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Will Chrysler's Uconnect be user friendly? Well, yes and nein

The communications device will be promoted as a safety feature for most 2004 models.

August 20, 2003|Jim Mateja | Chicago Tribune

Stressing safety, Chrysler Group says it can install Uconnect, a hands-free, voice-activated communications device, in most of its 2004 model vehicles as well as retrofit the system into nearly all of its 1994 and newer cars and trucks.

Uconnect is a dealer-installed option available in every Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicle except the Dodge Viper, Chrysler Sebring convertible and Jeep Wrangler, a trio in which, by their top-down natures, voice-activation is too much to ask.

This fall, Uconnect will become a factory-installed option in the Chrysler Pacifica car-truck crossover vehicle. Prices will range from $299 for a dealer-installed system to $275 for one installed at the factory, plus about $75 for labor.

The phones will respond to voice commands in English, Spanish and French -- but not German, the language of Chrysler's parent, DaimlerChrysler.


Crossfire longevity. We can all breathe a little easier.

"Unlike the Ford Thunderbird, Crossfire isn't going to be a five-year car," Steve Bartoli, director of premium vehicle marketing for Chrysler Group, said of the 2004 Crossfire sports coupe that went on sale in June.

Well, maybe Ford Motor Co. executives aren't breathing any easier, but they're the ones who decided to phase the T-Bird out after the '05 model year.


Wide world of Ford. Sometimes people forget that the auto industry extends beyond the United States, a lapse that Ford board member Edsel Ford II tried to remedy at a dinner in conjunction with the automaker's 100th anniversary.

"One of every eight vehicles sold on Earth is a Ford," he noted.


Abroad broadside. And don't forget the rivalry between domestics and imports, namely the Japanese.

Ford recently held a you-can't-report-what-you-saw-here-or-we'll-have-to-kill-you media preview of its vehicles through the 2007 model year.

At the preview, Chris Theodore, vice president of advance product creation, was asked why the Japanese don't take more design risks by producing vehicles such as the Thunderbird, Crossfire or Chevrolet SSR roadster truck.

"They take risks. Sometimes they come out with real edgy designs," Theodore replied. "But when they do, they get slapped, or have you forgotten the Honda Del Sol?"


Lara Croft Jeep rider. If Aston Martin can do it with James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), why can't Jeep do it with Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie)?

That is, use the movies to promote a vehicle.

Jeep brought out a limited-edition Wrangler Rubicon Tomb Raider model this summer to coincide with the release of "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life."

"This is more than just a product placement," said Jeff Bell, vice president of Jeep.


Placement payment. "We've had some movie studios contact us to say, 'Give us some money, and we'll put your car in a movie,' " Ford's Theodore said of the GT, a 500-horsepower, two-seat super-car that goes on sale in the spring.

"But we're hoping for a role reversal with the GT so that they give us some money, and we allow the car to be in a movie," Theodore said.

Chances? Slim and none.

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