Jeep and Ram could be spun off from FCA, says Marchionne

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Jeep is surely the biggest single feather left in the cap of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles portfolio. Under Sergio Marchionne’s leadership, Jeep went from fewer than 500,000 annual sales in 2008 to 1.4 million in 2016, and is on track for 2 million by 2018. Add in the brand’s legacy, status as one of the most recognizable nameplates in the world, and rabid fan base, and Jeep has extraordinary monetary value to its parent company.

Investors and analysts have certainly noticed Jeep’s inherent value. According to The Detroit Free Press, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas asked FCA chief Sergio Marchionne if he would ever consider spinning Jeep and Ram, FCA’s dedicated truck brand, into a separate corporate entity, and he responded with a simple “Yes.”

Jonas estimated Jeep’s worth in January of this year at $22 billion. Ram was valued at $11.2 billion.

Marchionne has a history of spinning off brands while keeping them part of FCA’s corporate umbrella. The most noteworthy example of this value maximization was with Ferrari, which now trades on the New York Stock Exchange and rakes in $3.4 billion in annual revenue and close to $435 million in net income, reports the Free Press. Marchionne still serves as chairman and CEO of Ferrari, and Fiat heir John Elkann owns 22 percent of the Italian marque’s shares.

Even if the offloading of Jeep and Ram into a separate entity would amount to little more than a profit-driven ownership change on paper, it would be huge news to the brands’ loyal fanbases. In any case, such a move would likely take years to actually happen and probably wouldn’t mean much at all to the products that Jeep and Ram produce. In other words, Jeep fans can keep the pitchforks in the shed … for now.

[Source: Autoblog]

Hyundai shows a mysterious coupe design in promo video

You never know where you’ll find some interesting automotive news. In this particular case, we found some curious Hyundai info buried in an otherwise normal Hyundai promo video. At about the 1:12 mark in the video, we see footage of a person working on a clay model of a car. It’s low, sleek, and looks like it would only have two doors. It appears to have a liftback as well, and fairly aggressive vents in the back. Nothing else in the video indicates what the car is, though. However, we’ve got some educated guesses.

One possibility is that this is a model for the successor to the recently departed Hyundai Genesis Coupe. The short deck and steeply raked rear window and pillars fall right in line with the styling of Hyundai’s old sports car, not to mention the bulging rear fenders. Genesis has also made it clear that they intend to have a coupe to replace the old Genesis on sale by 2020. The luxury brand also has a small rear-drive platform in development in the form of the G70 on which it could base the coupe, along with some reasonably potent engines. Last we heard, the twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6 was under consideration. However, an argument against this being a Genesis coupe is that it would be odd to show a Genesis model in a Hyundai video. The companies are clearly trying to put space between each other, so including a Genesis vehicle in this video seems out of step with the two brands’ goals.

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This brings us to the second possibility for this mystery coupe; that it must be a Hyundai of some sort. Hyundai has had very few coupe or coupe-like vehicles in its past. The Tiburon is long dead, thanks to the aforementioned Genesis Coupe, which will have a Genesis-branded successor. The Veloster is coupe-like and due for replacement, but recent spy photos show that it will look more like the current model and not the clay vehicle in the video. That leaves us with just one other coupe it could be: the Elantra coupe. It was killed off for the 2015 model year, but Hyundai might take another stab at it. If the company offered it exclusively with the turbocharged 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, it could attract a small enthusiast base, with the added advantage that, aside from the Civic Si, it would be the only sporty front-drive coupe on the market.

Of course, it could also be something entirely new that isn’t connected to any previous Hyundai or Genesis product. If that’s the case, it’s anyone’s guess as to what this mysterious coupe this clay mock-up represents.

Chrysler Pacifica adds sixth trim level: Touring Plus

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While some of us might not want to admit our fondness for the homely minivan, there’s something about the Chrysler Pacifica that gets unlikely drivers giving it the up-and-down on the sly (speaking from experience, here). A year into its life, the kinda-cool people hauler is getting a sixth trim level, called Touring Plus, that falls about in the middle of the lineup.

Slotting in above the Touring trim ($32,090), the $33,455 Touring Plus offers a number of visual and convenience upgrades, but retains the cloth seats (for leather, you’ll still have to move up to the Touring L level, at $36,090). On the outside, it gets the mesh lower fascia and foglights shared with the higher trim levels, plus projector headlights and LED taillights. For comfort and convenience, it offers three-zone climate control, power liftgate, a universal garage door opener, and second- and third-row sunshades to give your kids the limo treatment.

As an added bonus for Touring Plus customers who opt for the 18-inch wheels and the 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment center, Chrysler will throw in the single overhead DVD player for free.

If you were waiting for the “just right” Pacifica to become available, and this higher-content, cloth-seat version suits you just right, there’s no need to wait. The Pacifica Touring Plus is available now.

