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30th anniversary edition of Chrysler Town & Country (Chrysler)
30th anniversary edition of Chrysler Town & Country (Chrysler)

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Chrysler drops three planned models Add to ...

Three new Chrysler vehicles – based on European Fiat models and planned for North America by the end of 2013 – have reportedly been scrapped, though Fiat underpinnings will still be used for the replacement to the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Journey.

The radically restyled 200 mid-size sedan will be unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January, with a sales debut planned for mid-2014, trade journal Automotive News reported this week. The Journey crossover replacement, which will reportedly become a Chrysler in its new form, is scheduled for 2015.

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The Chrysler brand also seems to have won the race to sell the next-generation minivan, the trade book reports, even though the Dodge Caravan (Grand or otherwise) has been the best-selling minivan for 29 of the minivan’s 30 years in Canada.

Speaking of which, to mark three decades of minivan leadership, Chrysler the company will mark the year with special anniversary editions of both the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country.

The Chrysler version will be based on the mid-line Touring L model, offering unique 17-inch wheels, heated front and second-row seats, as well as a heated steering wheel, while the Dodge 30th Anniversary will be a package on the lower-level SXT, offering unique wheels, a leatherette and suede interior, as well as 30th-anniversary badging on the fenders, instrument panel and key on both.

There may yet be hope for the much-less-pricey Dodge model, since Chrysler declared this week that the Grand Caravan was the top-selling minivan in the world last year. The still-popular Windsor, Ont.-built people-movers were among the five best-selling vehicles in Canada last year, though the company seems set to pare down the “twinning” of largely similar Dodge and Chrysler models.

There have also been many other dropped vehicles from Chrysler’s 2009 five-year product plan, a detailed 177-page plan released to the U.S. Treasury Department just after Fiat took control of the company in the wake of its U.S. bankruptcy restructuring. A subcompact hatchback and sedan, a rebadged large pickup for another auto maker (Volkswagen?), and none of the firm’s four planned plug-in vehicles have made it to Canada, although a handful of electric Fiat 500e’s will be sold in California this year to fulfill ZEV requirements that could otherwise disallow it from selling its more profitable but high-emitting pickups and SUVs in the state.

Two regular gas-electric hybrids were also listed for arrival by the end of 2013, a larger car, and a hybrid version of the Ram 1500, but those seem to have been axed or pushed back as well.

A Chrysler Canada spokesperson said this week that the plan was updated in 2012, and the Fiat-based Dodge and Chrysler vehicles were dropped then. However, the Alfa Romeo brand is still scheduled to arrive in North America by the end of 2013.

Vehicle emissions studied

A new study of ground-level air pollution in the United States by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that road transportation was the greatest contributor to more than 200,000 premature deaths each year in that country due to combustion emissions from man-made sources.

Approximately 53,000 early deaths per year were attributed to exhaust from the tailpipes of cars and trucks, the study found, after combing through Environmental Protection Agency air quality indexes, population density figures and epidemiological records in the United States in 2005, the latest figures then available, which are believed to closely approximate today’s figures.

Emissions sources were split into six main categories that included road transportation, electricity generation, industry, commercial and residential sources, marine transportation and rail transportation.

Pollution deaths from electricity generation came in a close second, at 52,000 premature deaths a year, especially in areas of the mid-west and central east coast where coal is the main source of electricity, and where the coal tends to have a higher sulphur content than out west, the MIT study found.

“Policy measures could be undertaken in order to mitigate the impact of specific emissions from different sectors,” found the study’s authors, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, “in particular black carbon emissions from road transportation and sulfur dioxide emissions from power generation.”

Toyota unveils details about 414-hp Yaris Hybrid R

A Toyota Yaris Hybrid R concept based on a production three-door hatchback will be unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show next week, but the company has shed a little more light on how a little 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine will put the car into big-bore V-8 Corvette power territory.

Toyota says the little three-door concept will use two 60-hp electric motors at each rear wheel, the same ones used on Yaris Hybrids in other markets, as well as a race-derived gas engine designed for potential use in a number of racing series. Together, they produce 414 hp, the two engines providing an acceleration boost coming out of corners, and brake regeneration going into them.

The Yaris Hybrid R concept also uses a supercapacitor to store this energy, capable of supplying and receiving more power and quicker, compared to Toyota’s usual nickel-metal hydride batteries.

It doesn’t sound like it’s headed to a Toyota dealer near you anytime soon, but the all-wheel-drive performance concept does bode well for fans of sporting Toyotas, with a report from the Australian site Car Advice in the past few weeks also suggesting that the company could be ready to debut new versions of the Supra (likely as part of their confirmed sports car joint project with BMW) and a rear-drive coupe under the Scion FR-S in the next few years.

Villeneuve to design sports car ‘country club’ track

Former Formula One champion and Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve has announced that he will be designing the race track for a new sports car “country club” planned to open in the Okanagan Valley in the spring of 2014, called Area 27 Motorsports Club.

A membership drive was launched this week at a reception in advance of the Luxury and Supercar Concours D’Elegance, which runs this weekend in Vancouver’s lush Van Dusen Botanical Garden.

Located about five hours’ drive east of Vancouver, likely much less in some of these potential owners’ cars, the track will be located close to the town of Osoyoos, and is planned to be between 4.5 and 5.5 kilometres in length.

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