Auto blogWed, 23 Jul 2014 08:30:00 EST
The public might associated ignition switch recalls with General Motors - and with good cause - but that's not the only automaker calling its vehicles back in to fix that sort of issue.
Last month we reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was investigating an array of Chrysler Group vehicles for electrical-related safety issues. The administration and Chrysler subsequently issued a recall for 700,000 Dodge Journey crossovers, Dodge Grand Caravan minivans and Chrysler Town & Country minivans. But while the Jeeps that were also under investigation were not covered in that recall, they are being addressed in a separate one now.
Although Chrysler reports that it is only aware of a single accident stemming from this issue, it is "committing now to conduct a recall out of an abundance of caution." The recall affects the 2006-2007 Jeep Commander and 2005-2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee, of which it reports there are 792,300 on the road: 649,900 in the United States, 28,800 in Canada, 12,800 in Mexico and a further 100,800 outside of North America.
When people look back at today's automotive industry, what do you think they'll remember us for? The emergence of hybrids? Ever more expensive and exotic supercars? The dawn of the self-driving car? All likely scenarios, but so is the blurring of lines between one bodystyle and another, giving rise to hardtop convertible coupes and crossovers of every shape and size. But one bodystyle the North American auto industry has stayed largely away from in the past couple of decades is a car nose and chassis with a pickup bed.
It's a bodystyle immortalized by the Chevrolet El Camino, but with few exceptions, we haven't seen too many of these automotive platypuses in recent years on our turf. Subaru tried with the Baja and the low-volume Honda Ridgeline soldiers along largely unchanged, but the genre's biggest adherents are still Down Under, where ute versions of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon live. With a few other examples scattered to the four corners of the earth, that's really about it. But if these spy shots are anything to go by, it looks like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could be working to bring it back.
Spied undergoing testing in Michigan, what we appear to be looking at is a heavily disguised Fiat Strada being prepared - like the Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster and the smaller Doblo-based ProMaster City - for Stateside duty as a Ram product. The Strada, for those unfamiliar, is a product of Fiat Automóveis in Brazil and is based on the Palio economy car. The nameplate has been around South America since 1996 and was originally designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro (long before Volkswagen monopolized his talents), and takes a more rugged approach in the form of the Strada Adventure.
Thanks to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), when car shoppers look at horsepower and torque figures on vehicles, they know that all the automakers are calculating them the same way. However, that isn't the case when it comes to truck buyers and max towing capacity ratings because each company figures the value differently. That practice finally changes with the SAE's standardized J2807 system, though, and Ram Truck is the first one to apply the new test procedure to its entire light- and heavy-duty pickup range.
All models of the Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 use the new, standardized rating for the 2015 model year, but buyers might not notice too much difference. According to the company, in 99 percent of cases the max towing weights are unchanged or even improve slightly from last year. That's a strong result compared to the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra that are seeing few increases but mostly decreases under the new testing procedure.
"For too long, an uneven playing field existed and towing capacities went unchecked. We're happy to be the only pickup truck manufacturer to align with the SAE J2807 towing standard across our pickup truck lineup," said Mike Cairns, director of Ram Truck engineering, in the company's announcement of the new specs.
You ever hear a story and start cringing before you hear the end because you know how it's going to turn out? That could very well have been the case with the story from a few weeks ago in West Valley City, Utah, where a 14-year-old kid stole his grandfather's Hyundai Veloster and took it for a joyride - through a park full of children. But instead it turned into a heart-warming tale of heroism and a community banding together to do what's right... and then some.
Bryson Rowley was that hero who identified the danger and, rather than sit idly by and watch the joyrider potentially run over a child, got into his truck and drove it into the menacing runaway hatchback. The collision caused some $7,500 to his 2008 Dodge Ram 2500, but instead of getting stuck with the bill - one which his insurance may very well have refused to pay since the crash was, technically speaking, intentional - his community pitched in a helping hand.
Bryan Ellison, who owns West Valley Carstar with his brother, saw the news on television and wanted to help. So he brought Rowley a rental car, picked up his truck and brought it back to his auto repair shop. People from around the community donated parts, and when all was said and done, some $15,000 of work and upgrades were performed on the Ram that was returned to an overwhelmed Bryson Rowley better than new. Watch the video below for the full story.
There are a few segments of the auto industry that are growing rapidly. Weirdly, though, one of the most notable is the compact cargo van market. What use to be the sole terrain of the Ford Transit Connect and the occasional Dodge Grand Caravan-based Ram C/V Tradesman is becoming a notable battleground. Nissan has dove headfirst into the market with its NV200, which will also be sold as a Chevrolet City Express and Ford recently released a heavily redesigned, more user friendly Transit Connect. Now, Ram is releasing its entry into the compact cargo segment.
