DaimlerChrysler has killed the Java small minivan that was to have been Chrysler's core European passenger car.
The Java was unveiled as a concept car at the Frankfurt International Motor Show last year. It was widely praised for its slick styling and spacious interior. It was designed for European markets, and would have competed against the Renault Scenic and Opel Zafira in the small minivan segment.
'The decision to kill the Java was taken earlier this year,' said a senior DCX source. He declined to give a specific reason why.
'The Java was based on a front-wheel-drive Mercedes platform which existed before Daimler-Benz and Chrysler linked up last year. Basing a Chrysler on a Mercedes-Benz platform could have confused the brand images,' he said.
The news comes as DaimlerChrysler reviews its entire small-car program in Europe.
The company's Smart microcar brand has struggled to meet sales targets and is seeking ways to extend the model range. And with the Java-sized Mercedes-Benz A-class small minivan already selling well, DCX is wondering whether it can afford to build a Europe-only Chrysler.
Other issues also may have helped kill the Java:
It only had five seats, while the Opel Zafira, the European segment leader, has seven. Ford killed its five-seat Focus small minivan program largely for this reason.
DCX wants to acquire a stake in Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Mitsubishi has a mainstream small minivan for Europe, the Space Star, built at NedCar in the Netherlands. Mitsubishi shares this factory - and the S40/V40 platform - with Volvo.
Ford is likely to want Volvo to move out of NedCar to take advantage of spare capacity at one of Ford's plants in northern Europe. This could leave space for DCX to build cars on a shared platform alongside Mitsubishi at NedCar.
DCX has been in talks with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen and other carmakers with a view to developing small cars together. PSA may donate its future 106 minicar platform to DCX for a four-seat version of DCX's Smart microcar for Europe.
DCX has struggled to sell its North America-sourced cars in Europe. The Neon has suffered from quality problems and failed to establish itself as a credible European compact sedan.