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The defunct 2009 Dodge Durango hybrid  (Source: alexfly via CarGurus)

2012 Chrysler 300

Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant, circa 2007  (Source: The Brampton News)
Chrysler 300 and an unnamed minivan will get the hybrid treatment by Chrysler LLC

Chrysler Group LLC has struggled out of bankruptcy.  While General Motors and Ford Motor Company quickly returned to profitability during the recovery following recession, a smaller Chrysler continued to post losses.  Part of that is due to lack of identity and lack of cutting edge technology.

Chrysler hopes to close the technology gap, in part, with a pair of newly announced hybrids.  The company will offer a hybrid version of its Chrysler 300 sedan next year, and in 2013 will offer a hybrid minivan.  The news was announced by Chrysler and Fiat's joint CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Mr. Marchionne says that Chrysler has developed its own in-house hybrid technology, and will be releasing technical details soon.

The company was completely out of the hybrid game since the 2010 model year.  Its only hybrids historically were a pair of hybrid sports utility vehicles, the 2009 Dodge Durango hybrid and the 2009 Chrysler Aspen hybrid (essentially a rebranded Durango).  Both of those vehicles were low volume and featured a hybrid powertrain co-developed with BMW and GM.  They were discontinued in the 2010 model year.

The status of Chrysler's electric program is far less certain.  The company has been relatively quiet about the topic post-bankruptcy, even as fellow American automakers Ford, Chrysler, and Tesla rush new electric vehicles to the market.  There is talk of an electric Dodge Ram truck, which might still be in the works, and possibly and electric Fiat 500.

The upcoming hybrids will be critical for Chrysler to meet CAFE standards, set into law by the Bush and Obama administrations, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Failure to meet these standards would result in fines, the last thing the already bleeding company needs.

According to Mr. Marchionne, a new fuel saving nine-speed automatic transmission is also in the works, which will help improve the fuel economy of standard-model compacts, minivans, and SUVs.  The new powertrain will make its debut in April 2013, onboard the unnamed replacement to the Dodge Caliber compact.  Mr. Marchionne says a minivan application will soon follow.

Chrysler is also working to revise and globalize its vehicle platform, with a new vehicle architecture that will support a variety of top-hats including a sliding-door minivan, likely in the Dodge brand, and a luxury crossover, likely in the Chrysler brand.  Mr. Marchionne states to The Detroit News, "The architecture would be a lot more capable and allow us to make a minivan-like vehicle as well as others."

Like Ford, Chrysler is working to keep production local.  It will be producing the new architecture vehicles at its plant in Windsor, the Canadian city across the river from Detroit, Michigan.  The plant currently employs 4,300 people and builds 1,452 minivans a day, destined for North American dealerships.  It will soon begin to produce minivans destined for the European market as well, with the addition of tooling to handle 2.8-liter diesel engines.

Addressing the future of the Windsor, Ontario plant, Mr. Marchionne states, "I am here with one message to tell you. The future of this plant is without doubt guaranteed."

Mr. Marchionne acknowledged that his company still had a ways to go to dig itself out of its hole, commenting, "The minivan remains a significant part of our revitalization plan going forward. The success of this plant is crucial to pay back our (government) loans."

Chrysler is awaiting the anticipated the U.S. launch of the Fiat 500 compact, which began production in December.  The vehicle is a best-seller in Europe and may offer the popular Ford Fiesta (a slightly larger subcompact) a bit of competition.


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Why no minivans now?
By therealnickdanger on 1/19/2011 12:01:41 PM , Rating: 3
I find it so peculiar that hybrid mini-vans haven't been rushed to the market. Every family I know, including my own, would like a fuel-efficient family transport. Seems like a much larger potential market for hybrid mini-vans than eco-commuter micro-machines. Plus the design of mini-vans with their larger size and higher ride height would allow for larger battery capacity and cooling mechanisms. I'm sure the bean-counters have their reasons, but it seems so odd that these aren't in higher demand... rather, in higher supply.

Is it a perceived safety issue? Are the masses afraid of exploding batteries burning their children?




RE: Why no minivans now?
By ZaethDekar on 1/19/2011 12:07:30 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Is it a perceived safety issue? Are the masses afraid of exploding batteries burning their children?


Well if it happens to laptops and music players it could happen to my car!


RE: Why no minivans now?
RE: Why no minivans now?
By therealnickdanger on 1/19/2011 4:38:05 PM , Rating: 1
Those aren't mini-vans.


RE: Why no minivans now?
By spread on 1/19/2011 7:38:43 PM , Rating: 2
With the way cars have been ballooning over time, it will be minivan size by next year.