Like the Transit Connect and NV, the all-new Ram ProMaster City is billed as a diet version of the full-sized workhorse van, the ProMaster. Also like its big brother, the 2015 ProMaster City is based off a commercial offering from Fiat Professional, the Doblò (the full-size ProMaster is based on the Fiat Ducato).
But while the ProMaster gets a pair of six-cylinder engines and a wide array of wheelbase and roof heights, the ProMaster City is simpler. The sole engine choice is the familiar 2.4-liter, Tigershark four-cylinder that's found in the vehicles Fiat Chrysler's compact-wide platform, such as the Chrysler 200, Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee. Power output sits at 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. According to Ram, the ProMaster City boasts class-leading output and can sprint to 60 in 9.8 seconds. Perhaps knowing that's a ridiculous stat in a cargo van, Ram also cites a more useful 3.7-second run from zero to 30 miles per hour. The Tigershark sends its power through a nine-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels.
Ram may be preparing a new sort of tailgate that could rethink the way we access the bed of the company's pickup trucks. Rather than the typical fold-down tailgate that we know so well, patent drawings show a tailgate that combines the functionality of a traditional fold-down design with a 50/50 split that can, individually, be opened like a barn-door design or dropped flat like a standard tailgate.
Now, Ram is far from the first to toy around with something like this. The most obvious example is the Honda Ridgeline, which features a single-piece tailgate that is double-hinged so that it can open traditionally or be swung out to the side. The big news here is the split and the fact that each half can be used independently of the other. Unlike the Honda, the individual halves would be operated via touchpads.
The implications of this new design aren't entirely clear right now. It seems possible that the rendering could just be for a concept vehicle, but production is certainly possible as well - Ram has shown a real willingness to innovate in the pickup segment as of late, with features like coil-spring rear suspensions, light-duty diesels and the Ram Box bedside storage system.
Chrysler is issuing recalls covering roughly 31,700 vehicles worldwide due to two separate problems. In both cases the company believes that most of the affected vehicles are either still on, or in transit to, dealer lots.
One recall covers roughly 10,700 Dodge Durango, Jeep Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SRT models from the 2014 model year built between January 16 and April 17, 2014. The SUVs need a software update for the cruise control. It's possible that when the cruise is on and the driver presses on the throttle, the acceleration could last a second after the pedal is released or two seconds for the SRT. Afterward, they return to the speed originally set by the driver.
Chrysler says it isn't aware of any accidents, injuries or even reported incidents of this happening in the real world. Also, in all cases, if the driver presses on the brake, the cruise shuts off. The automaker believes that there are about 6,100 affected SUVs in the US, 950 in Canada, 425 in Mexico and 3,200 outside of North America. The software upgrade will be ready shortly, the company says.
Here is a story that should make you feel a little better about modern society. Bryson Rowley, the concerned man in Utah who put himself in danger to stop an out-of-control, joyriding teen, is getting his damaged pickup fixed free of charge.
It all occurred after a kid stole his grandfather's Hyundai Veloster. As part of a police chase, he went speeding through a park where children were playing and into a neighborhood. When it appeared that the pursuit was returning to the park, Rowley got into his Ram and drove into the little, white coupe instantly stopping it. However, after the collision, his truck needed a new front bumper.
People in the community have banded together to make sure that Rowley didn't have to pay for any repairs, according to Car Throttle. A company called Fusion Bumpers even shipped out a replacement to him. It's nice to see that people putting out a helping hand to repair the damage to his truck.
During the Fiat-Chrysler briefings on Tuesday, Reid Bigland, head of Ram Trucks, outlined the new product plans for his brand, including confirmation that an all-new light-duty Ram 1500 will launch in 2017. From there, discussions spun off in two directions, with the main questions being: will Ram build a midsize pickup? And, following Ford's move to extensively use aluminum in its new 2015 F-150, will Chrysler be using this weight-saving material for the next round of its fullsize truck, as well?
"I think there is room for a Ram 1000," Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne (pictured above) told members of the media, saying this is a conversation the automaker has been having internally for several years now. "We've tried this ... we've actually taken it to clinics," Marchionne stated, adding that the "response has been lukewarm."
"I have better use of aluminum in this house than a pickup truck." - Sergio Marchionne
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you've no doubt read about all of the big future product news coming out of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles today. We had individual brand reports from Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Maserati and even Ferrari, but in the interest of simplifying and summarizing, we're going to list out the hard facts once more. Of course, with all of this still off in the future, there's still the possibility that a few changes will be made. But as of what we know right now, here's what's coming, and what's going away.
2014: Refreshed 300/300C, debuting at Los Angeles Auto Show