Chrysler Group Announces Efficiency Initiatives

Skyrocketing gas prices, impending legislation spur product development, investment

The Chrysler Group, recently purchased from Daimler by Cerberus Capital Managment for $7.4 billion, has announced a new focus on fuel efficiency and hybrid technologies -- both areas in which it has until now trailed other automakers. Rather than focusing on a single solution, the big 3 automaker is rolling out a number of efficiency improvements across different vehicle lines.

The announcement stated that Chrysler will offer a mild-hybrid powertrain in a Chrysler Group vehicle "within the next few years."

Mild-hybrid powertrains allow a vehicles engine to be turned off at stops, with regenerative braking and an electric motor assist all resulting in fuel efficiency gains.

More significantly, Chrysler Group also announced the expansion of its two-mode hybrid program beyond the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid and Dodge Durango Hybrid, both of which debut next year and offer a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency overall and nearly 40% in city driving.

Earlier this year, Chrysler Group had announced that an all-new Cummins turbodiesel engine will be available in light-duty pickup trucks after 2009 which, according to the company, will provide up to 30% improvement in fuel efficiency and a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Also, Chrysler Group announced that a new family of V-6 engines will feature cylinder deactivation, operating on three cylinders and optimizing fuel economy when V-6 power is not required.

Aerodynamic, weight reduction, dual-clutch and drivetrain improvements and expanded clean diesel offerings are among the other initiatives Chrysler Group is rolling out across its vehicle lines, and the company is investing $3 billion in new plants in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Mexico to get them into production.

"We don't think there is one silver bullet," product development chief Frank Klegon said in a statement. "We have to fight these battles on many fronts."

Klegon estimated that the new hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles could make up as much as 30% of its market in the U.S., a major increase from current levels.


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