The Fiat-Chrysler alliance will bring a big dose of Fiat's fuel-saving technology to Chrysler's gas-guzzling lineup.
The goal: Hit the target that Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne set in 2009 of increasing fuel economy 25 percent from 2010 to 2014.
With help from Fiat, Chrysler is shifting from six- and eight-cylinder engines to more four-cylinder powerplants. In its 2009 product plan, Chrysler said 38 percent of its engines by 2014 would have four cylinders, up from 19 percent in 2010.
Chrysler's strategy is to use a suite of systems to improve fuel economy and performance. Those systems include Fiat's MultiAir, which varies valve timing for each cylinder independently; eight- and nine-speed transmissions and a dual-clutch transmission. Here are highlights:
MultiAir: By regulating intake valves for each cylinder independently, MultiAir is designed to increase power and torque 10 percent while slashing fuel consumption and emissions up to 10 percent. The only Chrysler-built vehicle with MultiAir is the 2012 Fiat 500, but more vehicles will be offered with it, beginning in 2012 with a Dodge compact sedan that would replace the Caliber. MultiAir will be added to the Pentastar V-6 engine in 2013.
Eight- and nine-speed automatic transmissions: Chrysler is licensing technology from German supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG to build two advanced transmissions.
The eight-speed, dubbed 8HP, is for longitudinally mounted engines in rear-wheel-drive vehicles. Marchionne, speaking to reporters and analysts on July 27, said a Chrysler 300 with the transmission will achieve 31 mpg highway.
The eight-speed will be built in North America in two factories: Chrysler's transmission plant in Kokomo, Ind., in 2012 and a new ZF factory in Greenville, S.C., in 2013.
The nine-speed, dubbed 9HP, is for front-wheel-drive platforms with transverse engines. The 9HP is scheduled to debut in 2013 on the mid-sized replacements for the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger. The nine-speed will be made in the same two factories. Both transmissions are designed to accommodate hybrid and all-wheel-drive vehicles.
Dual-clutch transmission: A dual-clutch transmission was supposed to appear in a mid-sized vehicle by the end of 2010, but technical problems at Fiat delayed the program. The transmission likely will appear in the Chrysler 200 in the 2012 model year.
A dual-clutch transmission can deliver the fuel economy of a manual transmission with the convenience of an automatic. One clutch operates gears one, three and five, while the second operates gears two, four and six. Shifting occurs without the loss of power of a manually operated clutch pedal or the torque converter of an automatic.
Tiger Shark engine: Chrysler has been working on a program called Tiger Shark to upgrade its global inline four-cylinder engine assembled at the company's Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance factory in Dundee, Mich. The original inline four-cylinder engine, which debuted in 2004, was jointly designed by Chrysler, Hyundai and Mitsubishi. Now Chrysler is adding features such as direct injection, turbocharging and Fiat's MultiAir variable valve timing to the engine family. A version could arrive in 2012 on the 2013 Dodge compact that would replace the Caliber.
Turbocharging: The Caliber replacement probably will be offered with a turbocharged version of Fiat's 1.4-liter engine with MultiAir.
Electrification: An electric version of the Fiat 500 is due in 2012.