Since the death of the Ramcharger in 1994, Chrysler has been noticeably absent from the full-size, body-on-frame SUV game. That may change with the next generation of Ram pickups, however, as Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, mentioned the possibility of a large SUV during an interview with Automotive News.
The full-size SUV segment is “the near-exclusive use of some other [automakers],” Marchionne said. “We have a reasonable chance of getting at least part of that market.” He continued in saying, “I think we have a unique opportunity with renewal of the pickup line, with the powertrains we selected, to significantly increase output. We will also be exploring, as a result of that investment, some other segments.”
Marchionne didn’t elaborate what other segments he was referring to, but did confirm the proposed SUV would not compete with the upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer SUV.
The CEO confirmed FCA is exploring the possibility of a full-sized SUV in response to other popular models like the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition – models that continually help their respective automakers earn double-digit profit margins. According to AN, these body-on-frame SUVs tend to be the most profitable vehicles sold on a per-unit basis.
There’s no further word on what FCA, or more specifically, Ram would call the SUV, but the automaker does have a rich history of names to choose from. Also obscure is the timeline in which FCA plans on rolling out the new model, or if ever. More in-dept studies are most assuredly planned, helping FCA brass to decide if the venture is worth the investment.
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Security holes in its Uconnect software isn’t Fiat Chrysler’s only issue these days; the automaker has agreed to orders from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to repurchase nearly 500,000 Ram pickup trucks due to major safety concerns. The buyback could cost the automaker billions on top of the $90 million fine from the NHTSA for failing to address these and other safety concerns in a timely fashion.
The safety issues with the Ram pickup line reportedly stem from defective steering and suspension components that could fail, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. The effected trucks include certain Ram 1500 models from 2009 to 2012, the 2008 Ram 1500 Mega Cab 4WD, and the Ram 2500, 3500, 4500, and 5500 Heavy Duty with 4WD from 2008 through 2012. On a smaller scale, FCA is also including the 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango, along with the 2009 through 2011 Dodge Dakota in the buyback.
Vehicles will be repurchased at fair market value from customers who choose to participate in the buyback and the necessary repairs completed. FCA can then resell the vehicles. The NHTSA will be monitoring FCA’s progress with the buyback and has the option of issuing another $15 million fine if more violations happen. The oversight will continue for three years by an independent monitor.
Included in the NHTSA’s investigation is FCA’s installation of trailer hitches onto more than 1 million Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee SUVs that have their fuel tanks placed between the rear bumper and solid rear axle. At least 75 deaths have been reported due to fire-related rear-end crashes with the two vehicles. The hitches are said to protect the fuel tank from rupturing in such collisions. In total, the fine against FCA covers 23 separate recalls that the NHTSA says were not dealt with on schedule.
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The Jeep brand certainly has reason to celebrate as 2014 proved to be its best sales year ever, with a final tally of 1,017,019 vehicles sold globally. It marks the first time Jeep has broken into the million-unit club and the fifth consecutive year of sales increases, both globally and in the U.S.
Much of Jeep’s success can be attributed to the new-for-2014 Cherokee. Global sales topped 236,000 in its first year. The small crossover, though met with some criticism and initial hiccups, has proved very marketable.
“While we are especially pleased with the way the new Jeep Cherokee is resonating in the marketplace,” says Jeep Brand President and CEO Mike Manley in a company statement, “the fact is that every vehicle in the Jeep lineup recorded significant worldwide sales gains.”
Manley isn’t kidding. Every Jeep vehicle posted impressive gains. As a whole, sales in the Asia-Pacific region were major help in Jeep’s overall success. China alone saw a massive 49 percent increase over 2013. Sales were also up 40 percent in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The Grand Cherokee actually led the entire brand in sales with a 279,567-unit year worldwide, with only 183,786 of those sold in the U.S. It appears Jeep is still in the business of conquering foreign lands.
This year is slated to be even better. 2015 is actually the year Jeep officials predicted the brand would crest the one million mark, so we can suspect the automaker will enjoy even greater success to come.
Click past the jump for more info on the 2014 Jeep Cherokee
Minivans are strange beasts, wielding a two-edged sword of unmatched utility and a soccer-mom stigma. That stigma is hard to get past for some, but once the shear versatility and people-hauling capabilities have been explored, it’s hard to consider the minivan anything less than spectacular. I spent a week behind the wheel of Chrysler’s Town & Country to experience the conundrum for myself.
I’ve driven a number of rather interesting vehicles in my line of work, so I was admittedly a little weary about piloting the mom-mobile. However, as luck would have it, a minivan was just what I needed during the week. Up first was hauling my two-year-old around town for the week. The double DVD screens truly came in handy as a loveable mouse kept her attention off the “are we there yet?” statements. Next was chauffeuring a large group of friends to a social event. We had room to spare and all were comfortable.
Finally a family trip to the beach confirmed my suspension the Town & Country could do it all. With the third row folded flat, fishing poles lying between the second row captains’ chairs, and gear for the day packed all around, the Chrysler proved its worth. What’s more, the van’s front wheel drive also proved confident in the loose sands of Daytona Beach.
Click past the jump for the full review.