## Chrysler: Beginning to Consider Efficiency Over Horsepower?

##### 18 August 2005

Detroit Free Press. Incoming Chrysler Group CEO Tom LaSorda said Wednesday that the automaker is looking at reducing the horsepower of future engines to increase fuel efficiency. The CEO made the statement at a luncheon at corporate headquarters.

That said, however, LaSorda also pointed out that the company has not seen consumers altering their buying habits.

“We’re not seeing any massive changes,“ LaSorda said.

Still, he said the balancing act between power and fuel efficiency must be examined in this environment.

Somewhat ironically, Chrysler today also announced:

• The all-new 2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab with the largest pickup cab ever.

• Pricing for the 2006 Charger SRT8—a 425-hp, 420 lb-ft “Charger on Steroids” that Chrysler deems the “Ultimate Modern American Muscle Sedan.”

• Pricing for the 2006 Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe equipped with a 500-hp, 525-lb-ft V10 “With heart-pounding performance and head-turning design...plus a race-bred, stick-to-the-pavement suspension and braking performance that will separate your retinas.”

• (Quotations in the list above are from Chrysler Group press material.)

Hmm.

Given its assessment of buying patterns, its unlikely Chrysler will be making major changes in its lineup soon. Of the 10 new cars and trucks on tap for 2006, none reflect anything but modest improvements, such as the use of the new series of 4-cylinder engines that are 5% more efficient than their predecessors.

LaSorda noted that Chrysler is ramping up plans to bring more efficient diesel engines to the market, as well as a hybrid gasoline-electric Dodge Durango SUV by 2007. The hybrid Durango would be Chrysler’s first application of the joint GM-Chrysler two-mode hybrid drivetrain. (Earlier post.)

What a joke. They keep pumping out the same old crap, and then talk about how they might consider higher fuel economy, but they don't think the customers want it.

Don't expect me to shed a tear if any one of the Big 3 go belly-up.

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I'm reminded of the world's oldest profession by the words above, which are enticing one to trade money (what you'll spend on gasoline) for sex (appeal, in this case).

Somehow I don't think efficiency is ever going to offer the same appeal. "Mileage to make your palms sweat" just isn't going to cut it!

I think this is good news, though. It is good to hear that they want to offer "economy hybrids" rather than "performance hybrids" which only get 4 MPG better than their non-hybrid counterparts.

Here I am, a big tree-hugger: I've got a Prius, and still walk or ride a bike for many of my trips ... but when I hear about a 425-hp, 420 lb-ft Charger, and I just want one! At least for a second. On an emotional level.

I think we need newer/better "guzzler" fees, just to save ourselves from our inner nature. We aren't so different from those dogs with their heads out the windows of cars ... we like fast.

Maybe the comparison should be between the car companies and the fast food companies. We greedily consume from both, but we try to change their behavior because that is easier than changing our own.

OK, granted, there is some sex appeal to a fast car (I simply don't get the appeal to an SUV, though), but since we were kids we have been fed a steady diet of marketing to try and get us to want those cars. Modest or economy cars are rarely advertised (given the tiny profit margin on the things, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise).

The question then is, if there were no car commercials, what would the car market look like? How much of it is human nature, and how much of the market is formed from watching TV?

In the end, higher fuel prices are going to force changes. The problem is though that the engineering lifetime of a car is 10-15 years, so the gas-hog that is produced today is going to be with us for quite a while.

Maybe so, but you'll have to be rich to run it.

The problem is that most people have to choose one car to own, drive, and insure. They don't have the economic luxury of having a fleet of vehicles to use based on specific function. That's why so many people buy vehicles which are absursdly over-engineered compared to their actual usage.

Consider a simple example. Say you owned a Prius and a Dodge Charger with a Hemi. In reality, most people probably only indulge in the "performance" aspect of their vehicles about 10% of the time -- and that's probably being generous. Four SUVs I'm sure it's far less than 10% of the time, if ever.

Anyway, say that person uses the Prius 90% of the time and the Charger 10% of the time. The combined fuel economy of the two cars will then be 51.5 MPG.

Problem is, this solution can't be achieved through traditional means of relating to cars (ie, either owning or leasing one vehicle at a time). Institutions like indirect ownership or temporary leasing (eg, rental cars, carsharing, and other fleet arrangements) and/or insurance by the mile auto insurance would go a long way towards creating better financial incentives to do this.

[odograph stands, looks contrite and says] I am a gearhead. When I had a 928 Porsche (5spd) I'd talk about the "jump" from 55 to 100, and people would say "yeah, but how often can you do that." I'm afraid I'd only pause for a moment before saying ... "every day."

How often did I red-line my Honda S2000 .... "every day."

At least for me, it wasn't the advertising budgets that seduced me. It was the adrenaline response native within me. I "direct" that now toward riding bicycles fast - which I hope is good for me and good for the planet - but you know, it is redirected, not gone.

Anyway, where I'm going on this is that I think we are better at answering abstract questions about what "cars" should do, rather than about the "car" we want or own. I think we have a better chance sneaking through requirments that "Detroit" (other people) fix things, rather than getting everyone to make the personal decision that they don't want 6 sec 0-60.

BTW, on Subaru's turbocharged hybrid (other thread) ... if they can actually make something that acts like a Prius 90% of the time, and a Hemi 10% of the time ... that would be pretty wild, and ideal.

