Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Chrysler axes Aspen and Dodge Durango hybrids (U.S)

Less than a year after unveiling the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango large hybrid SUVs and only two months into their full-scale production, Chrysler confirmed that it will discontinue the models with the just-announced closing of the Delaware plant where they are made. But the company said it is moving ahead with plans to introduce a hybrid version of the full-size Dodge Ram pickup in calendar-year 2010. "The demand for our full-size SUVs has really dropped off this year," Chrysler spokesman Scott Brown said. "Even though we got significant orders for the hybrids, it doesn't make sense to keep the plant open for just the hybrids."

The SUVs are Chrysler's first production hybrid vehicles. The Durango and Aspen models, which employ the same two-mode hybrid system found in General Motors' full-size SUVs, are sticker priced at $45,340 and $45,570, respectively.

Chrysler wouldn't say how many of the hybrid SUVs it had planned to build at the plant in Newark, which is scheduled to close at the end of December. Both models made their international debuts at the 2007 Los Angeles motorshow last November.

The announcement coincided with a report from Daimler AG, which owns a 19.9% share of privately held Chrysler, that the U.S automaker suffered a $772.5-million second-quarter loss due to slowing U.S sales and a market shift to small cars.

EPA rating for both vehicles rate at 20mpg in city driving and 22mpg on the motorway. Chrysler's 4x4 hybrid SUVs get better EPA highway numbers than the rival Chevrolet Tahoe 4x4 Hybrid, which is rated at 20/20 city/motorway and is priced at $54,210. The 4x2 Tahoe Hybrid ratings are 21/22; the base sticker is $51,405.

The Durango and Aspen hybrids share a dual-mode hybrid system jointly developed with GM, BMW and Daimler. The SUVs are equipped with Chrysler's 5.7 litre Hemi V8 with cylinder deactivation. Combined output is 400bhp, with 380lb-ft of torque.

This has also led Chrysler to cut a quarter of its staff by the end of the year. Although exact figures haven't been issued yet, it looks like as many as 5,000 jobs could be axed. Analysts in Detroit are seeing the announcement as a sign that the possible GM-Chrysler merger being discussed could come to fruition. Renault has also expressed an interest in parts of the Chrysler business.

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