I still remember when hatchbacks were small and light.


RE: Why no minivans now?
By Flunk on 1/19/2011 12:39:39 PM , Rating: 1
They need to get the price of the batteries down, no one is going to buy a $30,000 minivan.


RE: Why no minivans now?
By MrTeal on 1/19/2011 12:51:58 PM , Rating: 2
Have you seen the prices of minivans? It's not at all uncommon to see them at $30k, even the cheapest Town and Country is $26k, and a base Grand Caravan is $24k. Minivans are pricey.


RE: Why no minivans now?
By Taft12 on 1/19/2011 12:53:00 PM , Rating: 5
The Toyota Sienna would like to have a word with you.


RE: Why no minivans now?
By mellomonk on 1/19/2011 2:03:02 PM , Rating: 2
Actually it is difficutl to buy a decent minivan for less then 30K. Of course today's 'decent' is pretty far beyond the minis of yore.

The minivan has actually been a dying breed for awhile. They became pricey and heavy with disappearing seating, power sliding everything, and multi-screen entertainment systems. The cheap family minivan became a the large and pricey soccermobile. SUVs and Crossovers have been a driving force in 'family transport' for awhile. Going forward manufactures are going to be bringing their Euro market MPVs to the US market. Essentially van-like wagons or mini-minivans they recall the original chrysler minis. Essentially bringing the concept back full circle.


RE: Why no minivans now?
By ImEmmittSmith on 1/19/2011 5:59:17 PM , Rating: 2
Our last Town and Country Limited(2002) had a sticker price of $37,000. It had all the bells and whistles, but has been indispensible utility vehicle. I can even slide sheets of 4x8 plywood and sheetrock with the seats down, though my wife tends to frown. lol The only problem, it took us three tries to get a good one that would last past 36,000(1996, 1999, and 2002). Still have the 2002, but it's time for it to go.


RE: Why no minivans now?
By FITCamaro on 1/19/2011 10:56:15 PM , Rating: 2
My parents had a 99 Town and Country Limited. Seats were awesome. Then my sister wrecked it. Was great until then. For a minivan anyway.


RE: Why no minivans now?
By Nik00117 on 1/23/2011 8:05:20 PM , Rating: 2
Um, Minivans aren't cheap...The last Minivan I sold (two days ago) was leather, nav, heated seats, two dvd screens and the 4.0 L V6 (mommy wanted soccer mom's car, daddy wanted sports car so we gave him the biggest engine)

Total cost? $39,000+7% TTL=$41,730


RE: Why no minivans now?
By rudy on 1/19/2011 3:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
well 1 reason is that most companies found it much more profitable to focus on SUVs there are a number of hybrid SUVs. Chrysler has a fair number of patents around the minivan so many companies just ditched them in favor of SUVs. SUVs also look better even minivans try to look like SUVs.


RE: Why no minivans now?
By therealnickdanger on 1/19/2011 4:44:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Chrysler has a fair number of patents around the minivan so many companies just ditched them in favor of SUVs

Eh? Ford Windstar, Mercury Villager, Honda Odyssey, Pontiac Montana, Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest, Kia Sedona... No amount of patents have kept mini-van competition at bay.


RE: Why no minivans now?
By Keeir on 1/19/2011 6:44:32 PM , Rating: 2
The reason why Hybrid Mini-Vans are in short supply is indeed a cost issue driven by a real engineering requirement.

A Hybrid like the Prius relys on electric motor and battery that are sized for the load. The Prius has been optomized for wieght, CdA and interior volume. A traditional shaped Mini-Van would create significantly more load and thus require a larger electric motor and larger batteries. How much more? To make a Prius like setup, my rough calculations suggest 50% larger electric motor and 75% larger batteries... as a start.... maybe even as much as doubling the batteries. Furthermore, since the traditional mini-van would still have poor CdA, it is unlikely to see the massive jump the Prius gets over a traditional C-class sedan. (If you need "proof" of this, consider the Lexus 200CT. It has essentially the prius drivetrain, but only gets ~42 EPA rather than the Prius's 50)

All in all, based on a "Prius" charge of 3,000... a (strong) Hybrid mini-van would likely carry a price premium of 4,500-6,000 dollars for a return of ~25% increase (mostly in city) in fuel economy over a traditional otto cycle engine of similar power. Looking at the Honda Odyssy as an example, the EPA combined is ~21. A strong Hybrid Odyssey would be unlikely to return more than 26/27 combined.... which is at best 1 gallon saved every 100 miles..

when Gas is ~3 dollars... your looking at 150,000-200,000 miles to reach equal price point at the very best at which point your Mini-Van is going to be trashed junker (I assume so from young kids+animals+hauling that most families use mini-vans for)... On top of this consider all fancy gizmo's the Mini-Van of today can have... the Prius is also successful because its electrical systems have been redesigned/engineered for efficiency. Some of the Mini-Van's systems this just wouldn't happen...


