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Auto blogWed, 30 Jan 2013 10:59:00 EST
Hot on the heels of Ford's earnings announcement for the year that was, Chrysler today reported a 2012 net income of $1.7 billion, up substantially from the comparatively minuscule $183 million profit earned in 2011 when it repaid its US government loans.
Chrysler's good year ended with an excellent fourth quarter that saw net income rise 68 percent from $225 million in 2011 to $378 million. Where are all those extra earnings coming from? Market share, which Chrysler saw increase to 11.4% last year on sales of 1.65 million vehicles. In fact, the Auburn Hills, MI-based automaker out-paced the industry's market growth of 13 percent last year with sales up 21 percent for the year.
The company also revealed an updated product plan for its Chrysler Group and Fiat brands that looks all the way out to 2016. It's an updated version of the plan introduced in 2009 shortly after Fiat took control of the American automaker, and includes such new additions as an Alfa Romeo model, likely the 4C, to be introduced in the US this year, as well five more Alfa models by 2016. Likewise, Fiat will be growing by an additional seven models in the coming few years.
The 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is definitely the performance car of the moment. The fact that in the near future, people will be able to buy a 707-horsepower muscle machine straight from a major automaker for $59,995 and with a factory warranty almost seems absurd. We drove it recently and found the Hellcat to be just as much of a beast as its numbers would suggest. Now, it's a certain comedian's turn behind the wheel in the latest episode of Jay Leno's Garage.
This week's guest is Dodge President and CEO Tim Kuniskis, and he's there to drop all sorts of interesting factoids about the Hellcat. For example, its Pirelli P Zero tires retail at around $300 each, he says. That makes its smoky burnouts a rather expensive proposition. Kuniskis, who recently hinted at a mystery Woodward Dream Cruise debut, also talks about the genesis of the 2015 SRT project with a goal to get over some of the standard Challenger's weight and size disadvantages. The fix is a supercharged V8, massive brakes and other goodies to smooth over the platform's more glaring shortcomings.
Leno appears to get a big kick out of the Hellcat. However, he can't seem to stop bringing up his desire to drive one with a six-speed manual. They obviously exist, but Kuniskis has an eight-speed automatic for the retired Tonight Show host to try out. Of course, as with any Hellcat video, there has to be at least one burnout. Despite the expensive tires, it seems like enthusiast's law at this point - and dear ol' Jay wouldn't want to break any rules, would he?
When Chrysler rolled out the first-generation 200 to replace the Sebring range in 2010, it included replacements for both the sedan and the convertible. The Sebring Coupe, however, was left out of the mix. And now that the second-generation Chrysler 200 is descending upon us, Auburn Hills is paring things down even further. But this time, it's the convertible that reportedly isn't making the cut. Shame, too, since the rendering above shows what could have been quite an attractive droptop.
As our compatriots at Edmunds point out, sales of the convertible model accounted for less than five percent of overall Chrysler 200 sales, and at those numbers, the considerable cost of engineering a new drop-top couldn't be justified. With the Toyota Camry Solara and Volkswagen Eos also gone from the market (well, the VW isn't gone quite yet), the discontinuation of the Chrysler 200 Convertible leaves the affordable convertible segment largely to the sportier likes of the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro and smaller European offerings like the Mini Cooper and VW Beetle.
The Chrysler 200 Convertible isn't the only derivative being left behind with the new model: so too is the Dodge Avenger. That will leave a glaring hole in the Dodge lineup, with nothing to bridge the gap between the compact Dart and the larger Charger. Whether the Dodge brand has any plans to replace the Avenger with another model, not to be based on the 200, remains to be seen.