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With the recent launch of several big and powerful SRT models, including the Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee, high-performance boss Ralph Gilles is now looking down-market.
In an interview with Automobile Magazine the new head of the SRT division and an avid car-nut, Gilles admitted that while he loved the Dodge Neon SRT4, when it came to the Caliber version, perhaps the brand “over reached.”
However, “I’m a big believer in high-horsepower, small displacement cars,” he admits, “so I’d love to do another.”
Interest alone won’t get a car built though, but having the right tools at your disposal will. “We have some great [small car] platforms finally,” said Gilles, referring to the upcoming Caliber replacement which is expected to debut at the Detroit Auto Show next January.
When pushed further Gilles commented that a high-performance compact car is being investigated. “I definitely think we need an entry-level performance vehicle at some point,” he said.
With the Caliber’s replacement not due until early 2012, look for an SRT version to bow, at the earliest, a year after that.
It looks as though Chrysler may resurrect the Dodge Magnum. The station wagon was one of several vehicles that got axed during the dark days of Chrysler’s bankruptcy and reorganization in 2008 and 2009.
“That vehicle was single-handedly killed by one executive who is no longer with the company. He’s retired. A lot of people in the company still like that vehicle — a lot,” said Ralph Gilles, the Chrysler design chief who helped style the Magnum. “A lot of things that weren’t possible back then, now are.”
Mr. Gilles also sees the potential for the new Dodge Viper as a likely choice for an SRT version. “Also, we know we need an entry-level vehicle of some kind.”
“With the Magnum, we owned the station wagon segment,” Mr. Gilles said. “It was always a pleasure to go to car shows and trade fairs and see the number of Magnums that owners had personalized with such obvious loving care.” When asked if a sketch for a next-generation Magnum might be found in one of his sketch pad, Mr. Gilles just smile. “Stay tuned,” he said. “Great things are coming. That’s all I can say.”
Chrysler has announced that Ralph Gilles will now serve as the President and CEO of the SRT division, also referred to as the Chysler Street and Racing Technology brand. SRT is responisble for building Chryslers high performance vehicles.
SRT has always been part of the Chrysler brand, however the american automaker will for the first time treat the performance division as a distinct brand. This will allow the SRT division to put the company’s projects (which have appeared as Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge models) under a common umbrella.
Other personell changes also include Fred Diaz being appointed President and CEO of Chrysler de Mexico. Reid Bigland has also been appointed as President and CEO of the Dodge car brand and head of U.S sales however, Bigland will remain President and CEO of Chrysler Canada.
David Buckinham will now act as Chief Operating Officer of Chrysler Canada, and Joe ChamaSrour will now fit within International Operations for the automaker.
Even Eminem can’t make the rebadged Chrysler Sebring cool, and that means the brand is sorely lacking in the mid-size (D-segment) category. Worse still, with rising gas prices and increased interest in small cars, the automaker literally has nothing on offer in the compact (C-segment) or sub-compact (B-segment) classes. And if recent reports are correct, Chrysler isn’t getting anything either.
While Sergio Marchionne indicated in his infamous six-hour press conference back in November of 2009 that such models were on their way, Chrysler brand president Olivier Francois recently commented to Car & Driver that a B-Segment car designed to compete with cars like the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta was no longer in the plan. This news meshes with our own discussion with Dodge boss Ralf Gilles at the Chicago Auto Show, who commented that the Dodge brand wouldn’t get sub-compact, instead leaving that category to Fiat.
Gilles instead said the brand’s next focus would be on the compact category, building a car to rival the Honda Civic and newcomers like the Hyundai Elantra and Chevy Cruze. That car will not be branded as a Chrysler, as Francois has indicated it would only be offered as either a Dodge or Chrysler, and Dodge seems to have won out.
With both Chevrolet and Ford now offering serious rivals to cars like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, a competitive C-segment Dodge is a next major step for the brand says CEO Ralf Gilles.
The slow-selling Caliber is rumored to be retired next year, and Dodge is preparing a new compact car based on a Fiat-derived platform said Gilles in a sit-down interview at the Chicago Auto Show. As a Dodge, it will get a unique body and interior and it will get tuning by Dodge engineers to better suit the needs of American consumers.
Gilles, it should be noted, was on hand to help showcase Dodge’s tuning prowesse in Chicago with the reveal of five sporty R/T models, including the Grand Caravan R/T and Journey R/T, which are designed to appeal to a certain type of buyer, but to also show that Dodge can make some rather pedestrian vehicles fun. “You’d be astonished what these cars can do when peoprely tuned,” says Gilles.
No details about powertrains are available, but the car is said to be targeting 40-mpg – something it will have to achieve in order for it to be competitive.
When asked the increasingly popular sub-compact segment, Gilles, somewhat surprisingly, answered that Dodge has no plans to compete at that low end of the market where both Ford and Chevy have just introduced new models, the Fiesta and Spark. Along with the new focus on compacts, the reasoning likely has a lot to do with not stepping on Fiat’s toes as it begins to sell the tiny 500 here in North America.
“We’re really going to concentrate on a solid rival to anything from the Honda Civic to Ford Focus,” says Gilles.
