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Chrysler reports $1.7 B profit, announces new plans

Published February 1, 2013

Proving that the automaker has made a definitive comeback, Chrysler announced a $1.7 billion net profit for 2012 this week.

In the fourth quarter alone, Chrysler earned $378 million, compared to the company’s $183 million profit for year 2011, which reflected $550 million in repayments to the U.S. and Canadian governments.

In acknowledgement of their efforts to make the turnaround possible, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sent a letter to employees detailing the company’s success and promising a financial reward. “Based on the company’s 2012 achievements, I am pleased to inform you that a performance award payment will be made to all eligible salaried and represented employees,” the letter said.

More: Why Chrysler is now a rising star among automakers

The automaker also the updated its five year product plan, put into place in 2009. Updates include:

Chrysler: Three new Chrysler vehicles built on Fiat platforms had been expected in 2012-13 but have now been dropped. The new plan is for an existing Chrysler model, perhaps the 200, to receive a refresh in 2014, to be followed by three new models in 2015.

Fiat: The Fiat brand is scheduled to receive seven new models in 2015-16 in addition to the current 500 and newly launched 500L. Additionally, we should see a return of the Alfa Romeo brand by the end of this year, most likely in the form of the 4C Coupe. Another five Alfas should arrive in 2015-16. We can expect one of those to be related to the Mazda MX-5 thanks to last week’s news of a joint venture between Alfa Romeo and the Japanese manufacturer.

Dodge: A pair of expected Fiat models for Dodge was dropped. Three existing models will receive refreshes in 2014, to be followed by two new vehicles in 2015 and 2016.

Jeep: There has been discussion of a smaller SUV from Fiat in the Jeep lineup, this one has been delayed until 2014. There will be two new Jeep products in 2015 and two refreshes in 2016.

Ram: A small Fiat commercial van will join the Ram brand in 2014 to be followed by two new Rams in 2016.

SRT: The performance division won’t get a new vehicle until 2016, but three existing models will be refreshed in 2014. The new Viper will receive another update in 2015.

Detroit Auto Show sees highest attendance in nine years

The media preview of the Detroit Auto Show had an upbeat feeling. Gone was the tension that came following the financial troubles of past years. Consumers felt the same positive vibe as the visitors came to Cobo Hall in droves. The Detroit News reported that ticket sales for this year’s show rang in at 795,416. That is the highest number since 2004, when 808,833 people went through the gates. With the Canadian International AutoShow coming up in just a couple of weeks, it will be interesting to see if Ontario shoppers flood Toronto with the same fervour. The show, which is held at the Toronto Convention Centre, opens to the public Feb.15. Learn more at Autoshow.ca.

Less than one third of Canadians understand safety features: Study

A study by Toyota Canada and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) shows that less than one third of Canadian drivers actually understand how these features benefit them. Simple things such as why ABS brakes feel the way they do and what certain dashboard warning lights do are not on their radar. While much of this information is contained in a car’s owner’s manual, most consumers just don’t look there. The study also showed that most drivers rank themselves an eight out of 10 when it comes to being a safe driver, yet rank other motorists as five out of 10.

Consequently, Toyota Canada and TIRF have created “Brain on Board.” Using the tagline, “Your brain is your vehicle’s most important safety feature”, the site aims to help drivers educate themselves and hopefully reduce accidents. Stephen Beatty, director of Toyota Canada Foundation says: “We want to empower Canadians to learn more about how their cars work and to use that knowledge every time they get behind the wheel.” The site, located at brainonboard.ca, makes use of multimedia presentations more understandable than the owner’s manual.

Chevrolet to unveil Cruze diesel in Chicago

Other markets across the globe have embraced diesel cars for decades, yet the North American market has been slow to accept diesel fueled options, with a few notable exceptions. Fans of European brands Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have continued to buy diesels from those brands, as have buyers of heavy trucks. Although they have offered diesel in other markets, General Motors have not taken a chance on the fuel here on our shores. That is about to change.

I spoke with GM’s North American president, Mark Reuss, a year ago and he told me that they had diesel powertrains available and were considering the possibility of testing the waters with an existing model in 2013. That conversation foreshadows a story from Detroit News this week that says Chevrolet will launch a diesel version of the popular Cruze on Feb. 7 at the Chicago Auto Show. “There’s a place for diesels here. There’s a place for diesels in the future, as well,” Reuss told the newspaper.

wheels@thestar.ca

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