Special Coverage

Chrysler's Next Chapter

AUBURN HILLS, MI – Chrysler Group LLC will offer a diesel engine in its Jeep Wrangler SUV in fourth-quarter 2010, the auto maker says.

Engine displacement is not disclosed, but it will feature fuel-saving stop/start technology.

Chrysler reveals the information today while outlining its 5-year business plan, designed to integrate the auto maker’s product plans with those of Fiat Automobiles SpA.

Fiat acquired a 20% stake in Chrysler following the U.S. auto maker’s emergence from bankruptcy in June. In exchange, the Italian car maker is granting Chrysler access to its platforms and engine technology.

Chrysler’s first electric vehicle will arrive in the 2011 timeframe in the guise of a minivan. But the proliferation of EVs will be a deliberate one, contingent on cost.

In the short- and medium-term, the alternative powertrains will “complement advances in conventional technologies,” the auto maker says. Long-term, EVs and HEVs “will expand once they become as cost-effective proposition to the final customer.”

Prior to its Chapter 11 filing, Chrysler, under the ownership of Cerberus Capital Management LP, had promised a retail-market EV by late 2010.

But plans for a diesel-powered Jeep represent a revival. Between 2005 and 2008, Chrysler introduced and cancelled two Jeep products, a Liberty and Grand Cherokee.

Plans for a third model, a Grand Cherokee equipped with an advanced Bluetec diesel engine from Mercedes-Benz, fell by the wayside last year.

Also on the auto maker’s agenda are a dual-clutch transmission, set for a D-segment vehicle in 2010, and also a late-2010 application of Fiat’s innovative MultiAir technology.

The arrival of a dual-clutch transmission is another sign of a comeback. Plans to introduce the fuel-saving technology on a North American-market Dodge Journey cross/utility vehicle dissolved last year following the bankruptcy of supplier Getrag Transmission Mfg. LLC.

MultiAir is an electrohydraulic valve-management system that controls air intake using the intlet valves, independent of the throttle.

Its first application arrives next year when Fiat rolls out its Fiat 500 B-car for North America. “The real beauty of the system is it’s basically a bolt-on technology,” says Paolo Ferrero, senior vice president-powertrain.

Chrysler’s new Pentastar V-6 engine family also will benefit from MultiAir, as well as single- and twin-turbocharger setups, he says.

By 2014, Pentastar engines, which will range in displacement from 2.7L to 4.0L, will account for 38% of the auto maker’s engine installations.

The Pentastar will debut next year in the redesigned-for-’10 Grand Cherokee.

In addition, Ferrero confirms Chrysler’s advanced-design axle program, quarterbacked by ZF Friedrichschafen AG, is on track at a new plant in Marysville, MI.

emayne@wardsauto.com