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Fiat Chrysler to replace 4-cylinder engines with new powertrain family

The new four-cylinder engines will share technologies and parts, enabling them to be tailored to individual markets faster and for less cost.

DETROIT -- To help meet tightening global fuel economy and emissions standards, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will replace its four-cylinder engine lineup with a new family of engines that share common parts and can be inexpensively customized for individual markets.

Fiat Chrysler also will introduce gasoline-electric hybrids -- including a plug-in minivan -- to broaden the availability of fuel-saving eight- and nine-speed automatic transmissions. It also plans to bring more diesel engines to North America.

Bob Lee, Fiat Chrysler’s powertrain chief, outlined the company’s powertrain plans through 2018 today to analysts and journalists in suburban Detroit.

Globally, Fiat Chrysler today builds 40 types of four-cylinder engines, many of which share no technology and were acquired over the years through business ventures, Lee said.

Consolidating engines and complexity is a road Fiat Chrysler has traveled before. In 2010, Chrysler began phasing out seven families of V-6 engines, replacing them all with the Pentastar V-6. The same strategy will be used for the new four-cylinder engine family.

Like the Pentastars, the new four-cylinder engines will share technologies and parts, enabling them to be tailored to individual markets faster and for less cost. Lee said the new engines will share common parts, such as pistons, fuel injectors and combustion chamber designs. There will also be just two sizes of pistons.

Lee also said:

  • In 2016, Fiat Chrysler will launch a gasoline-electric version of the Chrysler Town & Country minivan, the first of several hybrids.
  • The company is working on a belt-alternator stop-start system.
  • Gasoline and diesel engines will share many of the same technologies.

Lee said the powertrain changes are driven by stricter fuel economy standards in the United States and regulations that dramatically cut carbon dioxide emissions here and in Europe, as well as customers’ demands for greater fuel efficiency.

“The rate of change is four to five times faster than what we have experienced in the past,” Lee said.

He said Fiat Chrysler will use fuel-saving technologies that provide “the best bang for the buck” and that consumers want to buy. He cited dual-clutch transmissions as a technology that delivers excellent fuel economy gains and carbon dioxide reductions, but that has been rejected by American car buyers.

Fiat Chrysler offers a dual-clutch transmission in just one low-volume model of the Dodge Dart. Ford Motor Co. struggled initially with quality and refinement problems with its PowerShift dual-clutch automatic.

Lee said the company is bullish on diesels based on the customer acceptance of the optional EcoDiesel in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500.

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