August 13th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
Back in 1987, Chrysler purchased a troubled Lamborghini, and within two years had Lambo hard at work developing a V10 engine program that would ultimately lead to both the Dodge Viper and the Lamborghini Gallardo. Ironically now, two decades later, it’s Chrysler that’s in trouble with an Italian carmaker coming to the rescue. Fresh reports are now suggesting that the replacement for the Viper’s V10 could infact be derived from Ferrari’s next-generation engine program.
Chrysler’s original plan was to sell of the Viper business, but no serious money was put on the table for it. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has become keen on taking advantage of the sportscar’s standing as the company’s halo vehicle. But with Chrysler unable to pay the heavy costs of developing the next-generation Viper, the engine program could be borrowed from the same basic powerplant that will propel upcoming Ferraris and Maseratis.
Ferrari has essentially only had four engine designs in its history: the Colombo design was in use from the company’s beginnings all the way through the ’90s. The Lampredi engine was used on a handful of vehicles in the 50’s before being phased out. The Dino engine had V6, V8 and V12 versions and was used until just a few years ago, while the current Ferrari/Maserati engine powers all vehicles in both companies’ current ranges as well as the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. Its 90-degree replacement will most likely come in various configurations including a flat-plane crank V8 for Ferrari, a cross-plane crank for Maserati and a pushrod V10 for the Viper.
June 30th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
Car companies are known for bringing out clever advertising, but a new European marketing campaign from Fiat is surely one of the more memorable efforts from an automaker. In an effort to highlight the safety of its small 500 model to both to its occupants and the wild animals we share our planet with Fiat has released a new series of images depicting the retro hatchback in fictitious crash test scenarios.
The interesting part is that test dummies are replaced with animals including a panda bear, a walrus and a couple of penguins. The attached tagline is smart too, “Engineered for a lower impact on the environment,” after which the ad reminds the viewer that Fiat — with 133.7 grams of C02 per kilometer on average — is the brand with the lowest carbon emissions in all of Europe.
Only thing missing is a disclaimer that no actual endangered species were harmed during the ad’s production. Check out the images in the gallery below.
June 23rd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
Chrysler’s PT Cruiser is proving its resilience once again with another death-row reprieve. Apparently the PT has yet again escaped the gallow’s pole, and instead will soldier on in production until December 2010.
The move will reportedly keep Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico plant running until the Fiat 500 and Panda arrive to fill the space. The two models will be built at the site beginning summer 2011, and the six or so months between the final demise of the PT and the beginning of the Fiat era will be required to retool the facility.
With the PT Cruiser possibly around for another year and a half, there is no choice but to continue to enjoy its retro charm. By now it’s an 11-year-old platform and a design that has changed little since its inception, the PT is almost a living, breathing classic car in its own right.
June 22nd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
Fiat has announced more details of the open top version of the Fiat 500C, which is set to arrive in New Zealand in mid-2010, and brings with it a car that plays homage to the original 1957 open top 500, yet with greater safety, economy and lower emissions.
Starting from the hard top version of the Fiat 500, the introduction of the soft top does not change the winning character that has made it a success or its practical nature, such as its four comfortable seats and boot capacity, but it does add some new functions. These include easier access to the boot even when the soft top is fully open, thanks to a clever system of parallelogram hinges.
Another strong point of the original cabriolet version is its climate and acoustic comfort. Thorough aerodynamic research means that the turbulence experienced with the roof open has been reduced to a minimum.
A true object of design, the soft top of the Fiat 500C stands out for its electrically controlled movement and its impressively finished and carefully selected technical features, from the glass rear window to the third brake light built into the soft top itself. Available in three colours (ivory, red and black), the soft top is matched with various paint finishes.
The Fiat 500C retains the same dimensions as the base model (355 cm long, 165 cm wide and 149 cm high) and shares all three of its power units: the 55 kW 1.3-litre MultiJet turbodiesel engine combined with a five-speed manual gearbox and the 51 kW 1.2 litre and 74 kW 1.4 litre petrol engines, both available with manual or Dualogic robotised gearbox.
To confirm Fiat Automobiles’ commitment to environmental protection and sustainable mobility, the 500C includes an innovative “Start&Stop” system, which controls the temporary cutting out of the engine and its subsequent restarting. When the vehicle stops, putting the gear lever in neutral and releasing the clutch will switch off the engine; to restart, simply put the car back into gear.
Details of the versions to be sold in New Zealand, along with their prices and specifications, will be announced when the Fiat 500C arrives in New Zealand in mid 2010.
May 6th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
With Chrysler officially bankrupt things are now looking more dire than ever for the iconic Dodge Viper. Chrysler has been looking to sell the Viper line for a while and several potential buyers were reportedly being considered, but months down the line no deal has been announced. Now, Chrysler has announced it will be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy before restructuring in a new partnership with Fiat. But what’s to happen to the Viper?
