Chrysler group rolls out big changes
It’s addition by subtraction for Dodge in 2011.
What used to be known as Dodge Ram trucks are now simply Ram division trucks. The Ram name stands alone and Dodge will be branded with cars.
“Typically when you think of Dodge, you think of trucks,” said Mike Nixon, the sales manager at Grand Junction Chrysler Dodge Jeep. “With this move, Dodge is trying to differentiate and say, ‘Hey, Dodge sells cars, too.”
America’s Dodge brand got a new, Italian owner — Fiat — this year. And while things get sorted out by the new owner regarding future product plans, Dodge has scheduled the introduction of new crew cab models of the Ram heavy-duty pickup truck.
Engine choices for the 2500/3500 Rams include a 350-horsepower 6.7-liter, Cummins Turbo Diesel six cylinder that meets air emission standards in all 50 states and delivers 650 foot-pound of torque.
The trucks’ suspension also is retuned for a better ride and better load handling.
In other news, the gross combined weight rating for the light-duty Dodge Ram 1500 is boosted to 15,500 pounds this year when the truck is fitted with 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and 3.92 rear axle ratio on the 140.5-inch wheelbase model.
The Dodge Caliber gets a new interior for 2010, and suspension is improved for better ride and handling in the Dakota pickup.
In addition, the Grand Caravan minivan, Nitro SUV and Journey crossover SUV add front-seat anti-whiplash head restraints for 2010.
The Durango is all new for 2011, sharing a platform with the Grand Cherokee as opposed to a Ram truck.
“Our entire lineup has either an interior refreshment or a complete redesign, so we see a lot of attractive things coming out of the Chrysler group,” Nixon said.
Among Jeep vehicles, Nixon is optimistic about sales of the Grand Cherokee.
“This thing is incredible. It’s loaded with technology, safety and quality.”
The rugged sport utility vehicle, which the company hopes will lead Chrysler’s aging model lineup out of its sales slump, arrived at dealers in June. It’s powered by a standard 290 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 or an optional 360 horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 that can run on only four cylinders for better efficiency. It has a far more luxurious interior than its predecessor, and it’s more refined on the highway. In an effort to keep Jeep’s off-road customer base happy, it has an air suspension system that can raise the undercarriage to clear rocks, stumps and other obstacles on the trails. Starts at $30,215.
As for Wrangler, the traditional Jeep from the World War II days gets a new, more comfortable interior and removable hard top. The new interior has more storage areas, a new instrument panel and a lockable console. The vehicle also will have larger rear windows for better visibility. The company says engineers were able to significantly reduce interior noise, long a problem in the rugged vehicle. Production started in August, and the new Wrangler is due in showrooms soon.
Meanwhile, Fiat-owned Chrysler is keeping its retro-styled, five-passenger PT Cruiser for a while longer.
The news this past summer reversed a January decision to stop production of the smallest car wearing a Chrysler badge. But note that the reversal does not affect the PT Cruiser Convertible, which was dropped in the 2008 model year.
Elsewhere for 2010, the exterior is freshened slightly on both the Sebring coupe and convertible, while the Chrysler 300C adds standard key-free ignition and rear park assist system.
And all models of the Town & Country minivan add anti-whiplash front head restraints.