire program, he said. “Our engineers leveraged the cost savings of the GEMA program to give customers the valuable benefits they desire with these premium technologies,” said Ridenour.

The importance each of three partners placed in the new program can be deduced from the fact it remained intact despite a broad upheaval in the relations between the three partners. DaimlerChrysler AG has sold off its ten-percent stake in Hyundai and pulled back from is support of Mitsubishi, the ailing Japanese carmaker.

The upheaval has reordered GEMA’s priorities, Coventry admitted during a briefing for reporters in Auburn Hills. It’s not clear if either Hyundai or Mitsubishi will eventually use engines built at Dundee even though they collaborated on their development. Mitsubishi’s plans for the engine probably will depend on the revisions in its future product plans, he said.

Meanwhile, Ridenour stressed the Chrysler version of the engine has specifically designed to fit the needs of the group’s diverse product line. The new engines, all of which feature die-cast aluminum blocks, will come in 1.8-liter, 2.0-liter, and 2.4-liter displacements.

The 2.4-liter version, which is expected to account for two-thirds of the engines Chrysler will use, will produce 170 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque, Chrysler officials said. All three versions also come with variable valve timing and a balance shaft with an integrated oil pump, as well as an oil pan made from sound-deadening material to help make the engine run more quietly.

Ridenour also said the GEMA engine is capable of being used with the new hybrid propulsion system that Chrysler announced last week. Chrysler plans to develop the hybrid system jointly with General Motors Corp.

Ridenour also confirmed the GEMA engine could be turbocharged in the future to give it even more punch, though he declined to confirm Chrysler was planning to roll out a turbocharged system. “We have some other fun things planned,” Ridenour said. “That’s about all I’m going to say.”

The new engines also are designed to meet the ultra-clean emissions standards and meet high standards for minimal noise, vibration, and harshness now required in the next generation of Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge vehicles, Ridenour said.

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