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Auto blogTue, 24 Sep 2013 10:01:00 EST
In an unusual move, Chrysler is idling its recently hired second shift of 2014 Jeep Cherokee builders because, Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in a statement, it already has built the "critical number of vehicles we need to stock dealerships once containment is released," Automotive News reports.
After the "critical" 9,430 Cherokees were built, the layoff was enacted so as not to strain the automaker's logistics partners before the Cherokee is actually released. Chrysler says the temporary layoff will last about two weeks, with 500 workers out of work and another 600 reassigned at the Toledo Assembly Complex where the sports utility vehicle was being built. The second-shift workers were hired on August 19.
Chrysler previously insisted that it would release the Cherokee to dealerships by the end of the third quarter, and it initially planned to start selling the SUVs in mid-August. Apparently the Cherokee needed a software fix before hitting showrooms, which is how Chrysler explains why the release schedule is out of whack. We're thinking that this software fix addresses the "powertrain calibration" issue that delayed the first media test drives of the model. According to the Toledo Blade, Chrysler has admitted it is doing "extended quality validation testing" but refused to provide more information.
Let's make this very plain - the city of Toledo, OH loves its Jeeps. It loves them so fervently that the very rumor of the Jeep Wrangler moving out of its traditional home prompted the city's mayor, D. Michael Collins, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to hold a weekend conference call with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.
"The purpose of this call was for the mayor and governor to gain clarity on Mr. Marchionne's comments last week regarding the possibility of the next generation of Jeep Wrangler being built at a location other than the Toledo North Assembly Plant," a spokesman for the mayor's office told The Toledo Blade.
While no further commitments were made by any party, Collins and Kasich's statement was quite unequivocal about keeping Toledo's unwillingness to let the Wrangler go, saying "the city and its partners will again rise to the occasion to ensure that the new Wrangler is made in Toledo." According to the newspaper, the next step is for face-to-face meetings between officials from Ohio and FCA.
Striving for improved fuel economy, we already knew that Chrysler will begin using a nine-speed automatic transmission in some of its new products this year, but what we haven't known is that volume at which this gearbox will be used. According to Bloomberg, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has been quoted as saying that the automaker expects to sell close to 200,000 units equipped with this new transmission in 2013. Those gear-rich trannies will be spread out across three models, consisting of the redesigned Chrysler 200, the still-unnamed Jeep Liberty replacement and the Dodge Dart.
This transmission should play a pivotal role in making Chrysler vehicles more competitive in their respective segments. Just for comparison, one of the Dart's key competitors, the Toyota Corolla, still uses a four-speed automatic, and a previous report indicates that the next-generation 200 could get up to 38 miles per gallon on the highway, which is better than most non-hybrid midsize sedans on the market. Marchionne says that the new Jeep model is expected during the second quarter of this year, but there is no word as to when the new 200 or nine-speed Dart will debut, but clearly Dodge would like to have the transmission in its compact yesterday. As for that volume figure, it definitely doesn't seem out of reach since the Dart, Liberty and 200 combined for a total of more than 225,000 units in 2012.
How many more gears can we expect in future cars? Probably not many more, since the CEO of transmission-builder ZF, Stefan Sommer, previously stated that nine speeds was the "natural limit" for transmissions.