According to Ralph Gilles, Chrysler Group design chief, the next generation Dodge Viper will be drop dead gorgeous – the car’s look being inspired by “a naked woman on a beach,” he declared at a recent Detroit press conference.
However, the new car, to be launched next year as a 2013 model, will have a different mission than its predecessors. Rather than being a brutish, all-out muscle type sports car, relying on cubic inches and brawn to get the job done, it will be conceived to go head to head with the likes of the Corvette and Porsche 911, with features designed to woo drivers away from those iconic machines.
That will probably also mean targeting younger buyers. According to Rebecca Lindland, an auto industry analyst with IHS, “Dodge needs to do more to make the Viper an aspiration to consumers and the redesign gives them a chance to “make it a renaissance of that vehicle. There are not a lot of younger people, and by younger I mean under 45, who [currently] aspire to own a Corvette or a Viper.”
Perhaps, but given the Fiat influence, now might be the perfect opportunity for Chrysler [and Dodge division] to really knock one out of the park and deliver a car with broader appeal, yet one that doesn’t sacrifice its core raison d’etre.
Although Gilles didn’t give any specifics regarding the 2013 Viper, he recently instructed his design staff to take a ‘breather’ after styling 16 vehicles since 2009. The reason? A chance for them to get creative again, on cars like the upcoming Viper.
“We’ve been working so quickly and so fast that we’re not innovating like we used to,” he said.
He also mentioned that the new Viper won’t use Fiat engines and although it will be profitable; “sales volume isn’t important.” Chrysler expects to sell most new Vipers in North America, with just trickle likely headed for overseas markets, including Europe.
[Source: Automotive News]
At this year’s SEMA Show, Dodge boss Ralph Gilles hinted that he’s looking to bring back the Cuda, a car that just came another step closer to production with Chrysler having just registered the name.
Combined with the fact that the muscle car wars have been heating up for several years now, the introduction of the Barracuda (easily one of the most iconic names in the auto industry) is a certainty. What isn’t clear are the details, especially considering the Cuda was a Plymouth product – and Chrysler killed-off the Plymouth brand in 2001.
The car will most certainly be based on the Dodge Challenger underpinnings, and we sincerely hope that like the historic cars it will be slightly smaller overall – as doubtful as that may be.
Thanks to leaked documents from the recent Chrysler dealer meeting we have the official output numbers for the 2011 Dodge Challenger. Of note are the base-model V6 and top dog SRT8 with big power increases.
On the V6 side, the Challenger gets Chrysler’s new 3.6-liter Pentastar motor with 305-hp and 268 ft-lbs of torque – an increase of 50-hp and 18 ft-lbs.
The mid-range 5.7-liter HEMI V8 gets a slight bump of 7-hp and 10 ft-lbs for totals of 379-hp and 410 ft-lbs.
As for the SRT8, well, it gets a larger 6.4-liter V8 that Dodge has targeted against the Shelby GT500 – which seems like a long shot. The new HEMI is rated at 475-hp and 460 ft-lbs, an increase of 50-hp and 40 ft-lbs.
That’s way off the Shelby’s 550-hp number, but there’s a real chance this engine is underrated as Dodge brand CEO Ralph Gilles reportedly told dealers the car would hit 60-mph in under 4 seconds – a reduction of as much as a second compared to the current SRT8.
GALLERY: 2011 Dodge Challenger Brochure
The biggest news out of Chrysler this week wasn’t Sergio Marchionne’s plan for an IPO in 2011, but the secret showing of a next generation Dodge Viper. Unveiled at the first Chrysler dealer meeting in three years, Chrysler made sure the press didn’t get a look at its new supercar. But according to one observer, the vehicle shown bears a resemblance to the stunningly beautiful Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione – a rare Alfa that shares its platform with the Maserati Gran Turismo and Ferrari California. With swoopy Italian lines, the car does, however, retain the aggressive Viper front fascia.
According to AutoWeek, Marchionne is motivated to bring back the Viper through pure enthusiasm for the car, with little thought to the financial situation. According to their source, he told dealers that, “There are times when you are given the opportunity to give life to something which is so beautiful and unique, so just and equitable, that you pay a lot less attention to the numbers, to the financial reality that surrounds it. They happen only rarely. In my case, three times in more than 15 years as chief executive.”
Marchionne went on to comment that he repeatedly spoke with Dodge CEO Ralf Gilles but could never make a financial case for the Viper. Then, one day, he was shown the prototype and it look “less than five minutes” for those in charge of making the product planning decisions to give it the green light.
Set to hit dealers in 2012, we should see a new Viper as early as next year. There’s still no official word on the powerplant, but it’s expected a direct-injection version of the 8.4-liter V10 will be offered with close to 700-hp, while a V8 is rumored to be under consideration.
Dodge head honcho Ralph Gilles took a brand new Viper ACR-X around Virginia International Raceway not long ago, and decided to film his exploits.
With Powertrain Communications Manager Nick Cappa as his passenger/videographer, Gilles managed to hit a peak speed of 165 mph and turn a 1 minute, 35 second lap time. The ACR-X sheds 160 pounds and gains 40 horsepower over the “normal” ACR (for a total of 640 horsepower), making it one seriously quick machine.
