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Big news from Dodge @ the Seattle Auto Show

Dodge’s Ram trucks are still huge and meaty just the way you like em’.  In my opinion no other American pickup has a beefier front end that perpetually appears to be trying to eat something.  It was a difficult pill to swallow when Ram’s spokesperson claimed that when equipped with a Hemi V8 and their new eight-speed transmission the 2013 Ram 1500 will be more fuel-efficient than other V6 powered pickup rivals. The verdict will be out on that one until the EPA gets a chance to test a Ram with the 8speed V8 combo.

What’s obvious is that Dodge is on a warpath of fuel efficiency with the new 1500.  Using Chrysler’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 and the magical 8spd automatic transmission fuel economy is up to an EPA-estimated 17mpg city/25 mpg highway.  That’s a whopping twenty percent improvement over last year’s 3.7-liter V-6. 

If that weren’t alluring enough when equipped with the 306hp Pentastar the 1500 can tow up to 6500 pounds.  It begs the question why anyone would opt for the carryover 310hp 4.7L V8 that makes nearly identical fuel economy numbers as the massive 5.7L Hemi V8.

Besides the high-five worthy efficiency jump the biggest news of the 2013 Ram 1500 is optional air suspension. That might not sound like a big deal on your computer screen but no other full-size pickup has anything like it. 

The system has five modes controlled by a switch on the center stack.  Without human intervention the truck will automatically lower its stance just over an inch at highway speeds (60mph) to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.  The truck will also kneel subserviently to make entering and exiting the cabin easier, as well as loading and unloading the bed.

For off-roading the ride height can be increased up to 2 inches, at which point Chrysler claims the 1500 has best in class ground clearance, break over angle and departure angle.   

Keep an eye on the sorts of technological advances being made by the Ram 1500.  Pickups are pretty much the only vehicles on the road that need to make gobs of power for practical purposes.  That puts them directly in the crosshairs of increasingly stringent government fuel economy requirements.   

The advancements Chrysler and their competition are developing to keep adequate grunt in their trucks while making them vastly more efficient is going to showcase how they’ll achieve the best of both worlds in vehicles across their lineups. 

That might be the biggest story of the 2012 Seattle Show.  From the press tour at least it looks like we might be able to have our cake and eat it too. 

News from Ford, Fisker, Buick, Toyota

Big news from Fisker @ the Seattle Auto Show

The first thing that struck me about Fisker’s display was that it appeared to have been left there untouched from last year’s show.  It was in the exact same place on the showroom floor with the same single car in attendance:  The $100,000 plugin-hybrid Karma.  

At first sight the Karma was pretty enough to make me forget about the larger story at play – it really is that striking in person.

In reality it’s no secret there’s a fair amount of trouble behind Fisker’s curtain.  Last month 320 Fisker Karmas were destroyed at a New Jersey port during hurricane Sandy.  The damage toll for Fisker topped out at $32million.  Although the cars were insured the disaster was a kick in Fisker’s shin during a time when their financial woes have churned into a crap-storm of their own formidability.

Fisker took a $529million government loan in 2007 to fund the development of advanced technology in cars. While running for president this year Mitt Romney did his best to insult the loan and others made by the Obama administration to fund green car technology as money wasted on “losers”.

Making matters worse Fisker’s battery supplier A123 has gone bankrupt.  Production of Fisker’s second car to be, the more affordable $55,000 Atlantic has been pushed back to 2014 or 2015.

So what’s going right with Fisker?  The Karma makes the argument that cutting-edge hybrid technology has a place in performance cars.  The Atlantic wants to take that sentiment and package it in a car that’s relatively affordable.

Fisker deserves a shot at bringing these vehicles to market at a reasonable price point.  Let’s be honest; if someone doesn’t hurry up and figure out how to make a hybrid that’s attractive and fun to drive we could all wind up driving Prius’ when the oil runs out.  That’s no future worth living in. 

To help the mission’s financing and possibly spread positive media attention in the process Fisker won over Leonardo Dicaprio as an investor recently.  That counts as good news.

Good luck, Fisker. 

News from Dodge. Ford, Toyota, Buick