BTW2, middle-aged, middle-management, types on Harleys used to annoy me ... but now I'm thinking that they are a way to deliever that adrenaline/power response at 40-60 MPG.

For your country and your planet, get out of that Hemi and onto a Harley!

A Toyota spokeperson talked about how in hybrids software controlled so much. Maybe the solution is to have cars with different modes; eco mode, "power" mode, etc.

With a big LCD showing fuel consumption (and maybe money spent on gas to make the point even more obvious), people would think more about flooring their cars, but the marketing campaigns could use the fact that "at the press of a button, add 50 horsepower to your gas-sipping hybrid!"

*shrug*

The marketing budget of the auto industry is bigger than all its rivals combined (IIRC), and they've been selling power for decades. Hard to make the change fast, but maybe compromises would work until gas really is too expensive to waste.

"Mayby the solution is to have cars with different modes; eco mode, power mode, etc."
- Mikhail Capone

We do. It called a gas pedal.

The gas pedal certainly is the most important factor, but not the only variable that can be played with.

I explained it more fully somewhere else, but my interest in having different modes in cars is that it would allow automakers to market the cars to the enthusiast crowd (a very important part of any marketing campaign) and tell people "but if you want to, the possibility is there!" which seems to be the main driving point behind the sale of SUVs, yet have most people drive in the "eco" mode.

It's very cool to make fuel efficient cars, but you also have to get people to buy them...

Simple solution:
Plug-in hybrid, or plug-in full electric cars - convenient (plug in at home, no need to go to the gas station), low- or zero-emission vehicle, and much cheaper than gasoline. Plus, an electric motor has much faster pick-up than an ICE (internal combustion engine). See http://www.gizmodo.com/archives/venturi-fetish-first-production-electric-sports-car-022314.php

The Problem:
I've had a heck of a time finding a manufacturer/dealer of electric cars anywhere outside of California. Real street-legal, crash-tested, electric cars simply do not exist in the U.S.(as far as I can see...please let me know if you can find anything that doesn't look like a tricycle and wouldn't be crushed like a tin can by an SUV.)

The Explanation:
From the searching I've done, the only reason these cars can't be found through traditional dealers has nothing to do with "the market", but everything to do with profits. Carmakers and dealerships make ALMOST ALL of their profit from ongoing maintenance. But, for an electric car, there is no transmission, no oil to be changed, no radiator, etc. The only major maintenance that needs to be performed is that every 50-100,000 miles you have to change the brushes on the motor(~$500), and every 2-4 years, you have to replace the battery pack (~$500 based on today's battery prices). Plus, if people can just plug their car in at night, then who needs gas stations? You see where I'm going here?

Conclusion:
Even though moving to a hybrid or full-electric car is better for the environment, reduces/eliminates U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and provides a simple convenient solution for 85-90% of most commuters needs, car manufacturers don't make money off of that system.

Some people may argue that electric cars aren't truly zero-emission because you still have energy being produced by coal-based power plants, which is a valid point. But think of it this way: would you rather have a single air filter for the air conditioner in your house, or an air filter for every vent in your house?

Motor brushes?  The trend is toward brushless DC or induction motors; no brushes in either.

When I owned a turbocharged non-diesel, I used to redline it daily too... I've grown up since then.

I see old guys winding out the classic roadsters (Austin Healeys, etc.) and figured that would be me - if I could manage it. The interesting thing might be that those classics managed to be fun without being particularly fast by today's standards.

As I noted on my old "peak oil dreamcar" post, the Lotus Super-7 was introduced with a 46 bhp engine. I seem to remember a super efficient 3cyl engine here at GCC in that HP range (or higher). Assuming you can tune an exhaust for a nice sound ...

Motorcycles are very dirty, much more so (20x) than hybrids or even regular cars. They don't have regulations that cover emissions and are only just starting to use technology such as fuel injection and catalytic converters, so what's on the road is still filthy, and so is most of what's being sold. The motors are small, but tuned to scavenge every last bit of power from the gasoline instead of being clean or fuel efficient. It's not to say it can't be done (a clean, fuel efficient motorcycle) but the industry won't do it willingly unless there are some strong regulations that make the sales and licencing of the dirty variety impossible. Honda is taking the lead by putting FI on all their models by 2007, so maybe they know regulations aren't far away.

Yeah, I know that progress is only slowly being made. But I'm kind of fuzzy at this point about which is worse (cars with more gas consumption and CO2, or motorcycles/scooters with more SOX/NOX)

Here's the new highway motorcycle emission standards:

For comparison, here's the standards for light duty vehicles:
http://www.epa.gov/autoemissions/detailedchart.pdf

Of course, CO2 emissions are a direct function of fossil fuel consumption.

Good luck Chrysler. Treating cars as toys is really not a very mature attitude. If oil continues going up as it has done, it is only a matter of time before the hurt in the pocketbook outweighs the horsepower ego.

A century or two from now, what ranking will be given to the fuel guzzlers of all times, especially when there isn't going to be all that much fuel around? Detroit says "heck with the future" and I say "heck with them" because this kind of attitude is is not conduce to keeping the US from standing on its own two feet. Rome blamed the barbarians. Are we going to blame Detroit?