With Ford recently drawing back the curtain on its NASCAR Mustang for this weekend’s Nationwide Series race, Dodge has followed suit with one seriously retro-looking racer. In addition to the Penske Racing car, Dodge will host over 100 Challenger owners, put on a rock concert and provide plenty of other activities at its display area outside Turn 4 at Daytona International Speedway.
“Our new Dodge Challenger race car brings true brand identity back to NASCAR, so now the spotlight is going to be shared between the new car and our two star drivers from Penske Racing,” said Dodge Brand President Ralph Gilles. “We’ve been looking forward to this race weekend for quite some time, and our loyal owners and fans are going to have a lot of opportunities to celebrate the return of the Dodge Challenger.”
At Daytona fans will have a chance to win a new Challenger R/T as well as an SRT Track Experience, plus they can get signed autographs from Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish Jr. and Justin Allgaier.
GALLERY: Dodge Challenger NASCAR Racer
Get all the info on Dodge’s activities this weekend after the jump:
Could turbocharged 1750cc Fiat motor be the new SRT?
The upcoming Alfa Romeo Giulietta, set to debut at the Geneva Auto Show next month, will likely underpin the next generation Dodge Caliber and Chrysler PT Cruiser. According to a report by Automotive News, Fiat (Alfa’s parent company) is looking to sell one million vehicles based of the Giulietta platform, 700,000 of which it intends to move in the U.S. as Chrysler company products.
The Giulietta will have to be made larger for the North American market and Alfa is reportedly working on a widened version called “Compact Wide,” which will not only underpin the Caliber and PT Cruiser, but five other Chrysler brand products. Both front drive and AWD versions of the platform can be had and yes, that does mean a Jeep version is included in Chrysler’s Fiat’s plans.
Above we have an early design sketch of what an Alfa Romeo Giulietta-based Dodge Caliber would look like, provided by Dodge Brand CEO Ralph Gilles. A gallery of Giulietta images can be found below, including one image of a 1750cc turbocharged Fiat engine, with 200-hp and 236 ft-lbs of torque, which could likely be tweaked further for an SRT4 version. The 2012 Dodge Caliber, at least in base trim, is likely to get the company’s revised 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 190-hp and 175 ft-lbs of torque.
GALLERY: Alfa Romeo Giulietta
During a speech to the Chicago Economic Club during the Chicago Auto Show earlier this week, Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles confirmed that the Fiat 500 will be on sale in the U.S. before the end of the year. While Fiat is planning to sell many of its models rebadged as Chrysler and Dodge products, the tiny 500 model will be responsible for leading the Fiat brand’s charge back into the U.S. market.
Chrysler will produce the car in Mexico, where it expects to build from 100,000 to 130,000 units for sale in North and South America. Fiat believes that while the car’s tiny size (essentially making it only suitable for two) is diminutive, considering the success MINI has had, the 500 still has a shot in the U.S. market.
When it arrives in the U.S., the 500 will be powered by Fiat’s 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 100-hp and 95 ft-lbs of torque. That certainly isn’t much, but then the 500 doesn’t weigh much either. We’re just awaiting word on the 170-hp Abarth version, a model that would compete with MINI’s Cooper S.
Dodge has officially unveiled its 2010 Challenger NASCAR racer (at least from one angle) with an announcement that it will field a two car team in next year’s Nationwide Series, run by Penske Racing.
“As the performance brand of our new company, we are excited to expand our relationship with Penske Racing and introduce the iconic Dodge Challenger as our entry into the NASCAR Nationwide Series,” said Dodge Car Brand CEO Ralph Gilles. “Motorsports are a significant part of the Dodge brand’s legacy. Penske Racing has such a rich tradition in motorsports, and our partnership in the Nationwide Series will provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the Challenger and offer our loyal Dodge enthusiasts plenty of excitement in this very competitive series next year.”
Along with the two car effort, Dodge has also committed to supporting Penske’s three teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Initially the two Nationwide Series cars will be Chargers, with the Challenger stepping in for four races, starting with Daytona in July. Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 12 Verizon Wireless car, with Brad Keselowski in the No. 22 Discount Tire car.
Dodge expects to make the move the the Challenger for the full season by 2011.
GALLERY: NASCAR Nationwide Series Dodge Challenger
Official release after the jump:
After several rumors and reports, Chrysler has now confirmed that the Dodge Ram will be spun off into its own brand with the appointment of two individuals. Fred Diaz Jr., formerly Director of the Denver Business Center, will now head up the RAM brand, while Ralph Gilles will take over at the helm of the car brand. Gilles will also continue to run the product design department at Chrysler Group.
“The brand-focused strategy has been refined further with the unbundling of the Dodge Brand which now consists of the Dodge RAM Brand and the Dodge Car Brand organizations,” said Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne. “This reorganization will allow us to protect and develop the unique nature of the product offerings within the Dodge Brand.”
Within this new corporate structure, Marchionne also appointed a new Chrysler brand CEO; Olivier Francois, who comes from Fiat’s Lancia Brand and will continue in his position there as well.
Official release after the jump: