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Auto blogTue, 30 Jul 2013 10:01:00 EST
Chrysler has some good news and some bad news. First, profits were up 16 percent over the second quarter of 2012, bringing the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based manufacturer $507 million on the back of strong demand for trucks and SUVs (a recurring theme this quarter, particularly in the US). Q2 revenue was up as well, from $16.8 billion in 2012 to $18 billion in 2013. The bad news is that the Pentastar's overall earnings forecast for net income in 2013 has been trimmed from $2.2 billion to between $1.7 and $2.2 billion, according to Automotive News.
In addition to the adjusted net income forecast, Chrysler tweaked its operating profit from $3.8 billion to between $3.3 and $3.8 billion. This has gone largely unexplained by Chrysler, perhaps hoping the news of a three-percent increase in its transaction prices for Q2 will allow it to sweep this adjustment under the rug.
The star of the show for Chrysler has been its US sales, which saw a 10-percent jump, both bettering the industry average of eight percent and improving over the same stretch of 2012. As with the increase in transaction prices, Chrysler has the new Ram pickup and Jeep Grand Cherokee to thank. Perhaps most worrying from this report, though, is that every brand in the automaker's stable saw an increase in sales... except for the Chrysler brand itself.
Consumer Reports has released its 2014 Car Brand Report Cards, with Lexus again reigning at the top and doing so with the same industry-topping score of 79 that it registered in last year's Report Cards. This year, the institute credited its lineup for being "usually quiet, comfortable, and fuel-efficient," noting it's the only brand on the list "to achieve an excellent average overall reliability score." The Car Brand Report Cars list is meant to rank the best all-around vehicles based on CR testing and reliability results tallied by subscribers it surveyed. Each brand included must have sufficient test and reliability data for at least three models, a standard which left out 11 marques including Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche.
This 2014 Brand Report Cars edition is the first of a new format in which sub-brands have been broken out from their parent brands, with Acura using this year to move up the leaderboard into second place with a score of 75 for its "reliable, well-finished and somewhat sporty models." The top three was rounded out by Audi, climbing from eighth to third by scoring a 74 for "well-crafted interiors, nice handling and good gas mileage." Audi scored highest in the road-test portion, its improved reliability aiding its rise. The top nine was completed by Subaru, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz.
Ford and Jeep weighed in at the other end of the rankings, Jeep taking the lowest overall score in the road tests and hampered by "a mix of spotty reliability." Ford was sunk by reliability issues with its MyFord Touch infotainment system which consumers found troublesome enough to negate its cars earning "solid test scores" for being "very nice to drive." Perhaps the rumored switch from Microsoft to Blackberry's QNX for the next generation SYNC will help them out. Cadillac's score also took a hit for infotainment reasons after it was the leading US brand last year, the CUE system in the XTS dragging Cadillac to the bottom of all General Motors brands.
After their rented 2007 Hummer H3 failed them during the brutal Rallye Aicha des Gazelles in Morocco, Amy Lerner and her sister Tricia Reina were on a quest to find the most capable production off-roader for their next competition - they chose a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Their next mission was to find a company with the competence to configure it to win. After poring over Internet forums and perusing countless magazines for an outfitter who could meet their demanding requirements, they sent their bright orange JK ("Crush" is the official color) to American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) for some modifications.
The Michigan-based team at AEV kept the Jeep's 3.6-liter V6 and automatic transmission stock, but replaced the hood with a tall AEV Heat Reduction Hood and added an AEV Snorkel Kit for water crossings (it serves double-duty as its raised height helps to keep the air intake out of the kicked-up dust on the trail). Front and rear off-road bumpers were bolted in place, and AEV skid plates were added to provide additional undercarriage protection. A pair of IPF-900 off-road lights improve visibility, while a 10.2-gallon AEV Fuel Caddy (located behind the exterior spare) added some range. The suspension was upgraded with a 3.5-inch lift kit with Bilstein remote reservoir shocks, and 35-inch Falken Wildpeak A/T tires (LT285/70R17) were mounted at all four corners on AEV's beadlock wheels.