According to recent reports from Detroit, Viper could face the axe, for real. Chrysler says it is still considering offers on the Viper line, but an early analysis of the company’s restructuring strategy suggests that the Viper is a financial liability for the company and will be dropped during the bankruptcy process. The Conner Avenue Assembly plant where 115 workers build the Viper is one of several earmarked for potential closure, along with many other Chrysler facilities. Fiat may not be too keen on keeping the Viper alive considering it’s a bad asset and Ferrari is a Fiat subsidiary.
It’s not only the Viper’s head on the chopping block with several trucks — including the Dodge Ram, Dakota and Jeep Wrangler facing the axe as Chrysler aims to streamline.
May 5th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
Fiat’s new alliance with Chrysler may only be the beginning for the Italian automaker. According recent reports coming out of the UK and Germany, the Fiat’s expansion plans aren’t limited to its 20% stake in Chrysler — Fiat is also considering acquiring General Motors’ European operations, including Opel, Vauxhall and Saab.
A new super-company would be formed that includes Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, along with Chrysler and GM Europe, into one corporate entity worth around $106 billion USD and would rival Volkswagen in being the world’s second largest automaker behind Toyota.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne spoke about the potential union, “From an engineering and industrial point of view, this is a marriage made in heaven” and with the full support of the automaker’s board, Marchionne hopes to have the deal completed this month, with shares of the new company temporarily dubbed Fiat/Opel — available in the coming months.
Marchionne believes that the alliance would make Fiat a stronger player in the global marketplace during the economic downturn and through merging Fiat and Opel’s B- and C-segment platforms, along with absorbing Opel’s larger D-platform and Fiat’s sub-compact A-segment offerings, could save around 1 billion euros each year.
German trade unions are throwing a spanner, citing concerns about job losses and factory closures, and according to the German magazine WirtschaftWoche, Fiat’s initial offer of $1.33 billion to acquire GM’s European operations was rejected.
Marchionne is scheduled to present Fiat’s plan to an assortment of German leaders this week. Check back for further updates.
May 1st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
Chrysler is officially bankrupt but there is still hope for the flailing automaker. Chrysler’s bankruptcy process is being pushed forward quickly to eliminate the remaining obstacles between Chrysler’s and Fiat’s planned merger. American President Obama’s made a speech yesterday reflecting this path, confirming both that bankruptcy is the only way forward, and that his task force finds a joined Fiat-Chrysler alliance to be viable.
“Over the past month, seemingly insurmountable obstacles have been overcome,” the President said during his speech. “Chrysler and Fiat have formed a partnership that has a strong chance of success.”
The combination of Fiat’s alliance and a speedy bankruptcy means that sales won’t be interrupted. Warranty service will continue now with a guarantee by the U.S. government. The Treasury will also be lending Chrysler an additional $7.5 billion to help it negotiate the waters of bankruptcy.
Between $3-$3.5 billion will come in the form of ‘debtor-in-possesion’ (DIP) financing, and another $4.5 billion will come as ‘exit financing’ to enable Chrysler to continue operation post-bankruptcy. Fiat will only be able to take control of Chrysler after the $7.5-$8 billion in loans have been repaid.
The Fiat-Chrysler alliance could be worth more than $10 billion for the struggling Detroit company and could potentially save more than 5,000 North American manufacturing jobs.
“This partnership transforms Chrysler into a vibrant new company with a wealth of strategic advantages,” said Chrysler boss Bob Nardelli. “It enables us to better serve our customers and dealers with a broader and more competitive line-up of environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient high-quality vehicles. Benefits to the new company include access to exciting products that complement our current portfolio, technology cooperation and stronger global distribution.”
Fiat will initially hold a 20% ownership stake in Chrysler. Fiat will have the right to increase its ownership stake an additional 15% in three increments as it meets the following criteria: 5% for bringing a 40mpg vehicle platform to Chrysler to be domestically produced 5% for providing a fuel-efficient engine family to be made in the U.S. for use in Chrysler vehicles; and 5% for providing Chrysler access to its vast global distribution network to facilitate the export of Chrysler vehicles.
“To be sure, there will be many changes as we move forward to implement our plans,” said Nardelli. “But today, from many great parts, we begin to build a vibrant new company with less debt, a stronger balance sheet, richer product portfolio, supported by a well-positioned finance company.”
March 9th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham
While it may seem like a bad time to bring back a performance marque, that’s just what Renault has planned according to a UK car magazine. Renault will relaunch the Gordini brand in Europe next year. It was recently revealed that Renault’s plans to bring back its storied Alpine product line had been axed, but the decades-dormant Gordini is apparently a different matter altogether.
The new range of hot hatches will slot in above current Renaultsport offerings, with a new Twingo variant reportedly being followed by Clio and Megane Coupe models. Like the Gordini-tuned cars of the past, the new models are tipped to wear blue paint and white stripes along with various performance upgrades that will make them a likely competitor to Fiat’s reborn Abarth lineup.