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Chrysler: New sedans will surpass tougher CAFE rules

December 1, 2008 - 12:01 am EST

LOS ANGELES — The next generation of Chrysler's full-sized, rear-drive cars will exceed tougher fuel economy standards that take effect in two years, says the company's product development chief.

The restyled and re-engineered Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger are due for the 2011 model year.

"These vehicles will be CAFE-positive," Frank Klegon, executive vice president of product development, said last month at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The U.S government has not released regulations for the new corporate average fuel economy law, Klegon said, but "we think we know what it is."

Essentially, the new federal regulations call for a 4 percent annual increase in fuel economy starting in 2011. The preliminary version of the new rules calls for an industrywide average of 31.6 mpg by 2015. Today's federal standard is 27.5 mpg for cars and 23.1 mpg for light trucks.

Klegon said a combination of modifications including those made to the engine, aerodynamics and axle ratios will contribute to the boost in fuel economy. The current four-speed automatic transmission may be replaced with an eight-speed gearbox.

But he said the biggest factor is a new, more efficient V-6 engine family, code-named Phoenix. The engines will replace all current Chrysler car and light-truck V-6s.

"The engine really creates a great economy of scale for us," said Klegon.

The 2009 Dodge Charger with the 2.7-liter V-6 gets 18 mpg city/26 highway, according to the EPA. The 3.5-liter V-6 has a rating of 17 city/25 highway.

Aerodynamics are another big factor.

"Now that the design office works for me, we have really good discussions about front-wheel coverage and things that are very, very important about aerodynamics," said Klegon, who took direct authority over vehicle styling last summer. "So we are very bullish about the full-sized car and its ability to deliver on the numbers."

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