Chrysler launches full production of Aspen/Durango hybrids

Click the Aspen Hybrid for a high-res gallery

This week Chrysler launched full scale production of the new Aspen and Dodge Durango hybrids at the Newark, DE assembly plant. The SUVs are Chrysler's first production hybrid vehicles and they use the same Two-Mode hybrid system that's installed in GM's full-size SUVs. The plant began building pilot production vehicles earlier this year to iron out any production issues and hybrid Durangos and Aspens should start appearing at dealerships in the next few weeks. Chrysler isn't indicating how many hybrids they plan to build but they have priced the SUVs very aggressively compared to the GM equivalents. The Chryslers are only available as four wheel drives and those are priced $8,000 below the four wheel drive GM models. The Durango has a sticker price of $45,340, including $800 for destination, while the Aspen runs $45,570. Check out our first drive of the 2009 Chrysler Aspen/Dodge Durango 2-Mode hybrids.
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[Source: Chrysler]

Chrysler LLC Begins Production of New Hybrid Electric Vehicles

* Advanced two-mode hybrid system available in Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen
* Intelligent implementation of new manufacturing processes manages quality, cost
* Two-mode hybrid technology provides fuel-saving benefits of a full-hybrid system, including electric-only operation

Auburn Hills, Mich., Aug 22, 2008 - Chrysler LLC's Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) began rolling off the assembly line this week at its Newark (Delaware) Assembly Plant. Chrysler is offering the two-mode hybrid powertrain on both vehicles built at the plant, Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen.

In order to smoothly add one of the automotive industry's most advanced technologies into their established build process, cross-functional launch teams conducted highly accurate, cost-effective computer simulation of new assembly processes. Similar efforts were conducted at tooling suppliers.

"The implementation of this new manufacturing process was done intelligently, with both quality and cost in mind." said Joe Ozdowy, Plant Manager of Newark Assembly. "I'd like to congratulate and thank the team for their dedication while bringing these important new products to market to help satisfy the changing needs of our Dodge and Chrysler customers."

"The members of UAW Local 1183 continue to prove that they have the expertise, the experience, the training and the professionalism to successfully accomplish the most demanding and complex work," said Larry Dixon, President of UAW Local 1183. "This demonstration of excellence is something the men and women of UAW 1183 and UAW 1212 should be proud of."

The production of early pilot vehicles was done on the plant's assembly line which helped to root out anomalies early in the pre-production process, helping to ensure a higher quality launch.

Production of vehicles with the hybrid powertrain differs in several ways from production of those with conventional powertrains. New processes were implemented to accommodate HEV production, including a unique powertrain assembly process, and ergonomic-assist systems to aid in new functions, such as HEV battery installation.

There are several unique components associated with HEV production that are installed at the plant, including:

* 300-volt battery
* Two-mode transmission
* Torque power inverter module (TPIM)
* Electric air conditioning
* Auxiliary power module
* High-voltage cables (AC and DC)
* Hydro-electric power steering pump
* Hybrid gate way module
* Cooling module

Dodge Durango was the leader in its segment for initial quality, according to J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Initial Quality StudySM. With the advent of HEV production, a new series of error-proofing processes was put in place to ensure continued quality excellence.

"We are proud of the highly skilled and dedicated employees at Chrysler's Newark plant," Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner said. "The employees at Newark Assembly continue to work hard to ensure the success of this new product line, and we are looking forward to these new hybrid vehicles being available to the public."

The Advanced Two-mode Hybrid System
Chrysler's LLC's advanced, state-of-the-art two-mode full hybrid system - developed in partnership with General Motors, Daimler and The BMW Group - integrates proven automatic-transmission technology with a patented hybrid-electric drive system to deliver the world's first two-mode full hybrid.

As a result of low- and high-speed electrically variable transmission (EVT) modes, the system is defined as a "two-mode hybrid." In addition, the sophisticated fuel-saving system incorporates four fixed-gear ratios for high efficiency and power-handling capabilities. During the two EVT modes, the system can use the electric motors to improve fuel economy, acceleration, and for regenerative braking to utilize energy that would normally be lost during braking or deceleration. The energy is stored in the batteries for later use.

The system's two modes are optimized for city and highway driving.

In the first mode - at low speed and with light loads - the vehicle can operate in three ways:

* Electric power only
* Engine power only
* Any combination of engine and electric power

The two-mode hybrid provides all of the fuel-saving benefits of a full-hybrid system, including electric-only operation. In this mode, the engine is "shut off," with the vehicle moving under electric-only power at low speed. The result is a significant reduction in fuel consumption in heavy stop-and-go traffic.

The second mode is used primarily at highway speeds. In addition to electric assist, the second mode provides full power from engine when conditions demand it, such as when passing, pulling a trailer or climbing a steep grade.

Pricing for the full-size 4x4 sport-utility hybrid electric vehicles is nearly $8,000 below the competition. The manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for the new 2009 Dodge Durango HEMI® Hybrid is $45,340, including $800 for destination. The MSRP for the new 2009 Chrysler Aspen HEMI Hybrid is $45,570, including $800 for destination. Additionally, customers are expected to receive an estimated tax credit of $1,800.
Newark Assembly Plant

The 3.4 million square feet Newark Assembly plant has 1,000 employees and is represented by UAW Local 1183 and UAW Local 1212. The facility was built in 1951 as a tank plant and converted to an automobile plant in 1957. The 1998 Dodge Durango was introduced in September 1997. The all-new 2004 Dodge Durango production was launched October 2003. The Chrysler Aspen was launched August 2006. Hybrid production began in August 2008.

About Chrysler LLC
Chrysler LLC, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., produces Chrysler, Jeep®, Dodge and Mopar® brand vehicles and products. Total sales worldwide in 2007 were 2.7 million vehicles. Sales outside of North America were the highest ever with an increase of 15 percent over 2006. Its product lineup features some of the world's most recognizable vehicles, including the Chrysler 300 and Town & Country, Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee and Dodge Challenger and Ram. The Chrysler Foundation, the company's philanthropic arm, annually supports hundreds of charitable organizations in the United States and throughout the world. In 2007, the Foundation gave approximately $21 million in charitable donations.

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