Demon, be gone! Watch – and listen – as Exorcist makes 959 hp at the wheels

Just before the Dodge Demon was unveiled, Hennessey revealed its Chevy-powered counterpoint, the Exorcist. It’s a Camaro ZL1 with a new supercharger and tuning, among other things, and Hennessey rated it at 1,000 horsepower. Now the company has put it on the dyno to find out exactly how much power is being made. As it turns out, the car makes a whopping 959 horsepower at the wheels, which means at the crank, it’s making more than the estimated 1,000 ponies. This also confirms that it makes substantially more power than the Demon, which produces 840 horsepower at the crank. You pay for the power, though, since the Exorcist’s total price is also higher than the Demon’s target price of under $100,000.

In case you have a hard time believing the numbers, Hennessey released a video of the car on the dyno, as well as the all-important dyno sheet with the numbers and power curve. The sheet shows that the engine’s power and torque increase very linearly, which should make it all a bit easier to manage. The video also provides a good look at the engine bay. Interestingly, the larger supercharger Hennessey installed is not a roots-style blower like the ZL1’s LT4 engine had. Instead, a centrifugal-style supercharger has been bolted in. And if the numbers and images aren’t enough, you also get to hear the Exorcist’s mean, but not deafening exhaust note in the video. Check it out.

Portland to use sewage gas to shift away from diesel

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Portland, Oregon has a plan to get polluting diesels off its streets, and it involves sewage.

Since 2008, the city’s Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant has been collecting methane – a stinky greenhouse gas that also doubles as a relatively clean-burning hydrocarbon fuel – produced by bacteria as it decomposes solid waste in sewage. It currently captures about 77 percent of the methane generated there, and uses some to generate electricity, and sells the rest. The other 23 percent is essentially wasted, as it’s flared off, producing carbon dioxide.

But Portland now wants to use 100 percent of the methane produced at the treatment plant, turning it into renewable natural gas for use in vehicles. City Council approved a plan to build a CNG fueling station at the site, and convert or replace diesel vehicles. The plan could make a significant impact, too, as the Bureau of Environmental Services estimates the plant can produce enough natural gas to fuel 154 garbage trucks, with the diverted methane and the move away from diesel saving 21,000 tons in carbon emissions every year.

As renewable natural gas fetches a higher price than the extracted kind – despite being chemically and practically identical – the city will use the gas they generate for vehicles, and simply purchase the natural gas they need to continue to provide their electricity generation needs. While city vehicles can fill up at the onsite fueling station, Portland also wants to sell its renewable natural gas to outside customers to help pay for the project and CNG vehicles. While the construction and CNG conversions are expected to cost about $12 million, the city expects to generate some $3 million in revenue per year from sales.

Watch as driver is ejected from tumbling Jeep – and then the remarkable happens

A motorist with a dashcam has captured the kind of crash you simply do not walk away from. But somehow, somebody did – a driver who was ejected from a careening, tumbling, disintegrating Jeep.

The crash was on I-65 in Mobile, Ala., earlier this week.

“A Mustang came flying by, and then a few seconds later a white Jeep came flying by, and I said to myself somebody’s going to get in a wreck – I see that happening right now,” AJ Calvin told Fox 10 TV.

Calvin captured the video in his work truck.

It shows the speeding vehicles clip, which sends the Jeep tumbling. It rolls over five or six times, flinging debris as it goes. Also sent flying – the driver.

But then the remarkable happens.

The man stands up, almost as if nothing had happened, then walks to the shoulder. Calvin said the Jeep’s passenger was still in his seat.

The two went to a hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Presumably the driver was not wearing his seat belt, as, incredibly, many people still do not. But state troopers had not confirmed that.

“It was a miracle,” Calvin said. “If that doesn’t tell you to wear your seatbelt, I mean… I don’t know.

“Speed kills and seat belts save lives!”

Amen.

Hyundai previews the subcompact Kona crossover’s funky fresh face

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It seems as though the already crowded subcompact crossover segment will welcome yet another competitor. Hyundai says it will launch its new Kona this summer, and it just released a teaser showing its front fascia. We’d previously seen spy photos of the car, but this is our clearest look at the nose yet. From the looks of it, it will be going down the funky styling route of the Toyota C-HR and Nissan Juke.

The first styling cue you’ll notice is the split headlight arrangement that we’ve seen before on the Jeep Cherokee and Nissan Juke. The top lamps are just LED running lights, and the lower units, also LED on the Kona, provide the actual forward illumination at night. Together, they create a scowling aggressive look. Between the lower lamps is a low and wide version of Hyundai’s corporate “cascading” grille. It does have a unique twist, though, in the upper slot that looks rather like a scoop. It also helps create a dual-plane look to the front of the vehicle.

Hyundai hasn’t released many details about the Kona aside from a release date and a size. It actually hasn’t even announced the markets in which the Kona will be available. However, it’s likely it will come to the US, since the subcompact crossover arena has been booming here. The only other information Hyundai has revealed about the Kona is that it will have good visibility and “agile driving dynamics.” That sounds good to us, but we can’t verify either until we get our hands on one. At least it won’t be a long wait.