The Chrysler Group’s powertrain strategy is focused on improving fuel efficiency, offering flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV) and a future powertrain strategy which includes a new V-6 engine program based on the World Engine program, according to Chrysler Group Chief Operating Officer Eric Ridenour.
In remarks made to the 2006 Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan, Ridenour noted that rising gas prices and global conditions are beginning to affect consumers’s appetite for travel.
I believe “fear” is the operative word right now—consumers fear continued price increases as the world oil markets react to escalating strife between Israel and Lebanon—two countries, by the way, that don’t even produce oil but are very much interrelated in the tension and fears of instability in the Middle East.
This consumer fear that gas prices will continue to skyrocket is an issue that the tourism industry is being forced to address—and one the auto industry must tackle as well.
Gas prices are sending some consumers away from high-profit trucks and large SUVs to cars and compact SUVs. For automakers that have relied on those high-margin products for their bread and butter—like the Chrysler Group did in the past—the shift to smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles is serious business.—Eric Ridenour
Four of Chrysler’s 10 new vehicles coming out in 2007 will have better than 30 mpg highway mileage, according to Ridenour.
We have “fuel economy teams” that go through each of our vehicles—piece by piece, ounce by ounce, joule by joule and amp by amp. Here’s an example: By optimizing our design, we were able to reduce the fuel pump amperage by about 40 percent. Since fuel pumps run all the time, this results in about 0.1 mpg savings on high-flow applications like flex-fuel and HEMI-equipped vehicles. No tenth-of-a-mile improvement is too small to consider in the battle for fuel efficiency.
Chrysler also intends to increase its use of renewable fuels, such as ethanol. Ten percent of Chrysler Group vehicles produced over the past eight years are flex-fuel capable. In 2007, the company will produce 250,000 E85-capable vehicles, and in 2008, it will double that number to 500,000.
Each Jeep Liberty is fueled with B5 (5% biodiesel) at the factory and the program will continue with the 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD—the company’s first diesel-powered full-size SUV with a new 3.0-liter Mercedes-Benz engine. (Earlier post.)
Ridenour made no specific Chrysler commitments or announcements to further deployment of diesel technology in the US, saying only that:
Going forward, the Chrysler Group continues to look for ways to leverage the diesel expertise of our sister division, Mercedes-Benz, to bring clean-burning diesels with superior fuel economy to our customers.
On the hybrid side, Chrysler plans to introduce a Dodge Durango in 2008 that uses the new two-mode hybrid system developed with GM and BMW. At that point, Chrysler will offer the fewest number (one) of hybrid vehicles of any of the top automakers.
Chrysler developed its 4-cylinder family of World Engines with Mitsubishi Motors and Hyundai. The World Engines are targeted to improve fuel efficiency by five percent compared with the engines they replace. (Earlier post.)
Chrysler Group is currently developing a business case for a new family of V-6 engines based on a single V-6 architecture that would incorporate many of the technology lessons and processes gleaned from the World Engine experience. If approved, this one engine would replace four current Chrysler Group engine families. This engine would be produced in a variety of displacements, built around an all-aluminum, dual-overhead cam, four-valve-per-cylinder design.
With GEMA [Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA) plant], we were able to apply economies of scale to component and machine tool purchases to generate big savings that we were then able to invest back into the World Engine—allowing us to add features that improve performance, refinement, durability and affordability. We’re very confident that we would be able to achieve the same flexibility in a V-6 family as we have in our family of four-cylinder World Engines.
...We are a full-line producer of vehicles, and we intend to compete in multiple powertrain technologies. We know that each has its merits. That’s why we believe in a combination of biofuels, diesels, hybrids, fuel cells and advance gasoline technologies. No one technology will win the day.—Eric Ridenour