Interesting
By flyingrooster on 1/19/2011 12:07:19 PM , Rating: 3
I find it interesting that they chose to go with a new nine speed automatic transmission, which seems really complex. Why not go with a dual clutch transmission, a CVT, or even a good old manual if they wanted to increase efficiency? All of these options lack the parasitic drain of the torque converter.

Also, I continue to be perplexed about the lack of availability of diesel engines in American market cars. They will be making a new 2.8L diesel but for export only? A diesel engine would likely increase fuel economy to be on par with the hybrid version, but without the added complexity of the electric subsystem. Plus running biodiesel would be a plus for the environmentalists out there.




RE: Interesting
By Flunk on 1/19/2011 12:41:12 PM , Rating: 2
They don't have the technology for either, 9-speed automatics have a lot of parts but they're not a complete departure from the traditional automatic.


RE: Interesting
By Taft12 on 1/19/2011 1:01:13 PM , Rating: 2
I hear you on the diesel bit, and I am certain the reasons are mostly political with a healthy sprinkling of gasoline subsidies.

A 9-speed transmission does sound overly complex, but shouldn't the narrower speed ranges each gear fits in make acceleration from a stop (ie. city driving) quite a bit more efficient? Can any of the many gearheads here please back this up or refute?


RE: Interesting
By flyingrooster on 1/19/2011 1:27:32 PM , Rating: 1
Well, the more gears you have, the more likely it is to keep your engine in the power band, so your engine would be operating at peak efficiency. I don't know what the gear ratios are right now, but if it goes through 9 gears to get to highway speed, your acceleration would be destroyed, as the gear changes take quite a bit of time in a traditional planetary AT. Then again, these cars are likely not targeting the performance crowd.


RE: Interesting
By Manch on 1/19/2011 2:12:10 PM , Rating: 2
This will largely depend on how the gear ratios are set. On the newer AT's it doesnt take that long to shift. They're quicker than manuals for the average driver, plus depending on how you're accelerating the transmission can skip a gear to prevent constant shifting. Also highway speeds are on average 70MPH, most people drive above that so it's probable that it will provide even lower final ratios than what is on current AT's to drop engine speed to maintain efficiency.


RE: Interesting
By Keeir on 1/19/2011 6:54:21 PM , Rating: 2
Errr....

In terms of real emergency acceleration, most engines/transmissions are capable of reaching highways speeds (55 mph+) in 3rd gear. This 9 speed transmission will only be an issue for people who hesitate briefly during the middle of accelerations.... and then only if the ECU is programed that way...


RE: Interesting
By mellomonk on 1/19/2011 2:11:24 PM , Rating: 2
Today's lock-up torque converters have really helped from an efficiency standpoint. CVTs are awesome in theory, but have not worked out as well in practice. Though it remains a viable option. Dual clutch would be great, but would be pricey. Sadly manuals have no traction in the US market beyond performance enthusiasts.


RE: Interesting
By Pessimism on 1/20/2011 9:44:55 AM , Rating: 2
They were barely able to make a 4 speed, a 9 just scares me... A604 anyone?


Umm
By cknobman on 1/19/11, Rating: 0
RE: Umm
By mellomonk on 1/19/2011 2:20:10 PM , Rating: 2
Perception, perception, perception. Chysler is doing fairly well quality wise compared to periods in the past. The problem is, everybody is. So they look bad in comparison.

They have hung on fairly well despite being gutted by Daimler and run into the ground by Cerberus. Now they have a real car guy at the helm and are firing on all cylinders. Great sales growth the last few months. And there are some great products in the pipeline.


RE: Umm
By YashBudini on 1/19/2011 10:59:38 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Chysler is doing fairly well quality wise compared to periods in the past.

I've been hearing that sorry rationalization for 30+ years.


By Spookster on 1/19/2011 7:00:14 PM , Rating: 2
I just read another article about Chryslers hybrids. They won't use batteries or be electric. They will still use gas engine but add hydraulic systems that get charged during braking and the engine would cut off while stopped and then use the hydraulics to get the vehicle up to speed at which point the gas engine takes over again.

http://money.cnn.com/2011/01/19/autos/chrysler_epa...




Huh??
By ebakke on 1/20/2011 9:47:33 AM , Rating: 2
Chrysler's still alive? Hmm.




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